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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/14/12

Guests: Dave Cullen, Carolyn McCarthy

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thank you. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour -- after a day that will remembered in this country forever for awful reasons. "To the people of Newtown, we are with you today and in the weeks and months ahead." That was the word today from Ron Barber, who was shot and wounded in the mass shooting in Tucson last year that killed six people and wounded 13, including the grievous wounding of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Ron Barber, who took Gabby Giffords` seat in Congress after she stepped down to deal with her injuries. He said today, "As those of us in Tucson know, senseless acts such as these tear at the very fabric of a community." Mark Kelly, Gabby Giffords` husband said today, "I just spoke with Gabby, and she sends her prayers from Tucson." In Oak Creek, Wisconsin, where four months ago this was another mass shooting at a Sikh temple. Another six people gunned down at that temple. A school superintendent there today told the local press that she cried when she heard the news out of Newtown, Connecticut. She said, "We always think it can`t happen here, and we pray fervently that it won`t. But as we know from our experience this summer, it can happen anywhere." The mayor of Aurora, Colorado, is still helping his community try to recover from the mass shooting there this summer, where 12 people were shot and killed and another 58 people were shot but survived. He said today from Aurora, "Our hearts go out to the people of Newtown." Colorado`s senator, Michael Bennet, he said today, "As Coloradans, we know how this type of tragedy can shake a community to its core. We are here for Connecticut today." Colorado`s governor, John Hickenlooper, he said, "We know too well what impact this kind of violence has on a community." He said that the first thing he wanted to do today was talk to his counterpart governor in Connecticut, Dan Malloy. Governor Hickenlooper said, "I cannot put into words how impossible it seems to me that this can happen again so suddenly." Virginia Tech was the site of a mass shooting five years ago, where 32 people were shot and killed on a college campus. Another 17 people were shot and survived. The president of Virginia Tech said today, "We of the greater Virginia Tech community know from our experience of the unending sorrow and horror that has now descended on the Newtown, Connecticut community." A man who was governor at the time of the Virginia Tech shooting, Tim Kaine, he said today, "Our commonwealth knows too well the pain of senseless gun violence." Collin Goddard, who survived the Virginia Tech massacre, he still has three bullets in him that were fired that day. He said today on MSNBC, "I`m still trying to wrap my head around the mass shooting that happened in Oregon earlier this week. When I saw this morning that this had happened, I sunk in my chair. You really cannot do justice to what these kids and what these teachers have just experienced." In the classroom where Collin Goddard was shot at Virginia Tech, there were 17 people in that classroom. Only seven of them survived. Two dozen kids were shot and wounded in a high school cafeteria in Springfield, Oregon, in 1998. The police chief there now, who was a first responder that horrible day at that Oregon high school 14 years ago said today about Newtown, "I know that there is going to be a lot of emotion in that community." He said, "In addition to the victims and the families in Newtown," that his heart goes out to the police and the emergency services personnel that responded to deal with this, because this is going to take a toll on a lot of people." Beth Nimmo, whose daughter was killed in the Columbine High School mass shooting, she said today, "As far as the parents go, they`re not going to know what hp hit them for a long, long time. My heart is racing. I just feel like these parents, they`re going to hurt so bad for so long and there`s not much you can do to console something like this." Frank DeAngelis was principal of Columbine High School when the massacre happened there, he`s still the principal there today, he said when he heard what happened in Connecticut today, quote, "It just made me sick to my stomach. It just takes me back to what we felt on April 20th, 1999. Even though it`s going to be 14 years, it just takes us back to that horrific day." And Dave Cullen, who wrote the definitive book on the Columbine mass shooting, he said today, "In my head, I have always insisted that any death is just as tragic. But little kids, this is overwhelming me." We`re going to be covering the latest news out of Newtown, Connecticut this hour. And there is new news. Law enforcement officer says the weapons used in today`s shootings were legally purchased by the gunman`s mother, who may have been one of his victims. In addition to the 26 people killed at the elementary school, another victim, believed to be the shooter`s mother, was found at a home nearby. Also, we`re told that the gunman`s brother, who was briefly misidentified by authorities as the shooter himself, he was questioned by police today after being picked up in New Jersey. The brother is not believed to have had any involvement in the shootings. We`re going to be getting to all of that latest information, including some reports tonight from live at the scene. We`re also going to be talking about the policy debate that has to arise in the aftermath of this nearly unspeakable event, despite all the calls for that debate to not happen, at least not today. We`re going to be talking about all of that this hour. But right now, the immediate question here is how we connect the specific horror of this particular tragedy today to the cumulative experience we have as a country with mass shootings. As a country that is subject to this kind of violence more than any other country on earth and more frequently than any of us could possibly imagine, if these previously unimaginable mass killings were not in fact happening to us as a country, month after month, year after year. This is the way we live as Americans. Can we bring anything to the aftermath and the response to Newtown from our national experience of living through this time and time and time and time again? Joining us now is David Cullen. He spent years as a Denver journalist researching and reporting on the Columbine shootings. He wrote the book "Columbine." Dave, thank you for joining me tonight in these difficult circumstances. DAVE CULLEN, "COLUMBINE" AUTHOR: Thanks for having me, Rachel. MADDOW: Is there -- is this the right question to ask? Is there anything about the greater context that can inform the way we process what happened today? CULLEN: Oh, I think that`s exactly the right question. You sort of took my breath away going through that litany. I kind of wasn`t prepared because I -- well, we all lived through all of those, and a lot of those names I know. But I think it brings home the point even more that there are things to be learned here that we haven`t really stepped up to learn. And I think the biggest single thing is we do need to look at the big picture. Because when any one of these things happens, every -- people feel like they want to know why. Like why did this happen. The small why of why did this happen and they`re looking at the bigger why, which what you`re talking about, is, why does this keep happening? The problem comes in we do a mental thing where we equate those, and we assume those are the same thing, and they`re not. There were two really incredible studies done about this, one by the FBI, one a joint problem of the Secret Service and the Department of Education. Fantastic studies. Both came to the same conclusion: there is no single profile of a shooter. There is no -- if we`re looking for the type or the rationale or the motive, the thing, like the reason, it doesn`t exist. But the good news is believe it or not, and this surprised me, there`s really three types that cover most of the ground. Now there are some outliers that don`t fit in there. It`s not 100 percent. But the vast majority fall into three types. If we understand those three types and address each of those three, and then sort of one-half and the other half look at the gun picture, I think we can shrink this dramatically. MADDOW: Those three types, in some cases it`s people who literally are so insane they don`t know what they`re doing. But that`s a very tiny minority. CULLEN: Yes, it`s unusual. It`s true in some of the major ones in Virginia Tech and at Tucson, it`s a minority of the cases, though. It does happen. But that`s one type. Another type even more rare is the sadistic psychopath. And that we saw with Eric Harris, the driving force behind columbine. Also killers -- most serial killers fall into that type, Ted Bundy is a classic. And these are people who -- they are not mentally ill. They know exactly what they`re doing. They`re very capable. They`re not out of reality. They just have no empathy for other people. They don`t care. And with sadistic psychopaths, they are people actually enjoy inflicting pain on others. They`re doing it because they want to, and they want to do this horrific thing. OK, we`ve got those two. Believe it or not, the majority other turns out to be suicidally, deeply depressed people. And they`re angrily depressives. We don`t normally equate anger with depression. We think of sadness and sort of droopiness and even the body language. We don`t think of it as an aggressive type thing. And psychologists talk about depression as anger turned inward. So you`re beating up on yourself. So, you`re presenting outwardly you`re this morose beaten down person because you`ve been beating yourself up. But sometimes in a small number of cases when you turn that outward, then we have something like this. And most often when a deeply depressed, angry person does that, he will normally inflict it either just on himself, he`ll commit suicide. The next wider thing is he will attack the person he feels to blame. So if it`s his parents, his girlfriend, if it`s at work, the boss, they`ll shoot the boss, or it will be contained to the person he identifies as the causer. Then, you go to a very small minority of people who will sort of lash out in that group. And kill not just the boss, but other people at work, or other people surrounding. And then you get the person who wants to lash out more wildly. So those are the three types. We got to be careful not to jump to conclusions too soon, but it`s almost all one of those three. MADDOW: Understanding that sort of template, that matrix at least of why -- why of course is the major part of our response. But based on what we have been through, and based on what you learned about Columbine, if you could caution anything about a more healthy versus less healthy, or more constructive versus less constructive response as a nation and as a community there to this tragedy -- is there anything that we have in terms of lessons learned? CULLEN: Yes. I think the biggest single thing is we need to address adolescent depression much more aggressively. There have been a couple of really blue collar panels, blue ribbon panels that have studied this. They keep coming to the same conclusion. There is about 6 percent of U.S. adolescents that are clinically depressed. That`s not just sad. It`s in a deep state that need help of one type or another, whether it`s, you know, counseling or drugs or whatever. They need some help. They`re relatively easy to identify. And you can do it in a simple screening process, for very little money. We could have every kid when you get your high school physical, you also have to get checked out, or periodically before graduation. Because the thing is, most depressives, kids want to -- they want help. And they will tell adults -- usually the two adults they will not tell are their mom and their dad. And that`s actually part of the screening protocol is that parents can`t be in the room, because they will usually tell a teacher or a counselor or a family doctor. Any -- they will tell an adult, but they hide it from their parents because they`re embarrassed, ashamed, all sorts of different reasons. So the parents are often blind to it because the child is sort of blocking their view. So parents have difficulty. But yes, we can do so much. MADDOW: Each one of these things seems like it is so unique and unimaginable. But it is part of a pattern in our country and understanding why and how is part of modern American life and our responsibilities. Dave Cullen, who wrote "Columbine" and did the definitive work on that, thank you so much for being here. It`s nice to have you here. CULLEN: Thank you very much, Rachel. MADDOW: Sure. Thanks. All right. MSNBC`s coverage of the Newtown shooting will continue in just a moment. There`s lots ahead. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We`ll have the very latest on the Newtown shooting in just a moment as MSNBC`s coverage continues. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We are back with continuing coverage of this morning`s massacre at a Connecticut elementary school. Newtown, Connecticut, is about 60 miles northeast of New York City. It`s near Danbury, Connecticut. The young man who police say was the shooter reportedly walked into two different classrooms at Sandy Hook Elementary. He fired dozens of rounds. He killed 26 people -- 18 children pronounced dead at the scene, six adults pronounced dead at the scene, and then two children who survived their initial wounds and were hospitalized later died in hospital. The shooter then killed himself at the school. `The Associated Press" is citing a law enforcement official moments ago saying that authorities found more than the previously described two guns at the school once they responded. More firearms than the two we have previously heard about. They`re not giving any further details yet. But that report just in from "The Associated Press". The students who were not shot, none of them older than fourth graders, were escorted out of the building by police officers this morning. They were taken to a fire station next door. Police officers reportedly told some of the children to keep their eyes closed until they had reached the parking lot. Law enforcement officials later discover that another person, an adult woman, possibly the shooter`s mother, was also shot and killed at a secondary scene in Newtown. A secondary scene related to the case. Reportedly, it is the house where the shooter lived with his mother. If that female victim is confirmed to be the shooter`s mother, investigator says that what likely happened is that the shooter killed his mother at home early this morning before then driving her car to the elementary school where she worked where he committed the rest of the murders. If that is in fact what happened, that would bring the total number of people murdered in Newtown to 27 -- 26 of them at the school, 20 of them children. Plus, of course, the shooter`s suicide. Officials are now identifying the shooter as Adam Lanza, 20 years old. They say he was carrying two handguns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. At first, law enforcement officials mistakenly identified Adam`s older brother Ryan as the shooter, that may be because official says Adam, the shooter, had been carrying his brother`s ID. It was only when police tracked down the brother at his apartment in New Jersey that police correctly identified the shooter as Adam and not Ryan. When he was arrested, Ryan said that his younger brother Adam had had mental health issues. But, again, the latest news from "The Associated Press" is that more than two guns may have been found at the scene of the school shootings. MSNBC`s Chris Jansing joins us from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Chris, thank you very much for being here. I appreciate it. CHRIS JANSING, "JANSING & CO." HOST: Good evening, Rachel. MADDOW: Did I just explain about what we know thus far, did that all sound right to you? Do you have any information for us -- updates for us about any of that information tonight from the scene? JANSING: I do think it is important to give a little perspective to exactly what happened here today. And for all of us to take a moment to think about what it must have been like to be here early this morning. You described a scene where little children are told to close their eyes and hold hands and leave a school where they have seen their friends, maybe their teachers get shot. And they were brought here to this volunteer fire department behind me in this bucolic town in New England. It`s a place where tonight they were expecting to sell Christmas trees. And you could not but help be struck when you drove into town that all the Christmas lights that were up, even as you see people in their cars and on the side of the road who are in tears. And the parents got a reverse 911 call, Rachel. We know that they came here as the children were brought here. And they went through the work, and we`re talking about hundreds of kids now, of matching the children with their parents. In the end, you have 20 sets of parents who are left. And it is left to be told to them. And the governor was among those who were there to tell the parents that your children are not going to be coming home. And so, I think it goes without saying the devastation that this community is feeling. The sense of -- I wouldn`t even can say outrage yet. In my experience at these things, the outrage comes later. But the total feeling of hopelessness and senselessness that has overcome this community as they try to figure out why something like this could happen, Rachel. MADDOW: Chris, thinking about that initial response, thinking not just about what it must have been like to be personally connected to that, but to be a first responder coming upon that scene and needing to do the active shooter search that we know that law enforcement did once they determined that the shooter was dead, then assessing what had happened there, treating it as a crime scene, trying to identify the victims. Do we have any further information about how they have had to process this massive and horrific crime scene, the horrible but necessary forensic work of how they have been able to process the evidence and identify these victims? JANSING: The coroner`s team is at the school now. It`s expected to be an active crime scene, at least to Sunday, probably into Monday morning. And everyone that we have spoken to who has witnessed what happened inside there say it is beyond words. It`s unlike any of them have ever seen, including a number of federal officials, just absolutely devastating. There has been no formal official confirmation of any of the identities of the 20 people who were killed. You need to understand that there are state standards that they must meet. They have some preliminary ideas, some preliminary identifications. They`re hoping to have more tomorrow morning. There will be at 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time news conference to update. I think the details that we do know about what it looked like inside that room are not things that people even want to talk about or think about. It was just an absolutely horrific scene. And it is painstaking and obviously highly emotional work that they`re doing right now. And will continue to do, we are told, throughout the night, because those parents who have not been able to be reunited with their children have not been able to see them yet or to make any plans. MADDOW: Wow. MSNBC`s Chris Jansing at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut -- Chris, it is a comfort to us to have you on scene with your experience and capability on a major story like this. Many thanks, Chris. I appreciate it. JANSING: Thank you. MADDOW: Chris Jansing is going to be covering a lot of our coverage later tonight. She has experienced covering the Columbine, the Tucson shooting, Aurora. She has been there and seen it. Her experience on a night like this is invaluable. All right. President Obama`s response to the Newtown shooting this afternoon was itself remarkable. That`s coming up. Plus, we`ve got some news beyond this story to share with you. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, is unfolding in a way that may seem familiar. The first calls to 911, emergency responders arrive, frantic family members converge on the scene looking for their loved ones, the media starts looking for answers. Government officials are called to account. For President Obama, another instance of horrific violence requires a response, not only to the many individual tragedies of today, not only to the people of the community rocked by loss, but to the nation and to the question of what we can do as a nation to keep this from ever happening again. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years. And each time I learn the news, I react not as a president, but as anybody else would, as a parent. And that was especially true today. I know there is not a parent in America who doesn`t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do. The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them -- birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own. Among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams. So our hearts are broken today for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children, and for the families of the adults who were lost. Our hearts are broken for the parents of the survivors as well. For as blessed as they are to have their children home tonight, they know that their children`s innocence has been torn away from them too early, and there are no words that will ease their pain. As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it`s an elementary school in Newtown or a shopping mall in Oregon or a temple in Wisconsin or a movie theater in Aurora or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children. And we`re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: As much as we think of this issue as a political untouchable, not the tragedy itself, but policy to prevent yet another tragedy like this -- as much as we think of this as a subject that cannot be discussed in Washington, President Obama has spoken to this issue before today. He has been called to speak to it mostly in response to tragedies like today. But when you look at his remarks combined over time in full, it`s just a remarkable chronicle of not just what he has said. What he said must be done. But it is a remarkable chronicle of what has not yet been done. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) OBAMA: It is part of our nature to demand explanations, to try to impose some order on the chaos, to make sense out of that which seems senseless. Already, we`ve seen the national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health system. And much -- much of this process of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self government. I hope that over the next several days, next several weeks, and next several months we all reflect on how we can do something about some of the senseless violence that ends up marring this country, but also reflect on all the wonderful people who make this the greatest country on earth. Every day, in fact, every day and a half, the number of young people we lose to violence is about the same as the number of people we lost in that movie theater. For every Columbine or Virginia Tech, there are dozens gunned down on the streets of Chicago and Atlanta, here in New Orleans. For every Tucson or Aurora, there is daily heartbreak over young Americans shot in Milwaukee or Cleveland. Violence plagues the biggest cities, but it also plagues the smallest towns. It claims the lives of Americans of different ages and different races, and it`s tied together by the fact that these young people had dreams and had futures that were cut tragically short. And when there is an extraordinarily heartbreaking tragedy like the one we saw, there is always an outcry immediately after for action. And there is talk of new reforms, and there is talk of new legislation. And too often those efforts are defeated by politics and by lobbying and eventually by the pull of our collective attention elsewhere. But what I said in the wake of Tucson was, we were going to stay on this persistently. I also share your belief that weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don`t belong on our streets. And so what I`m trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally? Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced. But part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence. Because, frankly, in my hometown of Chicago, there is an awful lot of violence, and they`re not using AK-47s, they`re using cheap handguns. As a country, we have been through this many times. We`re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: Regardless of the politics -- that is the crux from Tucson to Aurora to being reelected to Newtown, Connecticut, to what we hope will never be next. Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy joins us in just a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The MSNBC policy analyst Ezra Klein put together a long piece today tying together what he knows about mass shootings and what seem to be policies that might relate to them as a social problem. Ezra, of course is a policy guy. So he was looking at this through a policy lens. And the data it turns out, some of it is what you might suspect. But some of it really isn`t. For example, we all know that there are a lot of mass killings in the United States -- gun violence where multiple people are killed by the same assailant. This year alone, before what happen today in Connecticut, five people were killed in an Atlanta suburb in February. A student shot up his high school cafeteria and killed three people later that same month at that Christian university in Oakland, California, back in April, there were seven people killed. A targeted shooting spree in Tulsa, Oklahoma, back in April, was racially motivated. Five black men shot. Three of them died. There were five people killed at the Seattle cafe back in May. There was the Aurora, Colorado, massacre in July. Twelve people killed, 58 additional people shot who were not killed. The Sikh temple pass killing in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in August. That was the white supremacist guy. Six people were killed in that massacre. The gunman was also killed. In September, the Minneapolis sign company with the disgruntled employee. Five people shot and killed there. The Wisconsin spa shooting in October, three people dead there plus the shooter. Just this week, that mall in Clackamas, Oregon -- two dead plus the shooter. That was Tuesday of this week. Incidents where someone with firearms kills multiple people, these incidents happen a lot in the United States. And we know that. But in Ezra`s piece today, we see if you put these shootings in an international context, it is even more striking. If you look internationally at the worst mass shooting incidents of the last 50 years, the worst mass shootings in a civilian context that have happened anywhere in the world over the course of the last half century, 15 of the 24 worst mass shootings internationally have happened in our country. Worldwide over 50 years, a majority of the world`s mass shootings happen in one country, and that is us. They happen here. I might have suspected that, but I did not know that. Also interesting to note that there is not a direct correlation between the number of firearms in a country and the number of mass shootings they have. Yes, it`s true we happen to have a lot of guns and a lot of mass shooting. But there are places that have a lot of guns, places like Israel and Switzerland, where there`s not a proportionate correlation between their incident of guns ownership and their incidents of mass shootings. And the more specific you get, the more interesting the data gets. Ezra highlights an economist`s recent research looking into whether gun violence in our country is correlated with a lot of other factors that we sometimes assume must be correlated with it. But it turns out that things like higher population density is not correlated with gun violence. It turns out that higher levels of stress in a definable geographic area are not correlated with higher incidents of gun violence in that area. Higher levels of mental illness are not correlated with more gun violence in that area. The correlation you do find if you break things down to that level in the United States is that you do get less gun violence in places that have tighter gun control laws. Tighter gun control laws are correlated with fewer gun-related deaths. And that is correlation, that is not causation, but it`s good to know, right? Ezra said today when -- Ezra said today he first started to put together this index of gun-related wonkery and data after the Aurora, Colorado shootings this summer. So, he says today in the "Washington Post," at this time when we first collected much of this data, the air was thick with calls to avoid politicizing the Aurora tragedy. Ezra writes that is code, essentially, for don`t talk about reforming our gun control laws. Let`s be clear that is a form of politicization. It is just a form of politicization favoring those who prefer the status quo. Since then there have been more high profile shootings, Ezra writes. Jovan Belcher, a linebacker of the Kansas City Chiefs, took his girlfriend`s life and then his own. In Oregon, Jacob Tyler Roberts, entered a mall holding a semiautomatic rifle yelling "I am the shooter." And now in Connecticut, at least 27 are dead, including 20 children. If roads were collapsing all across the United States killing dozens of drivers, we would surely see that as a moment to talk what we could do to keep roads from collapsing. If a plague was ripping through communities, public health officials would be working feverishly to contain it. Only with gun violence do we respond to repeated tragedies by saying that mourning is acceptable. But discussing how to prevent more tragedies is not acceptable. "Talking about how to stop mass shootings in the aftermath of a string of mass shootings," Ezra writes, "is not too soon. It is much too late." Ezra there echoing comment there`s from New York City`s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has long been very outspoken on this issue, but never more so than today. He says, quote, "We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Virginia Tech, after Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek. And now, we are hearing it again. For every day we wait, 34 more people are murdered with guns. Today, many of them were 5-year- olds. President Obama rightly sent his heartfelt condolences to the families in Newtown. But the country needs him to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem. Calling for meaningful action is not enough. We need immediate action. We`ve heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership, not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today. This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response. My deepest sympathies are with the families of all those affected. And my determination to stop this madness is stronger than ever." That is from Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In 1993, there was a mass shooting on the Long Island railroad in New York. Six people were killed, 19 people were shot and wounded. Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy`s husband was among those killed, and her son was among those wounded. After that attack in 1993, Carolyn McCarthy ran for Congress on a gun control platform, and she won that seat in Congress. Today, in response to what happened in Connecticut, Carolyn McCarthy said, "These shootings are becoming all too common, and it`s too easy for dangerous people to get the weapons that help them perform mass executions like today`s. Leaders in Washington from both parties and groups like the NRA all say that now is not the time to talk about how gun safety laws can save lives in America. I agree, now is not the time to talk about gun laws. The time for that conversation was long before all those kids in Connecticut died today." Carolyn McCarthy`s mention of the National Rifle Association, the NRA, is what everybody is talking about when they talk about the need for leadership regardless of the political consequences on this issue. When the president today said we are going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics, he was talking there about the power of the NRA as a lobby. And it is true that they have so dominated their field of policy that instead of having the gun laws most Americans would like to have, it sometimes seems like instead we as a nation just have the gun policies that the members of the NRA would want. That is the impression that we all have. But that is not at all true either. We do not have the gun policies in this nation that members of the NRA want for this nation. Look at this polling from July of this year. This is NRA members. Fifty-seven percent of the NRA members believe that everyone who wants to buy a gun should have to pass a criminal background check, 71 percent of NRA members support banning people on the terrorist watch list from purchasing guns. Those are not things that are true of American law right, which is amazing. If you are on the freaking terrorist watch list, you can buy a gun in America. If we`re going to get past this almost hysterical fear of trying to do anything at all on gun rights, if we`re going to try to puncture the myth that anything to reform or rationalize gun laws is absolutely politically impossible as a categorical thing, what would happen if we just started at the edges? What would happen if we just started even members of the NRA say they want from national gun laws? Because they want a hell of a lot more than we`ve got right now. The organization they are a member of may not admit that, but when you poll their members, even they want improvements. Could we at least start with what NRA members want? Joining us now is Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy. She is a Democrat of New York. Congresswoman, thank you very much for joining us tonight. It`s nice to have you here. REP. CAROLYN MCCARTHY (D), NEW YORK: Thank you, Rachel. And thank you for giving that important information out to your audience. MADDOW: We have spoken after previous mass incidents of gun violence in our country, meaningful conversations of gun control did not happen after Tucson or after aurora. Do you think this time might be different? MCCARTHY: I`m hoping. Today when the president spoke, his tone seemed a little different. Maybe it`s because of my hope, because we`re going to need a president to lead us through this if we are going to do something. And I agree with you, you know, why can`t the NRA and many of us that are not trying to take away your right to own a gun, but to certainly make sure that the guns don`t fall into the wrong hands. And as NRA members have said, let`s close the gun show loophole. Let`s make sure everybody goes through a background check. Let`s make sure that we can do whatever we can so the easy access to guns can save lives. You and I have had these conversations before. You`re absolutely right. The NRA and the gun manufacturers, which would supply them with the money through the lobbying firms are the ones that are basically making all politicians, the majority of politicians shake in their boots. We are supposed to be there to protect the people. We are supposed to be there to make legislation, to make lives better. And we`re able to do that. But to be very honest, the American people and NRA members actually go forward and say enough is enough. We can do better than this. You and I have talked about this before, Rachel. We spend billions of dollars every single year because of people that die from gun violence and people that survive from gun violence. It`s costing our society -- I`ve always looked at it as a health -- national health crisis. And there are so many things that we can do. You know, even just what we`re going to be doing when we go back to Washington next week, when they`re going to be talking about cutting the budgets back. We`ve already closed many of our mental health clinics down. We`re already cutting back on reaching out to young people. We`re even doing that to our veterans as they come home. Where is this going to stop? What kind of mass murder do you want out there before we say enough is enough? If I sound frustrated, I`m sorry. I`ve been crying all day. And all the victims that I know across this country have been crying also -- for the children that have died, for the parents that have to go through what they`re going to be going through, not only this week, next week, but for a very long time. The Christmas lights are up. The Hanukkah candles are being lit. And these families are going to be suffering for so much longer. It`s only the American people can say to their politicians do something. Instead of trying to gagging all of us and saying we can`t do anything about it, we should ignore it. MADDOW: Representative Carolyn McCarthy, Democrat of New York -- your moral suasion on this derives in part with your tragedy with the subject, but it is multiplied by your eloquence on the subject. Thank you so much for being with us tonight. MCCARTHY: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: Thanks. Obviously the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, dominates the news tonight. But there are other important stories developing, and we`re going to be catching you up on some of those, next. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We will have more on the mass shooting in Connecticut at this hour, but there is some other news to get to tonight. Sometimes on days like this, there is important news that gets crowded out of the news cycle by the dominant story on a day like today. It`s understandable, but there is some other important stuff I want to make sure you know about. The first of these stories is that President Obama this afternoon sent a formal letter to Congress, which he is required to do by law, informing Congress of where he has been deploying American troops. It`s the 1973 War Powers Resolution requires the president to update Congress on military decisions that he has made without them. President Obama`s letter today explains that there are 66,000 U.S. troops remaining right now in Afghanistan. But it also includes some places we have troops that we are not as familiar with. We currently have 79 troops U.S. military deployed in Uganda, 760 U.S. military personnel are currently serving in Kosovo, to take part in the peace-keeping mission there that is left over from the peace agreement there in the `90s. And the U.S. security personnel sent to Libya and to Yemen after the attack in Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador there, those troops that were sent there in September, we`re told in the president`s letter tonight that troops remain in Libya and in Yemen for the foreseeable future. But even beyond that accounting from the president to Congress tonight, we do have one more nation to add to that list of where Americans are deployed abroad. They are deployed now to Turkey. And this is the second thing to know in today`s news that has been swallowed by the vortex of what happened today in Connecticut. The Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced today that at least 400 U.S. military personnel are being deployed to Turkey in order to operate these. This is a Patriot missile launcher. The Patriot missile system is a U.S.-made surface-to-air missile system that`s designed to seek out and destroyed incoming missiles. It detects incoming rockets on radar and then tries to shot those rockets out of the sky. As the Syrian government is being accused by NATO of using Scud missiles inside Syria, the U.S. military is now sending to battery of patriot missiles to a country that neighbors Syria and is our NATO ally. That is the nation of Turkey. Turkey had requested these Patriot missile batteries earlier this month. Today, we found out they are not only getting the missiles, they are getting 400 Americans to operate them as well. And that will have huge diplomatic and huge security consequences if Syria decides to project force over their border into Turkey, because now there will now not be just Turks there, but American uniformed military personnel, as well. And third to know about in today`s new other than what`s going on in Connecticut. The Intelligence Committee in the Senate decided to approve a report more than three years in the making, a report detailing the CIA`s torture during the Bush administration. Senate investigators spent the last three years reviewing 6 million pages of intelligence documents. They`ve now submitted their report which is 6,000 pages on what they found out about that program, and that report has now gotten the Senate Intelligence Committee stamped of approval. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who was the chair of the committee, says the unclassified reports -- excuse me, says the classified report uncover, quote, "startling details about the CIA, detention and interrogation program." Before the report can be released to the public, and it is not even certain yet that that will happen, the CIA gets a chance to review the findings, and essentially to give their side of the story. Well, tonight, NBC`s Andrea Mitchell has obtained an internal e-mail from the acting director of the CIA to all the employees of the CIA. It says in part, quote, "We are well aware that this program has been the subject of much controversy. It is important to remember that the program was terminated by presidential executive order almost four years ago." Again, that was an internal e-mail obtained tonight by Andrea Mitchell from the acting CIA director, Michael Morrell, to CIA employees. A news day like this tends to occlude all the other news, another than the big story, for good reason, but that is what`s going on. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This afternoon in Washington, D.C., at roughly the same time, flags atop the White House and the U.S. Capitol Building were both lowered to half staff. President Obama ordered flags to be flown at half staff in all U.S. public buildings and grounds and all U.S. facilities and at all U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, in the wake of today`s massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. Flags will remain at half staff until sunset on Tuesday. So, there was the sight of those flags today, and the sight of the president wiping tears from his eyes, repeatedly, in his remarks today on the massacre. And then, there was an announcement from Republican House Speaker John Boehner. Speaker Boehner issuing a statement that the weekly Republican address will not be happening this weekend so that, quote, "President Obama can speak for the nation at this time of mourning. I join the president and all Americans in sending prayers and condolences to the victims` loved ones." On Sunday, at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, there will be an interfaith church service at Newtown High School in Connecticut, where the incident happened. The next briefing from police and other officials is expected to be held at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. In terms of our coverage tonight, I have a correction to make. Earlier in the show, I said that if you ask NRA members that they believe if people have to pass a background check in this country before buying a firearm, I said 57 percent of members said yes to that. It`s actually 74 percent of members who want a background check law to buy a gun in this country -- 74, not 57. I`m sorry about that. We switched up our slides on that. Here on NBC, our continuing coverage of the mass shooting, this massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School will continue now into the night - - live from Newtown, with Chris Jansing. Please stay with us. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END