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NBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript - Gun Safety

Interview

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CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Has gun safety lost?
Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. Is the entire answer to what happened in
Newtown, Connecticut, going to be, Sorry about that, but we're not going to
do anything about gun safety, nothing?

Wouldn't it have been smarter politics for the president to have gotten out
front on gun safety right after the Newtown horror? He knew what the
problem was, what the solution had to be. The killer used an assault
rifle. Ban them. The killer used 30-round magazines. Ban them. The
killer was a nut. Enforce background checks.

Why did we all need a study? Why did the president think it was smart to
use up time, to give the NRA time? Why didn`t he strike while the iron was
hot?

Why do I ask this all now? Because right now, it looks very iffy that the
Congress is going to do anything, not a ban on assault rifles, not a ban on
30-round clips, not even tougher background checks. We all know why.
It'll take 60 votes in the Senate to even bring up a vote on gun safety.
There's good reason to believe there aren't 60 votes to even vote on gun
safety. Got it? So I ask, shouldn't the president have gotten out early
and stayed out there until something got passed?

Let's get to it with former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell and U.S.
Congressman from Maryland Elijah Cummings.

Governor Rendell, what do you think about all this time that's passed since
Newtown? Who's been winning the fight, the NRA or the gun safety folk?

ED RENDELL (D-PA), FMR. GOV., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we were
winning the fight for the first couple of months, but the tide seems to
have turned as the momentum was lost a little bit. And I think, Chris, the
president's doing a pretty good job rekindling that momentum. And the key
here, to me, still remains getting a vote on the floor.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

RENDELL: If we can get a vote on the floor, we can win. I mean, you know,
for example --

MATTHEWS: Well, you know the numbers. It takes 60 -- 60 votes.

RENDELL: Right.

MATTHEWS: In the Senate.

RENDELL: Right, 60. But what's Pat -- we're going to be out on Tuesday,
Mayor Nutter and myself and gun control advocates. We`re going to be out
in front of Senator Toomey's office in Philadelphia on Tuesday. And we`re
going to ask Senator Toomey not to vote yes on any of these measures.
We`re going to say, The victims deserve a vote, Senator. We`re asking you
to vote to end the filibuster.

Now, what's Pat Toomey going to do? If he's worried about the Philadelphia
suburbs for his reelection, he ought to vote to end the filibuster.

And there are Republicans, congressmen, senators all over the country who
have to worry about that. And how can you tell the people of Newtown or
any other tragedy that they're not even going to get a vote? That's
despicable!

MATTHEWS: I the get feeling he's involved in a same-sex political marriage
with Wayne LaPierre -- political marriage. I don`t think he's going to --
I mean, I'm sorry, tick off Wayne LaPierre.

Your thoughts, Congressman, because I really worry now. I look at this 60-
vote thing, this sort of ultimatum for people like Ted Cruz down in Texas,
where it`s not going to hurt him. He could be Mr. Gunman down there. It`s
not going to hurt him at all. He can be Jesse James in Texas. It`s fine
with them down there.

But 60 votes! That -- that means you got to get all the Democrats, you got
to get five Republicans and not lose any of those guys from out west in the
Democratic Party.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: Yes. And Chris, I do think it's going
to be difficult, but I don`t think it`s impossible. I agree with the
governor. We really need to get this to a vote.

Keep in mind that the legislation that we have in the House -- on the House
side, my bill, the gun trafficking bill, has bipartisan involvement.
That`s a good thing. And the same --

MATTHEWS: If they ever vote on it. Mr. Cummings -- and you know the
business, but it looks like the Senate`s not going to vote on anything on
gun safety --

CUMMINGS: Well, I am --

MATTHEWS: -- because it takes 60 votes.

CUMMINGS: I am --

MATTHEWS: And that means the House and Boehner can hide like groundhogs.
They don't even have to come out above the ground. They can hide down
there and say, Well, the Senate didn't vote, why should we?

CUMMINGS: I think that would be a damn shame. As I said today at a press
conference, we've got a situation, if you -- if we cannot act now, Chris,
when we have --

MATTHEWS: I know.

CUMMINGS: -- 20 young children murdered -- I mean, the question is -- I
think this needs to be a wake-up call. Sandy Hook should have been a wake-
up call for all of us --

MATTHEWS: I know.

CUMMINGS: -- for our society. We`re going to allow this to happen. And
the thing that bothers me most is I that know Sandy Hook presented to us
what should have been a transformative moment. And if we fail, Chris, it
can only get worse. And I -- and I hate to see what the new norm is with
regard to gun safety.

MATTHEWS: I agree. Well, your gun trafficking provision was one that
seemed like a given a month ago.

CUMMINGS: Yes. Oh --

MATTHEWS: Now it`s in peril. "The Washington Post" reported today
"Another provision that garnered bipartisan support" -- you`re right,
Congressman -- "making gun trafficking a federal crime, could be gutted if
Republican lawmakers accept new language being circulated by the National
Rifle Association."

So having beaten back the prospects of an assault weapon back to zero,
practically, having beaten back the chances again to zero for a 30-round
clip -- to zero of a ban on that -- and I really think they've almost
killed the idea of stronger background check -- they're now going for their
fourth target, which we thought was untouchable, which is you can't have
secondhand sales to crooks, basically, and to killers.

And where do you think you stand on that? What are your odds of even
getting a vote now?

CUMMINGS: You know, I believe -- I believe -- I still believe we`ll get a
vote on that. I`ve got to tell you, the only people that should be against
this is criminals and those who want to sell guns to criminals.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CUMMINGS: And law enforcement is 100 percent behind it. The American
people -- most American people think we already have a gun trafficking law,
which we don't.

MATTHEWS: OK.

CUMMINGS: And so, hopefully -- I haven`t given up, Chris. And I refuse to
give up because I believe that we have a duty to our children and to our
society to do better. And I think we will.

MATTHEWS: I agree. Look, I`m with you, Congressman.

Let me go to the governor. Explain this to the people who don`t really get
states like Pennsylvania or -- sort of a purple state, it`s more of a
Democratic state when it comes to president, but it`s purple.

How can you have a 90 percent support for something like stronger
background checks and have a guy like Toomey, who is rational -- he`s a
conservative guy, but he`s rational -- why would he rationally think, I`ve
got to worry more about the 30, 40 percent who are gun people, 2nd
Amendment people, year-round, rather than 90 percent of people who are
part-time gun safety people?

(CROSSTALK)

RENDELL: Yes, but it`s irrational, and it`s irrational because Pat
Toomey`s not going to lose that 30 percent to any Democrat. He doesn`t
have to worry about that. And most of that 30 percent believes in
background checks. Most of that 30 percent believes in Representative
Cummings`s bill. Gosh, the NRA for years stood with me and said, We need
tougher law enforcement. Well, a gun trafficking bill is tougher law
enforcement. It`s federal penalties for straw purchasers. It`s exactly
what we need.

Where are they now? They`re frauds. And Pat Toomey, if he`s smart -- and
I still believe he is, Chris -- he`s going to look and say, the people of
Pennsylvania, even NRA members, are for background checks.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

RENDELL: The people of Pennsylvania overwhelmingly support trafficking.

MATTHEWS: Where`s the Club for Growth?

RENDELL: Why would he take the risk?

MATTHEWS: Where`s the Club for Growth?

RENDELL: The Club for Growth is out of this issue. I think it`s out of
this issue.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Let me go to something that the public seems to agree on. I
mean, Mr. Cummings, you've taken a pretty moderate approach to this, pretty
center-left, or centrist, anyway. Look at this. Here`s Wayne LaPierre's
answer to school safety. It`s following the Newtown massacre, of course.
Here's what he said. And unfortunately for people who are for gun safety,
this seems to getting more attention and support than a lot of the stuff
that even the polls show should pass.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WAYNE LAPIERRE, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: The only way to stop a monster
from killing our kids is to be personally involved and invested in a plan
of absolute protection. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is
a good guy with a gun. I call on Congress today to act immediately to
appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every
single school in this nation. And to do it now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the NRA today, Asa Hutchinson -- he echoed LaPierre`s
argument that the only way to stop gun violence is with more guns. He
announced an NRA-funded plan for, quote, "school safety." Here`s Asa
Hutchinson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ASA HUTCHINSON: We also have prepared for the first time that I`m aware of
a model training program for selected and designated armed school
personnel. Now, this is probably the one item that catches everybody`s
attention.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And it should. And the "Washington Post"/ABC poll shows there
is considerable support for armed guards in schools. Now, this is one of
those interesting polls, more typical of politics -- 50 percent support
armed guards in school, 48 percent oppose.

Mr. Cummings, what do you think about that? I mean, sometimes -- I just
drove by a local public elementary school in D.C. this morning. There was
a squad car out. And I said, That`s OK. That`s a good thing. I
understand why that squad car is parked there. Is that a good thing or
not, the police there during school time?

CUMMINGS: I think that -- I think putting more guns -- - putting guns in
schools I don`t think is necessarily a good idea. On the other hand, if
local jurisdictions want to protect their children that way, fine. The
question is, are we creating a false sense of security, number one? Number
two, who can afford it? I mean, we`re cutting back on everything.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CUMMINGS: We`re even cutting back on teachers. And -- and --

MATTHEWS: Well, what`s wrong with a squad car, the cop, the policeman?
He`s inside. He`s got his handgun. He may have more firepower in the car
if something goes wrong, or better yet, if a nut goes by or a bad guy goes
by, he sees that car, I think I`ll try somewhere else. I mean, why would a
guy go in there with a gun if he sees a policeman there with a gun?

CUMMINGS: But keep in mind, Chris, you`re talking about schools. We`re
having problems with gun safety in shopping malls, movies --

MATTHEWS: I know.

CUMMINGS: -- and all sorts of places. So I mean, I don`t want -- what
I`ve said on this is that if -- like I said, if folk want to do that, fine.
But not -- I don`t want that to be a distraction in that because -- as if
that`s going to resolve our issues. There are a lot more issues than that.

MATTHEWS: OK.

CUMMINGS: And so hopefully, you know, they'll go forward with their plan,
but I got to tell you, most jurisdictions probably won`t be able to afford
to have the guard anyway.

MATTHEWS: Well, Greg Sargent of "The Washington Post" reports today that
Democrats hope to pressure Senator John McCain into supporting expanded
background checks, and it turns out McCain did voice support for expanded
background checks back when he ran in 2000. Remember that moderate McCain
who was running for president back there against W.? Sargent writes the
spot was unearthed by a Democrat.

But let`s watch John McCain, the gun safety man.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), 2000 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m John McCain with
some straight talk. Convicted felons have been able to buy and sell
thousands of guns at gun shows because of a loophole in the law. Many were
later used in crimes. That`s wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Governor, can we win this fight with archaeology like that,
digging up old tapes from the --

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: The sacred scrolls, if you will?

RENDELL: But you know, I think Representative Cummings hit on a very
important point. We can`t let that NRA bill be a distraction. We can`t
let people say, Well, I voted to do something about gun safety, I voted to
make our schools safer.

First of all, it doesn`t work. In Columbine, one of the worst tragedies in
the history of this country, there was an armed guard on the school
grounds. It didn`t help a bit because those armed guards will carry
pistols, maybe a Glock, they`re going to be outgunned by these madmen all
the time because we don`t do anything about assault rifles or high-capacity
magazines.

MATTHEWS: Yes.
RENDELL: Look, the fight isn`t over. It isn`t over. And we can win this
if we can get it to the floor. And we`ve got to put their feet to the
fire. We`ve got to go to Pat Meehan, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: If you get Toomey tomorrow, we`re going to ring that bell for
you, Governor. If you get Pat Toomey to come out for cloture tomorrow, we
will announce it first thing tomorrow night that you have turned this guy,
to let people vote.

RENDELL: But there are people like me all over the country, and we aren`t
giving up. We are not giving up. And I know the representative isn`t
giving up.

CUMMINGS: Definitely not.

RENDELL: We`re going to force these guys to sign discharge positions --

MATTHEWS: OK --

RENDELL: -- force these guys to vote against filibuster. And I believe
we still have a chance.

MATTHEWS: Well, just don`t endorse him if he does do it, OK, Governor?
Anyway --

CUMMINGS: Yes, please don`t.

MATTHEWS: Just kidding! I don`t think he`ll do that no matter what he
does!

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: You'll hit him with a rubber hose before you`ll do that. Thank
you.

CUMMINGS: All right.

RENDELL: Absolutely.


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