EDITOR’S NOTE: U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., talked recently during a Senate hearing on gun control, and spoke with reporter Robert Behre about what gun control, if any, he could support.

Q: Do you think there’s anything Congress and the president should do to control guns in the wake of the Newtown shooting?

A: “I think there’s very common ground on the idea of denying any weapon to a mentally unstable individual or criminal. We already have such laws. Last year, 70,000 people failed a background check, and only 44 were prosecuted, so adding new background checks won’t do any good if there’s no deterrent.”

Q: How do you describe the problem?

A: “There are laws against mentally unstable people having weapons. There are laws against convicted criminals having weapons. There are thousands of laws on the books. The problem is our mental health system is broken, and we don’t prosecute those who violate the existing law.”

Q: What about the size of magazines?

A: “When it comes to limiting the capacity of magazines, that sounds logical on its face until you start looking at the real world. One, criminals are not going to buy into this limitation, and there are millions of high-capacity magazines available throughout the country. Millions.”

Q: You said you own an AR-15.

A: “Exactly.”

Q: In what circumstances would you ever envision using it?

A: “I’ve been in the military most of my life, and I enjoy shooting. I enjoy target shooting. It is a semi-automatic weapon. Vice President (Joe) Biden mentioned a scenario that I think illustrates why one gun could be better than another. If there’s a natural disaster, like (Hurricanes) Sandy or Hugo or Katrina, if there’s an earthquake, the truth is, law and order breaks down. There were roving gangs throughout New Orleans. The power is out. The cops couldn’t communicate and for days, people were on their own.”

Q: What was Biden’s scenario?

A: “The reality is you could find yourself in a position where you have to defend yourself and your family. The vice president said ... in circumstances like that, a double-barrelled shotgun is a better defense than an AR-15. Well, I disagree. If there are three homes in the neighborhood, and there are lawless gangs roving around — and this happens, it’s happened all over Haiti — one house has no gun, the other house a shotgun, and the third house has an AR-15. Guess what house the gang is going to go to last, if they go to at all?”

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.