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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

Guests: E.J. Dionne, Carolyn McCarthy


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Sam.  It‘s nice to see you.  Great job tonight.

SEDER:  Thank you.  Appreciate it.


MADDOW:  Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour as well.

Today, residents of Tucson, Arizona, marked the next stage of the national tragedy that has now stretched into day six.  The funerals for the six victims of last Saturday‘s deadly shooting started today.  After last night‘s public memorial service, today was expected to be a day of more private grieving by the families and friends of those who were killed.

Unexpectedly though, the events today continued to involve the public

hundreds of people spontaneously turned out.  Look at this.  Hundreds of people spontaneously turned out to line the streets of Tucson to salute the hearse that was carrying the youngest victim, 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green.


Here was a sign that hung from a house right across the street from the church where Christina‘s funeral was being held.  “Your community is standing with you.”

As friends and family entered that church for the memorial today, they have passed underneath this flag.  This is the largest flag recovered from Ground Zero after the attacks of September 11th.  The connection, of course, is that Christina Green was born on September 11th, 2001.

It‘s a fact about her biography that was noted in one of the more moving moments from President Obama‘s remarks last night.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Christina was given to us on September 11th, 2001, one of 50 babies born that day to be pictured in a book called “Faces of Hope.”  On either side of her photo in that book were simple wishes for a child‘s life.

“I hope you help those in need,” read one.  “I hope you know all the words to the national anthem and sing it with your hand over your heart.”  “I hope—I hope you jump in rain puddles.”

If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today.



MADDOW:  President Obama returned to Washington very early this morning.  And the White House, while not pivoting away from the Tucson tragedy, did start to field questions about whether there is anything in public policy that should change in response to this latest incident of American gun violence.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  We will have an opportunity to evaluate ideas and proposals that may be brought forth as a result of circumstances and the facts around this case.  The president, again, since I have been with him in 2004, supported the assault weapons ban.  And we continue to do so.


MADDOW:  The president will continue to support the assault weapons ban.  You know, that position, a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons, that is a position that Mr. Obama happens to share with his predecessor as president.  During the 2000 presidential campaign, George W. Bush said he supported the assault weapons ban.  It was a view that he continued to hold while he was president.


ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  The president thought and said so thought in 2000 that the assault weapon ban was a reasonable step.  He supports the reauthorization of the current ban.


MADDOW:  George W. Bush ultimately failed on that campaign process. 

The assault weapons ban was allowed to expire on his watch.

But President George W. Bush, through his political career, did, in fact, support a number of gun control measures.  Things like banning the importation of large ammunition clips, banning guns within 300 yards of a school, raising the gun ownership age from 18 to 21, requiring instant background checks at gun shows, requiring trigger locks with handgun sales.

George W. Bush supported all of these gun control policies, which, of course, is why angry, enraged, paranoid NRA members picketed every one of George W. Bush‘s public appearances while he was president for all eight years.  Oh, wait, that didn‘t happen.  No, that didn‘t happen because his position on gun control was considered to be relatively mainstream and relatively noncontroversial.

Mr. Bush supported some—what you might call common sense restrictions on what weapons Americans are allowed to have.  And that‘s how the politics of the Second Amendment has worked.  There is a broadly defined consensus which includes both Barack Obama and George W. Bush and every other politician of either party who holds mainstream views on this subject.  It‘s the consensus view that the Second Amendment protects the right of Americans to own firearms.  But there are reasonable restrictions on what that means.

In the wake of the Tucson shootings, at the realization that the only reason the alleged shooter was able to kill and wound so many people is because he could fire 30 bullets before he stopped to reload, because he had a high-capacity magazine, that would not have been legal for him to buy had the ban on that not expired in 2004 -- in the wake of that realization, we have to decide as a country if we‘re going to keep to the mainstream centrist George W. Bush and Barack Obama included consensus on gun control, that some restrictions are OK, or whether we‘re going to reject that long-held consensus.

The common wisdom in Washington right now is that there can be no new policies concerning guns whatsoever.  No restrictions on gun access are politically possible no matter how great the need, no matter how big the problem that America has to confront about gun issues, no matter how great the national trauma, no matter how rational the restriction.

I know that is the common wisdom.  But the fact it‘s common doesn‘t mean it‘s not radical.  That‘s a radical assertion.

That common wisdom that we cannot do anything about guns, that has never been true of gun politics in modern times.  Saying all restrictions are off the table, that‘s a rejection of the centrist consensus we have had on this for generations.

That is the view of the gun radicals.  That‘s the view of the absolutists.


REP. PAUL BROUN ®, GEORGIA:  Fellow patriots, we have a lot of domestic enemies of the Constitution, and they‘re right down the Mall, in the Congress of the United States—and right down Independence Avenue in the White House of—that belongs to us.  It‘s not about my ability to hunt, which I love to do.  It‘s not about the ability for me to protect my family, my property against criminals, which we have the right to do.  But it‘s about—it‘s all about us protecting ourselves from a tyrannical government of the United States.


MADDOW:  Second Amendment, not about hunting or self-defense.  It‘s about citizens having the ability to overthrow the tyrannical government of the United States.  That‘s Congressman Paul Broun of Georgia speaking last April.

E.J. Dionne wrote about this at “The Washington Post” today.  He found Congressman Ron Paul making roughly the same argument in print five years ago.  Quoting Mr. Paul, quote, “The Second Amendment is not about hunting deer or keeping a pistol in your night stand.  It‘s not about protecting oneself against common criminals.  It‘s about preventing tyranny.  The Founders knew that unarmed citizens would never be able to overthrow a tyrannical government as they did.  The muskets they used against the British Army were the assault rifles of that time.”

Again, the argument is that the Second Amendment exists so Americans can overthrow the government.  That is a view.  It is a radical view of gun policy.


ALEX JONES, RADIO HOST:  We‘ve had had record gun sales.  When Americans are asked, why are you buying guns?  They‘re buying it for civil unrest and to fight back against government tyranny.


MADDOW:  That‘s conservative radio host Alex Jones.

We essentially have two choices about what kind of country we are on this issue of guns.  Do we believe the Second Amendment requires the citizens of this country to be well-armed enough to defeat the military of this country?  Is it about the power to literally overthrow our government?

If that‘s the case, then this week‘s common wisdom is right.  No matter what the national trauma, there could be no regulation of the American people‘s firepower whatsoever.  I mean, right now, it is essentially illegal for civilians to own machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, mortars, cannons, explosive time bombs, anti-tank guns, Molotov cocktails.

I shouldn‘t say it‘s illegal.  Technically, they‘re actually not outright banned.  But we do restrict access to these things so greatly that these things that you see on the screen right here, these do not circulate among American citizens broadly.

But if you are with the Alex Joneses and Ron Pauls and Paul Brouns, if you are with the radicals on gun policy, then all of the laws that prohibit us from having these things need to change.

In fact, all of the laws that prohibit us from having access to anything you can imagine in terms of weaponry need to change, because in their view, to do right by the Constitution, you and I need to be able to defeat the U.S. military in battle.  We need to be able to overthrow the U.S. government.  So, we need not only anti-tank guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers and bombs.

If the United States military is armed with depleted uranium munitions, if they‘re armed with nuclear weapons, in order to be able to compete with that—in order for you and me to go up against the tyrannical commander-in-chief of the U.S. military and defeat him in battle, you and I should quite literally be able to obtain private nuclear weapons.

This is not hyperbole.  If you believe the gun radicals‘ philosophy about guns, that gun rights are to protect our ability to overthrow the government, then we need to be able to destroy the U.S. military so we can overthrow that government.

He‘s commander in chief of the U.S. military.  We need to be able defeat him in battle.  Is that what gun rights are for?

If that is what gun rights are for, you and I need to privately buy everything the military has and more.  In fact, we would probably be advised in order to protect our gun rights to restrict what weapons the U.S. military is able to have, so we can make sure we continue to have a tactical advantage.

Forget the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union back in the 1980s.  Under this view of gun rights, every day should be an arms race between you and me and the 82nd Airborne if that‘s the way we‘re going to approach gun politics.  Is that the philosophy with which we approach it?

Or can we approach gun politics the way that we do in modern America, which is that we reject that radical position?  I mean, we love and enjoy those folks and we like playing tape of them on the television.  But we don‘t move forward on their suggestions.


BROUN:  It‘s all about us protecting ourselves from a tyrannical government of the United States.


MADDOW:  We can either accept that view of gun policy or instead accept the view that our Constitution allows law-abiding Americans to own weapons with some reasonable restrictions that allow us to be a modern industrialized democracy that is not a Thunderdome.

Joining us now is E.J. Dionne, columnist for “The Washington Post” and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

E.J., thank you for writing that smart column today at “The Washington Post.”

E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST:  Oh, well, bless you.  And thank you for taking this issue on and casting it that way.  I think we should spend the whole segment surprising everyone and praising George W. Bush for his very reasonable stand on gun control.

MADDOW:  Well, I mean, the thing that strikes me though is that for all of the differences that you can find mainstream Republicans and mainstream Democrats even on issues of gun control, there is a consensus that the country is capable of addressing problems when the solution touches on gun rights.  That has been the consensus the entire time I‘ve been along and longer.  We do accept some restrictions on gun rights.

So, why is the common wisdom now that nothing can be done on this issue?

DIONNE:  You know, I think that we have had a detour on this ever since the assault weapons ban has passed because a lot of Democrats got very, very, very timid about this after the ‘94 elections, after Al Gore couldn‘t just win the election outright without having the court intervene on Bush‘s side in 2000, and after they took the House in ‘06, because they‘re terribly worried about losing rural states and losing rural congressional districts.

In the meantime, most Republicans don‘t say they agree with Congressman Broun, but they‘ve acted as if they do.  The gun rights—the assault weapons ban was not extended under President Bush because the Congress was taking essentially the NRA‘s position.  And I do think what you said is really important because people have to understand what is the logic behind this position, if it is based on this view that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to help us fight tyranny and by the way, maybe the guys down the streets are tyrants, then you have to go all the way.

If you‘re not going to go all the way, why can‘t we restrict the big magazines?  If you sort of have a smaller magazine, it‘s very likely fewer people would have gotten shot in Tucson.  Why can‘t we ban assault weapons?

So—but I think it‘s going to take an enormous effort because there is just a huge political consensus that Republicans don‘t want to do it and Democrats are too timid to take it on.  They could have done it, by the way, in the last Congress when they controlled the Congress and Barack Obama was in the White House.  And they didn‘t.  But it‘s got to be done now.

MADDOW:  Is an event like this shock in Tucson a big enough shock to the political system that it could, sort of, shake loose the politics on this?  I mean, I‘m going to speak later on on “The Interview” tonight with the congresswoman from New York who has introduced essentially the gun fix to reinstate that large capacity magazines ban.  Is—has this event been enough to shake that—to shake loose those politics?

DIONNE:  Only if people stay on it for an extended period of time.  I think that the NRA and its allies have usually been able to wait out events like this.  They make public statements saying, all we need to do is arm everybody so you‘re going to have the proposal that Congress people should go around armed.

I must say, I you wrote a column using their rhetoric on how we‘re all safer carrying guns.  And it was a column called “Arm the Senate, let‘s take down all the barriers.”  If they really believed this, then they should want to walk around the Congress.  At least some of these congressmen are living up to their word.  But that‘s not going to solve the problem.  Most people know that‘s not going to solve the problem.

But the NRA is in for a long game.  They have people who vote on this issue.  They also, I can tell you, have people who write columnists a lot on this issue whenever they cross them, which is fine with me.  That‘s their First Amendment right.

But I don‘t think people who care passionately about gun control have ever made it a central voting issue the way anti-gun control voters have. 

There haven‘t been enough test cases where, say, a suburban Republican who

voted against a sensible gun restriction actually faced a tough primary

focused on these issues.  You‘ve got to see some tests like that.  People -

this is going to be—it shouldn‘t be a long struggle, but I‘m afraid it is.


MADDOW:  Last question for you, E.J., thought experiment.  If the ban on fully automatic machine guns had an expiration date on it like the assault weapons ban did, do you—if that was expiring right now, could that ban be extended right now?

DIONNE:  I wonder.  You know, I—the first thought I had is the extension would be filibustered in the United States Senate.  But, you know, maybe President Obama has an interest finally in standing up on this.  Maybe he should cast the issue—do you want to vote for this sensible George W. Bush gun control bill or do you stand with Congressman Broun?

And I do think there has—there have to be some clear lines drawn on this.  And then people have to struggle.  But, you know, sometimes, people expect to lose and they lose and they lose and finally win again.  Maybe this terrible event will open some minds again.

MADDOW:  E.J. Dionne, columnist for “The Washington Post,” senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and smart guy—great to have you on this show as always.  Thank you.

DIONNE:  Great to be with you.  Thank you.

MADDOW:  There is a congressman from Arizona who has lamented publicly this week that there wasn‘t, quote, “one more gun,” he said, at the scene of Saturday‘s killings in Tucson.  And that is a satisfying idea, right?  That‘s a kickass scene in a Bruce Willis movie.  Just one more gun, the right gun.

This is not a Bruce Willis movie, though.  The situation isn‘t even a hypothetical, and the facts on this are definitely worth seeking out.

Please stay with us.


MADDOW:  Coming up at the end of the show tonight, it will be the first story that we have done on this show since the shootings in Tucson on Saturday that is not a story about that event.  We wanted to do one thing tonight that was a break, a moment of totally disconnected from the big story, sort of a moment of wonder.

The story that we‘ve got coming up it at the end of the show tonight is the favorite—my favorite story that I have worked on for this show in months.  I hope you will stay tuned for it.


MADDOW:  Republican Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona made one specific comment yesterday in response to a question about the Tucson tragedy that struck me as not only very classy but is something that reflected a lot of honorable restraint and I thought made a lot of sense.


REP. TRENT FRANKS ®, ARIZONA:  At this point, I have criticized others for making a political nexus or a platform of political discussion out of this tragedy, and so I‘m going to avoid doing that myself.


MADDOW:  That was Mr. Frank‘s response to a question about whether he would support a specific gun control measure that‘s been discussed in Congress recently.  And that comment, I think, “I will refrain from making a political nexus or platform or political discussion out of this tragedy, I will refrain from doing that”—that was something that I thought reflected good judgment, some class from Congressman Trent Franks yesterday.

On the other hand, here is something that Trent Franks said exactly 34 seconds before he said that.


FRANKS:  You know, I wish there had been one more gun there that day in the hands of a responsible person.  That‘s all I have to say.


MADDOW:  If only there had been one more gun there that day.

You know, Arizona is one of the most highly armed states in the nation.  It is very easy to get guns there.  A lot of people there have guns.  There, in fact, was a man on scene at the shooting in Tucson, a witness to the shooting on Saturday, a responsible gun owner, who had his legal weapon loaded and on him at the time of the shooting.  He was a guest on Ed Schultz‘ show this week.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  As I came out of the door of the Walgreens, I saw several individuals wrestling with him.  And I came running.  I was already at a full sprint.  And, you know, it‘s no time to think about anything.  I saw another individual holding the firearm, I kind of assumed he was the shooter.  So, I grabbed his wrist and, you know, told him to drop it and forced him to drop the gun on the ground.  When he did it that, everybody says, no, no, it‘s this guy.  It‘s this guy.  And I proceeded to help hold that man down.

ED SCHULTZ, “THE ED SHOW” HOST:  Did you ever think of drawing your firearm or you made the determination you didn‘t have to?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sir, when I came through the door, I had my hand on the butt of my pistol and clicked the safety off.  I was ready to kill him.  But I didn‘t have to do that and I was very blessed that I didn‘t have to go to that place.  Luckily, they‘d already begun the solution.  So, all I had to do was help.  If they hadn‘t grabbed him and he‘d been still moving, I would have shot him.  I almost shot the man holding the gun.


MADDOW:  “I almost shot the man holding the gun,” he said.

So, to be clear, to everybody who‘s reacted to this shooting by saying that they wish there had been somebody other than the killer with a gun at that scene, there was someone other than the killer with a gun at the scene.  And the person he almost shot was one of the heroes who had just disarmed the killer.

I understand there are a lot of fantasies about guns and about heroism and about heroism involving guns.  But in this specific case, the fantasy that an armed, responsible gun owner is all that would have been needed to have prevented this tragedy, that is disprove by what actually did happen.  It could have gone a different way, but this is how it actually went.

When you talk about the fantasy of there being a responsible armed gun owner at the site of that shooting on Saturday, it is not a hypothetical.  That really happened.  And it did not work out according to Trent Franks‘ fantasy about that.

Beyond that specific instance though, in the aggregate, it is also worth understanding the facts.  Louie Gohmert of Texas this week, has proposed, in response to this shooting, that members of Congress carry guns onto the floor of the House of Representatives.

Unlike E.J. who raised this issue for the Senate, I think it‘s a sort of modest proposal.  He discussed that in the last segment.  When Louie Gohmert brought this up, he was not kidding.

A gun enthusiast group in Arizona even suggested that the state be required to arm all of its elected officials.  They‘d be forced to carry guns.

And, you know, there is a John Wayne, Jerry Bruckheimer, you know, somebody fantasy about what guns can do, that the more guns there are in a place, the safer that place will be.  Who after all would try to make a victim of any gun holder?

Again, I understand the fantasy.  But it is worth understanding what‘s true.  In 2004, a national blue ribbon panel of statistics and criminology experts looked into whether or not “right to carry” laws reduced crime in states that have them.  Their conclusion famously was, they don‘t know.  They were completely unable to come to any statistical conclusion about it at all.

A brilliant academic second look at all of the data available on the question suggests that if anything—if there‘s anything that can be discerned from the data, maybe “right to carry” laws produce more aggravated assaults because people who are armed feel emboldened to punch each other more and to threaten to shoot each other while they‘re punching each other.  I don‘t know.  But that‘s it.  That‘s the only suggestion that‘s evident in the data.

It‘s not proven that more guns equal less crime.  More guns do not equal less crime.  The statistical evidence on this in aggregate doesn‘t support the fantasy.

And if you just want to look at the blunt numbers, the states that have the highest rates of people being killed by guns in this country are, by and large, the states that have the highest numbers of guns per capita.  Here are the states with the five worst rates of gun deaths: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alaska, Alabama and Nevada.

Here are the rates of gun ownership on those states.  Relatively high gun ownership rates, right?  Relatively high gun ownership rates, highest gun death rates.

Here are the states with the lowest rates of gun deaths in the country: Hawaii, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York.  Here are the gun ownership rates in those states.  Compare them.  Compare the list on the left and the list on the right.

These are the states with the lowest rates of gun death and those are their comparatively rates of gun ownership.

So, again, I understand the fantasy.  Everybody wants to believe that superheroes with superpowers—with super firepower they can stop bad things from happening.  It is a beautiful fantasy.  The facts do not support the assertion, though, that more guns equal less crime or that a law-abiding citizen with a gun would have made all the difference in Tucson.

Regardless of your political views about guns, there are facts.  They are worth looking up on issues like this.  They matter.


MADDOW:  Now, for some un-cynical good gun news, and a totally not-sarcastic round of applause for a very conservative politician who was confronted with a very disturbing news story this week. 

The free weekly in Columbia, South Carolina, “The Free Times” - this week, that newspaper reported that a South Carolina gun company had started marketing a part for an AR-15 assault rifle that was stamped with the words “you lie.”

They did that in honor of South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson who famously screamed “you lie” at the president during the president‘s 2009 speech in front of a joint session of Congress. 

In the wake of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords‘ shooting in Arizona this past weekend and the subsequent reporting that this “you lie” assault weapon thing existed, not only did the company that was making it, the Palmetto State Armory, immediately stopped selling their commemorative scream-at-the-president gun part.

But Congressman Joe Wilson himself, who apparently had nothing to do with what this company had done - Congressman Wilson himself wrote to the company.  He said that he had just recently learned about this thing they were doing.  He thanked the company for taking the gun part off the market. 

As I said, not sarcastically, not tongue-in-cheek, absolutely snark-free, Congressman Joe Wilson doing a very decent thing for the country this week in what for everyone have been very difficult times.


MADDOW:  In 1989, at an elementary school in Stockton, California, a man with a long criminal record shot and killed five children and wounded 30 other people.  The gunman used a Chinese-made assault weapon in that attack.

And so that year, President George H.W. Bush signed a temporary ban on importing assault weapons from abroad.  Then, within the next few years, there were three more horrific shooting sprees, the first in Killeen, Texas where a man drove his pickup truck into Luby‘s Diner, open-fired and killed 23 people. 

A month later, at the University of Iowa, a disgruntled 28-year-old former graduate student shot and killed four faculty members and a student. 

Then, at a San Francisco law firm in 1993, a man walked out of the elevator on the 34th floor.  He started shooting.  He ultimately killed eight people and wounded six before killing himself. 

After those three highly-publicized gun massacres, Congress responded by passing the Assault Weapons Ban.  President Bill Clinton signed it in 1994.

Also, of course, there was the Brady Bill, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, passed in honor of White House Press Secretary James Brady who was seriously wounded when John Hinckley shot President Reagan in 1981. 

After the Virginia Tech massacre in April 2007, before the end of that year, Congress passed and George W. Bush signed the National Instant Criminal Background Check Improvement Act to tighten up the connection between mental health records and gun background checks. 

“The Washington Post” put some of these on a time line that they published today, the precipitating, horrible event in gun violence followed by the policy change that it inspired. 

We‘ve sort of done policymaking on this issue like this a lot.  Politicians may not like dealing with public policy that touches on guns, but in the wake of horrible gun crimes, we often pass new gun-related policies. 

Under Republican presidents and under Democratic presidents, we pass new gun-related laws when gun crimes shock the nation. 

On Saturday, the killer in Tucson was able to fire 31 times before he had to stop and reload.  He was able to legally buy the extended magazine that allowed him to do that because the law banning that extended magazine expired in 2004.  Reinstating that law is the project of our next guest.

Joining us tonight for the interview is Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, Democrat of New York.  She is author of a new a new assault weapons ban fix.  Congresswoman, thank you very much for joining us. 

REP. CAROLYN MCCARTHY (D-NY):  Thank you for having me.  It‘s a pleasure. 

MADDOW:  Did I explain that correctly?  The main principle of your legislation would be to have the extended magazine ban that we used to have, to regain that, is that right? 

MCCARTHY:  Absolutely.  We have found that large capacity clips - since the ban expired, there are more of them out there and much easier to get. 

Unfortunately, what happened in Arizona - this is a bill, by the way, that I‘ve been reintroducing every year since the assault weapons ban, because I know something like this was going to happen again. 

MADDOW:  The original law that expired said that you could not sell new extended clips.  But as far as I understood it, you could trade or sell old ones.  Your bill now would not allow you to you trade or sell old ones either.  Is that right? 

MCCARTHY:  No, you can‘t transfer them.  If you own them, it‘s yours. 

MADDOW:  You can keep it?

MCCARTHY:  But you cannot trade or sell them, mainly because they would go into a gun show.  And that‘s where they would all be traded and then they basically go on to the black market.  They would go to gangs.  They would go, to be very honest with you, the drug cartels from Mexico. 

MADDOW:  In terms of the political realities of this bill, the prospect of it passing, is that specific aspect of it, is that part of the grounds on which it is objected to by the gun rights lobby? 

MCCARTHY:  Oh, no.  They have don‘t like the whole bill. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

MCCARTHY:  There‘s nothing in the bill that they like.  You know, if there was something in there that we could work with, I‘d probably work with them. 

I did that with the NICS background check after Virginia Tech, because I have always believed if I can compromise and get something that will still save lives, then it‘s worth that little bit of compromise to get it through.  But with that being said, they won‘t compromise on anything this time. 

MADDOW:  What‘s your plan to build support for the bill? 

MCCARTHY:  I go member to member.  I talk to everybody.  I plan on talking to the president.  I plan on reaching out to everyone I can.  I also talk to Speaker Boehner, sit down with him and talk to him why this is good for the whole country. 

This will save lives.  You know, my background‘s a nurse.  I spent all my life trying to save lives, and that‘s what I‘m doing in Congress.  That‘s what I‘ve been doing for the last 16 years. 

MADDOW:  This, of course, is something that has touched you personally in terms of your family history, a violent death in your family caused by gun violence. 

Is that something that allows you to talk to people about this who wouldn‘t otherwise talk to you about it, at least because of their respect for you, because of your experience and what you went through? 

MCCARTHY:  No.  Everybody, certainly, in Congress knows my story.  They know I came to Congress to reduce gun violence in this country, and they respect me for that.  They might not agree with me, but they do respect me for that. 

They know I‘m not just being a politician trying to get something through.  This is personal to me.  Large capacity clips were used on the Long Island Railroad, killed six people, wounded 20. 

And then, of course, from there, we‘ve seen, unfortunately, more shootings like that, as you‘ve shown on the TV.  But this is personal because I happen to believe that lives could have been saved on the Long Island Railroad. 

Colin Ferguson had four clips with 15 bullets each.  Most of those bullets reached somebody.  If he only had 10 bullets and one in the chamber, lives on the other end of the train would have been saved, same as, unfortunately, for Gabby. 

Probably, this law would not have helped her, but it would have certainly saved lives and injuries down as he went forward. 

MADDOW:  One of the things that - we‘ve been looking intensely as a staff, researching what‘s been possible in the past around gun control. 

I am frustrated by the common wisdom that nothing is possible on gun control, because I‘ve seen that laws have been passed, whether it‘s in immediate aftermath of a tragedy or a long time down the road, like the Brady Bill was, for people working for a long time to get it. 

There has been change on this issue in the past and I don‘t believe that it‘s impossible to get it now.  But when Republicans in the past have supported commonsense - what I would consider to be commonsense gun control measures, things like the assault weapons ban. 

People like George W. Bush were in support of that.  His father, George H.W. Bush, were in support of that.  Do any of those Republicans who have had mainstream past consensus positions on commonsense gun control, have any emerged to persuade other Republicans on the issue? 

MCCARTHY:  Not that I know of at this particular point.  But you know what?  You have to understand the legislative process.  This is the beginning. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

MCCARTHY:  Introducing the bill, then I work the bill.  And we have to work to get it through a committee.  We have to work to get it on to the floor.  It‘s not something that is easy on any bill, any bill.  But to be very honest with you, the consensus seems to be growing. 

People are coming up to me and are saying, “I‘m a gun owner.  I‘m a sportsman.  I like to do target-shooting.”  You‘re right on this though.  I‘m willing to make that sacrifice.  So I think the consensus is growing. 

People have to understand that this is something that‘s added to a gun. 

I‘m not taking your gun away. 

And I think they‘re starting to see that now, mainly because so many shows like yours and others are actually talking about what the bill actually does.  So their understanding on the opposite side, where the NRA is basically saying, “She‘s taking our gun away again.”  And I‘m not doing that. 

MADDOW:  The more you understand about the facts of this, the more you realize what a narrowly-targeted provision is that you‘re suggesting here.  Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York, sponsor of what I think of as the gun fix, something that would reinstate the extended clip ban that expired only in 2004, thank you for joining us tonight.  I know this has been an exhausting week for you.  Thank you. 

MCCARTHY:  Thank you for having me.  I appreciate it. 

MADDOW:  OK.  You remember Tom DeLay, right?  The hammer, the disgraced former House Majority Leader who just got sentenced to some time in the big house for money laundering, the one and only Tom DeLay.  He is free on bail pending appeal. 

And it is very important for me to tell you right now that he will be joining Lawrence O‘Donnell on “THE LAST WORD” right here in this network, right after we‘re done.  That‘s a big deal. 

And this is election eve in America.  It is not a typo in my teleprompter.  Tomorrow is the every other year election, which, last time around, gave us RNC chairman Michael Steele.  Pleas stay with us.


MADDOW:  Do you read your horoscope every day?  Aries - my mom calls me and reads me my horoscope.  She reads it into my voicemail when I‘ve had a particularly good day in the stars.  Aires. 

Except today I was told that I‘ve now been downgraded to Pisces.  Also, your astrological sign is being changed, too.  All of ours are.  For a reason, that makes sense.  It is upsetting.  It is discombobulating. 

I‘m worried it‘s going to change my relationship with my mother.  But the weirdest thing is, it makes sense.  I‘ll tell you about it in a moment.  We‘ll be right back.


MADDOW:  Tomorrow, at it its winter meeting, the Republican National Committee is expected to vote on the party‘s next chairman.  Michael Steele is running for re-election against four challengers. 

What does it take this year to become RNC chairman?  Last week, the candidates for that job gathered for a debate.  And like any sort of fair-to-middling modern debate, it included a lightning round. 

A lightning round is where you‘re supposed to respond very quickly to questions that are supposed to reveal something important about you, even though you‘re answering very quickly to questions like, you know, where do you get your news?  And who besides Ronald Reagan is your hero? 

Also, there was this one -  


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Now, OK, starting with Maria Cino.  How many guns do you own? 





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, I may surprise you all.  But we just got a new gun safe for Christmas, and I think there are about 16 in there, everything from pistols and a GLOCK to shotguns and rifles. 

And my son is on a combat weapons team at West Point.  He has an assault rifle, I‘m sad to report, too.  So there you go. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m very inadequate at four. 


MADDOW:  That lightning round was last week, before the events this weekend, of course, in Tucson.  The vote for RNC chairman is tomorrow. 

We‘ve got one of my favorite ever Republican guests lined up tomorrow to help us analyze the race and the results.  We do hope you will join us for that coverage.  We‘ll be right back.


MADDOW:  This is something that is not about the tragedy in Tucson.  It is not about guns.  It is not about violence or politics or anybody who‘s famous.  It is something completely different and amazing and true.  I know this is a bit of a break from the hard news of these last few days, but that is how we intend it, as a break. 

This is earth, planet earth, our little home that is constantly in motion, spinning and orbiting and tilting in the great big cosmos with other planets and our sun and other galaxies with their stars and planets and asteroids and other universes filled with all of those fabulous things, times a hundred ka-billion or something.

But we have our little earth.  It comes wrapped in a giant magnetic field, which is awesome, a magnetic field with a north and south so that, when you‘re a kid, you can chase those little magnets around, right?  North and south attract.  North and north push each other away. 

Because we are humans and we like to make order of things, we tend to think of our magnetic field like this, with magnetic north being where it darned well ought to be, up the North Pole and magnetic south being at the South Pole - 50/50, symmetrical.  You can count on it, rock solid just like our earth. 

But that is not really how it works, because our earth is not really rock solid.  Not really.  If you look deep inside the planet, you see the part that is solid, the inner core.  It‘s very small in relative terms and it‘s super, super, super hot. 

The outer core that‘s wrapped around it is mainly made of molten iron, liquid iron that is bubbling and sloshing about while we‘re way up on the earth‘s surface, you know, wondering what happened to the car keys. 

Earth‘s outer core of iron is so fantastically in motion that it‘s even got whirlpools in, whirlpools caused by the constant rotation of the earth. 

And laced through those whirlpools of molten iron, we seem to have these circulating electric currents, OK?  So, we‘ve got electricity, electric currents.  We‘ve got electricity and we‘ve got metal. 

What happens when you combine electricity and metal?  If you remember what happened in science class when you ran electricity through a hunk of metal, what you got and what you get is a magnetic field. 

With the right equipment, you can capture images of it and you can watch them all day, like we did today.  Just think, our earth, the whole thing, comes wrapped in a magnetic field like the ones you see here, at least, sort of vaguely like that. 

But here‘s the mind-blowing, oftentimes 10, 1,300 things about this.  Earth‘s giant magnetic field, the giant magnetic field for the whole earth, the one we live inside, is changing.  It is changing all the time. 

Check out this practical consequence of that.  This is Tampa International Airport.  Today, before dawn, at Tampa International Airport, they reopened one of the busiest runways. 

They have been closing runways recently at Tampa so they can adjust the signs on the runways, so they can tell pilots zooming in at hundreds of miles an hour exactly where to land.  Why do they have to adjust the signs? 

Well, it turns out that the runways are numbered according to the points on a compass.  And a compass, of course, depends on magnetic fields to work.  That‘s how a compass needle knows where to point.  That‘s how a compass needle knows to point north. 

It‘s not pointing toward Santa.  It‘s pointing toward magnetic north.  And the problem with the runway is that magnetic north moves.  It moves about 40 miles a year - 40 miles. 

When I first heard the news about that causing the Tampa Airport to have to move its runway signage around, my response was, basically, “This cannot be true.”  But it is true. 

The runway signage, the runways have to be adjusted because they‘re based on the points on a compass.  And the points on the compass are moving because north is moving, because our magnetic field is moving and that moves where north is. 

It moves earth‘s magnetic north 40 miles a year.  Amazing, right?  Amazing.  And then, today, yet more amazing news about the weakliness and wobbliness of our earth. 

Did you see this today?  Did you see this today?  Quote, “Earth rotation changes zodiac signs.”  Astronomers from the Minnesota Planetarium Society found that because of the moon‘s gravitational pull on the earth, the alignment of the stars was pushed by about a month. 

So the moon is our moon, right?  It rotates around us.  It is a slave to our far superior gravity.  But the moon also has its own gravity.  It‘s also exerts its own little moon-ish gravitational pull on big old us.  And that gravitational pull of our own moon on us means that we‘ve tilted a little bit. 

We‘ve tilted a little differently in relation to the sun than we used to be.  We‘re tilted differently in relation to the sun than we were when that position, when our position relative to the sun, was used thousands of years ago to assign the zodiac signs. 

We have been nudged by our moon.  And over time, that nudge means that instead of us and the sun and 12 zodiac signs dividing the calendar, it is us and the sun and 13 zodiac signs. 

And it also means that you are not the astrological sign that you thought you were.  Right between November 29th and December 17th there is a new sign.  It is Ophiuchus.  The constellation is a dude wrestling a snake.  Yes, I know. 

Humans born under the previously unknown sign of Ophiuchus include Beethoven, Jane Austen, Ted Nugent, Emily Dickinson, also Generalissimo Francisco Franco, who is still dead.  Also, poor Julia who works on our show and who has a cold and who doesn‘t deserve to have her sign changed while she‘s out. 

Even if you are not Ophiuchus, if that is not your sign, you‘re still not what you thought you were.  On your screen right now - these are the new dates for all the signs. 

If you got moved over, I feel your pain.  My whole life I have been an Aries.  Now, they tell me I‘m a Pisces.  Despite not believing really in astrology, I here by insist on remaining an Aries. 

And never mind the freaking Minnesota Planetarium Society and the big facts about the universe.  No matter what they say, I am not trading the mighty Aries ram for some tiny pair of fish in life as a Pisces.  I‘m not doing it. 

But I am sort of psyched that even as we tiny little things on the Earth‘s crust lament that things on the Earth‘s crust, things here in our world can‘t change, the very Earth, the very universe mocks us by itself changing and by forcing us to adapt.  I love that. 

That does it for us tonight.  We will see you again tomorrow night.  Now, it‘s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell.



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