The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/17/12
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thanks, my friend.
ED SCHULTZ, “THE ED SHOW” HOST: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next
We`re going to have the latest on the aftermath and the continuing
news out of Newtown, Connecticut, tonight, as well as some other important
politics, news that is not related to what happened in Newtown.
The brand new senator-elect from Connecticut is Chris Murphy. He`s
going to be joining us this hour.
The mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Cory Booker, is going to be joining
us in just a moment.
As well the police chief from Oak Creek, Wisconsin where that mass
shooting at a Sikh temple occurred this past August.
That is all coming up this hour.
But, in order to understand one important element of the response to
Newtown, in order to try to get a handle on the range of possible outcomes
here, as we try to make decisions as a country as to whether we are going
to change as a country because of this massacre and because of the national
heartbreak it has caused, to try to get at that very big question, there is
a very narrow discussion to be had about a piece of new technology. A
piece of new technology that is worth explaining in this context, then it
This is something called a 3D printer. The idea behind a 3D printer
is that anybody can become a small-scale manufacturer of anything. All you
have to do is download a computer file or create a computer file that has
the specifications for the shape of a thing that you would like to build.
You do have a limited range of the material that your 3D printer can make
something out of that you have programmed it to make. But you can create a
physical, three-dimensional object with something that is the equivalent of
Now, as yet, these things cost a few thousand bucks, but it is a
relatively straightforward thing. This exists. There are a bunch of
different brands of them out there. You can manufacture something. It`s
It`s also interesting and complicated and maybe quandary-inducing when
you consider the fact that one of the things that people are already
starting to build things with what they call 3D printers, these home
manufacturing kits where you can make anything, one of the things people
are already starting to make is a gun.
If you think about a gun as being kind of like a car, then the engine
and the drivetrain in the car, the part that makes it go, the equivalent of
that in the gun is the part that`s called the lower register. It`s the
guts of the gun essentially. It`s the part of the gun that`s registered
and regulated even if all the other parts of the gun can be bought, just as
if they were pieces of plumbing.
But the lower receiver – I said lower register before – the lower
receiver is the guts of the gun. It is the heart of the thing.
And people have started to make lower receivers for AK-47 style
weapons at home, using a file that you can download on the Internet. You
can actually down load it right here. I have one on my computer, which
makes me wonder about the next time NBC comes and checks my computer.
This is what happened when the folks who printed that lower receiver
fitted other parts of a gun that are not regulated the way a lower receiver
is, fitted other parts of a gun onto that piece that they printed with a 3D
printer. This is the video they released of themselves firing bullets out
And as you can see, the 3D gun failed and busted apart after it fired
about six rounds, which makes it yes, a gun, but the technical term for
what kind of gun it is, is that it is a crappy gun because it blew apart
six rounds. But this kind of thing is probably not going to stay a crappy
gun for long. Not when you can get this far with stuff you can find around
the house, right?
For all the work that has gone into thinking about who is allowed to
have a gun in America and where you can buy one and what kinds of guns
people are allowed to have, that all kind of goes out the window. People
can just download their chosen weapon at home and have it made manifests at
their desk, as a fully functioning real-life weapon.
We are not far off of that. What`s that going to do to our gun laws?
We have faced technological challenges to our thinking about guns
before. In the late 1980s, advances in gunsmithing made it seem inevitable
that gun manufacturing firms, like Glock, for example, would start making
fully plastic weapons, guns that would not ping at all if you carried one
through a metal detector.
And since metal detectors and X-ray machines were and are a major part
of how we keep guns out of places that they are not allowed to be in this
country, the U.S. Congress in 1988 passed something called the Undetectable
Firearms Act. The Undetectable Firearms Act said basically, your gun has
to be detectable in an X-ray scanner. It has to have the equivalent X-ray
signature of 3.7 ounces of stainless steel, even if you take out the
magazine where the bullets go and the stock and the grips. Even with those
parts taken off, the remaining guts of the gun need to have a substantial
metal component so they will set off a metal detector, so they will be seen
on an X-ray machine.
And because of that law, we do not have fully plastic guns. That law
was first passed in 1988. It was not particularly controversial. The vote
in the House on that was 413 to 4, and President Ronald Reagan signed it.
And tyranny was not unleashed upon the land. And nobody came to get
anybody in a black helicopter. And it is not controversial now that it is
illegal to manufacture or sell or possess a gun in the United States that
is built to evade detection by standard means.
We don`t have plastic guns. We banned plastic guns. The ban has been
renewed several times since. It is up for renewal again next year.
And Congressman Steve Israel of New York is making the case that the
new prospect of people being able to manufacture plastic guns at home with
their privately owned 3D printers might be a good reason to renew that ban
again when it comes up for renewal next year.
Changing laws about guns in this country, it`s always said to be
impossible. But, over and over again, it proves to not be impossible. I
mean, soldiers use fully automatic machine guns in battle all the time,
There are millions of these weapons in circulation. But they are
comparatively rare in instances of U.S. civilian gun crime. It`s not that
they never turn up, but they`re comparatively rare, because fully automatic
weapons are tightly regulated for the civilian market. Semi-automatic
weapons, not so much. But fully automatic weapons, yes. That`s because of
Also, two years before President Reagan signed the plastic gun ban, he
signed a ban on civilian sales or use of armor-piercing bullets – bullets
that are designed to penetrate body armor.
Also in 1993, another president, President Clinton signed a bill named
for the official who has been shot along with President Reagan, when John
Hinckley tried to assassinate him. The Brady Bill named for James Brady
instituted a federal background check system for people buying guns.
Yes, there are plenty of loopholes to the background check system.
But the system didn`t exist at all before the Brady Bill made it so in
1993. They said it couldn`t be done. It was done.
Then, the year after that, another step, the assault weapons ban.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: Democratic sponsors of the crime bill expect
that President Clinton will take a major role in making sure the final bill
bans semi-automatic assault weapons. As NBC`s Pete Williams tells us
tonight, this is the major, unresolved issue and it is a big one.
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC REPORTER: They`re called semi-automatic weapons.
Each pull of the trigger fires one bullet. Americans own about a million
of them. But they`ve been used in some especially deadly shootings, like
this one last July at a San Francisco law firm that killed eight. That led
a California senator to propose a ban on 19 types of semiautomatic rifles,
pistols and shotguns. That`s now in the Senate crime bill.
It targets weapons that have detachable clips for bullets, folding or
telescoping stocks and such features as bayonet mounts.
The bill sponsor calls them assault weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: The bill sponsor was successful. The bill became law. The
bill`s sponsor was Senator Dianne Feinstein of California.
Back in 1994, after a mass shooting at a law firm in San Francisco
perpetrated by a man with two Tec-9s and a semi-automatic pistol, took
eight lives before he took his own, the assault weapons bill passed in
1994. It was 10-year-long bill, which meant it was, in effect, for 10
years. Passed in `94, that means it came for renewal in 2004.
And in the administration of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in 2004,
we, as a country, decided to let it expire.
Remember how I said the vote on the ban on plastic guns back in the
`80s was a very lopsided vote. It was 413 votes in favor and only four
votes against? Dick Cheney was one of the votes against banning
undetectable plastic guns designed to slip by metal detectors and airport
X-ray machines when he was in the Congress.
Dick Cheney in the Congress also voted against the Reagan ban on
bullets designed to pierce body armor. And when the assault weapons ban
came up for renewal in 2004, Bush and Cheney made sure it expired.
Well, this weekend, Dianne Feinstein said she`s going to bring the
assault weapons bill back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: This is a first day bill I`m
going to introduce in the Senate. And the same bill will be introduced in
the House, a bill to ban assault weapons. It will ban the sale, the
transfer, the importation and the possession, not retroactively, but
prospectively. And it will ban the same for big clips, drums or strips of
more than 10 bullets.
So there will be a bill, we`ve been working on it now for a year.
We`ve tried to take my bill from `94 to 2004 and perfect it. We believe we
have. We exempt over 900 specific weapons that will not fall under the
But the purpose of this bill is to get just what Mayor Bloomberg said
– weapons of war off the streets our city.
DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: What makes you think you can pass it now?
`We`ve had tragedies before and nothing happens.
FEINSTEIN: Well, I`ll tell you what happened back in `93 when I told
Joe Biden who was chairman of the Judiciary Committee that I was going to
move this as an amendment on the crime bill, he laughed at me. He said
you`re new here. Wait until you learn.
And we got it through the Senate. We got it through the House. The
White House came alive and the House of Representatives and the Clinton
administration helped. The bill was passed and the president signed it.
It can be done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It can be done.
Every time something happens to reform gun laws in this country,
there`s the sense of marvel. They said it couldn`t be done, but look what
we were able to do. It can be done. It has been done. It`s been done a
The biggest barrier to changing gun laws now in the wake of this
latest massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, with 20 6 and 7-year-olds, among
the 27 dead, the big majority of American public, and even a big majority
of NRA members in favor of at least starter reforms to our gun laws, the
biggest barrier to reforming our laws now may just be the pervasive common
wisdom that it`s not even worth it to try.
Modern history defies that common wisdom. But it persists. It
Now, the last time we talked on the show about the long, long and long
lost modern history of bipartisan gun reforms was in the wake of the Tucson
mass shooting this past January, which very nearly killed Congresswoman
Gabby Giffords. And in the wake of that shooting, the Tucson shooting,
this was the general assessment about whether any reform of gun laws
possible. These were the headlines that we had: “Gun control dead,” “A
nonstarter”, “Shootings unlikely to change laws”, “Don`t expect any
That was our random survey of the headlines last January after the
Tucson shootings. At least if you asked the Beltway shooting gods, after
the Tucson shooting this past January, no change was possible.
Now, it seems like the common wisdom may be less certain. Look at the
headlines now. And it`s more like this. “Debate on gun control is
revived.” “Lawmakers call for tougher gun laws in wake of Newtown
massacre.” “Democrats vow action on gun control in wake of Newtown
shooting.” “Gun control debate simmers after Sandy Hook massacre.”
Nobody is saying it`s going to be easy for our country to reform its
gun laws in the wake of this latest massacre of innocent civilians by
someone wielding weapons designed for combat. Nobody says it`s going to be
easy to make those reforms.
But anybody saying it will be impossible is either spinning you or
they are not paying attention. History proves the change is possible.
History proves that change is the only thing that is inevitable.
Joining us now is the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, my friend, Cory
Booker. He`s also the member of the Coalition of Mayors Against Illegal
Mr. Mayor, thank you for being here.
MAYOR CORY BOOKER (D), NEWARK, NJ: So great to have you. We`ve had
this conversation before and I`m glad to be back.
MADDOW: Yes, we`ve had this conversation in our personal lives as
friends, but we have this conversation in public whenever there is another
horrible incident like this.
How much do you think national – the sense of national calamity and
heartache changes what is politically feasible right now?
BOOKER: I think it changes it dramatically. You know, look, I just
want to point out that this is a gut-wrenching tragedy. But every single
day, we have over 30 people that are murdered by gunfire, countless others
who remain wounded, paralyzed by guns.
I see it on the front lines in my cities and other cities all across
America, and the urgencies there. And now, hopefully, more people are
seeing if you don`t solve this problem, it`s going to continue to pop up
around our country.
And this is the beauty of it in my opinion. This is almost the
elegance of it, is that the majority of Americans, the majority of gun
owners, the overall majority of NRA members agree on sensible gun laws that
will make a dramatic difference, 74 percent of NRA members agree with most
of us that if you have a criminal conviction, that criminals should not be
able to buy guns.
And even at higher levels, when you think about the reality, that if
you are a suspected terrorist in America, you can go to the secondary gun
market and buy a weapon and conduct the kind of terrorism we saw in Mumbai
which was done with automatic and semi-automatic weapons.
This is the calling of our country, is to do what the overall majority
thinks is right. And it makes a difference. And let me give you one
example. One out of every two women murdered with a gun are murdered by an
intimate, by someone that they know well. That`s why on the federal
register that they do not allow people who are domestic violence
perpetrators to buy guns.
But that I have can still buy guns, a domestic violence perpetrator
can buy a gun on the secondary market, where estimates are that 40 percent
of gun-buying is done in America.
In states that closed down those secondary markets that said it`s
illegal to buy guns on the secondary market, that you must have criminal
background checks, that percentage of women murdered by their intimates
with weapons has gone down 40 percent. It makes a difference. We can save
lives if we just do what we all agree, including gun owners, agree should
MADDOW: Do you feel – I mean, making the case that policy makes a
difference is a – actually contested and emotional point to make, because
we all look at – I mean, we`re all looking for something that`s going to
be an easy solution to a complicated problem, right? And there are so many
things about potential fix to the gun laws that wouldn`t have stopped this
MADDOW: For example, the way that these particular guns were
attained, the fact that this young man seems to have gotten them from his
mother who was a target shooter, who obtained them legally and had them all
But now, we`re in a situation where we`ve had so many of these
incidents, we can`t treat them like individual, unrelated incidents that
can`t be tackled because they all have individually different
circumstances. There`s a pattern.
BOOKER: Right. And so, this is – exactly. This is not a one quick
flip. But if we really analyzed this issue, and I think cleared the table
of what we all agreed on.
Let me give you an example. People with mental health issues
registering with – states registering so that they cannot buy guns. The
federal government started that off. They don`t have the power through the
Tenth Amendment to compel states to do that.
So, right now, there`s 19 states with less than a hundred people in
their entire states that are registered with people that should not be sold
guns because of mental health issues. Some states are not being
We all agree that someone has a mental health condition or severe
mental health condition, shouldn`t buy guns. But it`s going to take
someone moving our government and our policy to catch up with the people of
the United States of America.
MADDOW: Do you think it`s more likely that we`ll have advances,
reforms of our gun laws, at the local level and at the state level than
we`ll have it at the federal level?
BOOKER: I think courage is called for at every level. There are
things the federal government needs to do that will help me in my city,
that my local laws or my state laws will not accomplish. And just like
with getting everybody to have a common speed limit around the country, the
government couldn`t mandate that, but they could create carrots and sticks,
highway funding and the like.
So we need courage and leadership for our leaders to not wait for the
national sentiment, but to get out in front and begin to lead along the
lines of common sense. That`s what`s being called for right now in our
country. And it will save lives.
MADDOW: What are some of the things that you have tried in Newark
that you`ve had high hopes for or you`re surprised by their effectiveness
in terms of trying to reduce the level of gun violence in your city?
BOOKER: So understand this. The overwhelming majority of my gun
crimes and the overwhelming majority of gun crimes committed in America are
done by people who get guns illegally, by people who get guns in the
secondary market. That`s what I said before. About 40 percent of our guns
are being sold in secondary markets, places like gun shows, the Internet,
there`s no regulation, there`s no background checks.
MADDOW: Private sales, sure.
BOOKER: Private sales. So that`s how are coming into cities like
So by states taking action and shut down those second markets, where,
again, every – the majority of gun owners, our Republican pollster, our
Coalition of Mayors, is a Republican pollster to poll gun owners and NRA
members – 74 percent of NRA members, 82 percent of gun owners believe that
these secondary markets should be stopped from selling to people without
doing criminal background checks. If we shut that down, the flow of
weapons into my city, into Camden, Philly, New York, New Haven, that flow
of weapons into these streets, many of them coming to the South where they
have secondary markets that are thriving, they would stop and dry up.
So, on the local level, this is what mayors get so frustrated about.
We are pouring incredible amounts of money, almost my entire property tax
base in my city, forget about the rest of government, is being used for
public safety purposes, more police on the streets, more cameras like
trying to lower this level of violence.
I`m doing everything right now, I`ve got a woman with a caliber, she
were melting down seized weapons and selling them as jewelry in order to
get money for more gun buy backs, because it helps guns in the streets.
You name it, I am trying it.
But without state and federal laws changes, many mayors are fighting a
very uphill battle and won`t be able to stop the levels of violence in
America to the extent that we want. This is a moment and it needs
leadership to seize it at every level of government.
MADDOW: Well, you hooked me up with a link for the melted down guns
becoming jewelry to finance gun backs?
BOOKER: Caliber is the name of it. I definitely will.
MADDOW: This is like some sort of like liberal trifecta out there.
It just hit me. Right there, jewelry and gun violence.
BOOKER: And a large percentage of profits are – good percentage of
the profits are going back to helping do gun buy back programs in my city.
BOOKER: Look, I just tell you, the national sentiment on drugs is
moving, on marriage equality is moving, on guns are moving, but we need
leadership on all of these issues that are not popular. We need
politicians to risk political capital and tell the truth about what needs
to be done to make our nations more equal and safer.
MADDOW: Cory Booker, thank you, man. Great to see you.
BOOKER: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Corey Booker, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey.
All right. Still lots to come on President Obama`s response and a
local response in Newtown. Plus, some politics news today that is not
about this major story.
Lots ahead, stay with us.
MADDOW: Today, in Connecticut, investigators looking into the Newtown
school shooting, said their investigation could take months to complete.
The shooter did not leave behind a note or a letter. They also say the
hard drive to his computer had been removed and severely damaged as if it
had been smashed with a hammer, so say the police.
According to “The Washington Post,” the shooter had no social media
profile, not even a Facebook page. One former classmate said he had been
home schooled for a time before attending the local high school.
But, again, the investigation to the shooter is on going and a
complete profile may not emerge for days or weeks yet. Investigators are
hoping to learn as much as they can by learning of the survivors of the
massacre, that is survivors – plural – as in two of them.
Today, we learned that two adults survived Friday`s shooting at Sandy
Hook Elementary School instead of the one that was previously reported.
Also, contrary to some earlier reports, a state police spokesperson
says now the shooter had no connection to the school either to his mother
or to himself. Sandy Hook Elementary School is closed indefinitely.
School officials say it`s unclear if the school will ever reopen.
Moving trucks were seen outside the school this morning, school
officials planning to move furniture and supplies to a vacant school in a
neighboring town that students will attend instead, at least for the time
In Newtown today, the first two funerals for victims, both of them 6-
year-old boys, Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto. Jack was buried in a New York
Giants football jersey. His favorite football player was Giants wide
receiver Victor Cruz. Victor Cruz had the boy`s name written on his cleats
for yesterday`s game.
Connecticut`s governor unveiled a plan to memorialize all of the
victims on Friday. Governor Dan Malloy asking for churches to ring their
bells 26 times on Friday, one week after the shooting began at Sandy Hook -
- the bells to be followed by a moment of silence.
In Washington, the House today held a moment of silence before it
began its evening session. Connecticut`s congressional delegation held a
vigil in the capitol tonight. Congressman Chris Murphy of Connecticut,
who`s the state`s new senator-elect, he brought to the floor a resolution
honoring the teachers, the first responders, the doctors and others in
Connecticut affected by the massacre.
Senator-elect Chris Murphy is going to be our guest tonight for the
interview. That`s next.
MADDOW: The town of Newtown Connecticut is in the fifth congressional
district in that state, which makes the congressman, Congressman Chris
Murphy. Congressman Murphy was just elected senator in Connecticut last
month. He will be sworn in to the upper chamber in January.
Senator-elect Chris Murphy joins us tonight for interview.
Senator-elect, thank you for being with us. It`s nice to have you
SENATOR-ELECT CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: It`s nice to be with
MADDOW: The whole country`s heart is bound up in your congressional
district right now, bound up in this town. What can you tell us about your
experience in this last few days in Newtown? What do you think about
what`s going on in Newtown that maybe isn`t translating to the national
stage as the whole country looks toward that town?
MURPHY: Yes, I`ve had the honor of representing Newtown for the last
six years. You know, at some level, I relate to this like everyone else
does. I have a 4-year-old son that I dropped off at school on Friday
morning. A few hours later, I saw him with a big smile on his face. You
know, there are 20 sets of parents in Newtown that dropped their kids off
that same Friday morning and that was the last day I ever saw of them.
You know, Newtown is a small town. It`s really the quintessential New
England village. It`s got a Labor Day parade that runs through the center
of town, the biggest one in the state. You know, every church group and
civic group and religious group, they spend half the year getting ready for
that parade. They take a lot of pride in it.
It`s a really close knit town. That makes this grieving process even
worse. Remember, this is a community school. So every single kid who was
killed on Friday comes from a handful of neighborhoods. And so, everyone
knows these families.
But, you know, that also points forward to how Newtown is going to
survive, because it is so close. Because the process of grieving has
happened through thousands of small acts of humanity that have occurred in
the fire house in neighborhoods and churches. And so the smallness of the
town makes it hurt everyone more.
But how close knit this community is sort of points the way to how
we`re going to survive.
MADDOW: Obviously, there`s no way to help in the way that help needs
to be done. The only kind of help that would matter is if this had not
happened in the first place and we cannot go back in time. But as Newtown
is trying to cope and Connecticut is trying to cope, do you feel like the
heartfelt feelings of the nation are translating into the literal help that
you need either from the federal government or any other resources.
Is Connecticut and is Newtown getting what it needs at a policy level?
MURPHY: No, it is getting what it needs right now. We have an
overabundance of counselors who are on the ground. There`s state troopers
assigned to every single family, to make sure that they have what they
need. But, also, to make sure that the media, which can tend to overstep
its grounds, its bounds sometimes, is held in sort of the right level of
The question is what happens two or three weeks from now. We have
more counselors than we need today. But when the cameras leave and when
the focus of a nation goes somewhere else, it`s going to be our job to make
sure that we have just as many resources three weeks from now or a month
from now because the grief is only beginning.
I mean, we had our two first funerals today. I was at one of them.
There`s going to be parents and teachers and kids who don`t grab ahold of
their grief, who don`t even realize what they saw for another few weeks.
This morning, Noah Pozner`s funeral, his twin sister was there. And
you can tell that she, like probably hundreds of other kids at that school,
haven`t yet even come to grips with their loss. We`re going to need a lot
of help and resources three weeks, three months, three years from now –
not just right now.
MADDOW: I wonder how you feel at this juncture right now in your own
life. I mean, you`ve gone from spending six years in the House in a very
hard fought campaign for the U.S. Senate. You`ve been elected senator-
elect in Connecticut.
You`re going to be moving into that upper house in Congress. You`re
moving into a time in your life where you`re going to represent this entire
state and you`re moving into a policy role where you`re one of one hundred
people. It`s an incredibly powerful position to affect policy.
Do you feel constructive about what policy can do? Do you feel
hopeless about this at this point? How do you feel what you`re about to do
in your life given what the challenges are in your home district?
MURPHY: Yes, I mean, clearly, mid priority is a new U.S. senator has
just changed over night. I`m going to make it my mission to help lead the
policy conversation on how we make sure that this doesn`t happen again. Or
even if it happens that the death and destruction is limited in a way that
we couldn`t here today.
So, yes, from a personal perspective, my job as a U.S. senator is
fundamentally differing. I`m going to be leading a grieving process and
leading a recovery process. You know, I was at a congregational church
service in Newtown on Sunday morning. You know, I can`t tell you the
number of people who even now, only 48 hours after that death and
destruction grabbed me and said, make sure this doesn`t happen again. Go
And I think it`s going to take those of us that represent Connecticut
a few more days than everybody else to join this national conversation.
But I think we`re going to find out that there was some pretty easy policy
steps, whether it`s on guns or addressing a culture of violence that could
have at least created a less likely environment for something like this to
The tipping point should have happened a long time ago. We don`t need
a national conversation. We need national action and I`m going to be part
of that debate for probably the majority of my first term in the United
MADDOW: Congressman and senator-elect, Chris Murphy of Connecticut –
thank you for finding the time to talk to us tonight in the middle of all
of this. Sir, I really appreciate it.
MURPHY: Thanks, Rachel.
All right. Back in August, a white supremacist shot and killed four
others in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The police chief of that
town joins us in just a few minutes. Don`t miss this.
MADDOW: On a Sunday morning this last August, the suburban town of
Oak Creek, Wisconsin, was devastated by a mass shooting at its Sikh temple.
Last week, before the murders in Newtown, Connecticut, the Oak Creek,
Wisconsin, chief of police attended a national conference about how to
prevent mass shootings from happening.
Chief John Edwards from Oak Creek joins us shortly. That`s next.
MADDOW: Today, the White House called gun violence a complex problem
that will require a complex solution. This afternoon, NBC News reports
that President Obama met with White House staff, with Vice President Biden,
and with cabinet members, including Education Secretary Arne Duncan,
Attorney General Eric Holder, and Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to
talk about ways the nation and the administration could respond to the
Yesterday, the president traveled to Newtown where he met with
emergency responders and with the families of the Sandy Hook Elementary
Then, last night, the president addressed the nation from Newtown, at
an inter-faith vigil held at a local high school. The president spoke just
after 8:30 p.m. last night. The speech lasted about 18 minutes. Each of
the big three networks broke into their normal programming last night to
carry it, including NBC, which had to cut into the broadcast of “Sunday
Night Football” to carry the speech.
The president opened his speech by quoting Scripture. He paid tribute
to the adults who were killed on Friday, trying to protect their students.
And in the moment that will be remember for a long time, the president then
slowly read out the names of each of the 20 children killed in the attack.
The president also promised action, saying he would use, quote,
“whatever power this office holds to work on building the kind of public
policy that will prevent something like this from ever happening again.”
But even as President Obama was pledging to do whatever it takes to
prevent another mass shooting, the president acknowledged last night how
many mass shootings we have endured as a country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Since I`ve been
president, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a
grieving community torn apart by mass shootings. Fourth time we`ve had
survivors. The fourth time we`ve consoled the families of victims.
And in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings
across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children,
in small towns and in big cities all across America – victims whose, much
of the time, their only fault was being in the wrong place at the wrong
We can`t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end
them, we must change.
We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that
is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world
or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. But that can`t
be an excuse for an action. Surely, we can do better than this.
If there`s even one step we can take to save another child or another
parent or another town from the grief that`s visited Tucson and Aurora and
Oak Creek and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before
that – then surely we have an obligation to try.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The president last night referencing not only his own
experiences during his presidency, addressing a grieving nation after a
mass shooting, but, also, the number of times that previous presidents have
had to do that before him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, THEN-U.S. PRESIDENT (May 20, 1999): You`re all
left with searing memories and scars and unanswered questions. There has
to be healing. There have to be answers. And for those things that will
not heal or cannot be answered, you have to learn to go on with your lives.
I hope you have been comforted by the caring not only of your
neighbors, but of your country and people from all around the world. All
America has looked and listened with shared grief and enormous affection
and admiration for you. We have been learning along with you – a lot
about ourselves and our responsibilities as parents and citizens.
GEORGE W. BUSH, THEN-U.S. PRESIDENT (April 17, 2007): It`s impossible
to make sense of such violence and suffering. Those whose lives were taken
did nothing to deserve their fate. They were simply in the wrong place at
the wrong time. Now they`re gone and they leave behind grieving families
and grieving classmates and a grieving nation.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Mass shootings are not a new phenomenon in our country. But
if it seems like the worst of them are happening more frequently these
days, it`s because that`s true.
Just over the course of the past four years, during the presidency of
Barack Obama, before Newtown, there was also rural Alabama, where a man
went on a shooting rampage in 2009 killing 10 people, including several of
his own family members. In Binghamton, New York, where a gunman opened
fired an immigration services center in 2009, killing 13 people.
In Tucson, Arizona, last year, where then-Congresswoman Gabby Giffords
was horrifically wounded and six people were killed.
In Aurora, Colorado, this year, where 12 people were shot in a movie
theater and 58 people were shot and injured.
And, again, this year, Oak Creek, Wisconsin, six people gunned down at
President Obama acknowledged that history yesterday in his address to
the nation. From the site in the latest in a devastatingly long series of
mass shootings that we have experienced in this country. In trying to
console the country and make sense of what happened, the president has
acknowledged that he has done this before and that other presidents have
done this before him. We have all done this before. And is there anyway
in which that can help?
As a nation, we have a sickening amount of experience with mass
shootings. And that is its own indictment of us as a nation. But is there
anything from that horrible experience that can teach us how to try to
handle it now that it has happened again. Is there anything from this
long, awful, always unimaginable experience that we have as a country, that
we should have learned from, that we should have learned how to stop this
from happening by now?
Joining us now is Chief John Edwards. He is the chief of police in
Oak Creek, Wisconsin, where four months ago six people were killed at a
Chief Edwards, thank you very much for being here. It`s nice to have
you here, sir.
JOHN EDWARDS, OAK CREEK, WISCONSIN POLICE: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: With the nation`s eyes on Newtown now, with our national
heartache for that town right now, I have to ask you how Oak Creek is doing
and during your own version of this disaster and now four months down the
EDWARDS: It brings back a lot of memories and things that we went
through. Our Sikh temple in Oak Creek held a vigil last night, which was
attended by many citizens of our city. And they put out candles for every
victim in Newtown.
I called there myself today and talked to some of the dispatch
personnel, and talked about some of the things they went through and very
similar to ours and left a message for the chief. I knew how busy he would
be and what he`d be going through. So there`s no way I wanted to interrupt
anything he`s doing. But it did bring back a lot of memories for a lot of
MADDOW: One of the things that is under-appreciated sometimes in
people trying to understand the trauma of this is how much of the trauma is
born by the first responders, by not only the emergency medical personnel,
but by people who think they go into a live shooter situation, in the case
of Oak Creek, it was a live shooter situation. I know you have a
lieutenant there who was are grievously wounded in the attack.
Is there anything that you feel that you`ve learned in Oak Creek in
terms of trying to manage the long-term impact on first responders in
EDWARDS: You have to get a handle on that immediately. You have to
get take care of those individuals. I was in the hospital that night where
my lieutenant was being operated on, and all the officers had come to the
I looked in their eyes. You could see a lot of people were lost,
didn`t know what to do, didn`t know what to think, and sometimes we put
them aside and forget about them, and we should be – you know, our efforts
should be into them in fixing them and make sure that they get through
this, because they`re going to go through some things for the rest of their
life, and it`s going to scar them.
Some officers have never recovered from things like this, but we have
to help them get the information they need to get through it. They need to
know that what they`re going through is normal and it`s a process, and
there`s things that we can do to mitigate it and help them get through it,
but everybody does it at their own pace and handles it differently.
But we do need to deal with that. When they had to carry their
lieutenant to a squad and rescue them, the affect that had on them, I can`t
imagine what those first responders went through.
In Newtown when they walked into those classrooms, I don`t even want
to think about or try to picture it because I`ve seen enough similar
situations and for it to be children would be just unimaginable. And I do
know that the department of justice has great victim witness services, and
they were on the ground very early, and I`m sure they were in Newtown
helping those officers, first responders and the families.
MADDOW: Chief Edwards, I know that just last week, right before the
Newtown attack, you were taking part in a national summit set up by
Homeland Security Department aimed at sharing ideas and trying to prevent
these events but also dealing with them when they happen.
Is there anything that you learned there at that national summit,
anything that you saw the federal government doing or other communities
doing that gave you cause for hope that interrupted what seemed to be this
national pattern we have or getting better with coping with it when it does
EDWARDS: Absolutely, there`s hope. When we got together with it,
there was a group of 25 to 30 people from all walks of different
disciplines. We had professors, researchers, college faculty, K through
12, law enforcement, John Hopkins facilitated this, and what we did is sat
down and brainstorm and talked about some of the prevention. What can we
do to look for and indicators to try to stop these things.
And after going through it, we found that the interdisciplinary things
that we deal with, sometimes we look at things in our own little glass
house where I might assess it as a law enforcement one way where a mental
health professional might assess it in a different way or a school may look
at it for a different reason. But we don`t share that information, and we
need to start sharing that information and combining that information to
look for and identify people that we can intervene with and get them the
help they need before this happens.
Unfortunately, when we talk about some of this, there are civil
liberties involved, and we have to look at that. Those are some of the
things we talked about, and we talked about do we want to have a news
conference where there`s mass casualties, or do we want someone where they
felt their mental health records were given up and people looked at them
and they didn`t like that fact, but it might have saved lives.
This also includes, as far as I`m concerned, military records. The
individual in our case was a former military. So those records should be
available. There may have to be some laws that are changed.
There was really good brainstorm, there was really no politics
involved, and we came up with some good ideas and recommendations.
MADDOW: Chief John Edwards of the Oak Creek, Wisconsin, police –
you`re trying to turn your community`s experience and your own experience
with this into something constructive that the nation could learn from,
something we`re all grateful for. Thank you, sir. Appreciate it.
EDWARDS: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. There`s a lot going on in politics news
specifically that has not been getting its usual amount of coverage because
of the ongoing story out of Newtown. We`ll bring you up to speed on some
of those headlines, coming up next.
MADDOW: Today`s news for obvious reasons was dominated by the one big
story in the country, the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. But there
are important news items to get to tonight we want to bring you up to
The first of those is the passing today of a genuine American hero,
Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii. As long as the state of Hawaii has been a
state, it has been represented in Congress by Daniel Inouye. But it
Senator Inouye`s life before that, before his time in Congress, which is a
life that reads like fiction and that earned him legendary status.
Daniel Inouye was there at Pearl Harbor. After witnessing that attack
on our country, he tried to serve the United States in the military. But
not only was he told that he couldn`t, he was labeled an enemy alien by the
United States government. Ultimately, even after that Dan Inouye did serve
in the U.S. military and he served heroically.
During a firefight against the Germans in 1945, Inouye was shot in the
stomach. But even after being shot, he led his platoon against a nest of
machine gunners that were perched on a ridge in Italy. During that attack,
Inouye had his right arm shattered by German gunfire. He still managed to
destroy the German encampment by snatching a grenade from that destroyed
arm and throwing the grenade toward the enemy position, taking it out and
earning himself in the process the Medal of Honor.
Dan Inouye went on to become the highest ranking Asian American
politician in U.S. history, the second longest serving senator in U.S.
history, and at the time of his death, he was third in the line of
succession behind the vice president and the speaker of the House.
Senator Daniel Inouye`s office announced that he died of respirator
complications at a Washington area hospital this afternoon. He was 88
Second item you should know about in today`s news, outside of the news
from Newtown, Connecticut, is what seems like the inevitability now that
the next United States secretary of state is going to be Massachusetts
Democratic Senator John Kerry. NBC News has been able to confirm that
Senator Kerry will be nominated for that job by President Obama likely
sometime this week. Senator Kerry is not expected to face significant
opposition in the Senate.
If he does become secretary of state, that, of course, would mean a
special election in Massachusetts for his senate seat. That has to happen
145 to 160 days after the seat becomes vacant.
One of the names rising to the top of the list is a potential John
Kerry replacement in the senate is Vicki Kenny. Vicki Kennedy, the widow
of the late Senator Ted Kennedy.
Asked by local news outlets whether she might be up for this job, a
spokeswoman for Vicki Kennedy responded, quote, “We have no comment on this
at this time.” In other words, stay tuned.
And, finally, another state that has just dealt with what
Massachusetts is contemplating right now, the prospect of replacing a long-
time senator, is the state of South Carolina.
Today, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley announced she`s decided to
fill Senator Jim DeMint`s soon vacated seat with current Republican
Congressman Tim Scott. Tim Scott was elected to the House in the Tea Party
wave in 2010, so he hasn`t been there long. He will be the first African-
American senator of the state of South Carolina has ever had. He will be
the first African-American senator from the South, period, since the post-
Civil War/Reconstruction era.
Big news stories like what happened in Connecticut, of course, tend to
cast a shadow on all the other news out there, and understandably so, but
there was lots of other news out there today.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Have a great night.
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