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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript: Gun Violence


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Joining me right now to talk about gun violence is Maryland governor Martin O`Malley and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. Martin O`Malley, thank you for joining us right now.

President Obama spoke forcefully this afternoon about needing to take action on gun safety. Let`s listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This time, the words need to lead to action. We know this is a complex issue that stirs deeply held passions and political divides. We`re going to need to work on making access to mental health care at least as easy as access to a gun. We`re going to need to look more closely at a culture that all too often glorifies guns and violence.

And any actions we must take must begin inside the home and inside our hearts. But the fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing.


MATTHEWS: Governor O`Malley, thank you. And I`ve come to really respect you and the other governors, and Governor Rendell, because I`ve watched it during Sandy and I`ve watched it during what happened up in Newtown. Governors really are the responsible adults. They have to take care of their people.

So in taking care of the people of Maryland, what do you think`s the most important thing, deal with the gun -- the issue of the semiautomatic weapons, the so-called assault rifles, dealing with the high-capacity gun clips, the ammunition clips, or the mental illness piece, or the violent culture piece?

What can you go at in a month?

GOV. MARTIN O`MALLEY (D), MARYLAND: Well, you have to go at all of those things and you have to go at all of those things simultaneously. Clearly, school safety`s an issue. Mental health access is an issue.

But there is no reason why we should have military assault weapons anyplace but on the battlefield. They`re -- and most of the hunters that I know agree. I mean, we -- law enforcement is a piece of this.

You know, Governor Rendell, who I know you`re going to be talking to in just a second -- he and I both had the about highest title in the land, and that was the title of mayor. We had to order police officers in the middle of the night to go into homes, and oftentimes they would bring out these assault weapons, these combat weapons that have no place in a civilized society.

For their safety, if only for their safety, we need responsible bans and controls on these military combat assault weapons that play no purpose in a civil society.

MATTHEWS: Governor Rendell, you`re right in the heart of it up in Pennsylvania, which you and I know, and you better than me, how sensitive people are about the gun ownership, the deer hunter culture, the whole thing.

Can we get something done here in terms of the assault rifles, the ammunition clips, et cetera?

ED RENDELL (D), FMR. PENNSYLVANIA GOV., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think the answer is absolutely yes, Chris. It just takes leaders, and the president looks like he`s ready to lead, to do something that takes a tiny bit of courage but not much.

Look, Governor O`Malley is absolutely right. There`s no excuse. I was on TV with Governor McDonnell from Virginia, and I asked him a question. Give me one good reason why ordinary citizens should have the semiautomatic rifles or clips that have more than 10 bullets in them? And there is no good reason. There`s no answer to that. We`ve got to get rid of them.

We`ve got to make it impossible to buy a gun in this country -- you can`t buy it on the Internet, you can`t buy it at a gun show -- without going through a background check. We`ve got to tighten the existing law now that says states have a duty to report to the national computer that does all these background checks when there are mental illnesses. But right now, it`s not being enforced because it`s too vague. It has to be specific.

If we do all those things, we can do it. And it`s easy to do because 74 percent of NRA members in a Frank Luntz poll, Chris...


RENDELL: ... said that they support the concept that no one can buy a gun without a background check.

MATTHEWS: That`s impressive. Let`s heard the other side. I`m not sure it is the other side or why it is, but for some reason, people on the right, when you talk like this and talk common sense gun safety, they don`t challenge it as much. They immediately go somewhere else and say, Well, how about trying some other approach,because they don`t want to take on the gun lobby.

Here`s Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia talking to local TWOP radio yesterday. He`s open to the idea of arming school officials. Personally, I think that`s a separate question, but he offers that as an alternative to gun control.

Let`s listen.


GOV. BOB MCDONNEL (R), VIRGINIA: If people were armed, not just a police officer, but other school officials that were trained and chose to have a weapon, certainly, there would have been an opportunity to stop aggressors coming into the schools. If a person like that was armed and trained, could they have stopped the carnage in the classroom? Perhaps.


MATTHEWS: OK, you know what a .38 special is. I used to have one when I was a cop for a while. A .38 special and walk around, a guy 60, 70 years old, a retired cop or something -- that`s what you`re talking about, basically. And they aren`t even talking about arming -- how do you know a school teacher even knows how to use a gun, even if he went through training.

How does it stand (ph) up (ph) (INAUDIBLE) pulls out your gun, your cap gun, a revolver, and you`re up against an AK-47? What are they talking about here?

O`MALLEY: Could you imagine...

MATTHEWS: Or does he say that school teachers should have AK-47s? What`s he talking about there?

O`MALLEY: Could you imagine, even if he`s only -- even if the governor were only talking about security guards, school security guards -- could you imagine, at an elementary school, what his gunbelt would have to look like in order to repel an AK-47, a Bushmaster and the sort of armament that came through that door? The...

MATTHEWS: By the way, let me get back to the issue of -- I think this is a dodge. I think it`s talking about something besides gun control because they don`t want to talk about it.

We can argue whether it should be a safety (ph). Maybe some schools in touch crime areas, it`s all right to have a guard or something. Fine. That`s not the issue we`re talking about here. We`re talking about high- powered rifles. We`re talking about multi-shot ammunition clips, where it`s up to 30 or whatever.

O`MALLEY: And we`re also talking about something else, and I think the president spoke to it today, and that is that sickness in our soul as a nation that is violence and the worship of violence and the glorification of violence.

MATTHEWS: Well, in a free society -- let`s start on that -- OK. We can`t stop there being mental illness. It`s part of being born. Every once in a while, people have these problems, mental problems, like they have any other problem.

You go to the movie theater today, and every -- I go -- I`m a movie nut.

And I`ll go movie -- I`ll pick the wrong movie, like "History of Violence" or something like that. And at the commercials that come on, the previews, there`ll be six in a row of, Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang!

O`MALLEY: Right.

MATTHEWS: I mean, some movies, I think people go for the absolute thrill of seeing a lot of people killed.

O`MALLEY: And you know, Chris...

MATTHEWS: How do you stop them from doing it?

O`MALLEY: You know, becomes so all-pervasive in our society...

MATTHEWS: How do you stop it?

O`MALLEY: I think that events like this, tragedies like this -- I think we`ve all been changed by this to some degree. We find it too easy, as a country, to accept one child being shot here and the city...


O`MALLEY: ... one child being shot there. And events like this make us wake up. Events like this...

MATTHEWS: Are you going to stop people who go see "Django"?

O`MALLEY: No, but...

MATTHEWS: Tarantino movie. You`re going to get them to get -- stop seeing "Jack Reacher," the new idiot movie by Tom Cruise? I mean, how do you stop people from putting out idiot movies that are just people -- one person after another getting killed?

O`MALLEY: Well, you can`t stop that, Chris. But what you can do is put sensible restrictions in place so that people who are suffering from mental illnesses, so the people can`t go in and get assault weapons as easily as they can go buy a pizza. It`s ridiculous.

There is no other civilized nation on the planet that allows combat military weapons to be proliferated throughout our society as much as we do. And there are very few societies that bury as many children year after year after year from gun violence.

MATTHEWS: OK. Governor Rendell, what would be a good record for...

RENDELL: And Chris...

MATTHEWS: ... for the president and the vice president -- I know you`ve given some thought to this. Put your own brew together here of ideas you think would be good to come out of this that could pass 218 votes in the House, 50-some votes in the Senate, something that would actually get done in honor of these kids and their parents who have had their lives permanently -- either lost or permanently made miserable. What would be good that they could say, come September, at the end of this year, you know, at least something good came of this?

RENDELL: Well, one, assault weapons -- ban assault rifles, and redefine it. Make it a much broader definition than even was in the original act.Two, no clip or magazine sold with more than 10 bullets in it. Three, gun show loophole closed. Four, no gun sales on the Internet anymore. And five, that adjustment to the mental health statute that I told you about.But Chris, what we`ve got to get over -- and I like Governor McDonnell and
I think he does some good things, but he is being nothing but a coward and a wuss when he won`t confront and answer the question.

Governor, give us one reason why any law-abiding American should have access to a clip that has more than 10 bullets in it or to a semiautomatic assault weapon. There is no reason. There`s no answer. And the American people understand that. So Governor McDonnell should be leading...


RENDELL: ... just like Joe Manchin.

MATTHEWS: Imagine...

RENDELL: Just like Joe Manchin.

MATTHEWS: Imagine you`re out in -- out in western Pennsylvania, one of the western counties, Westmoreland or Washington, one of those counties out there, Jefferson, whatever they are. I don`t even know them all. But they`re conservative counties.

And you know them all because you`ve been running out there. You sit there in a meeting, and some NRA guys in the meeting. And they`re out (ph) in the meeting, and they say, You`re on a slippery slope here, Governor. First thing, you take away our multi-shot weapons. Next, you`ll go after my -- you`ll be after my -- my deer rifle. What do you say to them? It`s not a slippery slope. What do you say?

RENDELL: I say, first of all, it isn`t a slippery slope and no one wants to take away your deer rifle, number one. Number two, every one of our amendments are qualified. The 1st Amendment is and all of them are, and so is the 2nd Amendment.

And number three, if you guys are so tough, how come you opposed me in three statewide elections in the second highest NRA membership state in the country, and I got elected by 10 points, 12 points and 21 points, Chris. If the NRA is so tough, how did I win all those elections?

MATTHEWS: Because the city mice and the suburbanites love you! That`s why because you didn`t change their minds, you beat them!

RENDELL: That`s the point.


MATTHEWS: Yes, go ahead, Governor.

RENDELL: I think Martin`s right. And in my second election, Chris -- in my first election, I won 15 out of 67 counties. In my second election, I won 33 out of 67 counties.


RENDELL: So they`re not that tough. They are literally a paper tiger. They`re the Wizard of Oz.

O`MALLEY: Yes, and Chris, I think we ought...

MATTHEWS: That`s because you were running against my brother and Lynn Swann!


MATTHEWS: I`m just teasing -- I`m teasing my brother there. You get 33 states -- counties. Did you find yourself successful, as a guy who`s known to be for gun control, in areas of the state that are very tough on that? Did you change any minds on other -- did you manage to win minds over of anybody on this issue? Because that`s where we are right now...

RENDELL: Sure. In my...

MATTHEWS: ... trying to find the hearts and minds of the hunters.

RENDELL: When I ran for re-election, I carried counties like Mercer County in the west that are gun -- NRA counties because I had done other stuff, not because I convinced them about guns.

And by the way, one last thing. And Martin O`Malley has done this consistently as governor. It`s about time that some of our elected officials risked their future. If you have to risk losing, well, risk it on protecting children.


RENDELL: Risk it on doing something that is incredibly meaningful to stop this carnage because if you`re not going to risk for something like that, then why are you in elective office?

O`MALLEY: Right.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me bring that back to that question. We had a great liberal senator from Pennsylvania years ago, Joseph Clark (ph), a classic reformer. This is one of the things that killed him, gun control. It`s for real. It can ruin a career.

O`MALLEY: But our ability to grow as a people is also for real. Our ability to evolve...

RENDELL: I agree.

O`MALLEY: ... our ability to look at the fact that our gun laws and the ability to -- for people to purchase assault combat weapons makes us an anomaly in the free world.


O`MALLEY: I mean, those are -- those are things that are also that we`re capable of, growing in our understanding of one another and also in what we can do...

MATTHEWS: OK, you`re...

O`MALLEY: ... to put bad guys in jail, protect kids, and have sensible...

MATTHEWS: We meet again here, and Governor -- I hope we meet before then, but we meet here in September, at the end of this congressional session. Do you think we`ll have a bill that does something real and is signed by the president on gun control?


MATTHEWS: Governor -- Governor Rendell, will we get something done?

RENDELL: I think we`ll have it by the -- I think we`ll have it by the end of February, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s optimism. I hope we get it done. It`d be great to have as a memorial to these -- I keep thinking what it was like to be 5 years old, and we can all remember it. We were real people with big souls, little bodies and big souls. We thought a lot about life. It meant so much to us as kids. Santa Claus was coming. We were very big in our hearts. And these kids -- oh! It`s just horrible to think about. The
more we think about this, the worse it`s going to be.

Thank you, Governor...


RENDELL: ... one of the mothers said -- the night of the memorial, one of the mothers said, If we can pass sensible gun legislation, our kids won`t have died in vain.

MATTHEWS: Yes, and that is one hell of a price. But thank you so much, Governor. You`re a good guy. Thank you. Happy holidays. Merry Christmas to you, Governor O`Malley.


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