U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer on Sunday stopped by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla as part of a tour promoting her new memoir, "The Art of Tough: Fearlessly Facing Politics and Life."
Boxer, who's retiring this year after 24 years in the U.S. Senate and 10 years in the House, spoke to KPBS News before signing copies of her book at the museum. She talked about her colleagues' efforts to push for stricter gun laws, her call for a criminal investigation into the San Onofre nuclear power plant and her plans after the Senate.
On what it's going to take to pass stricter gun laws in the U.S.
"The better news is we had another opportunity to vote for a bipartisan bill by (Republican Sen. Susan) Collins (of Maine) to say, 'If you're on the terror watch list, you can't get a gun.' That was good, and I think that the sit-in that was led by (Democratic Rep.) John Lewis (of Georgia) and others in the House really brought attention to it.
So to answer your question, 'What does it take?' It may take something extraordinary like what the House members did, and in my side of the Capitol, the Senate did have a filibuster led by (Democratic Sen.) Chris Murphy (of Connecticut). So I think it does take extraordinary measures to say, "Pay attention to this."
We're not going to solve every problem in the world, and we know people have a right to bear arms. But there is a way to have some common sense laws that make sure people who shouldn't have a weapon have a weapon, such as terrorists, such as people who have mental problems."
On not having one elected official back her call for a criminal investigation into what Southern California Edison knew about its faulty equipment before the San Onofre nuclear power plant leaked radiation in 2012
"No, (it didn't bother me) because I knew a little bit more than most people. I knew that the fact was, it appeared to me, that they were going ahead with a modification, which wasn't really safe. We don't know whether that's true or not, whether they knew or not, but I thought it was worth looking into it."
On how ratepayers, who were left with a $3.3 billion bill after the San Onofre settlement, can get accountability
This has to do with state politics. What I did was to make sure, because we oversee the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, that the plant was safe. When I believed that it was no longer safe — after all, it is an earthquake zone, it's in a tsunami zone — and then they had this modification that didn't work, my job was to say, 'Do not allow them to reopen.' They did not reopen.
As far as what happens to ratepayers, I feel in my heart, it's not the ratepayers' fault in anyway, shape or form. I do not have the authority to comment on that or do anything about that. But I would urge ratepayers to work through their state-elected representatives."
On her plans after retiring from the U.S. Senate
"Well, I can't detail everything because you're not supposed to until you're really out of the Senate. So I certainly will be speaking more about it. But I intend to continue my work on the issues that I love. You know, working for equal rights for women, making sure children have after-school care, making sure that we breathe clean air, drink clean water, we're not worried about some kind of nuclear fallout from a nuclear power plant."