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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 6/23/21

Guests: Elizabeth Warren, Manuel Oliver, Shannon Watts


Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is interviewed. President Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland appeared together today to announce is what is essentially a new one strike and you`re out rule for gun dealer who break the law.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tom Perez announcing he is running for governor of Maryland. Thank you so much for making time tonight.


HAYES: That is ALL IN on this Wednesday night.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here. We`ve got a really big show tonight. Senator Elizabeth Warren is going to be joining us live tonight.

We`re also going to be covering tonight something really quite amazing that just happened in Las Vegas, which is a very un-Las Vegas thing. It is something you will absolutely have to see to believe. We`ve got that story coming up in just a couple minutes along with a dad who made that thing happen, who is somebody who you are going to want to meet.

So, I`m very much looking forward to that coverage tonight. Like I said, we`ve got a big show.

But where we start tonight is a story in today`s news that just starts one way and then at the very end, it veers off in an unexpected direction. This is like you`re going along A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, 47. Forty-seven is what comes next and not the letter J? Why did we veer off?

Here`s the story. See if you can see where the unexpected veer, the unexpected plot twist comes.

Here`s how the story is headlined tonight in "The Detroit free press." Michigan Republicans -- Michigan Republican-led investigation rejects Trump`s claim that November 3rd election was stolen.

Here`s the "Associated Press" headline, Senate Republican probe, no systemic fraud in Michigan election. Here`s the "New York Times" headline, this is just posted tonight, Michigan Republicans debunk voter fraud claims in unsparing report. And unsparing is right. And the lead in "The Times" piece sums up why that`s the right word here.

Quote: A committee led by Michigan Republicans today published an extraordinary debunking of voter fraud claims in the state delivering a comprehensive rebuke to a litany of accusations about improprieties in the 2020 election. The 55-page report produced by a Michigan Senate committee of three Republicans and one Democrat is a systemic rebuttal to an array of false claims about the election from supporters of former President Donald Trump. The report is unsparing in its criticism of those who have promoted false theories about the election. It debunks claims from Trump allies including Mike Lindell, the chief executive of MyPillow, and Rudolph Giuliani, the former president`s lawyer, and even Mr. Trump himself.

And this report from Michigan Republicans is actually not just unsparing criticism of the false claims about supposed fraud in the election and the people who have brought those false claims to public attention. The conservative-leaning "Detroit News" puts in their lead about the story tonight, the fact that these Michigan Republicans are even now calling for the state of Michigan to investigate and potentially prosecute people who have been making these false fraud claims about the election. These claims that there was something supposedly so wrong in Michigan, particularly in Antrim County, Michigan, which has become a real buzzword for the Trump election fraud fantasy, the bulls` eye for a lot of very, very, very false claims by President Trump and his supporters.

That`s the "Detroit News" headline about it. Senate report recommends the attorney general investigate false election fraud claims. But this is from -- this is from the actual report. This is where they got that.

Events in Antrim County, Michigan, sparked a significant amount of concern about the technology used to count ballots. This concern led to much speculation, assumptions, misinformation and in some cases outright lies meant to create doubt and confusion. The many hour of testimony before the committee showed these claims are unjustified and unfair to the people of Antrim County and the state of Michigan. It`s also been unfair to the people across America.

The county was mentioned by officials at the White House, in the media, at rallies and several substantial online documentaries. The committee finds those promoting Antrim County, Michigan, as the prime evidence of a nationwide conspiracy to steal the election -- those making those claims place all other statements and actions they make in a position of zero credibility. Ideas and speculation that Antrim County election workers or outside entities manipulated the vote by hand or electronically are indefensible.

The committee is appalled at what can only be deduced as willful ignorance or avoidance of this proof perpetuated by some leading such speculation. The committee recommends the attorney general consider investigating those who have been utilizing misleading and false information about Antrim County to raise run or publicity for their own ends.

So, again, this is a Michigan Senate Republican investigation, and the Republicans in the Senate in Michigan say not only is the Antrim County, Michigan, supposed fraud stuff total bunk. It`s also so obviously bunk that people continuing to push that nonsense should potentially be criminally investigated for knowingly perpetrating a fraud. Wow. Okay then.

Having buried the Antrim County election fraud fantasies about 30 feet deep at that point, the Michigan Republicans writing this report, then move on to systemically rip their way through all of the other Trump election fraud fantasy nonsense claims about their state. They investigate and they prove and ultimately conclude that, no, tons of dead people did not vote in Michigan.

They did find there was one old lady, a 92-year-old lady who, quote, died four days before the November 2020 election. Research showed she had submitted her completed absentee ballot prior to the election and prior to her death. She did all her voting work prior to dying, turns out.

They also found no, hundreds of thousands of ballots were not wrongfully sent out to Michigan voters, despite claims to the contrary from President Trump and his supporters. They also found that not only were there no problems with the voting machines in Antrim County, Michigan, which has been the bulls eye for so many of their fake fraud claims, they also found there were no problems with the machines at the big tabulation center in Detroit.

Instead -- and this is remarkable -- the Republican investigation found that the cause of the chaos at that Detroit counting center in the days after the election was actually the fault of the local Republican Party because they called on Trump supporters to come down and mob the counting center to protest the count. The report actually says the local Republican Party of Detroit should repudiate, quote, the actions of certain individuals that created a panic and had untrained and unnumbered persons descending on the TCF center.

This is the state -- Michigan Senate Republican saying, hmm, the Republican Party in Detroit caused panic, and they should repudiate their members who did that.

How about the incessant Trump claims that Michigan had more votes cast than Michigan has voters? Well, on page 25 of their report, Michigan Republicans have now published this handy table showing that in all the places Trump says that happened, including Detroit, there were actually not more votes cast than voters, far from it.

Even Jovan Pulitzer, the guy with the made up name whose supposed secret artifact detection technology is being used in the Arizona audit where they`re recounting and doing Lord knows what to the Arizona ballot and voting machines, the Michigan Republicans examined testimony from Jovan Pulitzer about election fraud and found his testimony to be quote, untrue and a complete fabrication.

They also looked at the MyPillow guy, Mike Lindell, who has turned the Trump`s going to be reinstated thing in a traveling road show across the country. Michigan Senate Republicans looked at Mike Lindell`s claim about votes being stolen are switched or hacked in Michigan. They found, quote, no such activities took place. They found Mike Lindell`s claims to be, quote, beyond any statistical or reasonable credulity.

They found his whole case about supposed election fraud in Michigan to be, quote, ignorant of the actual election process.

So, in some, this report, again from Republicans, in the Michigan state senate, finds that the mishegoss and noise and nonsense about the election somehow being stolen from Trump is bunk. They chased down every supposed conspiracy theory, every supposed scandal, and they found it to all be bunk. And they concluded, in no uncertain terms that it ought to be treated as such.

This was their conclusion. Quote: this committee found no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud in Michigan`s prosecution of the 2020 election.

Quote: the committee can confidently assert that it has been thorough an examination of numerous allegations of on lawful actions, improper procedures, fraud, vote theft or any other description which would cause citizens to doubt the integrity of Michigan`s 2020 election results. Our clear finding is that citizens should be confident the results represent the true results of the ballots cast by the people of Michigan. The committee strongly recommends citizen choose a critical eye and ear towards those who have pushed demonstrably false theories for their own personal gain.

Wow. Right? This is damning. This is indeed unsparing. No fraud in the Michigan election.

No steal that needs to be stopped in Michigan. No actual significant problems of any kind with the Michigan vote. The people trying to sell you on the idea that there were problems in the election are ignorant or just wrong, and in some cases, they`re consciously trying to defraud the American people and they ought to be investigated and potentially prosecuted for it, wow.

That`s the conclusion of Michigan Senate Republicans who looked into the hysterical, and still growing claims, from President Trump and his supporters that the Michigan election is one of the epicenters for how the election was stolen. It`s remarkable. Now here is the turn, right? A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I -- doo-wop, it`s at 47.

Here`s where the story takes an absolutely inexplicable turn. After concluding this, right, after publishing this report thoroughly investigating all the nonsense, Trump election fraud claims about there being something wrong with the Michigan presidential election, after finding unsparingly and with an exclamation point, that all this potent election fraud claim are bunk and none of that nonsense happened, after concluding that, the Michigan Republicans who authored this report go on to say that they believe Michigan should nevertheless take action to severely restrict voting in the state, in the wake of the 2020 election, because of all the doubts about the 2020 election and its integrity.

Wait, what? They even say that maybe Michigan should pursue an Arizona- style audit, depending on what the results of the Arizona audit which they are watching very closely, they won`t hesitate to recommend that maybe Michigan should do that to. The Arizona audits, I will remind you, is the one using the secret detection technology from a guy whose claims these Michigan Republicans just found to be, quote, untrue and a complete fabrication.

But they want to use that`s supposed to technology to audit the Michigan result, which they just found to be sound, and not have been fraudulent or problematic at all? The Michigan Senate Republican who is the chair of the committee that this investigation wrote this report, debunking all the claims about supposed fraud in Michigan`s election.

He also served on the Republican controlled election committee in the Michigan state senate. And on that committee, he and other Republicans, are citing the widespread belief and all of these false conspiracy theories about fraud in the Michigan election as the reason Michigan needs, I kid you not, 39 new laws, they are proposing this year to restrict voting this year in the state, restricting absentee voting, restricting early voting, restricting day of voting, restricting drop box voting.

Literally just today as they drop this report saying there were no problems in Michigan`s election that all the fraud claims are all made up, at the same time, on the same day, today, Michigan Republicans advanced a new law that will dramatically tough in the states voter ID standards, potentially disenfranchising tens of thousands of Michigan voters. Because of all the worries about the integrity of the 2020 election in Michigan, though worries that the ages debunked systematically as nonsense that is being promoted by fraudsters who want to profit on it and in some cases out to be prosecuted for it.

When you use something as a pretext, it means you`re citing something as a justification for your actions, but you`re going to do what you`re going to do anyway. Regardless of whether or not you actually believe in the thing that you`re saying to actually justify your actions, you`re going to justify those actions anyway. When you say fault pretext, false is actually redundant. A pretext is by definition something that isn`t the real justification for your actions.

In this case, today, in Michigan, Michigan Republicans have proven out loud and in great detail that they do not even believe their own stated justification`s for why they are acting to rescind voting rights in draconian terms in the state of Michigan. They don`t even believe their own justifications for it, but they`re doing it anyway.

This is one very clear snapshot of the Republican parties approach to voting rights in the wake of the 2020 election. This is the predominant political dynamic at work in the two parties right now. That`s how Republicans are approaching it.

On the other side? Democrats, what`s your response? Democrats in control of Congress really are going to do anything to fight back for voting rights when this is the way the fight is being waged on the other side? Really?

Senator Elizabeth Warren joins us next. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Tonight, there is continuing sort of jawing and consternation among Democrats as to whether they`re going to be able to take any action in Congress to bolster voting rights as Republicans in the states continue to advance still more legislation to restrict voting and as Democrats seem hamstrung by their party`s inability to bypass the filibuster to get legislation debated let alone passed at the federal level that might help fight back against some of those anti-voting rights restrictions.

Tonight, senators are also seemingly getting closer to some kind of action maybe on the issue of infrastructure. Tonight, participants from both parties in a sort of bipartisan subgroup of senators that`s been talking about infrastructure, senators from both sides of the aisle who are part of that group have told "The Washington Post" tonight that they think they have a tentative deal among themselves, and crucially, they believe it may have support from the Biden White House as well.

Joining us now is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Senator Warren, it`s great to see you tonight. Thank you so much for taking time to be here.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): Thank you. It`s good to be with you.

MADDOW: Let me talk to you first about infrastructure. What`s your understanding of the lay of the land right now in terms of how this is moving and what proposal is actionable and on the table?

WARREN: Okay. The lay of the land is that there will be one infrastructure deal, and it will be a big infrastructure deal. This will be an infrastructure deal -- we call it an infrastructure deal, but it`s really about the kind of country we want to be going forward. It`s about making repairs from the past, but it`s about making opportunity for everyone.

Right now, there`s a group that`s called this bipartisan group, and they`re negotiating a part of it, a part of it around roads and bridges, around some important pieces like broadband.

But there`s a whole lot more that we`re going to do. If we want people to be able to go to work, if we want people to be able to have opportunities, then we need to make sure that child care, universal child care, is available, is affordable, is high quality for everyone. We need to make sure that we`re building a green energy system and a green transportation system.

And a part of this is how we`re going to pay for it. And that means making sure that billionaires and giant corporations are paying a fair share and that we`re enforcing the tax laws.

So, all of this is how we`re going to -- this is the plan for this administration, for this Congress, about how we move this economy, how we move this country forward. And I think the pieces are starting to coalesce.

MADDOW: And so, you as a very progressive member of the United States Senate, if the bipartisan group that`s made this sort of pronouncement tonight that they think they`ve got a deal, if they`ve agreed on something that is, you know, reasonable investments and not things you disagree with but you think it`s not enough, you may believe that we`re still moving in the right direction if that smaller piece of it gets embedded into the larger infrastructure bill that incorporates more of the things you were just talking about there as priorities.

WARREN: That`s exactly the right way to think of it is that the smaller piece gets embedded in a larger piece.

Now, they may be voted separately, but it is one infrastructure deal. I can`t vote for some small subset that, you know, the infrastructure train leaves the station and child care gets left on the platform, green energy gets left on the platform, billionaires don`t have to pay gets left on the platform. It`s that all of the pieces have to move because ultimately, it`s one deal.

MADDOW: How are Democrats doing right now in your estimation in terms of choosing their priorities, working together between Capitol Hill and the White House and getting stuff done? There`s not just worry and criticism but I think real consternation among a lot of people in the country right now to see what`s happening on voting rights, to see Republicans steam- rolling voting rights in every state in the country where they`ve got control and apparent impotence on Capitol Hill, Democrats unable to surpass the Republican filibuster and do anything to bolster voting rights.

I think there`s also some consternation about how long it`s been that these infrastructure talks have been going without any signs that we`re moving towards passing anything. It`s been a long time since the COVID relief bill passed. How do you think Democrats are doing overall?

WARREN: Look, the threat to our democracy, on voting, is enormous. This one is existential. We have to fight back against Republicans cutting out people from being able to vote and cutting out the effectiveness of their vote.

Remember we keep talking about this, the voting package. It`s not only about access to the polls. It`s about things like banning gerrymandering and getting that under control. It`s about exposing dark money and trying to squeeze it out of elections. It`s about anticorruption and conflicts of interest.

So, there`s a lot there that`s about protecting our democracy. Always remember first the good part, and that is we had H.R.1 that passed the House. By the time it got to the Senate, the Republicans had figured out more ways to suppress the vote and to keep people from -- democracy from functioning.

So, we had more work to do in the Senate to be able to add to the original bill. And we`ve had to have some negotiations. But keep in mind, we now have every single Democrat is on board with a voting rights bill, an anticorruption bill. And that`s -- that`s powerfully important.

Obviously, we`re hung up now on the filibuster. And so, the conversations are going forward about various ways we can approach that. Some people want to talk about a talking filibuster as a way to say make them stand up and talk about this, take as long as it takes, but protect our vote.

Others are talking about a one-time exception to the filibuster rule, saying, yeah, yeah, I get it. There are some people in the Senate who are not ready to get rid of the filibuster. But when it comes to voting, when it comes to our democracy, that is so urgent, we must put that first. That is our constitutional responsibility.

There are some other details that people are talking about. But the point is, we understand the urgency of the moment and we are talking with each other and trying to get ourselves past this point.

Has it gone as smoothly as I want? Heck, no. Come on. I`ve been fighting against the filibuster for years now. It is -- it gives Mitch McConnell a veto, and I am opposed. I think we should get rid of it so that we can do a whole lot of things.

But we are where we are. And we are a Senate, as you know, of only 50 Democrats, and we have the vice president to be able to break the tie. That means we`ve got to pull this together in a way that gets everyone on board.

We are moving. We`re not moving fast enough, but we are moving and we are moving in the right direction.

And I will give it everything I`ve got to push it on over the line. We have got to protect the vote in America.

MADDOW: Senator Warren, that is a very helpful insight into what`s going on among you and your colleagues on the Hill right now. I know this is going to be a tough and energetic week. Thank you for keeping us apprised. I look forward to talking to you about it again soon. Thank you.


MADDOW: Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren joining us live tonight. All right. We`ve got much more to get to tonight. As I mentioned at the top of the show, we`ve got a story coming up about something that just happened in Las Vegas that you will not believe until I show it to you. That story`s next.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: Acta non verba. That`s what it says as the official crest of a fancy private school in the Las Vegas, Nevada area.

Acta non verba. See that? And JMA in the three corners. The motto splashed across the front Latin for "actions, not words". And the JMA is because this is the James Madison Academy.

Here`s the school`s website. This private school is called the James Madison Academy. It`s named after James Madison, one of the Founding Fathers, credited as the brains behind the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which, of course, enshrines the right for Americans to keep guns.

And that, you might imagine, is why the James Madison Academy in Las Vegas picked these two guys to address their graduating class earlier this month. On the left there is David Keene. He spent two terms as president of the National Rifle Association, the NRA. He now sits on the NRA`s board of directors.

On the right is the man named John Lott. He`s a very influential person in sort of gun organization circles. He`s an advocate for more people having guns with fewer rules about having them or using them. He wrote a book that people call the bible of the NRA.

Both David Keene and John Lott were invited to address the graduates from James Madison Academy. And they both said yes. They put on their robes and their funny hats. They travelled to Las Vegas. They prepared speeches about following your hopes and dreams, also about the importance of the Second Amendment, right? That`s kind of why they were there.

The school told them that as a thank you for giving those speeches, they would both be awarded the James Madison Academy`s Keeper of the Constitution Award. This is them having received their statues to commemorate their receiving those awards.

And all of this, I don`t know, seems a little bit on the nose, right? Gun- themed school gets gun-themed speakers to give gun-themed speeches and receive a short of gun-themed award. So, it`s a little on the nose.

There were some other signs, too, that a vigilant person might have picked up on early on. Let`s look, for example, at that website again for the James Madison Academy. Parts of it look quite official, like the things you might expect, but there`s little things that seem a little bit weird, like this, call us at 800-870-8-blah-blah-blah to apply. Call us to apply.

What is that like operators are standing by your toll free number? What are you an ambulance-chasing law firm? Is this an infomercial?

Also, if you run a history of the web address for the James Madison Academy`s website, it turns out the school`s website has only existed since April of this year. Hmm, that`s weird. Also, the Keeper of the Constitution Award, for which those guys got the little statue thing, Keeper of the Constitution Award doesn`t exist. There`s no record of it anywhere. There`s no record, for example of anybody else having ever received that award.

Turns out the James Madison Academy doesn`t exist either. Unbeknownst to these two pro-gun advocates, they were both invited to speak at a fake graduation for a fake school. And they gave their pro-gun speeches in front of 3,044 empty white chairs in the Las Vegas venue.

According to one group that tracks gun death statistics, that 3,044 number, that`s the number of high school seniors who should have put on their caps and gowns and gotten their high school diplomas today, but instead they died. They were victims of gun violence and they never made it to this year`s graduation. That`s the class of 2021 in gun violence deaths.

And it is a dramatic thing to watch a sitting NRA board member telling 3,000 empty chairs that they need to follow their hopes and dreams. They`re not going to follow their hopes and dreams.

I`m going to play a little video of parts of his speech now, parts of Keene`s speech now. I will warn you, this video also includes upsetting audio from 911 calls made during school shootings. If that is something you would rather not experience, this is me giving you a chance to mute the TV if that is something you don`t want to hear.

OK. Here we go.


DAVID KEENE, NRA PRESIDENT: Let me begin by telling you what an honor it is to be here to celebrate your graduation. Picture a minute the young James Madison for whom this school is named. This year, you focused on one of the most important of Madison`s amendments, the Second Amendment.

There are some who will continue to fight to gut the second amendment, but I would be willing to bet that many of you will be among those who stand up and prevent them from succeeding.

DISPATCHER: 911. What is your emergency?

KEENE: Defending it is a challenge and a duty that Americans like you.

CALLER: The school is being shot up.

CALLER: Someone is shooting into my classroom.

KEENE: Who understand what has made the country the envy of the world must accept as their own.

DISPATCHER: OK. Is anybody injured?

CALLER: Yes, yes, a lot of blood. Please help, please.

KEENE: An overwhelming majority of you will go to college while others may decide to chase a dream to a different route to success.

CALLER: School, the school --

DISPATCHER: OK. Do you know how many people are injured?

KEENE: So, my advice to you is simple enough, follow your dream. And make it a reality.

CALLER: My son is in Stoneman. My daughter just texted me from school. She`s at Stoneman Douglas.

KEENE: And never for a minute doubt that you can achieve that dream. Thank you.



MADDOW: Follow your dream and make it a reality. Never for a minute doubt that you can achieve that dream. An overwhelming majority of you will go on to college. There are some who will continue to fight to gut the Second Amendment. But I would be willing to bet that many of you will be among those who will stand up and prevent them from succeeding.

That is not going to happen from any of those students. Both that NRA board member David Keene and the pro-gun commentator gave those speeches in front of those 3,000 empty seats, representing kids who did not graduate this year because they were killed in gun violence in the United States. Keene and John Lott were told before the actual event they needed to participate in a dress rehearsal, test the lights and cameras and stuff. That`s what this video is from.

After the run through, they were told the graduation was cancelled because of a credible threat of violence.

"BuzzFeed News" called the up pro NRA commentator today after the videos were published. He said he had no idea what had happened here. He told "BuzzFeed", you`re telling me the whole thing was a set up? No, I didn`t know that.

We`ve reached out to David Keene, the sitting NRA board member to ask his response we haven`t heard back from him.

This remarkable demonstrative experiment, this stunt was orchestrated by a gun safety advocacy group called Change the Ref. The group pointed out that, quote, ironically had the men conducted a proper background check on the school, they would have seen that the school was fake. They said they were trying to illustrate here that the thousands of students lost to gun violence won`t be forgotten, and they wanted to force pro-gun advocates to literally face the consequences of their policies.

They call those 3,000 empty seats the lost class. This advocacy group, Change the Ref, was founded by Manuel and Patricia Oliver. In 2018, their son was killed in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida. Joaquin was 17 years old. He was a great writer, an athlete, loved music.

Joaquin`s father said today that he was not scared to pull off this sort of unbelievable piece of advocacy and honestly centrifuge. He said, quote, we need to show we`re brave and we`re not afraid of these guys. We`ve already felt the worst possible situation. There`s no threat that can make me feel different. Actions, not words.

Joining us now is Manuel Oliver.

Mr. Oliver, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it.

MANUEL OLIVER, JOAQUIN OLIVER`S FATHER: Thank you. You did a great job presenting what we did. I love it. Thank you.

MADDOW: Well, tell me about Change the Ref, and tell me about how you came up with this idea.

OLIVER: Well, Change the Ref is a consequence of losing our beautiful son Joaquin. Joaquin loved to play basketball. He was a great writer, like you said. And he mentioned that sometimes when he played basketball, he was feeling bad calls from the referees. He was always looking for a fair game.

Then when I saw what happened in Parkland and I got more involved with the news and the reality behind that episode and everyday gun violence, without the referees, the referees in D.C., the ones who are supposed to give us a fair game, the ones who are supposed to make the right calls are ignoring us. So, that`s how we started with Change the Ref.

My wife, Patricia, myself, my daughter, we love the fact that the name came from Joaquin and not from us. So, it`s an extension of Joaquin`s activism.

MADDOW: I know that you and your wife Patricia were on site, were sort of behind the scenes and able to watch while these pro NRA guys were giving their speeches in front of that sea of empty chairs. I just have to ask what that was like for you. It must have been emotional.

OLIVER: It was very emotional. We were not allowed -- they told me that they might recognize me. I don`t -- I had no idea that I was recognizable.

So, we didn`t want to take the risk of anything going wrong. So, they locked us in that RV and we were watching the whole thing. Very emotional because we were part of a process. We knew exactly every step, everything that was happening. It came out exactly how we planned.

MADDOW: Do you feel any more hope than you have felt in the past that there will be action on any element of gun safety, including background checks, which you obviously have been pushing to the forefront here.

Do you feel any more hopeful or do you see any other reason for other people to hope that something might finally change?

OLIVER: I`m going to give you a great reason for me to think that things are different. I am having an interview with you not because there was a mass shooting but because we are doing something to prevent this from happening. So, now, we handle the conversation. We don`t need to wait for a new tragedy to bring the subject and that is a great advance for us, for everyone that is fighting this epidemic that is killing people.

Every single day preventable but just because some of our leaders are part of the problem, it`s kind of on hold being part of the solution.

While I think we control now the information, we do things like the one you just saw. We`re not the only group that is working in this direction. And hopefully that young generation will make things happen. It`s not going to happen tomorrow or next year, but it will happen in a few years. It could also happen in the tobacco industry.

I`ve also said that we need to advertise the truth. We use art and we do a lot of campaigns in partnership with the most creative people from around the planet to make things happen. We believe in this. We need to bring out a reality that has been ignored for years.

Enough of lies. These two guys, this is not about them. So, I don`t even care how they feel. This is about those empty chairs. This is about my son, Joaquin.

My wife Patricia, was the one that received Joaquin`s diploma what he was supposed to be graduating from high school. So, I know how death feels. And I`m glad that I can do this. I`m glad that we can find things that empower us.

And maybe -- maybe -- they are given power to many parents that don`t know how to react, they don`t know how to do things, they maybe haven`t found themselves doing something similar, they`re more than invited.

We need to keep on being parents, and no one -- no one -- will stop that from happening.

MADDOW: Manuel Oliver, the cofounder of the gun reform group Change the Ref, father to Joaquin Oliver. It`s a real honor to have you here tonight, sir. Thank you.

OLIVER: Thank you very much. It was my honor. Thank you.

MADDOW: When it comes to trying to prevent gun violence, President Biden and his attorney general announced some action today that was not the typical stuff that Democrats announce in terms of their menu of potential actions, something they think will make a difference in short order. That story`s next.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: President Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland appeared together today to announce is what is essentially a new one strike and you`re out rule for gun dealer who break the law. The very first time a gun dealer fails to run a background check before selling someone a gun, that dealer will have his or her federal license to sell guns revoked.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s zero tolerance for gun dealers who willfully violate key existing laws and regulations. I repeat zero tolerance. If you willfully sell a gun to someone who`s prohibited from possessing it, if you willfully fail to run a background check, if you willfully falsify a record, if you willfully fail to cooperate with the trace and request for inspections, my message to you is this.

We`ll find you and we`ll seek you license to sell guns. We`ll make sure you can`t sell death and mayhem on our streets. It`s an outrage. It has to end, and we`ll end it, period.


MADDOW: We`ll find you and we will seek your license to sell guns. This new policy has the potential to be a big deal for a couple of reasons. For one, in the past, problem gun dealers, repeat offenders that regularly flap the laws around background checks and other things, they frequently got nothing more than repeated warnings from the ATF sometimes for years with never any actual consequences. So, this is the Biden administration promising to truly crack down on those dealers. First offense, you lose your license.

But also this announcement from the president comes as we`ve gotten new data about how effective background checks are. New FBI records obtained by the group Everytown for Gun Safety show that background checks stopped a record number of people from buying guns last year, 300,000 people. That`s nearly double the number of people who were stopped from buying guns the year before.

And these are people who are prohibited by law from owning a gun who tried to buy one. They were stopped because a background check flagged them, 300,000.

I mean, you want to make sure that the dealers who are supposed to be running background checks are doing it, right? Given how many people who can`t legally own guns are trying to get them anyway. That`s what the Biden administration says they are working on with this new one and done crackdown.

Joining us now, Shannon Watts. She`s the founder of Moms Demand Action. Her group is part of Everytown for Gun Safety, which got ahold of this new numbers.

Ms. Watts, thank you so much for being here. It`s nice to see you.


MADDOW: Let me ask you first if I hit the important parts in terms of this announcement from President Biden today. How do you see it?

WATTS: You did. I mean, this is some of the most important work we`ve seen on gun violence in a generation. And when you look at the context, we`ve had COVID, which exacerbated gun violence. Really gun violence was an epidemic within a pandemic.

And as you said, we saw a record number of gun sales in 2020. About 40 million background checks were conducted, and that`s 40 percent more than the year before. And obviously, the pandemic and those gun sales were, we`re emerging from the pandemic and now, we`re seeing gun violence get worse. That`s sort of the logical outcome.

So, President Biden`s approach is so important. He`s taking strong action on ghost guns and funding intervention programs, nominating a strong leader to the ATF. But we need Congress to act. We need federal laws finally after 25 years. Right now, we are all only as close as the -- we`re all only as safe as the closest state with the weakest gun laws. You mentioned trafficking. We guns from states with weak gun laws are being trafficked into states with strong gun laws.

And so, we really do need the Senate to finally pass laws like background checks.

MADDOW: And the background check laws, the sort of patchwork that you described, that`s importance. Not only are there differences state to state. There`s whole categories of gun purchases that aren`t covered, that don`t require a background check at all because of the lack of federal legislation to require that. I think there`s been so much focus on how background checks could be standardized and expanded to apply to more gun sales in more places.

But even if that doesn`t happen, even if there isn`t that work from Congress to do what you`re just describing there, is what the president described today something that is enforceable, something that could make an immediate debt for existing gun owners who have been happily flouting the law and getting away with it?

WATTS: Absolutely. All of the things that President Biden is putting in place, particularly funding for gun violence, intervention interruption programs in city centers, those are incredibly important. The data shows that they work.

But as you said, this analysis found that more than 300,000 gun sales were stopped. People who were prohibited purchasers who shouldn`t have guns, they were stopped by the background check system. But we know about a quarter of all guns in this country every single year are sold without a background check, right? There are all these loopholes in our system that they`re able to get through.

So, really the data and the actions by President Biden make two things really clear. One, background checks actually do keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn`t have them. And two, our elected officials should be racing to close these loopholes that really allow anyone to get a gun no questions asked. You know, every country is coming out of COVID. Only America is dealing with this horrific gun homicide crisis that we`re seeing particularly in city centers, and we know why. The data shows us it`s because we have such easy access to guns. And so that is why we really do need Congress to act.

MADDOW: Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, Shannon, thank you for making time tonight. It`s good to have you.

WATTS: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: All right. That`s going to do it for us tonight. I told you, you wouldn`t believe that story out of Las Vegas, did I not?

I`ll see you again tomorrow for our big Friday eve show.


Good evening, Lawrence.