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MSNBC "The Rachel Maddow Show" - Transcript - Gun Control

Interview

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MADDOW: Vice president Joe Biden speaking today at the national league of
cities.

Also today, the democratic front-runner for the open Senate seat in
Massachusetts, Ed Markey, today, he started running this ad saying
effectively, we should put me in the Senate and if you do, I will make it
my mission in the Senate to make sure we respond to Newtown with actions
and not just words.

Yesterday, this ad ran. And the Des Moines register in Iowa, this is
actually a two-page newspaper ad. It covers two full pages of news print.
It`s a letter from the clergy of a Newtown Connecticut, the religious
leaders of that town to Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa asking him to
support gun reform. All the other signatures that all over the ad, all the
fine print, clergy and faith leaders from all across the country.

Today also, 26 cyclists, one for every victim in Newtown arrived in
Washington at the end of a 400 mile ride to ask for a concrete reaction and
not just words in respond to Newtown. They were joined on the final leg of
their trip by members of the Virginia tech cycling team., the reasons that
you can understand. Two of the riders today are the parents of kids from
Sandy Hook Elementary school.

The political pressure against gun reform is always there. It`s always
there. Everything you look at in this country that`s ever happened on gun
reform, you can also see the political pressure there on the other side.
It always looks like it does now. But it is being met this time by a
political force for gun reform that appears to be definitely equal if not
greater, both in magnitude and intensity and commitment and that organized
political pressure is buoyed by the fact that gun reform has the country on
their side.

A "Washington Post" poll today on gun policy. Did you just see this? "The
Washington Post" poll today asked Americans if they support universal
background checks for anybody who wants to buy a gun. The NRA opposes
that, right? But what proportion of the American public wants universal
background checks for anybody who buys a gun? The proportion is 91
percent, 90 freaking one percent,91.

For comparison`s sake, let me just note that if you ask the American
people, do you support capitalism, the answer is 68 percent yes. If you
ask the American people, do you like Italian food? The answer is 85
percent yes. If you ask the American people, is it important to take a
vacation? Sixty one percent say yes.

Universal background checks, it`s at 91. They are more popular than
capitalism, Italian food and vacations. Universal background checks have
91 percent support and nothing has 91 percent support.

When the Senate judiciary committee today moved a universal background
checks bill, they move through committee to send it to a floor vote, the
Senate later this week. Do you want to know how many Republicans voted for
universal background checks on the economy? Zero. The vote was 10 to 8.
All the Democrats voted in favor, all the Republicans voted against.
All the Republicans voted against something with 91 percent support among
the public. Tell me how this ends for the Republican Party?

Joining us now is the congresswoman who represents Newtown. She is
Elizabeth Esty, Democratic Connecticut.

Congresswoman Esty, thank you very much for being here. It is nice to be
here.

REP. ELIZABETH ESTY (D), CONNECTICUT: It is great to be here.

MADDOW: I know today that you were part of - I know that you saw the bike
riders leave on their Newtown journey to Washington and you were there
today in Washington when they arrived. What do you see as the political
impact, the political importance of that kind of personal commitment we are
seeing by people who care about this issue?

ESTY: Well, it is tremendous. And I think what you have mentioned is
going to take the country being galvanized. And the courage that these
folks are showing, that these parents who lost love d ones who lost their
friends and neighbors are showing not anger, not retribution, but
commitment for real common sense gun laws. And that is just what the
country wants. You just said it, 91 percent of the public which I wonder
if that is related to the about 90 percent of the public who think Congress
is doing a lousy job. And it is time for us to step up.

MADDOW: When you look back at the kinds of events that have galvanized
real change in this country, it is fascinating to look back at see how hard
people tried to pass some sort of gun reform after the assassination of the
president in 1963 when John F. Kennedy was killed by a gun that would have
been illegal under his own gun control measure that was opposed by the NRA
and did not pass in Congress.

It was amazing to me they were not able to get anything passed then and it
took five years more and more assassinations until they were able to pass
something in 1968 with a lot of Democrats in Congress. You look at back
the history of this galvanizing events, do you see any rhyme or reason in
when we get change and when we don`t? Is there something magic that
unlocks the possibility of change?

ESTY: I think children do. I really think children do. And I think this
is the sort of galvanizing event that we saw with the Birmingham bombings.
Americans care deeply about their children. And when we see this massacre
of the innocence that we saw it on December 14th, when we saw it in this
country with children at Sunday school being blown up in Birmingham while
worshiping; that galvanized this country to take on real change. And I
think we are on that moment. We adore our children. They are our future
and we need to do better. And this is our wake-up call. It must be our
wake-up call.

MADDOW: You represent Newtown. This week marks three months since the
attacks in Sandy Hook elementary school. When you were elected to
Congress, you cannot have known that this was going to be the defining or
at least dominating event of your time in Congress and this time in your
state and in some ways, this time in the country. What do you feel like
you need to do to be the most effective advocate for the people of your
town after this tragedy?

ESTY: Well, I respond as a mother of three children who cares passionately
about our future and about every child in this country. And when I am
thinking about what I need to do in Congress, I think about what I would
want someone to do for me if I were in this horrific position of these
parents who have suffered the most unimaginable loss.

I have got to know these families very well. And every day, they are my
thoughts and in my prayers. And every day, I realize they are getting up
to a much harder task of going forward with their day, caring for other
children. And if they can do that, then I can get down on the floor of the
house. I can go button holes senators. I can make phone calls and be a
voice for them. For again, something common sense and simple. Common
sense reforms that respect the second amendment and have our community
safer. It`s just not that complicated.

MADDOW: Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, Democrat of Connecticut, including
Newtown Connecticut in your district. Ma`am, thank you very much for your
time tonight. It`s nice to have you here.

ESTY: Thank you so much.

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