'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, January 10th, 2011
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Guests: Edgar Domenech, Sen. Sherrod Brown, Daniel Hernandez
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: I‘m Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.
And now to continue our coverage of the aftermath—ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. The suspect in this weekend‘s mass shooting in Arizona is a young man named Jared Lee Loughner. Jared Lee Loughner was born on September 10th, 1988.
When he was 3 years old, a 35-year-old man barreled his pickup truck through the window of a Luby‘s fast food restaurant in Killeen, Texas. He opened fire on the crowd of people who are eating lunch there. And when it was over, he had shot and killed 23 people and wounded 20 others.
A year and a half later, 55-year-old businessman in San Francisco walked into an office building at around 3:00 in the afternoon, took the elevator up to the 34th floor, and shot and killed eight people working at a law office before turning the gun on himself.
Four and a half years after that, two young boys armed with guns, an 11-year-old and a 13-year-old, they shot and killed four girls and a teacher and wounded 10 others at their own middle school in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
The spring after that, in Littleton, Colorado, two students at Columbine High School shot and killed 12 of their classmates, one of their teachers, and wounded 26 others, before killing themselves in the school‘s library.
Three months later, a 44-year-old Georgia day trader went to the offices of two separate day trading firms in Atlanta. Armed with two guns, he opened fire inside. Nine people were shot and killed before the gunman later shot himself.
A few years later, in March 2005, a 44-year-old man walked into a church service in Brookfield, Wisconsin, brandishing a 9 millimeter handgun -- the man shot and killed the minister and six other people before killing himself.
Just nine days after that a 16-year-old boy in nearby Red Lake, Minnesota, shot and killed his grandfather and his grandfather‘s girlfriend. Then he walked to the local high school where he shot and killed five students and a teacher and a security guard. Nine dead in all.
Ten months after that, 10 months later, a former U.S. postal worker in California walks into the mail processing plant that she used to work at—armed only with a pistol, she shot and killed seven employees and then turned the gun on herself.
Nine months after that, a 32-year-old man shot and killed five school age girls at an Amish school in rural Pennsylvania. Then he killed himself.
Four months later, an 18-year-old in Salt Lake City, Utah, walks into a local mall, opens fire, killing five and wounding four others before he was shot and killed by police.
Nine weeks after that, it was a normal start to a week day at Virginia Tech when a 23-year-old mentally disturbed Virginia Tech student roamed the campus, killing 32 people and then himself—the single deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Eight months after that, a 19-year-old walks into a shopping mall in Omaha, Nebraska. He shoots and kills eight people and wounds four others in the span of six minutes, before killing himself.
Two months after that, another U.S. college campus, Northern Illinois University, a former student walks into a lecture hall there, opens fire. Five students shot and killed, 18 others wounded.
A year later, the scene was an immigrant community center in Upstate New York. A 41-year-old man shoots and kills 11 people attending the center, plus two of the center‘s employees before then killing himself.
Seven months after that, an Army psychiatrist walks on to an Army base in Fort Hood, Texas. Thirteen people shot and killed, 30 others wounded.
And then this weekend, in Tucson, Arizona -- 22-year-old man whose photo we have for you, allegedly shot and killed 16 people including a federal judge, wounded 14 others, including a U.S. congresswoman who was apparently the target of his attack.
After the horrible familiarity of yet another American gun massacre, the reaction to it was also horribly familiar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
GOV. JAN BREWER ®, ARIZONA: Unbelievable tragedy that the people of Arizona experienced today, one of which, of course, in our worst nightmares we would never could have imagined would have taken place.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: And one more note about this unimaginable tragedy that we‘ve been covering since first word of it arrived on Monday—how do you recover from the emotional trauma of what happened on that campus?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As one of the probably the first 25 or 30 people out of the room, and I just—I can‘t believe it happened.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the peaceful Amish community of horse drawn carriages and farmland, crime is rare. This crime unimaginable.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: It is hard for anybody to find the words to express the horror and the grief and the anger that are the only rational responses to massacres like this. But the one thing that events like this are not in America now is inconceivable or unimaginable.
The list of mass shootings that I just referenced, this is—this is a partial list. This is a list that I arbitrarily limited to this time period that this alleged killer in this case has been alive. And I arbitrarily excluded just for time dozens of other multiple gun murders in our country during that same period.
As of 2007, the second most heavily armed society in the world, the second most, was the nation of Yemen. Remember like al Qaeda and Somalia and Yemen? Yemen, the second most heavily armed nation in the world. For every 100 people in Yemen, there are 61 guns.
Here in the United States, for every 100 people, there are 90 guns. We are the undisputed number one most heavily armed country in the world and we hold that title by a mile.
Every year, more than 30,000 Americans are shot to death. That works out to 82 people every day. Most of those shootings are suicides, which, of course, begs the question how many of those people would have successfully killed themselves if they were using something other than a gun to try to get the job done.
Thirty thousand Americans killed every year by guns. Every year, 200,000 Americans are wounded by gun fire. That‘s 547 people every single day.
This is not leading up to me making some big point about the Second Amendment. The fact is, we are a country of about 308 million people and there are probably about 270 million guns in this country. That‘s where we are right now.
Given that, each new American gun massacre is both singularly horrific in its own way and it is insane not to acknowledge that it is part of a very clear, very frequently repeating pattern. Every time this happens, we look for answers and explanations and lessons in the specifics of the particular case.
In this case, the potential mental illness of the alleged shooter, the effort to try to find some political coherence, and what appeared to be his beliefs, the effort to find out whether it was his beliefs that note investigated the shooting, what exactly this killer was armed with, how exactly he was stopped, whether this could have been foretold by anything in his life—we look to these details. And as we learn more facts about this one latest American gun massacre, what is consuming the national debate at this moment is whether the heated political rhetoric in our country was a contributing factor to it.
But whether political rhetoric motivated this kid or not, whether this kid was sane enough to process political rhetoric as sane people understand it or not, whether we will understand sooner or later or never the exact motivation behind this kid, behind this latest American gun massacre, here‘s the question: Do we have any tools to stop the next American gun massacre? Do we have any idea how to stop this disaster?
Joining us now is Sheriff Edgar Domenech. He was the special agent in charge of the Washington office the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives at the time of the Virginia Tech massacre. Mr. Domenech is now New York City sheriff.
Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
EDGAR DOMENECH, NEW YORK CITY SHERIFF: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: One of the things we learned today about this case is that the suspected shooter appears to have bought the ammunition just hours before the shooting, at a Wal-Mart. How important from a law enforcement perspective do you think it is to understand exactly what he was armed with in order to understand how much harm he was able to do?
DOMENECH: Well, I think the key here is he was in possession of high capacity magazines, which allowed him to carry a lot more ammo, ammunition, than the magazine that he purchased the Glock with. So, he was able to have up to, I believe, those 33 rounds of ammunition in that firearm which allowed, which means in layman‘s term is that he could shoot 33 rounds before he would have to reload. Or if he had used the magazine have been provided with the gun, which is either going to be 12 or 15 rounds, if we look at the situation, that meant he would have had to reload sooner and maybe we could have averted the 14 people who were wounded and the six people who were tragically killed—because this is an American tragedy.
MADDOW: I understand that the Glock hand gun that he used is a popular weapon in law enforcement. The kind of extended magazine that he had, holding 30 or more rounds, is that the sort of thing that would be—you as a law enforcement officer, were you ever issued a magazine of that capacity? Is that normal?
DOMENECH: No, it‘s not normal. I was a federal agent, special agent with ATF for 25 ½ years. The standard issued magazine that I carried was 12 rounds and one in the chamber. So, as a law enforcement federal agent, the maximum capacity I had with my service revolver was 13 rounds.
Now, we did have federal agents who had a critical need. They would have an extended magazine like with our special response team members.
But traditionally, and most law enforcement agencies do not have extended magazines as common issuance to their law enforcement officers.
So, you have to say if your line of first defense which is your law enforcement community doesn‘t have the extended magazine capability, why does the general public need that without some checks and balance?
MADDOW: To what degree are sales of various sizes of magazines for weapons like this and semiautomatic weapons like this regulated by federal law right now? And how has that changed over the last 15 years or so?
DOMENECH: Well, prior to 2004, from 1994 to 2004, there was in fact a ban on certain assault weapon firearms, as well as high capacity or extended magazines. That law sunsets in 2004, which means that after 2004, it now became perfectly legal to sell and possess those type of magazines which the gentleman had on Saturday.
MADDOW: After the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007, I know that President Bush signed a lawmaking it illegal for anybody who had been determined to be mentally ill to purchase a firearm. Mr. Loughner, as far as we can tell, was never flagged by the system even though his community college appears to have kicked him out on mental health grounds. There are reports that the Army rejected his application because of drug use.
Should he have been able to buy that Glock, that extended magazine, that ammunition under current law as you understand it?
DOMENECH: Under current law, he fell in between the cracks and the gaps, and that‘s part of the problem here when we‘re talking about the issue of gun violence. And this is something, if the merits against illegal guns, we‘re really trying to focus to have that discussion about. It‘s apparent that his school community was concerned about his behavior. I understand reports have it that he tried to enlist in the U.S. Army and was denied because there was an issue of drug usage and there was also many reports indicating that he was in fact a drug user.
Now, one of the questions used on the form when you fill out for firearm and from a federal firearms licensee is the issue: are you a drug user? It‘s a self-reporting issue. There‘s no way of checks and balances.
And law enforcement doesn‘t have the resources nor databases integrated to such a level that that type of information would have denied the gentleman from purchasing the firearm in November.
MADDOW: Big picture. Have we learned anything from Virginia Tech, from these other massacres? Have we learned anything we can do in terms of policy to make a difference or in terms of law enforcement practice or in terms of what we expect from one another‘s culture?
DOMENECH: No. We need to have an adult conversation about proper gun ownership and merits against illegal guns is one of the forms out there presently that‘s trying to have that dialogue and that conversation. And the American people deserve that conversation without the emotion.
Being present during the Virginia Tech massacre, being the special agent in charge, I saw first hand what can happen with senseless violence. And this tragic event is an American tragedy that took place on Saturday and I think it‘s time for all of us to realize we need to have that conversation. And we need to do it without the emotion. And we need to do it with the understanding that there has to be proper gun ownership and responsibility in order for us to be a safe America.
MADDOW: New York City sheriff, Edgar Domenech, former ATF special agent in charge during the Virginia Tech massacre—thank you for helping us with this insight tonight, sir. I really appreciate it.
DOMENECH: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Fourteen people were wounded this Saturday at Congresswoman Giffords‘ event in Tucson. Six people were killed. Among those killed were Phyllis Schneck and Christina Taylor Green.
Ms. Schneck, a retiree, was a churchgoer and a quilter. She‘s a life long Republican who had taken a liking to her Democratic congresswoman.
Christina Taylor Green was interested in politics. She had recently been elected to the student council at her elementary school, which is why a neighbor took her to see Congresswoman Giffords speak on Saturday morning.
Phyllis Schneck was 76 years old, Christina Taylor Green was 9.
MADDOW: Heroes are important not just in their moments of heroism but afterward to all of us when we learn and tell their stories of heroism. What I mean by that and a visit with Daniel Hernandez, a genuine hero of the shootings this weekend—coming up.
MADDOW: You are looking at courtroom sketches here of Jared Lee Loughner, the suspect in this weekend‘s shootings in Arizona, as he appeared in federal court today. One of the law enforcement details that is coming into sharp relief in the wake of the shooting is that Mr. Loughner‘s shooting and wounding Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, shooting and killing federal Judge John Roll, shooting and killing one of Congresswoman Giffords‘ aides, shooting and wounding two others of her aides, those five shootings are being charged as federal crimes because, frankly, of the occupation of the people who were shot in those five cases.
As for the other 15 people who were killed or wounded in the same incident, those shootings are not of federal officials or staffers, and they are being charged not as federal crimes but as state level crimes in Arizona.
Because Ms. Giffords was not only a public official but also is reported to have been deliberately sought out by this young man as the target of this attack, this massacre in Arizona is being described as an assassination attempt. That is a term we reserve for a very specific brand of murder in the United States, one that is motivated by politics or at least one that is committed against a political figure.
I think that it is hard to be responsible and to hue closely to the facts and also say any one general thing about political assassinations in America. You have to be specific. Certainly, there are type of terroristic assassinations where the killers was inspired by and in some ways connected to a political movement that supposedly justified the killing of public officials as a means of getting its political way.
That‘s true as killings as recent as the murder of Kansas abortion doctor, George Tiller, by Scott Roeder, a man who is deeply entrenched in the radical part of the antiabortion movement that preaches violence as a means of achieving its aims.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His logic and reasoning was that he was following god‘s law.
PROSECUTOR: Through murdering which God condemns.
SCOTT ROEDER, DR. TILLER‘S MURDERER: To protect unborn babies.
UNIDENTIFIED PROSECUTOR: Your honor, I‘d ask—
UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: Mr. Roeder—
ROEDER: I‘m talking, I just can‘t stand, it‘s—
UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: I don‘t care about—you know, you will be removed from the courtroom if you don‘t settle down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: A hundred and fifty years before, Scott Roeder was the same principle of politically extreme view of justifiable violence for John Wilkes Booth, who has assassinated President Abraham Lincoln because of Booth‘s fervor for the Confederate cause. The same principle was also true with Timothy McVeigh, who blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City and killed 168 Americans as revenge against the government for Waco and Ruby Ridge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIMOTHY MCVEIGH, OKLAHOMA BOMBER: People have compared Oklahoma City to Pearl Harbor. As far as the impact of the psyche of the American people, it was a surprise and shock to the nation and all that. One of the chief intentions of it was the same as dropping the bomb on Hiroshima.
And what was that?
To hit them hard by surprise and heavily. You know, take, and say, listen, if you don‘t knock it off, there‘s more of this to come.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Timothy McVeigh was inspired by and linked to the Patriot Movement and the militia movement of his day. For every clear cut case though, for every Timothy McVeigh, there is a Sirhan Sirhan who killed Robert Kennedy, maybe in protest of American support for Israel or maybe, as Sirhan said later, maybe because he was hypnotized.
There was a Joseph Stack who flew a plane into an IRS office in Austin, Texas, in February of last year, after posting an incoherent rant against the government online.
Or there is either of the two women who tried to kill President Ford, one of whom was a member of the Manson family. The other said she was influenced by ‘70s radicalism.
These people are somewhere in the middle. There clearly was something they thought of as political that drove their actions when they committed their crimes, but their politics are so incoherent or mixed up with crazy that they‘re not clearly recognizable as politics even to rational political actors who shared their positions.
And for every one of those pseudo political assassins, there‘s a John Hinckley. As James Fallows wrote this weekend in “The Atlantic,” John Hinckley‘s only known reason for trying to assassinate President Reagan had to do with his obsession with the actress Jody Foster.
Or there‘s the Arthur Bremer, the man who shot George Wallace to, quote, “do something bold and dramatic.”
The call these men assassins explains nothing about their motives. It explains only that their targets were political figures.
Because Gabrielle Giffords is a member of Congress, the man charged in these shootings will be tried for these murders and attempted murders, and specifically for the attempted assassination of the congresswoman. And that in itself tells us nothing about whether the alleged assassin should be connected to any broader political movement, group, or cause. That, of course, may change as we learn more about his motives and his affiliations.
But no matter where the crime falls on the spectrum from the political incoherence of a John Hinckley, to the multiple targeted antiabortion assassinations, regardless of how politicized this murder will prove to have been, the question that is nagging everybody now, that deserves to be addressed without opportunism is whether or not a vitriolic political climate that is cavalier toward the idea of violence political figures makes it more likely that assassinations and attempted assassinations will take place. It is an empirical question. It‘s also, of course, a gut check for all of us.
Joining us now is Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio.
Senator Brown, thanks very much for your time tonight.
SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Good to be with you. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: As soon as the gravity of this was made clear, the conversation shifted almost immediately to this question about whether our rhetoric is too heated. It seems like there‘s sort of a national worry or maybe a national defensiveness around that. Do you think it‘s warranted?
BROWN: Sure, it‘s warranted. Congresswoman Giffords, the clip of her on—I believe in the Cannon Building talking on one of the shows about the crosshairs with Sarah Palin and Sarah Palin‘s Web site took that down soon after the assassination attempt. So, I don‘t think we really know any of this for sure.
But I hope that—we all hope that at least this sort of hate messaging, this hate, not discourse, this hate speech, this hate rhetoric, begins to soften. And voters need to speak out about that.
Those candidates, those talk shows, radio, TV that preach hate, that preach sexism or worse than that, or anti-Semitism or racism in any way needs to be dialed back and we need to have real political discourse with a real exchange and debate of ideas.
MADDOW: Do you think that‘s—does that advice from you hold true if it turns out that this kid was either incapable of understanding main stream political speech or they really had no relevance whatsoever to his crime? If he was either so seriously disturbed or motivated by something so unrelated to politics that the level of vitriol in our political debate doesn‘t apply to this crime—is it still worth it to try to dial down that rhetoric anyway because of the risk?
BROWN: Of course it is. I mean, there should be no rules or regulation or government actions against this rhetoric, against free speech. But I think people have grown up. I think some of the purveyors of it perhaps have grown up. Certainly, many more in the public are aware of it now and are thinking about it, and will ask or maybe demand that this rhetoric be toned down—especially, you know, the hate speech, the allusion to firearms and guns.
But I think we have to have another—we have to have another conversation and that is about mental health. I mean, there‘s hardly a person watching this show tonight that doesn‘t have someone in their family with some mental illness. In no way should this demonize anybody with mental illness.
But we also have frankly allowed our mental health, sort of our public mental health system to weaken in this country. He clearly should have had -- he fell through the cracks, as the sheriff just said, in terms of the mental health system in Tucson. And, you know, he shouldn‘t have been able to buy that gun because he would have been—if he had been in the mental health system, we would have known that he was ineligible to buy that gun according to your comments about the bill that President Bush signed.
So—and we know about the murder of the two Capitol Hill policemen a decade or so ago, the murderer was someone who was being treated for mental illness but fell through the cracks because the community had to cut back on its—on its funding for mental health counseling and making sure he took his medication and follow through that mental health counselors do.
So, without it in any way demonizing mental—people with mental health because it‘s a huge number of people in our society, we‘ve got to find a way to rebuild that social safety net for people with mental illness. He was, you know, thrown out of the community college for those reasons, for instance.
And, you know, with what we‘re facing in state budget cuts and in Washington, I think it‘s especially important that we pay attention to that.
MADDOW: When I was studying political science as an undergraduate, the NRA was always put forward as the lobby—as the case study lobby that was more effective than any other lobby of its time or of its kind, in that they were able to not only change the outcomes of debates about gun control, they were able to change whether or not those debates took place at all.
I wonder if you think it is possible, if you think it‘s in Washington, even in 2011, to have a renewed discussion about guns—maybe that is only focused on the type of weaponry that is only used to kill humans in quantity. Extended magazines for hand guns, for example, are not used in hunting. They‘re not using in self-defense. An extended magazine for a handgun is the sort of thing that is only used for killing a large number of humans or trying to.
Can—if the debate is focused narrowly on something like that, can it move forward?
BROWN: It can—it will be taken seriously if it‘s done that way. You know, we passed an assault weapon ban some years ago. It expired. The law expired. It wasn‘t renewed because of opposition in Congress.
That was pretty much addressing the issue you talked about—someone with a semiautomatic that could fire 10 or 15 or 20 shots consecutively. And that‘s clearly, you couple that with mental illness and it‘s a disaster for our country. So, I would imagine the discussions will happen. I don‘t imagine that a Republican Congress, Republican House of Representatives will pass anything that would in any way restrict gun ownership, even though it would be narrowly constructed, as you say, similar to the assault weapon ban which was the law of the land and pretty much a consensus in the country, with the exception of a few that it was the law in the land, I believe for 10 years.
MADDOW: Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, I‘m always grateful when you‘re a guest on this show. But I feel obliged to tell you how grateful I am for you as a public servant. Thanks for being here.
BROWN: Thanks for saying that. Thanks very much, Rachel. My pleasure.
MADDOW: Nice to see you.
Two of the people killed in Saturday‘s shooting in Tucson were Dorwin Stoddard and U.S. District Judge John Roll. Mr. Stoddard was known Dory, to his friends. He and his wife Mavy went to the Saturday morning event to tell Congresswoman Giffords that she was doing a good job as their congresswoman. Mr. Stoddard died shielding his wife from the bullets.
Judge John Roll was the chief federal judge of the U.S. district court for Arizona. He was appointed by the first President Bush. Judge Roll dropped by the event after attending daily mass to say hello to Congresswoman Giffords.
Dory Stoddard was 76 years old. Judge John Roll was 63.
MADDOW: There‘s a reason that we tell stories about heroes, not just super heroes but human heroes. People who do heroic things in dangerous situations. There is a reason that, even when we disagree on everything else as Americans, we agree on the heroism and the beauty of the story of the heroism of a man like Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger or of Wesley Autry, the subway hero or of the heroes who received the Medal of Honor in the United States military.
I think we are wired to accept those stories and pass on those stories about heroes, about heroic acts, because we need to teach ourselves that kind of behavior. In an almost evolutionary sense, it‘s a way for us to pass on and reinforce what is good and brave to do even if our instincts might tell us not to do it.
And so with everybody in the country following the news in Arizona as it unfolded this weekend, how many people were drawn to this story? How many people read aloud this story to their family or their friends when it was posted by “The Arizona Republic”?
How many people sent this on as the first hero emerged in this story? Daniel Hernandez had been Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords‘ intern for five days when she was shot Saturday outside Tucson.
The junior at the University of Arizona was helping check people in at the “Congress on Your Corner” event when he heard gunfire. He was about 30 feet from the Congresswoman when the shots began. He ran toward them.
I don‘t even know if the gunfire - “I don‘t even know if the gunfire had stopped,” he said Saturday night as he kept a vigil at the University Medical Center cafeteria.
When the shots began that morning, he saw many people lying on the ground including a young girl. Some were bleeding. Hernandez said he moved from person to person checking pulses.
“First, the neck. Then, the wrist,” he said. One man was already dead. Then he saw Giffords. She had fallen and was lying contorted on the sidewalk. She was bleeding. Using his hand, Hernandez applied pressure to the entry wound on her forehead.
He pulled her into his lap, holding her upright against him so she wouldn‘t choke on her own blood. Giffords was conscious but quiet. Ron Barber, Giffords‘ district director, was next to her.
Hernandez told a bystander how to apply pressure to one of Barber‘s wounds. Barber told Hernandez, “Make sure you stay with Gabby. Make sure you help Gabby.”
Hernandez used his hand to apply pressure until someone from Inside Safeway brought him clean smocks from the Meat Department. He used them to apply pressure on the entrance wound unaware there was an exit wound.
He never let go of her. He stayed with Giffords until paramedics arrived. They strapped her to a board and loaded her into an ambulance. Hernandez climbed in with her.
On the ride to the hospital, he held her hand. She squeezed his back. “The fact that Hernandez was nearly - was nearby and able to react quickly probably saved Giffords‘ life,” said State Representative Matt Heinz Democrat of Tucson and a hospital physician.
Eight hours after the shooting, Hernandez stood with Giffords friends and staff and told them what happened. The tall, strong 20-year-old said, “Of course, you‘re afraid. You just kind of do what you can. You just have to be calm and collected.”
He said, “You do no good to anyone if you have a breakdown. It was probably not the best idea to run toward the gunshots but people needed help.”
That story was posted by reporters Jamie Rose and Mary Jo Pitzl at the Web site of “The Arizona Republic” at midnight on Saturday night.
We tell stories about heroism to teach ourselves how to act heroically, to teach ourselves what we all wish we would be strong and calm enough to do if we‘re ever, god forbid, faced with the same situation. Daniel Hernandez joins us next.
MADDOW: I‘m very happy to say that the interview tonight is with the young man who is being credited with saving Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords‘ life by offering critical first aid on scene at the shooting at considerable danger to himself.
He joins us tonight from Phoenix where the Governor of his State honored him during her State of the State address this afternoon at the state capitol.
Daniel Hernandez, thank you very much for joining us, sir. It is really nice to have you here on the show.
DANIEL HERNANDEZ, INTERN WHO HELPED SAVED REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS‘
LIFE: Thank you for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: I know you were about 30 feet away from the Congresswoman when the bullets started firing on Saturday morning. Can you explain what moved you to run toward the danger?
HERNANDEZ: Because of some of the things that happened earlier in the year, one of which was, during a campaign stop, someone showed up and there was a gun that fell. And also, her congressional office door in Tucson was shot at in either March or April of this last year.
I was always cognizant that the Congresswoman would likely be targeted as all public officials are. So when I heard the gunshots and I heard someone yell gun, my first concern was making sure the Congresswoman and those who would likely be around her would be OK.
MADDOW: As I understand it, you went through - you‘ve been through a certified nursing assistant program as well as a phlebotomy program earlier in your life. Had you ever had any experience, any cause to apply first aid in a critical situation like this before?
HERNANDEZ: No. This was the first time I ever used any of the skills I had to do triage or first aid.
MADDOW: I think the reason - the reason that your story is not just becoming part of this story, but people are now very interested in you, and people are telling your story as a way of helping each other make sense of what happened is because you, at a time of chaos, remained calm and were able to be incredibly technically effective in those extraordinary, horrible circumstances.
Are you an ice-water-in-your-veins kind of guy regularly? Do you react to stress with unusual calm?
HERNANDEZ: Yes. To be quite frank, I think some of my friends would fault me with sometimes being too detached to a fault when I‘m trying to handle stressful situations.
MADDOW: What do you want to do later in your life? What is your goal career-wise?
HERNANDEZ: I don‘t know. I‘m still only 20 and still only a junior at the University of Arizona. But the events that happened on Saturday make me want to continue something in public service, whether that‘s a nonprofit or working for a government agency. I don‘t know.
MADDOW: Even the foresight to say you don‘t know, you‘re only 20 implies you‘re doing much better than most people at age 20 in terms of seeing the way things are going to unfold for them.
Daniel, I know you started the internship a week ago. You‘ve worked with Congresswoman Giffords before in 2008, again in 2010. What made you want to volunteer for her specifically?
HERNANDEZ: In 2008, I originally started with the Hillary Clinton campaign. Once she didn‘t make it past the primaries, I started looking for other campaigns of people whom I respected.
And Gabrielle Giffords was one of the people whom I respected most in the country just because of the record she had - youngest woman elected to the Arizona State Senate. Her positions on a lot of issues - we were similar.
But also just meeting her, she is the warmest person you‘ll ever meet. She is extremely approachable. One of the things I always remember is when people would offer her a handshake she says, “I don‘t do handshakes, honey. I do hugs.” So she is just a kind and warm individual and that‘s what drew me to her.
MADDOW: In terms of the way the country has responded to this trauma, you obviously have a degree of optimism about this country that‘s driving your interest in public service and just the way you‘re talking about working with the Congresswoman.
Are you proud of the way the country has responded to this event? Do you feel like we‘re treating it appropriately and with the tone and the respect and seriousness it deserves?
HERNANDEZ: I think so completely. I think this is one of the types of events where it‘s not only something that affects Tucsonans. It‘s not something that just affects Arizonans. It‘s something that affects all Americans.
So it is very satisfying to see everyone kind of come together regardless of political affiliation, regardless of their beliefs, kind of come behind, not just the Congresswoman, but all the victims who suffered on this day.
MADDOW: Daniel Hernandez, political science major at the University of Arizona, real-life American hero, thank you for what you did. You have been through a tremendous trauma yourself. Take good care of yourself. Thank you for joining us.
HERNANDEZ: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Among the six people killed in the shooting on Saturday in Tucson were Dorothy Morris and Gabe Zimmerman. Dorothy Morris was married to her childhood sweetheart. Her husband, described her - described by friends as a staunch Republican for more than 55 years. She and her husband were at the gathering together when the gunman opened fire.
Gabe Zimmerman was the Congressional staff member who organized the “Congress on Your Corner” event at which the shooting took place. Mr. Zimmerman was talking with people waiting in line to see Congresswoman Giffords when he was shot and killed. Mr. Zimmerman was engaged to be married next year. Dorothy Morris was 76 years old. Gabe Zimmerman was 30.
MADDOW: News tonight from the White House that President Obama will be traveling Wednesday to Arizona for a memorial service for the victims of the weekend‘s shooting. We‘ve got more ahead.
MADDOW: Today, after an appearance in federal court, authorities released this photo of Jared Loughner, the man charged in the shootings this weekend in Tucson, Arizona.
It has been described as his mug shot. It is not his official mug shot. The forensic unit of the Pima County Sheriff‘s Office actually took this picture.
In a news story like this, there is an understandable desire to tell more of a story than the facts allow. In frequently updated reporting, some facts also get stripped of so much of their relevant context that they get repeated in a way that is misleading.
So to be clear, this is not Jared Loughner‘s mug shot. His mug shot may yet come at a later date. Also, to be clear while Mr. Loughner frankly looks like a skinhead in this picture and you may have heard reporting stating that he has white supremacists ties, there does not seem to be any substantive basis for that claim.
Fox News ran a story allegedly citing a Department of Homeland Security document which tied Mr. Loughner to a white supremacist group called American Renaissance.
Not only does American Renaissance deny any ties to Mr. Loughner, the Department of Homeland Security told Greg Sargent “The Washington Post” that they have, quote, “not established any such possibility undercutting what appears to be the primary basis for this claim.”
So far there is no substantive evidence that Jared Loughner is tied to any white supremacists group no matter what you have heard.
Also, while we are clearing stuff up in the increasingly nasty discussion about whether or not over-hyped or violent political rhetoric is relevant at all to this crime, Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle‘s frequent references to Second Amendment remedies - that has repeatedly been repeatedly been described as rhetoric.
To be clear, that should not be described as rhetoric. Campaign rhetoric is stuff like Arizona‘s Ben Quayle, Dan Quayle‘s son promising in that campaign ad to kick the hell out of Washington. He‘s not going to literally kick the hell out of anything. That‘s metaphor. That‘s rhetoric, right? Sharron Angle spoke of Second Amendment remedies literally.
Here is her comment in context, as reported by “The Reno Gazette Journal” in May, quote, “What is a little disconcerting and concerning is the inability for sporting goods stores to keep ammunition in stock. That tells me the nation is arming.”
“What are they arming for if it isn‘t that they are distrustful for their government? They are afraid they will have to fight for their liberty in more Second Amendment kinds of ways.”
Take it from the context in which she spoke. The Second Amendment remedies thing was not a metaphor. It was not rhetorical. It was Sharron Angle‘s analysis suggesting that people are going to shoot their way out of their current political situation.
She was literally talking about actual guns and ammunition being purchased from sporting goods stores. She meant it literally, that people will turn to guns.
That is a lot of things. It may not be relevant to this. But if you‘re arguing about whether or not it is relevant to this, you should not describe it as rhetoric.
Another point that is being robbed of its context and its meaning is the fact that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords‘ office was vandalized in the wake of the health reform vote last year.
That incident was part of an effort by far-right political activists to get people to break windows at Democratic Party sites because of that vote. The responsible parties claimed credit for it once it was done. We reported on it at the time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(on camera) Sometime on Friday, a brick was thrown through the window at Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter‘s district office in Niagara Falls, New York.
Also, late on Friday, or possibly early on Saturday, another brick was thrown through the window at Sedgwick County Democratic Party office in Wichita, Kansas. That brick was reported to have anti-Obama and anti-health reform messages on it.
A day later, on Saturday, or early Sunday, another brick shattered glass doors at the Democratic Party headquarters in Rochester, New York.
Shortly after the health reform vote on Sunday, a fist-sized rock was reportedly thrown through the front window of the Hamilton County Democratic Party in Pleasant Ridge, Ohio.
And at 2:40 a.m., on Monday morning, a few hours after the health care vote, the front door and glass panel were smashed out at Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords‘ office in Tucson, Arizona.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
All those things happened at the same time. And at the same time, a man named Mike Vanderboegh, a former leader of a militia group in Alabama, claimed responsibility for those events, claimed responsibility for advocating for them specifically on his blog saying before they, quote, “resort to rifles, that people should target Democratic headquarters,” and in his words, “break their windows, break them now.”
He contacted the local press in Rochester, New York, to gleefully claim credit for that window smashing there. It is not wrong to note that Gabrielle Giffords got her office windows broken after the health care vote. That is factually accurate.
But it is wrong to omit or deny the political nature of that vandalism. It is misleading to not note that that vandalism took place at the same time that a lot of other Democratic Party offices were vandalized, and that that vandalism was advocated by far-right political actors, one of whom wanted to claim credit for the window smashing.
The co-founder of the Tucson tea party told “Politico” today, quote, “It could have been kids. Kids skateboard down there.” Trying to rewrite the history of the Gabrielle Giffords‘ post health reform window smashing by attributing it now, these months later, to kids who might have been skateboarding in the area.
You know what that event wasn‘t? That wasn‘t skateboarding kids. It could have been in theory, but it wasn‘t in truth, not in Tucson, not in Niagara Falls, not in Wichita, Kansas, not in any of the other places that windows were broken in those nights after health care reform passed.
I understand that it‘s hard to keep up with all the facts in a fast-moving, big important news story like this, but it was not skateboarders. And Second Amendment remedies thing - it was not rhetoric. Facts matter.
MADDOW: Here is one way to not respond to the mass shootings in Tucson, Arizona this weekend. “Talking Points Memo” reports tonight the Tea Party Express sent out an E-mail today regarding the attempted murder of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords complete with a “click here to contribute” button.
It‘s that file you started that‘s labeled how not to ever, ever, ever respond to a national tragedy in which six Americans were murdered and more than a dozen were injured. You can go ahead and file this away under the subhead “fundraising opportunity.”
Unbelievable. If you‘ve got this show DVR‘d you can pause it right now if you feel like you need to shower. I would understand.
In terms of how to respond to something like this, members of Congress have some judgment calls to make. And right now, they are doing what they think is right.
The sergeant-at-arms, the capitol police, local police and the FBI are intensely involved in discussions with members of Congress figuring out what each individual member wants to do in terms of security arrangements and how available they want to be to their constituents.
But to the extent members of Congress are still making themselves available, we spent part of today in awe of and impressed by the roughly two dozen members of Congress, Democrat and Republican, whose names are scrolling on your screen.
They and their staff have publicly stated they would not be derailed. They would continue with their schedules and public availability as planned. This is just a partial list we‘re able to put together.
There are probably dozens, hundreds even, who just haven‘t made that declaration to the press about their public events or we have yet failed to notice.
But there is something noble about what the people in Tucson were doing when they were killed. They were participating in democracy, small D, including a registered Republican, a Republican-appointed federal judge, a nine-year-old girl with aspirations of public service.
At grocery store parking lots and cities large and small, that‘s the kind of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) where politics happen. Between elected representatives and Americans who want to own, participate and be involved in politics in an “I can look you in the eye” way that is personal.
What those who were killed was doing was, bottom line, noble. They were connecting our democracy to its people, rooting our democracy to its strength, to its legitimacy.
And even if small changes are made to the preparation for an organization of these small D democracy meet your congressman member events, it looks as though they will continue to take place in America because the tradition of showing up to play a role in politics isn‘t as American as apple pie. Frankly, apple pie aspires to be as American as that tradition.
Now, it‘s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell. Good evening, Lawrence.
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