Guests: Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, Jack Kingston, Roger Simon
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: President Bush flies to the scene of the crime, but what do our leaders do? Is this one of those horrors that comes along, or is this something a good, concerned society can do to prevent?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews. Welcome to HARDBALL. Tonight, “Massacre at Virginia Tech.” Today police identified Cho Seung-Hui, 23-year-old Virginia Tech student, as the shooter who murdered 32 people at the school in the deadliest shooting in U.S. history. Today the president traveled to Blacksburg, Virginia, for a memorial service for the Virginia Tech shooting victims.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We‘ve come to express our sympathy. In this time of anguish, I hope you know that people all over this country are thinking about you and asking God to provide comfort for all who have been affected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Will this national tragedy push gun control to the forefront in the 2008 elections? We‘ll debate the issue with U.S. congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, who lost her husband in the infamous Long Island shooting spree in 1993, and Georgia congressman Jack Kingston. And we‘re waiting for an update on the massacre from the president of Virginia Tech itself and the governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine. We‘ll bring those people to you live when they begin their press conference.
As we wait, let‘s join Tucker Carlson, who, as you know, is down there at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. Well, you‘re there and you sensed it right now, Tucker, my colleague What is the feeling that goes beyond what we can see on television?
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “TUCKER”: Bewilderment. I—I—bewilderment. I mean, there are small knots of students kind of wandering through. I don‘t—you can‘t see exactly where I am, but I am literally in the center of a field of satellite trucks. This is a media event bigger than any one I have ever seen in—maybe ever. And there are small groups of students all wearing the school colors, maroon and orange, kind of wandering through, talking to reporters, talking about what they saw.
I had an amazing interview with a student, a sophomore, mechanical engineering major, who was in German class yesterday at about 9:30 in the morning when Cho walked in and started executing people, beginning with his professor. And I was just amazed by the composure of this student. He calmly described what happened, how he—he—once the gunman left, he held the door so he couldn‘t come back in, even as rounds came through the door. He bandaged his bleeding classmates. It was amazing, the composure of this guy.
That‘s what has struck me is—of course, there‘s lots of crying, but I‘ve been struck by how pulled-together the students have been, far more than I would be at 19 or even now.
MATTHEWS: Besides the killing, or behind the killing, what do they think this phenomenon was? What was it? Was it a student who was crazy? Was it a student who couldn‘t get over a lost girlfriend? Was it a student who was like one of the kids at Columbine, who hated everybody in the class, who was bullied into his behavior, perhaps? What do they feel this phenomenon is, besides just the horror?
CARLSON: I think everybody here—in fact, I think everyone in the country immediately puts this crime into the familiar narrative that we know so well, the Richard Jewell, you know, who of course didn‘t do it in the end, but the alienated angry loner who can‘t get a date and lashes out with violence against everyone in response to that, you know, the guy who sits alone in his room, writing violent stories and posting them on the Internet or draws pictures of, you know, people killing one other, listens to death metal.
I mean, that is one of the oldest narratives we have in public life in America. Whether or not it‘s true almost doesn‘t matter. Cho is in that category now, and I fear just, you know, because I care about what the truth is, we‘ll never really know who he was because he is so firmly in our minds already, that guy, the lone weirdo.
MATTHEWS: What do they make of the gun issue? I know that always comes up when there‘s gun violence, and appropriate so. We have to debate our laws, which are so much more liberal, if you will, to use that word, than anywhere else in the world. Has that come up...
MATTHEWS: ... as one of the students‘ concerns yet?
CARLSON: Well, keep in mind this is southwest Virginia. I mean, this is not—this is not Berkeley. It‘s not Columbia, you know, or NYU. This is a part of the country where people have guns. They hunt. The 2nd Amendment is revered down here. That‘s real, too, as you know. And so I don‘t think it‘s an issue that springs immediately to the lips of a lot of people. But there‘s no question it‘s being talked about.
In fact, there was a gun control debate on this campus just last year. There was a bill purposed in the legislature here in the Commonwealth of Virginia that would allowed concealed carry permits on campus, would have allowed some college students who applied (INAUDIBLE) to have a permit to carry a weapon on campus. And that was defeated. It did not become law. And the—and with, by the way, the support of the president of the Virginia Tech, who (INAUDIBLE) against it. He did not want students to have guns, and the idea was this was a coup, a blow for safety, a way to protect the students. Of course, it goes without saying that it wasn‘t enough.
But no, I have not seen—look, this is a tragedy that is totally consuming everyone here on the most personal level. So you know, whether or not Carolyn McCarthy wants to pass some new piece of legislation is not, you know, a hot topic here yet. It will be, but not right now.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you if you can see, since you‘re down there, into the crime itself. Do you have a visual sense yet of what happened in that German classroom?
CARLSON: Yes, I do. I have a pretty vivid one. The boy I just interviewed—the man I just interviewed told me, sitting in the class, 15 kids in the class, professor talking, Pop, pop, pop. And he said what every person I‘ve ever interviewed who hears a gunshot not expecting it says: I thought it was a prank, a joke, a car backfiring, fireworks. They never know it‘s a gunshot. It takes so long for that reality to sink in. They hear this noise. The professor says to the boy, Trey, What was that?
What do you think that is?
As if on cue, boom, the door opens, Cho comes in, says nothing, has the gun, walks up, immediately kills the professor in front of his class. Amazing, the students so stunned, they say nothing, said Trey. There was no outcry at all. And then immediately goes around the room and starts executing people, kills more than 10 of them. The numbers aren‘t exactly clear now, but killed the vast majority of the class.
Trey said in that time, as Cho was wandering through, killing complete strangers for no stated reason at all, showing no emotion on his face, there was only one scream. Only one student screamed, which says to me that the shock was complete (SOUND DROP-OUT) this, they were so not expecting it that they couldn‘t even cry out. And again, only one of them screamed. That says it all to me.
MATTHEWS: OK, hang in there, Tucker. It‘s amazing—boy (INAUDIBLE) what you just gave us.
Congresswoman McCarthy, does this bring back memories of the Long Island train?
REP. CAROLYN MCCARTHY (D), NEW YORK: What Tucker was just describing was actually the reaction of those that were on the train as Colin Ferguson went up and down the aisle, shooting people.
MATTHEWS: In ‘93.
MCCARTHY: In ‘93. The reaction was the same. And as far as people even outside, those that did survive were in total shock, as a lot of these students were. So the scenario is almost the same, even with using the gun that had a clip with 15 bullets in it.
MATTHEWS: Now, let‘s talk about the law, just because it will be a big issue, and it‘s a big issue with you because of your personal history and losing your husband. You said before we went on the air that until recently, you couldn‘t buy a clip with 15 bullets in it...
MCCARTHY: That‘s right.
MATTHEWS: ... for this kind of 9-millimeter handgun.
MCCARTHY: In the assault weapons ban that unfortunately expired, going back two years ago now, large capacity clips were banned. And right now, anyone can buy them. So if that bill had stayed in law, the chances are the shooter would have not been able to buy that clip.
MATTHEWS: You know, when I was a Capitol cop, I had a 38 special, which meant it was revolver. You had—you have some muscle to pull the trigger. You got to cock it, if you would (ph), but usually pulling is hard. You couldn‘t just fire off 32 shots and kill 32 people just like that, unless you were a muscleman. But with this semi-automatic 9-millimeter with a clip on it with 15 -- with 15 slugs in it, a person who‘s untrained...
MATTHEWS: ... of reasonable health and strength could do what this young guy did.
MCCARTHY: And that‘s been...
MATTHEWS: In other words, anybody with the impulse to commit this crime can do it without any training or ability.
MCCARTHY: Absolutely. And it‘s been proven a number of times that people who have never even held a gun, when you have a semi-automatic, and especially since the trigger is, you know, very light to do, going back...
MATTHEWS: It‘s a hair trigger.
MCCARTHY: Many years ago, because women—they thought we were so dainty, they actually changed it so women could pull the gun a little bit faster. But with that being said, it still comes down to possibly some lives could have been saved yesterday. All of them? Probably not...
MATTHEWS: You mean, if he had to reload?
MATTHEWS: It is kind of stunning, I mean, even as, you know, my colleague, Tucker, points out, to see 10 people shot in front of you like this is some kind of scene from the Second World War, a concentration camp, and to just see it and be so stunned by the reality, that this is real, and then to be unable to do anything about it, it was so quick, gets to the technology here, the quickness with which you can use these guns.
MCCARTHY: Absolutely. And again, you know, when we look at the technology that‘s out there, and especially the kind of guns that are out there—a lot of these guns were made for our police officers and certainly our military. A lot of these guns weren‘t made for the average citizen, especially large-capacity clips. And I think that‘s what people have to have a debate about. We‘re not trying to take away the right of someone to own a gun, but certainly, there are things that we can do to prevent gun violence. Yesterday we lost 32 people. On a yearly basis, we lose over 30,000 people, some to homicide, some to suicide, and a lot to...
MATTHEWS: OK. You know this argument. It‘s your life. You lost your husband because of this argument—or your husband‘s loss is what led you to this argument. I wrote my first letter to Congress as a young guy when Bobby Kennedy was killed. You know? I wrote Congressman Alberger (ph) in Philadelphia. I said, I never write a letter in my life, but I care about this gun control issue. Nothing ever changes because the people who care about guns care about them every minute of the year. And the people that don‘t want people having guns so easily, especially these kinds of guns, think about it when a horror occurs.
MATTHEWS: Who wins? The people who care about it all the time.
MCCARTHY: Well, that‘s mainly because the NRA is very well organized.
MATTHEWS: Because it‘s membership.
MCCARTHY: It‘s membership and everything else like that. But when, unfortunately, an incident like this happens, the American people turn to us and say, What are you doing about it? And I think that‘s the shame of it. We‘re not out to take someone‘s right to own a gun. We‘re not taking that hunting rifle away from the hunters. But the NRA...
MATTHEWS: But some people would.
MCCARTHY: Some people...
MATTHEWS: No, there are some people out there would like to get all the guns registered...
MATTHEWS: ... and collect them all.
MATTHEWS: And that‘s what these guys who have guns are afraid of.
MCCARTHY: But Chris, that‘s never going to happen, not in this country, not in my lifetime, certainly not in your lifetime. It‘s just not going to happen, mainly because there are a lot of people...
MATTHEWS: Well, you know the argument. It‘s the slippery slope.
MCCARTHY: It‘s always...
MATTHEWS: They feel if you take away the assault weapons, the big rifles, the AK-47s they like to—some guys like to shoot up cars with that in the middle of nowhere, which I consider harmless, by the way—but they‘re dangerous weapons, obviously. They feel if you go after them, the next thing is you‘ll go after shotguns. You‘ll go after rifles that people use to protect themselves out in rural areas.
MCCARTHY: But that‘s the argument we hear all the time, and that‘s where the debate needs to be changed. That‘s where the debate needs to be set down and say, What can we do to save lives? That‘s what the debate should be, not the politics of fund-raising, of...
MCCARTHY: ... what either organization...
MATTHEWS: You are a politician now.
MATTHEWS: You‘re a citizen politician, in the Reagan sense, because you were drawn into politics not out of ambition but because of horror. Do you really believe that Hillary Clinton or any Democrat, Barack Obama or John Edwards or Bill Richardson, will stand on national television in a debate with a Republican opponent and come out for gun control?
MCCARTHY: No. I don‘t. But that doesn‘t stop me from trying to do what I need to do. I took an oath to my son that I would do whatever I could to protect someone‘s life. I did it as a nurse, and I couldn‘t save everybody, and I can‘t do that even with this issue on gun violence. But that doesn‘t mean I‘m going to give up. Politicians, in my opinion, don‘t stand for the right thing. I‘d rather lose my election than be wrong on the issue.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s think about how you can address the argument to the undecided person out there because the gun owners are not going to change their minds.
MCCARTHY: They‘re not. But you know, there are an awful lot of NRA members that do believe that people should go through background checks. There are an awful lot of NRA members that believe that there are laws that we should be enforcing that are on the books.
MATTHEWS: OK. I think man people are thinking now maybe this young disturbed man—let‘s say that, we can make that judgment—shouldn‘t have been able to by this gun as easy as he could have bought a slice of pizza, which is the case.
But we‘ll be right back with U.S. congressman Carolyn McCarthy of New York. She‘s staying with us. We‘re also going to wait right now for the next couple minutes for the news conference at Virginia Tech with the president of the university and the governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine. Plus, who was the gunman? Where‘d he get his weapons? And why did he go on such a deadly rampage? Was it impulsive? Was it planned? Why were the serial numbers rubbed off? I‘d like to know.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back on HARDBALL. In just a couple minutes, we‘re going to have a news conference at Virginia Tech from governor—Virginia governor Tim Kaine and officials from the university itself.
As we wait just I think about five minutes, we‘re going to hear from HARDBALL‘s David Shuster with this report on today‘s events.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT: As students gathered in mourning today at Virginia Tech, investigators and campus police identified the shooter. Cho Seung-Hui, originally from South Korea, was 23 years old and a member of the senior class.
CHIEF WENDELL FLINCHUM, VIRGINIA TECH CAMPUS POLICE: Cho was enrolled as an undergraduate student in his senior year as an English major at Virginia Tech. Cho was in the U.S. with a residence established in Centerville, Virginia, and was living on campus in Harper Hall.
SHUSTER: One professor who had Cho as a student described him as troubled and said that based on his writings and behavior in class, Cho had been sent to the university‘s counseling service.
As investigators began poring through the records, today police provided new details about Cho‘s deadly rampage. They said it began with Cho in an agitated and angry state of mind towards a female student. Just after 7:00 AM Monday morning, Cho went into West Ambler Johnston, a freshman dormitory. There, officials say, Cho shot and killed the woman he knew and also shot to death a resident adviser. Two hours later, Cho went into Norris Hall, a science and engineering building. Armed with both a 9 and a 22-millimeter handgun, Cho chained some doors to keep students from leaving, then Cho went classroom by classroom on the 4th floor, emptying his weapons and reloading, killing several people at point-blank range.
TREY PERKINS, SHOOTING WITNESS: A man just ran in. He shot our professor and he—we all just got on the ground really quick, and he just continued to shoot.
SHUSTER: Today President Bush ordered flags across the nation lowered to half-staff. This afternoon, the president spoke at the campus memorial service.
BUSH: In this time of anguish, I hope you know that people all over this country are thinking about you and asking God to provide comfort for all who have been affected.
SHUSTER: Amidst the grief, strong questions remain. After the initial shooting, it took two hours for university officials to notify students of any potential danger.
CHARLES STEGER, VIRGINIA TECH PRESIDENT: And I think we did everything we could, based on what we knew at that time. As you appreciate, you only have minutes to take these actions.
SHUSTER: There are also questions about how Cho obtained his weapons. Law enforcement officials say that based on a receipt found in Cho‘s backpack, he purchased one of the guns last month. But both weapons, according to officials, had the serial numbers filed off, a step taken when somebody wants to eliminate any trail of ownership.
As a permanent legal resident, Cho was eligible to purchase a semi-automatic handgun unless he had ever been convicted of a felony. Furthermore, under Virginia law, there is no waiting period for buying a weapon. You don‘t have to register the gun with police. There is no license required, and no safety training.
Several students said that Cho seemed quite experienced, calmly and efficiently reloading his two weapons. Investigators have recovered a note that Cho left in his dorm room, a note in which Cho listed random grievances, but few details were available.
The Virginia Tech community is receiving an outpouring of support and condolences, but the emotions are raw and the grief remains heavy. And even as details emerge about the killer, the question students keep asking is, Why us?
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David.
We‘re back with New York Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy.
And we will be joined now—we‘re joined now by Georgia Congressman Jack Kingston.
REP. JACK KINGSTON ®, GEORGIA: Hey, Chris.
MATTHEWS: ... your sense about this tragedy and its relationship to gun availability. What do you see as the connection?
KINGSTON: Well, I think one of the—the hard problems you have in a free country is that you have madmen, crazy, deranged people, who, unfortunately, have access to public places, and, sadly, in this case, had access legally to be able to buy a gun.
And that‘s one of the great challenges. Do you penalize law-abiding people to try to eliminate the possibility of a crazy person going ballistic? And—and...
MATTHEWS: Well, literally ballistic.
But what about when you and I go to get a driver‘s license as kids? We have to take a written exam. We have to show up somewhere so somebody can see if we‘re sweating or look a little crazy. We sort of have to behave in a civilized fashion and go through a training. You have to know when to stop at a stoplight. You have to know the rules. You have to know how to use the car.
Why is it you can go into a gun shop and buy a gun on demand...
MATTHEWS: ... without any questions asked?
KINGSTON: I think, in this case, that—he had to show two I.D.s. And he acted normal. There wasn‘t a background check or anything like that.
And, frankly, Chris, I think, if that‘s something that we should discuss down the road, then I think, if we can show that that‘s relevant to preventing a crime—you know, I want to point out it‘s real important, while we‘re very emotionally wrapped up in this, as we should be—I have got three college kids. One, incidentally, is in the state of Virginia. I mean, this touches everybody. We‘re all very saddened by this.
MATTHEWS: Congressman, hold on there, please. Thank you for joining us.
MATTHEWS: Just hold on. We‘re going to watch right now as the governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine, and Virginia Tech officials from the university itself give us an update on the massacre.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: First, you‘re going to hear from the superintendent of the Virginia State Police. That is Colonel W. Steven, with a V—S-T-E-V-E-N—Flaherty, F as in Frank, L-A-H-E-R-T-Y. He is the superintendent of the Virginia State Police. He‘s going to make several brief statements, and then he will turn it over to the honorable...
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to—let me go back to Congressman Kingston before we get into the talks here themselves.
Congressman, do you think gun control is going to happen in this Congress?
KINGSTON: I don‘t think it will.
MATTHEWS: Do you think it‘s going to be part of the presidential debate as we go into 2008?
KINGSTON: I think it will—I think it will be part of the debate. But, you know, it‘s interesting. In the statements issued by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, they did not talk about the need for further gun control at all.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think they avoided that, even though you know that they have an interest in that area?
KINGSTON: Well, you know, interestingly in the countries that have had stricter gun control, three specifically, Ireland, Great Britain, and in Australia, which have implemented those since 1996, it has not brought down the murder rate or the gun crime rate.
And, you know, I think, also, if you look at what‘s happened in places like Paris, Switzerland and Germany, where you have had very, very strict gun control, they still have had random acts similar to this. In Germany, 16 people were killed by a disgruntled student.
MATTHEWS: But, Congressman, you have seen statistics where there are more people killed in Los Angeles than are killed in Europe on a given night by gun killing.
KINGSTON: Yes. Well, I mean, think about, in Germany, they had this
they had a disgruntled student who killed 16 people at his school. He went back because he was suspended.
KINGSTON: In Switzerland—you know, calm, peaceful Switzerland—a guy goes into parliament a couple of years ago and killed 14 people. Then, in Paris, where they have the—probably the strictest gun control laws on the planet, eight people were killed at city hall, and I think something like 40 were shot.
So, you know, a lot of times stricter gun control laws do not get the intended results.
Just to keep in perspective, in America, over the last several years, you can fill a baseball stadium with murder victims. I mean, you can have a good Tuesday night crowd of dead people killed every year in this country with gun violence.
You know that, Congressman.
And, you know, but if you look at—for example, the Brady gun control group rates Virginia as having a C-minus in gun control laws. The same group gives Washington, D.C., a B. And, yet, Washington, D.C., has a higher murder and gun violence rate than Virginia.
MATTHEWS: Because, well—Carolyn—Congresswoman, why don‘t you respond to that?
For the obvious reason that you can cross the river and buy a gun.
MCCARTHY: That‘s the problem. The guns are being bought in Virginia or in other outlying states. And that‘s what the problem is.
KINGSTON: But then—but...
MCCARTHY: And we have seen a dramatic drop in gun violence in D.C. at this particular time.
And I‘m sure that, if we had kept that in place—and we will battle that—that we will hopefully see it even go down further.
KINGSTON: But, I mean, I would say to you, if they‘re going over to Virginia to buy the guns, then why isn‘t Virginia having the same murder rate?
The statistics just don‘t bear it. The Department of Justice, the Center for Disease Control, the Congressional Research Center have all done studies in the last three or four years, and have shown that gun control does not necessarily bring down the gun violence and the murder rate.
And that‘s extremely important to the debate. And that‘s one thing that we need to look about this situation. What could have been done to prevent it?
And I—you know, it‘s easy to say, “Well, he shouldn‘t have been able to buy a weapon.” You know, well, he was a law-abiding citizen. He was a legal alien. Maybe legal aliens should not be able to do it without a background check...
MATTHEWS: Should he be allowed to buy a clip with 15 rounds on it?
KINGSTON: Well, I don‘t know what the Virginia gun law is. And I don‘t know how relevant that is, Chris.
But I think something like that is worth discussing.
MATTHEWS: OK. Here we go.
I‘m sorry, Congressman.
Let‘s go now with the officials and the state officials speaking in Virginia.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
COLONEL STEVEN FLAHERTY, VIRGINIA STATE POLICE: Since we last spoke, the state, local, and federal law enforcement officials that have been working on these cases have been working around the clock.
We have, in the last 24 hours, executed a search warrant on the gunman‘s dorm room. And we are currently evaluating the evidence that we have recovered, to determine just what the evidentiary value is from the assortment of items that we have collected. Investigators are continuing to follow up leads on the shooting and the weapons that were recovered in Norris Hall.
As many of you know, we recovered two weapons, a .9-millimeter handgun, as well as a .22-caliber handgun. Investigators have traced these weapons and confirmed that Cho did legally purchase these weapons, in accordance with Virginia law.
There‘s no evidence at this time to suggest that Cho left behind any type of a suicide note. The Virginia State Police has been coordinating the efforts to contact all of the family members, and let them know the status of their loved one.
We have, to date, made tentative contacts with all of those family members, either directly by the Virginia Tech Police Department, the Blacksburg Police Department, the Virginia State Police, the Montgomery County Sheriff‘s Office, or the FBI, or other local and state agencies around the United States.
The major thrust of the medical examiner‘s office today has been continuing to attempt to identify, to positively identify the victims in these cases. They have been pulling fingerprint records. We have been assisting in gathering fingerprint records from various levels, state, local, federal, and, in some cases, international level, trying to bring these together, so we can make those positive identifications.
The staff at the medical examiner‘s office has been working 12-hour shifts, in order that they can expedite this collection of scientific evidence, and be able to expedite this identification process that, as you heard yesterday from Dr. Fiero (ph), probably will still take days before we are able to complete this work.
I now would like to invite the governor to make comments.
GOV. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: Good afternoon.
This has been a horrible tragedy for the commonwealth and for this community and for the nation.
As I indicated this morning—this afternoon in the convocation, my wife and I had just arrived in Korea for—in Japan for a two-week trade mission, part of which included highlighting a Virginia Tech initiative in India, when we received news, and then turned around and came back, arriving back to Dulles about 11:00 today.
Our hearts go out to the entire community. This is the darkest day in the history, wonderful history, of Virginia Tech. But I know this is a very strong community. It‘s a resilient community. That was obvious in the reactions of students even during the very difficult events of yesterday.
I pledge every effort of the state in the days to come to assisting this university in the healing process, to assisting the family members who have experienced grievous loss, as well as students and others from this community who knew folks who were injured or who were killed.
As is standard and as in customary in an instance of this kind, there will be a very further after-action report of the event and the response. The university has asked me to appoint independent law enforcement expertise to assist in that effort. And I will do so very promptly, probably within the next 48 hours.
It is a very important thing and a standard thing that that thorough after-action review be done, both on the event and the response, so that we can learn all we can about that.
With that, I have stated what I need to. And we would be glad to entertain a few questions.
QUESTION: Governor, there‘s a lot of information now coming out about writing about chain saws and hacking teachers and all this stuff, and the fact that some of the writings were so concerning to some of his professors, who (INAUDIBLE) counseling.
Is that examination going to include, and should it include, whether more rigorous action should have been taken prior to this event?
KAINE: The—I would view the after-action review as encompassing the entire matter, what was known about this individual, the events of the day, and the response thereto.
The idea is to do this after any significant incident to learn, you know, what we could do differently. And that‘s what we will do. But, yes, I suspect that any of that information—and I have heard it alluded to, have not seen it directly—but any of that information would be part of the very thorough and independent review.
QUESTION: What do you know about the campus police‘s first interactions with Cho in 2005?
KAINE: At this point, I am not going to talk about particular items, because I have heard things thirdhand, without, you know, directly knowing it.
That is the purpose for the after review of this kind. It‘s to put with people with expertise and independence in place who can review it. And that will be evaluated and commented upon in due time by people involved in that review.
QUESTION: ... I know a lot of Asian students have left the campus. And were you concerned this matter will cause more ethnic discrimination or ethnic conflict?
KAINE: I would certainly hope that would not be the case. And I know that it is the fervent desire of this community that all students who are here, who are part of the Virginia Tech community, continue to be welcome.
One of the things that I noticed as I was, you know, kind of feeling powerless, waiting to board a plane, five or six hours out in the future yesterday, was a number of the students who were commenting on behalf of Virginia Tech were Asian students who participated in one way or another in consoling other students, in talking to news and press outlets about what they had seen.
This is a community at Virginia Tech where Asian students play a very significant role. I am aware of at least one of the individuals who was killed who was an Asian on the faculty here. And, so, this is not an incident—this is an incident that cuts across all the barriers.
There‘s grief for all. I don‘t believe this will be seen by people in this community or others as an excuse to exercise prejudice or intolerance against anyone.
QUESTION: ... is the death toll still at 32?
QUESTION: The family members of the deceased want the bodies of their loved ones released right away, or at least visitation. Do you support releasing the bodies immediately or at least giving them (OFF-MIKE)
KAINE: As soon as is practicable, given the need to do identification, yes, that should be done. That should be a first item of business.
I have chatted with a number of families about that, and also with the
with law enforcement and university officials. It is just important that they be done soon, but not so soon as to compromise either identification or any aspect of this investigation.
But I know that the officials working on that place that as a top priority.
QUESTION: ... is the death toll still at 32, plus the shooter?
KAINE: The—I will need to ask on that. Yes, that continues to be the toll of this.
QUESTION: Governor, the administration of the university and law enforcement have said that they have done everything—they did everything in their power to protect the students‘ lives.
There does, however, seem, here on campus, to be some dispute, some controversy about that. Who will investigate to see whether or not everything indeed was (OFF-MIKE)
KAINE: Well, that is a natural question to come up in such an emotional and difficult and tragic situation. Was everything done that could be? It‘s so natural that that question be asked. And we have to answer that question.
And that is the purpose for immediately commencing this review of the events, everything we knew about the individual, the events and the response.
I do not know, at this point, standing here, who all of the members will be who will be on that assessment team. But I do know that I have been asked, from the standpoint as the governor, to appoint independent law enforcement expertise of great skill in this area.
I‘m not going to right now say who I will appoint, because I have to get a yes. I have in mind individuals that I would like to serve in this capacity. And I suspect that that will be done immediately.
QUESTION: Who asked you to fill that?
KAINE: It was in discussions between me and the president of the university, Charles Steger, and the board, that they recognize the need for this after-action review, and they asked if I had people of skill in these areas that I could put on board to make sure that there was both expertise and independence.
QUESTION: Mr. Kaine, some pro-gun lobbyists have said, if students were allowed to carry arms, perhaps (OFF-MIKE) as bad (OFF-MIKE)
KAINE: Look, I think that, you know, people who want to take this within 24 hours of the event and make it their political hobbyhorse to ride, I have got nothing but loathing for them.
This is not a political hobbyhorse or a crusade or something for a campaign or for a fund-raising mailing. At this point, what it‘s about is comforting family members, doing what can be done to make sure that they have the ability to see their family members, that bodies can be released to families, and helping this community heal.
And, so, to those who want to try to make this into some little crusade, you know, I say take that elsewhere. Let this community deal with grieving individuals and be sensitive to those needs.
QUESTION: How many foreign countries of students there in the Tech and (OFF-MIKE)
KAINE: How many foreign students are there at Virginia Tech?
QUESTION: No, just in the deaths.
KAINE: Oh, in the deaths.
I do not know the answer that yet. And that will be known soon, as the identities of all are released. Certainly, in hearing about a couple of the faculty members that were killed—there were foreign-born faculty members whose names will be released soon. The president and first lady and my wife, Anne, and I visited with them after the convocation center.
So, again, this is a grief that does not know an international boundary. It affects not just this tiny town, but it affects the entire world.
QUESTION: Governor, do...
QUESTION: ... police have a motive?
QUESTION: Are you concerned that the gunman may have used a high-capacity magazine that would not have been legally available to him prior to the expiration of the federal assault weapons ban?
QUESTION: ... anything that Virginia or the federal government can do to make that not available...
KAINE: Christina, the after-action review that I mentioned earlier will focus on those issues as well.
I don‘t know enough about the—you know, the precise components of the ban that expired and the weaponry used here to be able to comment on that now. But, certainly, the facts will be out. And, at that point, that can be discussed.
But, at this point, that is not something I know enough facts to wade into.
QUESTION: ... some changes in state law?
KAINE: Before we talk about any policy changes, we have to get our best assessment of what occurred. That is first.
Dealing with families is first. The careful and independent assessment of what occurred is second. Once that is done, there will be ample time to discuss whether there need to be any changes made to policy here or elsewhere.
Yes, right here.
KAINE: Please, right here.
QUESTION: Governor, could I ask you or the law enforcement personnel, what‘s the situation with this person of interest that was mentioned this morning? And there‘s been talk that the first young woman who was killed, she had a new boyfriend. And this caused jealousy, et cetera, et cetera. Could you...
KAINE: I‘m not able to—I‘m not able to comment on that. I don‘t know if there is...
QUESTION: Is this person of interest somebody who still exists, is still a person of interest? Can you clarify, please?
FLAHERTY: Well, I think you are speaking of the—the original case, the original shootings.
QUESTION: Yes. Correct.
FLAHERTY: And there was an individual who was of interest at the time that the Virginia Tech Police Department was looking at, and actually interviewed, et cetera, and remained a person of interest, and probably will be looked to for evidentiary information as we go ahead.
When I spoke earlier to you, remember that we talked about additional shooters. We talked about the potential for accomplice. At this particular point in time, Mr. Cho is the individual who was the shooter in Norris Hall. We know that.
We don‘t know—we can‘t prove at this point whether he did or did not have any accomplice. There is no evidence that he did. But we are following through to make sure that that‘s not the case, to make sure that he had no one, at any portion prior to or during the event, that there was no one else that was helping him in some fashion, in any fashion whatsoever.
KAINE: We‘re—also, we have not been able to make that evidentiary leap. Remember that we told you that we have identified that one of the weapons that was used at Norris Hall is also the weapon that was used in AJW.
We have not been able to make that evidentiary leap at this point to say that Cho is the individual that did those shootings. We‘re still following all those leads. And there are a myriad of leads that take us in many different directions.
We‘re at the point where we are reviewing a great deal of evidence that has us slow-moving.
QUESTION: The two search warrants...
FLAHERTY: I‘m sorry.
QUESTION: The two search warrants that were executed; can you talk about what was pulled from his dorm room and from that secondary address. Did you recover any of the bloody clothing or—
FLAHERTY: I‘m only familiar with one search warrant. I have been several hours from the command post. So I haven‘t had the benefit of knowing of a second search warrant. But what we have taken, at this point in time, were mostly documents that we are reviewing to try to determine if there is some evidentiary value. There were considerable writings that we are reviewing.
QUESTION: He purchased 50 rounds of ammunition. Is there any indication that the reason he stopped shooting was because he ran out of ammunition?
FLAHERTY: I don‘t know why he may have stopped shooting, no.
QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) Did police do anything, or did they do enough, considering the concerns raised by the English Department regarding his writing?
FLAHERTY: I‘m sorry. I didn‘t hear the first part of your question.
QUESTION: I said that you always hope that maybe there is something that may tip you off ahead of time. What was done, if anything? What did the police do regarding the concerns from the English Department?
FLAHERTY: I‘m not familiar with that. That wasn‘t something that was reported to us.
QUESTION: Will you be releasing the note? (INAUDIBLE)
FLAHERTY: We have no plan to produce any of that evidence at this particular point in time. As I mentioned, there is no evidence that there was a suicide note.
QUESTION: -- talk about any notes he may have written regarding his girlfriend, or anything like that?
FLAHERTY: It‘s all part of the evidentiary process right now.
FLAHERTY: The state police are not involved in dealing with the family in Northern Virginia. The FBI has assisted us in that role.
QUESTION: You said that the initial incident was thought to be a domestic incident, and that he (INAUDIBLE) would it be fair to say that because you had this person of interest, and you were questioning him, that you believed that the shooter had been apprehended, and that is why campus wide notification (INAUDIBLE)
FLAHERTY: We were not involved in that incident. The state police was not involved in that incident, nor did we play a role in making a discussion about the campus.
FLAHERTY: Well, we certainly feel like, from our review, in the course of doing our portion of the investigation, that the reaction that the local police—the Blacksburg police department, the Montgomery County sheriff‘s office, the Virginia Tech Police Department was the proper approach.
QUESTION: Was that because they thought they had the shooter from the first incident in for questioning?
FLAHERTY: Well, there was certainly no evidence or no reason to think that there was anyone else at that particular point in time.
QUESTION: The governor needs to continue on. Thank you very much
sir. If you guys want to go ahead. I want to
QUESTION: Folks, I wanted to let you know there has been apparently published reports that Cho‘s parents committed suicide, not true. All right? Absolutely unconfirmed. So just—it is not true. It is not true period. OK, they are still alive, yes.
QUESTION: Where are they?
QUESTION: I‘m not going to release their location. I‘m simply telling you that they are still alive. They have not committee suicide, as reported erroneously by somebody. I wanted to let you know that tomorrow morning we will conduct a briefing at 9:00 am here. Once again, we will also conduct a briefing at 4:00 p.m., here as well. Depending on the information we can reveal at that time.
This is very much an active, on going investigation. We can only release so much information as we proceed for fear that we may jeopardize the progress of this investigation.
QUESTION: Are there any updates on school cancellations for next week or the rest of the semester?
QUESTION: We will have that information tomorrow morning from the president himself. I‘m sure they will make a statement about that, as well as concerning the football game on Saturday, which I know there have been some questions on. Thank you guys very much.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll be back in just a moment with reactions by Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, specially to that charge by the governor that he doesn‘t want anyone involved with crusades or political hobby horses. I‘m going to ask you that question now. I‘ve got a chance not. What do you make of him saying that people shouldn‘t use this tragedy as a way to make an object lesson out of this tragedy?
REP. CAROLYN MCCARTHY (D), EDUCATION AND LABOR CMTE: I talk about gun violence every day. Every single week I‘m on the House floor talking about gun violence, and certainly trying to prevent gun violence. And I‘m sorry the tragedy happened yesterday and my heart goes out to all the victims and to the families. I have a right to talk about what can be done to make certainly this country safer.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of governor Kaine‘s claim that it is a hobby horse, fun control?
MCCARTHY: Well, you can talk to an awful lot of victims that certainly have up this banter. And I would say they would probably be very insulted. We are just trying to prevent this happening to any other family on what we have gone through.
MATTHEWS: We‘ll be right back with Congressman Jack Kingston of Georgia and Carolyn McCarthy of New York State in just a moment. We‘re covering this ongoing coverage of this tragic event in Virginia.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back with Carolyn McCarthy, the U.S. congresswoman from the state of New York, who lost her husband in a shooting spree back in 1993, and has been dedicated to the cause of gun control, and Jack Kingston, who we‘ve been also talking to, from Georgia. Congressman Kingston, will this lead to a debate on gun availability or not?
KINGSTON: Well, I don‘t know if this necessarily will. I think that Carolyn has raised a good point that she has consistently called for more gun control, as have other members of Congress and state legislatures, as well. So, I think, during the course of the year Congress will debate gun laws. Whether this is going to be catalyst to it or not is left to be seen.
One of the things the governor pointed out very clearly is right now it‘s time to comfort these families and then look at the after action review and see if something else is out there that could have prevented that. I think Congress would probably be in a position of let‘s take a look at what the after action review is and the findings .
MATTHEWS: What do you make of that call for letting things cool off before you debate gun control?
MCCARTHY: I have been in Congress long enough. It‘s almost like calling for another study, in other words, delay and hopefully it will go away.
MATTHEWS: And you don‘t think we should have a delay?
MCCARTHY: No, I don‘t think we should have delay. We did that right after Columbine. And obviously we weren‘t able to do anything. By then the NRA came out, got all their soldiers up in order, and nothing was done.
KINGSTON: Chris, let me point out something I think is very important, Columbine; 20 existing gun control laws were broken. It is very hard to prevent the acts of a mad man, as I pointed out earlier in the case in Paris, where eight city councilmen are killed, and 14 members of parliament in Switzerland, and then 16 kids in Germany in a school. These are very, very strict gun control countries and cities. And yet, you still have the acts of a mad man. I think that‘s why that‘s very relevant to --
MCCARTHY: Jack, if I could interrupt you. I certainly agree with you that we can‘t save every single person, but when we have over 30,000 people killed a year, whether it‘s suicide, whether it‘s homicide, or whether accidental death, there are things that we can do, without the right of being able—I‘m not looking to take away the right of someone to own guns.
What I‘m looking for is how are we going we save those lives and the thousands and thousands of lives that are injured because of gun violence every year, which is costing this country over 200 billion dollars a year in health care costs. And I think that‘s something we need to address.
MATTHEWS: That‘s U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy of New York State, Congressman Jack Kingston. Thank you, sir, for joining us on this tragic day.
David Gregory is NBC‘s chief White House correspondent, of course. And Roger Simon is the chief political columnist of Politico, MSNBC‘s co-sponsor in that upcoming first debate, when the Republican candidates, by the way, are going to be debating at the Ronald Reagan Library on May 3rd. That‘s a big night in American coming up.
Let‘s go to David Gregory with the president. Everyone was impressed today who watched it, the president‘s very warm and human response down there in Blacksburg.
DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is something that he knows that he has to do at a time like this. The president recognizes that it is not just a community that is hurting, but a country that is hurting. He wants to be able to communicate that to that community.
We have seen it before with Bill Clinton after Oklahoma City. The president becomes the mourner in chief. That‘s about all they can do in terms of providing concrete assistance. He‘s also steered clear of the debate that you were just having, Chris, even though his spokeswoman, the very day that this all happened, yesterday, said the president still believes in the Second Amendment and that hasn‘t changed, and that people should have access to guns, as the constitution allows them to do.
He told Brian Williams today, look, it is not something that I want to get involved in. There will be a political conversation about this, but that is not the point of it right now, not the point of me being down her. We look at these pictures, the president down signing this makeshift memorial, meeting with some students and addressing that large ceremony.
It‘s worth pointing out, Chris, as you know well, no matter what you think of this president, sadly, he has a lot of experience comforting those who are going through loss. All of the kids that we have lost in Iraq and Afghanistan, these parents, these brothers and sisters, and others, family members meet with the president privately around the country as he goes to military bases and communities.
So, he has done plenty of this, as I say, sadly .
MATTHEWS: What is the phenomenon here? I‘m asking you the same question as a correspondent covering the president. Is it the story of bullying and (INAUDIBLE), the way that we saw the story of Columbine several years ago? That‘s the back story that came out of that. Is it the story of the high pressure on foreign students, the tremendous pressure they feel from home, and also being in a new country, studying a new language? What is the back story here, besides my god this is terrible?
GREGORY: Well that‘s the question, about what the pressures were and whether they were so individual or whether they were something that had to do with the community that he was in and his unique circumstances. But the other question is why are we seeing this phenomenon, going into schools? Where these young people, in these cases, who are obviously hurting or filled with rage, who are not right in their minds, for whether reason, are then taking the added step of going into a target rich environment, where there are other kids, where there are innocent people, where they are hemmed, where they are locked into a classroom, effectively, and taking out their anger or their frustration or their sense of inadequacy?
That is the phenomenon here in our culture where people who are not right are going into schools, a place of such vulnerability, knowing they‘re going to get this kind of blaze of glory, at least in their own mind. That is the sickness of it all, and something that has to really be a conversation.
MATTHEWS: What do you think will be the next step by President Bush?
GREGORY: Well, you know, he had a forum on school violence. And obviously, it is a conversation that should be had again, and that he could start if he wanted to put it on the agenda. I think the debate about gun control—you know, the problem in our politics is that there are such absolute views about what the constitution allows, what gun control laws are on the books—the purpose that they are supposed to serve, as opposed to getting into a debate about wanting to strike some kind of balance, recognizing the violence that exists because of guns in our country, the availability of guns, while not infringing in a kind of unreasonable way on this sports men and women in this country, or those people who want guns.
I mean, that‘s where the political discussion needs to be. And every time Democrats want to get into it—you will notice it‘s not been a major agenda item over the past few years, certainly not with this Democratic Congress, because it may not be a winning political issue for them. But we‘ll have to see. Certainly after Columbine, it gave rise to a big question.
The question is what happens a couple of weeks down the line. We were talking about this last week with Imus and the conversation about race. Is that conversation going to continue? It hasn‘t this week. Will it next week? Will this conversation about guns and about violence continue in a of weeks? I don‘t know.
MATTHEWS: Good question. Let‘s go right now to Roger Simon. And that is the heart of it: People who care about guns—my brother is an NRA member—they have guns. They pack their own ammo. They take it seriously. They read about it. They care about it. Culturally, it is a big part of their life. And the other people, you could the civilians, if you will, get concerned when these tragedies occur and then they change to another topic, like Iraq.
ROGER SIMON, POLITICO.COM: There is a middle ground. It is hard to make a logical argument that you need a gun magazine that holds 15 rounds if you are a sports man. If you‘re shooting at a target, even if you‘re shooting at a varmint or an animal, you can probably change clips. But some people have a very emotional attachment to guns in this country. And they don‘t want any restrictions.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t think it‘s all about sports men. My brother and a lot of NRA people, and a lot of Americans believe that potentially down the road the government is their enemy. And they want to be able to protect themselves against authoritarian, totalitarian government. It may be, you might say it‘s overly suspicious of what might happen in this country. But wasn‘t our country founded on the idea that individuals must be able to protect themselves against their government if it comes to that?
SIMON: Yes, we‘re not living in the 1700s anymore. And if you take that kind of viewpoint to the extreme, you get Oklahoma City. The government is the enemy; let‘s blow up a federal billing. That‘s nuts.
MATTHEWS: That‘s right. What about the slippery slope argument, which you hear? Sure, you can make the case that not everybody would want, in fact most hunters do not, an AK 47. They don‘t need them. But they do want the right to have the gun of their choice.
GREGORY: Remember, Chris, what is important here. You brought up Oklahoma City or Roger Did. What set Tim McVeigh off, by the way, was not Waco. What he came to Waco to do was to pass out flyers opposed to the Brady Gun law. That‘s how people in this country feel about guns.
MATTHEWS: Carolyn, you‘re still here.
MCCARTHY: The reason he was against the Brady Gun law at that particular time was because he was selling guns illegally at gun shows to make money so that he could build his bombs.
MATTHEWS: Tim McVeigh?
MCCARTHY: Tim McVeigh.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about it politically. I once studied the Brady Bill issue—and you are the expert Carolyn. You‘re still here. And you could go down the spine of this country, David, and you could see the Tennessee, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, right up from the bottom to the top, were states where people voted pro gun. And you can see someone like Al Gore, whatever you think of him, or Hillary Clinton coming up next time, saying I cannot kiss off the middle of this country and still hope to be elected president. Right Carolyn? That‘s the politics of it.
MCCARTHY: Absolutely, but the politics also is, again, we‘re not trying to take away the right of someone owning a gun.
MATTHEWS: But if they think so—
MCCARTHY: That is the problem. That‘s where the NRA has—
MATTHEWS: Roger, the politics of gun control, is it a dead issue in any presidential campaign?
SIMON: Yes. I mean, you might get a presidential campaign raising it. It‘s probably unfortunately a dead issue.
MATTHEWS: Will a winning campaign ever be for gun control.
SIMON: It‘s possible. Don‘t forget, Bill Clinton was for gun control. And he was successful. He was from Arkansas. He could talk to hunters. He said, look, I never saw a deer wearing a Kevlar vest. You don‘t need cop killer bullets. You don‘t need automatic rifles. You don‘t need it to be a hunter. People believed him. Hunters heard the same words from Al Gore, they didn‘t believe him.
MATTHEWS: Here we go. By the way, David, we had this debate when Bobby Kennedy was shot. I think Carolyn knows it‘s going to never end. But thank you for coming on Carolyn. Thank you, as always, Roger. Thank you David Gregory for sitting in last week, by the way. Right now HARDBALL is going to return in one hour from now with a new edition tonight, including Brian William‘s interview with President Bush on this very sad subject.
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