The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 05/06/11
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Happy Friday. I hereby present to you what it looks like to run for president now against Barack Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: Senator, are you suggesting that heroin and prostitution are an exercise of liberty?
REP. RON PAUL ®, TEXAS: Up until this past century, you know, for over 100 years they were legal. What you‘re inferring is, you know what? If we legalize heroin tomorrow, everybody‘s going to use heroin.
How many people here would use heroin if it was legal? I bet nobody would put their hand, oh, yeah, I need the government to take care of me. I don‘t want to use heroin, so I made these laws.
WALLACE: I never thought heroin would get applause here in South Carolina.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You know, the last time there was a wide open race for the presidential nomination on the Republican side was just four years ago. Four years ago this week, 10 Republican candidates, including John McCain, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee and a whole lot of others all turned out for their first debate.
Four years later, it is Ron Paul again, but also Herman Cain, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum and Gary Johnson, that‘s it. And while Dr. Paul may have stolen the show with his pitch to legalize heroin, he was not, it should be noted, the biggest hit of the night.
Take a look at who won the FOX News instant focus group afterwards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER: Twenty-nine of the most important people in America sitting right behind me right now. Let‘s go right to them.
Who won the debate? Let‘s go now for alphabetical order. How many think Herman Cain won the debate? Well, we can stop right there.
John, I want a word or praise to describe Herman Cain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He answers the question most direct.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A breath of fresh air.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Common sense.
LUNTZ: How of many walked in here with Herman Cain as your number one choice? Raise your hands.
One of you.
How many of you are walking out of here with Herman Cain as your number one choice? Raise your—now, this is unprecedented.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Herman Cain, former CEO of a mafia-themed pizza chain called Godfather‘s Pizza runs away with the first Republican debate of this election season.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HERMAN CAIN ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m proud of the fact quite frankly that I haven‘t held public office before because I asked people, most of the people they have elected office in Washington D.C., they have held public office before. How is that working for you?
We have a mess. How about sending a problem solver to the White House?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Herman Cain, the break-out sensation last night in South Carolina.
While the mafia-themed pizza mogul won the focus group last night, it is Ron Paul who seems to have won the money race in the 24 hours since last night‘s debate. Dr. Paul‘s Web site showing right now that he has taken in over $1 million in donations since last night‘s debate.
There‘s also news today that Congressman Paul will open up, officially, a campaign office in Iowa on Tuesday.
Now, heading into this debate last night, the expectation was that it was essentially Tim Pawlenty‘s debate to lose, that Governor Pawlenty was the only conceivably viable candidate among the five on stage. As you saw earlier, Herman Cain easily won the instant FOX News focus group.
So, did Tim Pawlenty come in second?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUNTZ: We had a clear winner in Herman Cain. Let‘s find out who they though came in second.
Of all the candidates, who would be your second choice for tonight?
CROWD: Rick Santorum.
LUNTZ: How many of you say Rick Santorum?
OK, clearly came in second.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The one supposedly viable guy on stage does not poll as first or second and there were only five people there.
The post debate critical reviews for Tim Pawlenty‘s performance sort of matched the focus group‘s feeling. “The Los Angeles Times,” quote, “The event might have played to the advantage of Tim Pawlenty, the most heralded of those on the South Carolina debate stage. But it didn‘t exactly work out that way.” “The Washington Post,” quote, “Pawlenty had trouble breaking through.” Politico, quote, “The low-key Minnesotan failed to dominate the arena.”
Failure to dominate is a very cruel diagnosis, Politico.
Most of what the first Republican debate showcased though was not any particular thing about any one candidate. But, rather, what is starting to seem like the divided heart of the Republican Party. Huge cheers when Ron Paul was asked about gay marriage and he said he doesn‘t want government involved in marriage at all. It‘s a private matter or a religious matter. It‘s not for government. Big cheers when he said that.
But also, big cheers for Rick Santorum, saying anyone who had rules social issues out of what government ought to be doing just doesn‘t understand America. Big cheers for that, too.
So, which is it, Republican Party, fielding a candidate against Barack Obama, are you rick big intrusive government Santorum Republicans or are you small government Ron Paul Republicans?
All the Republican Party branding right now is very Ron Paul, even if the Republican establishment doesn‘t like Ron Paul himself, they like the sound of his principles. Limited government, personal freedom, get government off your back, right? That‘s how the party is trying to market themselves right now.
But look at what they are actually doing in office. Take just the state of Florida, today, as an example. The new Republican governor of Florida, Rick Scott, is expected to sign into law a handful of bills that right now are sitting on his desk.
Is this small government stuff? Which is how the party is branding itself? Or is this big government stuff? You tell me.
The first one is a bill that says any woman who wants to have an abortion will be forced by the state of Florida to have a medically unnecessary ultrasound, first. It would also force doctors to read to the woman being forced to undergo the medically unnecessary procedure, a script about that procedure written by the Florida legislature no matter what the doctor actually believes.
Second bill, a bill that requires mandatory drug tests for a whole class of Florida residents, whether or not they are suspected of using drugs. Anybody seeking temporary state aid, even if that person has no history of drug problems, will now be forcibly drug-tested by the state and they will be forced to pay for it.
Third bill, a bill that punishes school children for wearing their pants lower than the government wants them to. It regulates public school pants height. A state government-imposed dress code for all children about your pants.
Is this get government off your back conservatism or is this big intrusive government conservatism?
This is a 24-hour snapshot of life in the Republican Party right now. The libertarian message, small government to the point of legalizing heroin getting huge applause at the first Republican presidential debate, the man advocating for it, cleaning up in the money race after that debate – and then government governance, government-mandated drug testing, government-mandated medically unnecessary ultrasounds, government-mandated dress codes.
The heart of the Republican Party is so divided right now that they cannot decide whether to cheer for legal, hard drugs or laws about the height of your pants. This is going to be an excellent year of covering Republican politics.
MADDOW: As part of my ongoing quest to get Republicans to talk to me on this show, I interviewed Meghan McCain, young Republican and daughter of Senator John McCain. It was soon after the shooting after Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson when I talked to Meghan. And the interview turned to gun politics. And then this happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Gun control is getting in discussion again. I know you were a strong second amendment supporter. You‘re a member of the NRA, I think I remember.
MEGHAN MCCAIN, SEN. MCCAIN‘S DAUGHTER: I am. I‘m a member of the
MADDOW: My first date with Susan was at NRA ladies day on the range event. That‘s as close as I‘ve ever gotten to the NRA, but I‘m still very proud of that. But—like there is a tiny bit of common ground on this, do you think there is common ground—
MCCAIN: You can come with me to the next NRA convention. I‘ll take you with me and see what it‘s about. How about that?
MADDOW: Yes, I accept. Absolutely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I say what I mean and I mean what I say. So, NRA convention, me and Meghan McCain. Here we come, that‘s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: Hi. How are you? Thanks for coming.
MADDOW: I told you I would.
MCCAIN: Welcome to the NRA convention. You are my first official date to NRA convention ever. A lot of people think I‘m like sort of a fake Republican. This is when I get really conservative and very—it‘s like by far my most conservative part about my political ideology.
MADDOW: In terms of Second Amendment rights or Second Amendment enthusiasm?
MCCAIN: I support Second Amendment rights. I believe in the right to bear arms. I want to protect myself. And, you know, it‘s definitely one of the main principle that keeps me very Republican. Not that it‘s fairly a political ideology because a lot of Democrats are here as well.
MADDOW: But you and I talked about some gun rights restrictions that you think are sane.
MCCAIN: Jump right into this.
MADDOW: Yes, because you say that this is a very conservative thing about you but you, like Dick Cheney, supports looking at those high capacity magazines.
MCCAIN: Well, this is where I started—this is where I‘m not an official NRA spokesperson. I‘m just a member and enthusiast. But I have friends who work in law enforcement and there really isn‘t a huge need for semi-assault rifle. And I just think it‘s not—as guns go, it‘s not really the gun I would use to protect myself at home necessarily and I am for, as Dick Cheney is for reanalyzing and walking around the street with an M4.
MADDOW: Right. Or the—with the assault rifle ban, I mean, this came up after the Tucson, right? So, normal clip for the Glock 19 is 10 or 12 rounds.
MCCAIN: Talk about the (INAUDIBLE).
MADDOW: And Loughner has two 33-round clips. And until 2004, he could not have bought that.
MCCAIN: But he had a handgun, and not a semiautomatic rifle.
MADDOW: Right. But it‘s a semiautomatic handgun with an extended capacity magazine. And the extended capacity magazines are part of what expired when the assault weapons ban expired. And so that particular thing about how many bullets you can put in a clip, that‘s a very controversial thing here. I mean, the NRA does not want to ban high capacity magazines.
And I think a lot of NRA members would be OK with that.
MCCAIN: I think a lot of members are OK with it. I‘m OK with it.
The problem that NRA members have and some of my friends, I talked to every friend I know that (INAUDIBLE) NRA, a girlfriend of mine says where does it stop? If you start banning this gun, where does it end? They are going to ban all guns, which I sort of understand if you give an inch, they‘ll take a mile mentality. I don‘t think it‘s the worst thing ever.
And like I said when people like Dick Cheney are also OK with it, it‘s not exactly the most conservative thing ever.
MADDOW: Is that I feel like—I feel like—in politics of this, it‘s always like you either a Second Amendment person or you‘re anti-Second Amendment person. And I actually, I think that you and I—
MCCAIN: Tell me about your experience? And I‘ll tell you about mine.
MADDOW: All right. Well, I think you and I are way more similar on our politics on this, not because you‘re more liberal than you think you are, I‘m more conservative, but because gun rights are talked about in a really stupid way.
But what you‘re saying about how you don‘t really buy the slippery slope argument, I agree, like I think you can talk about how many bullets can be in the magazine. I think you can talk about whether you should have an M4 on the street, without saying that you want to come in to people‘s homes to take away what they‘re using to protect themselves or what they‘re using to hunt, or what they‘re using for target shooting, or whatever all the reason they have.
MCCAIN: My perspective in this is, again, why I felt to be a new face or just another face because I don‘t think you see a lot of young women talking about Second Amendment rights and gun ownership. Yu know, I‘m a single woman living alone and I‘m 5‘1” and what I love about—
MADDOW: Not in those shoes.
MCCAIN: I‘m 5‘3”.
MCCAIN: I know. But I‘m not very strong. I have taken defense classes, I‘m terrible. But I like the idea that a gun equalizes things for women if I‘m attacked. You know, my father is a well-known politician. It makes me feel safer. I have friends, it makes them feel safer.
MADDOW: Do you think there‘s a risk to having a gun in your home?
MCCAIN: Not if you take courses and to educate yourself and you train yourself. I‘m completely proponent for taking the right safety classes as well.
MADDOW: Yes. So, just introducing a gun into a dangerous situation doesn‘t guarantee it‘s going to be pointed at the right person.
MCCAIN: No. I mean, I‘m definitely, you know, you have to take safety courses and classes to understand how to use your gun in the appropriate way. And I don‘t know—I just—my problem is when it becomes this, you own a gun, you‘re going to go out and kill everyone and spray people—and this is the extreme view.
And I understand the gun legislation laws. And it‘s a very complicated and it‘s a very complicated issue. But I don‘t know. I just always start getting cringy when I hear people, you know, when a tragedy happened and then thought about it, it‘s pointed at NRA and gun owners.
MADDOW: Well, I made my case about that. I mean, I think—I mean, nobody—
MCCAIN: I hope I‘m making my case.
MADDOW: Yes, you are. With the Tucson shooting, like obviously the person to blame there Jared Loughner. Jared Loughner would have only had 10 shots, if the NRA hadn‘t pushed for the assault weapons ban to expire, including that ban on those clips.
MCCAIN: Me and Dick Cheney, Dick Cheney and I are both for this.
MADDOW: Yes. So, as an NRA member, the NRA is not doing what you want. And they are the people who got –
MCCAIN: Nothing I‘m involved with ever does exactly what I want ever, never 100 percent. Gun laws tend to penalize gun owners and not criminals. And I think we need to do a better job of getting criminals off the street.
Loughner in Tucson was flagged by—he‘s kicked out of school for a mental illness. He wasn‘t allowed in the military. He should have been flagged by police offices and law enforcement a long time ago. He‘s someone that should never got a hand on a gun.
MADDOW: So, he gets kicked out of the military.
MCCAIN: He‘s not allowed to the military.
MADDOW: No, kicked out by the recruiters. They said, no, you can‘t join because of your declared history of drug abuse. They don‘t know about his mental illness.
At that point, why didn‘t that go into the federal background check?
MCCAIN: I agree.
MADDOW: And it should have. But that‘s a Chuck Schumer proposal that the NRA is not exactly falling over itself to endorse. And so, the NRA becomes—
MCCAIN: Again, I think, you give an inch, they are worried something like Chuck Schumer is going to take a mile.
MADDOW: Right. But that‘s been the NRA‘s approach from the very beginning. And that‘s my issue with the NRA.
My issue is not that people have a right to keep and bear arms. My issue is that everything is if you give them an inch, if you them an inch, they‘ll take a mile. So, you can‘t—you can‘t have anything. So, you can‘t close the gun show loophole. And you can‘t—you can‘t—
MCCAIN: The gun show loophole, you can buy a gun the day you are present, is that what you‘re talking about?
MADDOW: Yes, it‘s like—if you agree—
MCCAIN: Very popular.
MADDOW: The NRA agrees that there ought to be a national background check for buying guns. But they also agree that if you don‘t want to go through that background check, you should buy your gun at a shop.
How does that make sense? That seems—that is not a give an inch and take a mile situation. And that‘s just good public policy and that‘s what I‘m talking about.
MCCAIN: Well, I want to hear your experience with guns because I didn‘t know—I just assumed you had no experience whatsoever.
MADDOW: The liberal caricature of new firepower. I even fired a tank round once.
MADDOW: Oh, I have so much to tell you. I just wonder if because the NRA is so dominant and because, even as a member, like you are saying, they don‘t necessarily support—they don‘t necessarily support your own ideas about gun rights policies, would it be better if they weren‘t the dominant force, you know? Would it be better if there were some—
MCCAIN: The NRA is 140 years old. This is where you go.
MADDOW: And they just—they just dominate. They get their way on every policy issue they want. And—
MCCAIN: What‘s interesting to me is Dick Cheney comes out now saying these things. When at the time, he could have made changes when he was in office.
MCCAIN: So, it‘s a little taboo, I mean, what I‘m telling you about, it‘s not popular here. I don‘t have a problem with it but I don‘t own a semi-assault rifle and I don‘t even need the average (INAUDIBLE) assault rifle.
MADDOW: The thing about those magazines is that there‘s two people on the NRA board who manufacture those high capacity magazines. So, that‘s exhausting to me. You are like, dude, you‘re on the board and so you have a material interest in them not being banned because then you can‘t sell them for money anymore.
And so, that is the policy position of this group that they can‘t exist.
MCCAIN: Is there anything you like about the NRA?
MADDOW: I like the gun safety stuff that they do. They have really nice iconography, like their fonts. I mean, like I don‘t—I don‘t have any objection to anybody joining.
And, obviously, they are a very successful organization and I admire them for doing what they do. But I think they are—I think they have a strangle hold over on issue of policies, of issue of policy in this country that is unhelpful because I think we have dumb policies because of them.
MCCAIN: We have dumb policies when it comes to a lot of things.
MADDOW: Yes, but the NRA decides what happens with guns. They really do. They are super, super, rich. And super powerful.
MCCAIN: Virginia Tech happened when I was in college and I have a friend in Virginia Tech and I still remember ember how scary it was. Again, someone who should never have access to these types of weapons. So, I agree with better background checks.
MADDOW: Yes, background, like closing the loopholes.
MCCAIN: I have no problem with that. I don‘t want crazy people to have access to guns, no.
MADDOW: I mean, they just—they just said this week, maybe yesterday, they just said this week that more than 200 people who are on the terrorism watch list were legally cleared to buy guns last year. It‘s not like they snuck through, like—actually if you are on the terrorism watch list, you can still buy a gun.
MCCAIN: But I don‘t think law-abiding citizens should be penalized in the meantime.
MADDOW: No. But so—let‘s start with small things, like if you are on the terrorist watch list, you can‘t buy a gun. Like can we all agree on that?
MCCAIN: I agree on that. Yes.
MADDOW: I‘m like—I sort of feel like if we polled every person here, I think most people would agree with us on that.
MADDOW: (INAUDIBLE) NRA!
MCCAIN: I would never say that, ever.
MADDOW: I know. But your perspective on this and most NRA members‘ perspective on this matter is somewhat more rational than the organization. That‘s what (INAUDIBLE).
MCCAIN: I don‘t think it‘s necessarily true, but you are arguing very well, Rachel. I think my place in this, just culturally, it was not something that was foreign or weird or scary to me at all growing up. And I‘ve gotten older and, you know, going different places, you realize that it‘s seen in such a negative light to some people and I just going to show that, you know, I‘m 26 and all the things that, you know, liberal America sees sometimes, I lived in New York. I lived in L.A. now, and it‘s not so (INAUDIBLE) and there‘s a lot of space between where people feel their values are being really criticized in the wrong way.
MADDOW: But here‘s the thing.
MCCAIN: I‘m not going to change your mind.
MADDOW: No, I accept all of those circumstances and I just have totally the opposite conclusion. I actually think I have the sunny side of the street conclusion, which is weird because I‘m always the cynic. But like you grow up hunting, I go fishing every weekend.
MCCAIN: You do?
MADDOW: I do. You enjoy guns as the machines they are and the sort of stress relief they are. I think that they are—I think it‘s cool that they are manufactured in the United States. I think they are amazing machines and I enjoy firing them and doing whatever I can.
And you and I agree about the ways in which gun laws could be reasonably tightened up without crimping people‘s sense of their value of their Second Amendment right, or without really harming anybody‘s public safety.
And so, that seems like a reasonable ground to move forward. But, the NRA makes that so there‘s a divide between us even though all those things are in common between us.
MCCAIN: I mean, Chuck Schumer I know is getting in this. He‘s not really the person I would have him speaking against this.
MADDOW: No Republican would ever deprive the NRA on anything like that. Ever.
MCCAIN: Well, I guess Dick Cheney kind of did.
MADDOW: Yes. That‘s true. Maybe Dick Cheney will lead us.
MCCAIN: Possible. It‘s possible. Dick Cheney.
MADDOW: Meghan McCain and Rachel Maddow at the NRA convention: Dick Cheney can lead us.
MCCAIN: It‘s a very unpopular idea where again, what we‘re seeing right now is very unpopular. I just—again, I don‘t own a semi-assault rifle and I have friends that work in law enforcement. It‘s just plain unnecessary to have. This is where we agree.
MADDOW: Yes, we agree on a lot of this. We totally agree on a lot of this. And I feel like if we can agree on a lot of this, then we should probably be able to make better policy as a country.
MCCAIN: I agree.
MADDOW: Because reasonable can come to the same conclusion from totally different perspective.
MCCAIN: I agree.
MADDOW: We have solved it.
MADDOW: The NRA held its convention this year in Pittsburgh, a city that is way more beautiful than it gets credit for. Pittsburgh also has way worse traffic than it gets credit for with 70,000 extra people in town for the NRA who would not otherwise be there.
One councilman in Pittsburgh was not all that psyche about his city hosting the NRA and its 70,000 souls this year. He said that the NRA should have held it across town in his neighborhood instead of downtown, so they could see firsthand what the policies the NRA support does to real American cities and to families like his. My look through the other side of this American telescopic from one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country, coming up next.
MADDOW: Councilman Ricky Burgess, first of all, thank you for—thank you for the offer of the guided tour. I really, really appreciate this time.
REV. RICKY BURGESS, PITTSBURGH CITY COUNCILMAN: Well, it‘s my pleasure.
MADDOW: The NRA is holding their convention in Pittsburgh for, I think, the second time in the last 10 years. They‘ve done that. They were here in 2004 and about 70,000 people at this convention center downtown.
Tell me about your district - district 9 in Pittsburgh and the relationship to downtown, differences, similarities, how they‘re connected.
BURGESS: I represent the eastern part of the city of Pittsburgh. I represent the poorest area of the city of Pittsburgh, unfortunately, the most crime infected, the most homicides, the most drug-infested area of Pittsburgh, the lowest economic standards and it is unfortunately, a very difficult place. It is a place that has been plagued by violence, by gun violence.
I, myself, my whole life has been the consequence of gun violence. My aunt was murdered. My mother had a nervous breakdown and for 20 years had a mental illness that she never recovered from.
My cousins have been shot and killed. My wife‘s father was shot.
My wife‘s mother, my mother-in-law, was shot and killed, who lived with us. Her brother killed someone and spent 20 years in the penitentiary. I have adopted his son and had raised him as my own son.
I actually went into the ministry to kind of figure out this thing. So, all of my life has been affected with violence. My wife‘s cousins have been shot and killed. I had children of my church shot and killed.
I ran for council, in fact, because I just couldn‘t take the shootings anymore. The ease in which you can buy guns in these communities is frightening. You can buy a gun from a gas station.
I mean, why do individual citizens need AK-47s, M-16s, AR-14s, three and four of them? You know, there‘s no gun manufacturer in the community. These guns are not made here. They are brought here through purchasers, through gun shows.
It‘s turned my community into either a combination of the old Wild West or a ghost town. It‘s killed the businesses. It‘s killed the residential community. The area I represent has lost almost 75 percent its population since 1968. It‘s just been devastating. And almost all of it leads directly or indirectly to gun violence.
MADDOW: What options do you feel like the city of Pittsburgh has? You as a city councilor, the city more broadly—what options do you have to try to reduce gun violence?
BURGESS: That makes it even sadder. It‘s because of the hold the NRA has on our state legislature that we are prohibited from passing any responsible gun ownership laws.
MADDOW: When we fight nationwide about the gun laws, one of the things that is commonly observed is the cities really have different needs than rural areas. But the state legislation, the state law in Pennsylvania says you can‘t have a specific law in Pittsburgh that doesn‘t apply to the rest of the state. You can‘t solve your own city-based problems. All the laws have to be uniform for the whole state?
BURGESS: Yes. I think what Mayor Bloomberg said that when you hear the word duck in a rural community, you‘re talking about water fowl and (INAUDIBLE). When you hear duck in an urban community, you are talking about getting down and being safe.
I have—I have in my community, I have mothers who have children, they have children sleeping in the bathtubs. I had mothers who have their children playing in basements, won‘t let them on the streets because of the gun violence. Certainly, the urban part of Pittsburgh is completely different than the rural communities in the middle of Pennsylvania.
We absolutely need common sense gun laws because of the gun shows and the lax laws we have in Pennsylvania, it‘s just—it‘s a crime. It should be a crime for the way guns are flowing in the communities where I represent.
MADDOW: And you see that as the influence of the NRA on the state legislature?
BURGESS: Absolutely, they control the state legislature. That‘s why there‘s no responsible handgun legislation passed in Pennsylvania. And I wish the NRA was having their convention in Homewood so they could see firsthand the effect of their lobbying on my community.
In many ways, they have—their lobbying has always sentenced my community to a death sentence.
MADDOW: If you, in Homewood, could come up with your own local gun related policies, what do you think would work that could be enforceable that you could imagine not only being a smart policy in terms of goals, but being enforceable?
BURGESS: Well, I don‘t see any need to have assault rifles in the city of Pittsburgh. There is no way I would ever allow there to be assault rifles. That‘s number one. That has to go.
One of the three Pittsburgh police officers were killed by a mentally ill man with an assault rifle. Certainly, there has to be stronger background checks for people who do have guns.
Third of all, I would eliminate any guns coming into the community from gun shows and things like that. Now, whether or not it‘s enforceable that‘s a different question. But, certainly, we need to find a way to remove the guns off the streets.
We have no statewide laws in stolen handgun prohibition. So, a purchaser can buy a myriad of guns, sell them illegally and then they are on the streets and there‘s no way of tracing it back to the original owner.
MADDOW: Let me make sure I understand that. Reading about, I know that‘s one of the things Pittsburgh tried. So, if I‘m a straw purchaser, I‘m legally allowed to buy guns but I‘m not buying it for myself, I‘m buying them in my name and giving them to other people and they are used in crimes.
BURGESS: That‘s right.
MADDOW: When the weapon gets traced back to me because I am the owner of record, I say I lost it.
BURGESS: I lost it, don‘t know what happened to it.
MADDOW: So, the lost and stolen requirement would require you to notify law enforcement if, in fact, you did have lost your stolen weapon as soon as you realized it was gone.
BURGESS: That‘s exactly right.
MADDOW: It was the loophole.
BURGESS: That‘s correct.
MADDOW: Pittsburgh tried to do that locally as a city.
BURGESS: Right. It‘s never been enforced because it can‘t be enforced because we‘re prohibited from enforcing that kind law by the state legislature, period.
All right. We are coming into Homewood now. And when you come in, (INAUDIBLE) you come past right now a woman and her sister walking home from the library. Two young men, 15 and 16, shot and killed her on her way home from the library on the left hand side of the street—as soon as we come into the entrance.
MADDOW: Was the motive robbery?
BURGESS: No. They were aiming at somebody else. They saw a guy at the gas station, they were trying to shoot him on his way leaving the gas station. They shot and killed her. We are going toward the business district where there‘s been so many shootings. It has eliminated the business district.
MADDOW: Are there any significant employers in Homewood at all?
MADDOW: No significant business?
BURGESS: No. There‘s some mom and pop stores, gas stations, some non-profits. No significant employment. Our funeral homes are doing great business, unfortunately. They are not drug trade. They are killing each other over girls, over colors, not colors, over territory, over streets, mostly silly killings. And—
MADDOW: That are—those are the sort of things that might result in violence in a different circumstance but maybe not death except guns.
BURGESS: If you have guns on the streets, a fistfight turns into a shooting. If you have guns on the streets, hard feelings in a moment turns into a shooting because it‘s instant, in a moment.
MADDOW: Is there an expectation from young men that they will be armed? On the street, do people expect if you are a man of a certain age, that you will have a weapon on you?
BURGESS: Most of the young boys, if they don‘t have a weapon on them, we think they do. This is the Kazuki‘s (ph) Chicken and Waffle place here. This was a thriving business when two gunmen, three masked gunmen came in and shot a young girl and young man in a wheelchair, killed them in that business right there. It‘s never been opened since the shooting.
Young Cole, her uncle a member of my church, she died. It was sad. Same thing with this restaurant that just closed here was a Kentucky Fried Chicken, up until about a few years ago. Another business just bought it and just closed it.
But, right here in the drive-thru, a 15-year-old boy was shot and killed right here in the drive-thru. And when he was shot and killed here in the drive-thru, they closed the KFC and then there was a family dollar next door that was about to open. They had put the Family Dollar store up, built a brand-new building for the Family Dollar. When the young boy was shot in this driveway, Family Dollar pulled out, took the sign out and the building has been vacant since.
MADDOW: And those business owners are closing those places because they believe that customers will not come here because it‘s too scary.
BURGESS: Well, they believe—that not only—whether customers come or not, they feel that the employees are in danger. And, OK, they have a reason for it, because just a few years before this, we had a drugstore in Homewood. The manager of the drugstore, which I‘ll take you past, was making a night deposit—no, a day deposit and they picked him up, they robbed him and they killed him. Then the drugstore closed.
And so, we lost our only drugstore. I‘ll take you past the former Rite Aid. It was a Subway at one point. It‘s just sad.
I mean, when I grew up, every vacant lot you see was a business, was
this had two bakeries, grocery store. This was our business district.
Now, it‘s just empty. It‘s just nothing here. All the stores are closed.
The beauty salons are closed. The stores are closed.
This is the Rite Aid where they killed the manager of the store. They killed the manager of the store, the company even though they had a long term lease closed the building and it‘s stayed like this ever since.
MADDOW: What would it take to get business back to Homewood?
BURGESS: You got to stop the shootings. You have to stop the shootings. I mean, you can‘t have these kinds of shootings in broad daylight. You can‘t have these kind of executions and expect businesses to invest. They are not going to.
This is the community college, the local branch of the community college. The only really one in an African-American community west of Philadelphia. I teach there. I teach a class there.
MADDOW: Is this community college an anchor here?
BURGESS: It‘s one of the anchors for the young people. But, of course, some students won‘t come here because of where it‘s at.
When my member‘s son was shot 11 times, I heard the shots on my porch. I was sitting on my porch. I heard the shots. I didn‘t realize it was him, but I heard the shots on my porch. I mean, I hear the shots at night.
It‘s unbelievable and it‘s—no one should have to live this way.
No one should have to live this way.
And the only reason that people will say that it‘s OK to have these guns because they don‘t live where I live and they don‘t experience what I experience. You know, they have not seen their family members shot. If you see it once or twice, it will change your life forever.
MADDOW: How—If you could talk to Wayne LaPierre, if you could talk to the big wigs at the NRA, to explain to them the connection between what they‘re doing downtown of the convention center right now and what‘s happened here in your community, how would you put it to them?
BURGESS: I have watched people who I love, my own family, my immediate family, my mother-in-law lived with me when she was died, she was shot. I have watched them walk out the door and not come home.
I‘ve seen kids who grew up in my church who I baptized, who I tot, who I tutored, who ate pizza and candy with me and my youth groups. I have had to do their funerals and watch them shot. I‘ve watched young kids, you know, 15 and 16-year-olds who could not save their lives, became expert shooters and killers.
These guns are killing people. There‘s not hunting here. We are not hunting deer. There‘s no quail here. There‘s no buffalo here. We are not hunting rabbits and raccoons here.
These guns are killing people who I love. What will you do if guns were killing the people you love? Would you let them continue? Would you – tell me how many people in your family have been shot and killed by guns?
And maybe if you lost four or five family members, maybe you would see it from my position. For them, it‘s fun. For me, it‘s life and death.
MADDOW: Is there a way that what you think needs to happen in your community and what they think needs to happen in terms of preserving the right to bear arms as American citizens, can those two things happen together?
BURGESS: I think so. I guess—I believe you can have responsible gun laws without prohibiting guns all together. I actually challenged the local NRA representative to a debate on television. We actually debated. I told him, I believe the Constitution gives us the right to bear arms, but where does it say we have a right to pack an AK-47. Show me where it says we have a right to have an M-16, that we can submachine guns walking down an urban neighborhood.
Responsible handgun ownership means certain handguns should not be on the streets, period. Not in an urban community. And, second of all, I think that there should be strict laws to—responsible laws so the gun owner has the gun, maintains the gun and is qualified to have the gun.
Now, you don‘t want nearly all people. You don‘t want people with criminal backgrounds. None of them should have guns. I mean, let‘s be honest.
There‘s a common sense. Every day, 90 percent of the people you talk to should do it. I believe their interest is more political than—well, their interest is not the lives of these people, let me put that. This is my interest, these lives, because these are the lives I have guidance (ph).
MADDOW: Councilman Ricky Burgess and I did have a chance to see Homewood up close and personal. That‘s coming up next.
Stay with us. I think you will want to see this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURGESS: This alley was known as, for a while, the most dangerous place in the United States. This alley, right here, where we are at. This was the most dangerous place. They have the highest incidents, the most homicides right here in this alley in the United States. And so, that‘s why this is like this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: More ahead. We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: You said you used to play here when you were a kid?
BURGESS: This was my alley a couple blocks down. I learned to play basketball, football, baseball, you know, track relays right here. This was for many years the most dangerous places in the city of Pittsburgh. One of the local record producers called it Klitzberg pistol-vania (ph).
These houses were learned to store guns and to store bodies. What they did was they put holes because they‘re all connected. They put holes in the walls interconnecting these buildings. So, they go in this door, and if the police were chasings, they would go in this door and run down through the holes of the walls and come out further down in order to escape police.
Bodies were found here, guns were found here, almost any vacant building, you had a danger of finding guns because that‘s where they hide - - rather than hide them at their house, they hide them in places like this.
One of my great, great, great interests, I have the mayor to agree , we‘re working on tearing this down. This has to come down.
But as you see, it‘s, you know, empty lots, vacant lots. And even being here this way is dangerous.
BURGESS: Even though they‘ve concreted some of it, still some of it you can in—how you doing baby? You OK? Good to see you. What‘s your name?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gerarda (ph).
BURGESS: Gerarda, good to see you. How you doing?
MADDOW: Do you live around here?
BURGESS: Where do you live?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over there.
BURGESS: OK. Well good. On your way home from school?
MADDOW: This is your city councilman.
BURGESS: I‘m your city councilman, how are you doing? Good to see you.
A young girl about her age was shot and killed about five years ago on the front side of the street on the way home from school. It is dangerous because there is a school about two blocks that way. But the school was probably like this.
MADDOW: Seeing her go home through these lots is hard.
BURGESS: It‘s hard for me. And I see it every day. I see it absolutely every day.
MADDOW: What happens to –
BURGESS: And this is a result, make no mistake, this is economics. These were closed because of gun violence. They got this way because they were shooting people on these streets every day. This alley was known as for a while the most dangerous place in the United States, this alley right here where you‘re at.
This was the most dangerous place, highest incidence of homicide right in this alley in the United States. So, that‘s why this is like this.
MADDOW: And so, people had to move because regardless of what else was offered or not offered.
BURGESS: Right. They had to go. They just had to go.
MADDOW: The thing about seeing this here is that like Pittsburgh has got good bones, you know?
MADDOW: Sort of like big, beautiful houses like this is—
BURGESS: Right. These houses are gorgeous. If you go in the houses, they‘re gorgeous. This was marble on these houses. This was the steel workers.
BURGESS: Back in the day. My father worked in the mills. All of my family, you know, from the mills. And these are all steel workers‘ houses.
And so, they are built on, you know, stone and there‘s brick and there‘s marble and there‘s wood and there‘s bathrooms and they‘re built for mobile families, too. This was the largest Arashati (ph) neighborhood back in the ‘40s and ‘30s. It was the largest Arashati neighborhood in Pittsburgh.
And so, you know, you‘re seeing these houses built for mobile families, mobile kitchens and mobile bathrooms and any of these houses probably couldn‘t sell for more than $20,000.
MADDOW: Amazing. And, you know, the only thing I‘ve ever seen with
this many houses boarded up is natural disaster. It‘s been flooded. It‘s
you know, hurricane damage, that sort of thing. But this isn‘t natural disaster.
MADDOW: This is policy disaster.
BURGESS: Right. This is policy. This is gun violence.
This is—tell the NRA, thank you very much for this gift. This is what guns have done to my community. And I have more vacant houses, more empty lots than any other place in the city of Pittsburgh. Oh, there are 5,000 of them.
I can show you house after house after house. I can show you houses with furniture in them. You could move into them tomorrow.
This is my home. I love this place. I still love it.
MADDOW: It‘s beautiful. It‘s a beautiful neighborhood.
BURGESS: I believe I can rebuild it.
MADDOW: Why doesn‘t the Democratic Party, why don‘t people who represent urban districts have a say in gun debate? The gun debate is dominated by the NRA, dominated by people who are fundamentalist about gun rights. Why isn‘t the other side surfacing in the gun debate?
BURGESS: I can‘t answer that question. I do know here in Pennsylvania, we are controlled by the Republicans. Our House, our Senate, and our governor are owned by Republicans and so, they are not interested. And the NRA, you know, puts a lot of money in lobbying, a lot of money in political contributions and they absolutely control our state.
And so, any responsible gun law has not been passed in our state, and people like me, I think, who speak up, I think hopefully we‘re heard, but I think we don‘t have the power in the state in order to make it happen because in Pennsylvania, we have two major urban centers but a lot of rural communities represented by rural representatives.
But I challenge them to come here with me. Let me show you my community. I will show you the victims of gun violence. I‘ll show you what is left and you tell me what good your lobbying has done for my community.
Tell me what those guns have done in good for my community. I‘ll show you the deaths. I‘ll show you the people. I‘ll show you the houses. I‘ll show you the abandoned buildings. I‘ll show the flight.
You tell me what—how would good the overwhelming number of guns on my streets have done to my community. What good has it done for us?
MADDOW: Councilman Ricky Burgess, thank you for this tour and this time.
BURGESS: Thank you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I came here for a simple reason, to say “thank you” on behalf of America. This has been an historic week in the life of our nation.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: Thanks to the incredible skill and courage of countless individuals, intelligence, military, over many years, the terrorist leader who struck our nation on 9/11 will never threaten America again.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The president rounding out a remarkable week today at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, on the base that is home to the helicopter regiment that flew this weekend‘s operation targeting Osama bin Laden. And, frankly, I still can‘t quite believe that what happened this week really happened but it really did. It took 10 years but it‘s finally done.
A special report on Osama bin Laden‘s death starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copyright 2011 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>