September 16, 2013
Guests: Sam Stein, Mark Glaze, Jim Cavanaugh
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in
s"Let Me Start" tonight with this. It`s been a day of violence here in
Washington, a dozen people shot dead earlier today not far from the U.S.
Capitol. The gunman, 34-year-old Aaron Alexis, had served in the Naval
Reserve. The shooting took place at the U.S. naval facility, as I said, a
mile-and-a-half away from the building where people, our lawmakers, are
charged with protecting the country`s domestic tranquility.
He reportedly used several weapons, including a semi-automatic rifle.
Twelve people were shot dead all in minutes. "Pow, pow, pow," a witness
described the rapid fire, one bullet after another.
It was less than a week ago that two state senators out in Colorado were
removed from office in a recall for backing gun safety measures. So after
Aurora and Sandy Hook and the rest, another shooting. Will this change
things in the country regarding who gets possession of firearms? Will it?
Well, let`s find out what we can about how and why the horror happened
today. Pete Williams is NBC`s justice correspondent. Peter, this is quite
another story, and so close to where we work.
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, it all began about 8:30
this morning, Chris. Authorities say that this suspect, Aaron Alexis,
who`s aged 34, was carrying shotgun. He had been working at the Navy Yard,
we are told, as a contractor. That`s his connection to it. He in addition
had been a naval reservist.
He came, according to this version of accounts from federal officials, with
a shotgun, got -- shot some people, at least two, we believe, outside, then
got inside the building, continued shooting, took the weapons from some of
the law enforcement people that he encountered after he shot them, picked
up their weapons and continued shooting.
In all, we believe, when it was all over, he had his shotgun that he came
with, as well as a handgun and a semi-automatic rifle.
Now, they say he moved to the Washington area about four months ago from
Fort Worth, Texas. He`d been a Navy petty officer specializing in
electronics, serving in the Naval Reserve, and then came here to be a
civilian contractor. But tonight, investigators are looking into claims
that he recently lost his position here, and they say that may be what set
Now, the FBI is asking for public help in learning more about what his
motive may have been. They posted a poster, a wanted information bulletin
on their Web site and are asking people who have any tips at all about who
he was working with, his recent movements, his contacts, his associates,
anybody who knows anything at all about him to call them at 1-800-CALL-FBI.
His past, it`s not clear how that bears on today`s shooting, what precisely
his motive was, and how he got into the building.
There was some confusing information today. He apparently -- when he was
found dead, someone else`s ID badge was found nearby. And initially, they
thought it was that other person. Now, that badge owner has been
questioned, but officials tell us tonight they don`t believe that the badge
owner had anything to do with the shooting.
He came to the Washington area from Fort Worth, where he was well liked,
lived for a time in a Thai restaurant. The man who owned that restaurant
said he was a peaceful man who spent a lot of time at the Buddhist temple.
But he does have an arrest past of at least two incidents involving guns.
In Fort Worth three years ago, he was charged with shooting his weapon, for
a round that went into the apartment building above him. No one was hurt.
He told the police that he was cleaning his weapon when it went off
accidentally, but he was evicted.
And then nine years ago, the Seattle police arrested him after he was
charged with shooting out the tires of a car belonging to some workers who
parked near his house. He told the police that he did it in an anger-
So a lot not known about him, precisely what his motive was, how this
happened. That`ll all be pieced together, I`m sure, in the next couple of
MATTHEWS: Who is the other figure that the police are looking for?
WILLIAMS: Well, you know, the best guess now is that this is not somebody
that was involved with the shooting. Most of the investigators I`ve talked
to believe that this was solely the work of this Aaron Alexis.
But surveillance video does show a couple of other people around the time
of the shooting carrying weapons. One of them has already been declared --
questioned and declared to have nothing to do with this. They`re still
saying that they can`t resolve what the surveillance video is showing, a
second man. It could be the shooter himself, but they`re not sure.
And until they run that completely to ground, they`re still saying they`re
looking for the possibility or investigating the possibility of another
shooter. But I think the thought that there is someone else involved is
MATTHEWS: OK, Pete Williams, thank you for that great report on a terrible
tragedy so close to home here.
WILLIAMS: You bet.
MATTHEWS: NBC`s Craig Melvin is down outside the scene of the Washington
Navy Yard where it all occurred. Craig, what can you tell us from the
CRAIG MELVIN, NBC CORRESPONDENT: You know what, Chris? I can show you
precisely what we`ve been looking at here over the past few hours. This
scene actually has not changed a great deal. We`ve seen a number of buses,
literally dozens of buses carrying some of the 3,000 people who work at the
Navy Yard, carrying these people about two or three blocks away, where they
are being allowed to meet family members who are picking them up or hop the
Metro home. In some cases, they`re also providing other transportation
And they`re having to do that because a short time ago, we found out that
the Navy -- they`re not allowing people to take their cars home. They`re
saying that as part of this ongoing investigation, they may have to do some
searches perhaps of vehicles. But nonetheless, no one who works there
being allowed to drive home. So that`s a development.
We should also note here, Chris, about three miles away from where we are,
at the White House a short time ago, the White House at last check was also
on lockdown. That`s because, apparently, some guy threw a firecracker over
the fence, and he was wrestled to the ground and arrested. The White House
has been shut down ever since, that obviously having no connection to this,
but just speaks to the crazy day it`s been here in our nation`s capital.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about if there`s been an overreaction. I mean,
that`s easy to say as the hours go on, but the decision several hours ago
to postpone the Nats game -- I was just out there the other night watching
the Nats, who are very hot these days, beat my Phils. But is this -- it
just seems like everything in the whole Washington -- that part of town,
including down to downtown on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, this whole city is
reacting as if there`s -- someone`s on the loose, not that this (INAUDIBLE)
is behind us.
MELVIN: You`re exactly right. And Chief Lanier, in that news conference a
short time ago, said this is still very much an active investigation. A
number of streets down here remain closed. The only people who are being
told to report to work tomorrow at the Navy Yard are folks who are
characterized as mission essential. So this is an area they expect to
continue to have locked down for at least several more hours. And they
appear to be preparing for a longer-term investigation, according to the
police chief here.
But you mentioned that Nats game that was rescheduled. We`ve seen a number
of folks, who apparently don`t watch the news or don`t read social media
throughout the course of the day, who`ve shown up here to see the Nats take
on the Braves. That game, of course, has been rescheduled, a double-header
tomorrow, tomorrow afternoon at 1:00 o`clock. At last check, the game was
supposed to happen then, though.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think for a lot of people in the town (INAUDIBLE) matter,
but it matters to us culturally. And on a happier note, the Nats seem
within striking distance of the wild card. So there`s been a lot of
excitement about catching up to Cincinnati.
Anyway, thank you, Craig Melvin, for that report about our city`s feeling
of danger tonight.
Clint Van Zandt is a former FBI profiler and an NBC analyst. Clint, this
lockdown thing, I`ve heard about it stretching all around the neighborhood
there. What is the concern that continues -- and I guess if this is a one-
man shooter who had a grievance, perhaps, who knows, something to do with
his employment or being removed or whatever in his personal life or his own
crisis, why is there this city-wide lockdown at work here?
CLINT VAN ZANDT, FMR. FBI PROFILER, NBC ANALYST: Well, you know, for a few
blocks around, Chris, police and the FBI want to make sure they get every
bit of physical evidence. The last thing law enforcement needs is a
citizen calling up tomorrow saying, Hey, you know, there`s no roadblocks or
anything, and I happened to find this gun or magazine from a gun or
something laying around here, and law enforcement has to say, Oh, boy, we
So I think part of it is to set that perimeter, make sure they conduct the
search they need, gather the evidence. Everything we have, Chris, says one
shooter. It doesn`t say two or three. But I think law enforcement has to
assure itself, number one, there was only one shooter, and number two,
there was nobody assisting this guy at or near the scene when this tragedy
MATTHEWS: You know, back 20 years ago, we always talked about people in
the Postal Service who got very angry about their work situation.
VAN ZANDT: Sure.
MATTHEWS: That did come back, that resonated today, this idea of workplace
horrors where people are really, really hurt by something that happens to
the point of this level of violence, and you know, almost pathology of
going after everybody in sight.
But what do we know about the gun involvement here? He came in with one
firearm, ended up with several, picked them up from the police officers or
the guards that he shot?
VAN ZANDT: Yes, well, it sounds like that`s what Pete Williams is telling
us, that he came in with this double-barrelled shotgun, perhaps, sawed off,
which would have allowed him to conceal it as he was coming in, and then
using that weapon -- and as you know, a shotgun up close, that`s probably
one of the best confrontational weapons, or the worst depending if you`re
on the receiving end, that you can run into.
And after confronting or shooting police officers, he may well have been
able to take away an AR-15 assault rifle, a semi-automatic pistol. And now
this guy, instead of double-barreled shotgun, has got these three weapons.
And at least one witness describes him reloading one of the weapons while
he`s shooting these multiple people, a dozen people that he kills and
another dozen that are either injured or wounded.
MATTHEWS: What`s the "Pow, pow, pow" earwitness tell you, the sound of
rapid-fire guns. Does that mean semi-automatic?
VAN ZANDT: Yes, semi-automatic, Chris -- now, that could either be the AR-
15 or a semi-automatic handgun. Either one would have that same sound.
And if you get just a few corridors away or one or two levels one way or
the other, that weapon that sounds so loud when you`re right next to it
doesn`t sound loud at all.
But Chris, you know, I learned something a little while ago. His roommate,
his former roommate in Texas, described him one way as being a man of
peace, but said he spent hours and days, Chris, sitting in his room,
playing violent video games, where you fire weapons and shoot people and
get points for that. And he said he would lock himself in his room and
play those games.
Chris, that`s the same description we had of Adam Lanza, the shooter at
Sandy Hook who did those same things. So are video games the problem or
the fault? No. But those people that are psychologically on the edge
anyway, when they play those games, Chris, number one, you hone your
shooting skills, and number two, you desensitize yourself to the value of
And for those few people who act out like that, that becomes a terrible
MATTHEWS: His chances of surviving this, it seems to me, given all the
circumstances we now know, coming into a place, storming into it with --
picking up weapons as he went, using them as he went -- he had no escape
route, no plan, no exit strategy for himself. Did this -- does that tell
you much, that he didn`t have a plan to get away?
VAN ZANDT: Yes, it tells us that it`s consistent with so many of the
stories we hear of violence in a workplace scenario, where an individual
may plan on doing it, he may accumulate the weapons or the plans or the ID
cards or whatever it is, but he has no exit plan because his master plan
is, I`m going to go in, I`m going to express my anger, frustration and
rage, I`m going to be this emotional volcano that`s going to heave this
lava all over everybody.
VAN ZANDT: And then either I`ll die in a confrontation with law
enforcement, or in some cases, they take their own life because they don`t
want to be held responsible. They don`t want to be questioned. They don`t
want you and I saying, Why did you do this terrible thing to people who you
didn`t even know? They don`t want to answer that question, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, the question will still be put by the families, certainly,
and it should be.
VAN ZANDT: Absolutely.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Clint Van Zandt, for your great expertise.
More on that incident outside the White House when we come back.
Here`s -- right now, in fact, here`s NBC`s Peter Alexander on the phone.
Peter, what do we know about the firecrackers somebody threw over the fence
there at the White House?
PETER ALEXANDER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Yes, Chris. And
actually, we`ve moved outside the White House. I`m now standing on the
corner of 17th and Pennsylvania. Basically, I`m a football field away from
the White House right now, standing outside a U.S. Secret Service patrol
Inside the back seat of that car is the man that the Secret Service tells
me has been taken into custody for throwing fireworks over the fence of the
White House shortly after 6:30 this evening.
A Secret Service spokesperson tells me that at this time, they have no
reason to believe this has any connection to what took place earlier today
at the Washington Navy Yard. It does not appear to be terrorism in any
form. This appears to be, frankly, someone who didn`t have his head
screwed on tightly enough to be doing something like that on this occasion.
ALEXANDER: My colleagues were standing at our live position inside the
White House gates when this happened. They said it appears that he set or
lit two separate fireworks, threw them over the gate. He was almost
immediately tackled by Secret Service agents. But obviously, given the
circumstances of this day, it is not something that they are taking
lightly. For the people that live in the D.C. area and have already
witnessed a lot of ambulances, police cars and sirens throughout the area,
this is now another crime scene that they`re investigating, and they have
shut down traffic in parts of this area, as well, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Yes, fishing in troubled water. Thank you so much, NBC`s Peter
Alexander, for that phone report from right outside the White House.
Coming up, we`ll have much more on the shooting today at the Washington
Navy Yard -- as I said, not that far a walk -- a long walk, but a walk --
from the U.S. capitol, including the frustration we could clearly hear from
President Obama after yet another mass shooting on his watch.
And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: This morning, President Obama described the shooting at the
Washington Navy Yard as a cowardly act. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are confronting yet
another mass shooting. And today it happened on a military installation in
our nation`s capital. It`s a shooting that targeted our military and
civilian personnel. These are men and women who were going to work, doing
their job protecting all of us. They`re patriots, and they know the
dangers of serving abroad, but today they faced the unimaginable violence
that they wouldn`t have expected here at home.
As this investigation moves forward, we will do everything in our power to
make sure whoever carried out this cowardly act is held responsible. In
the meantime, we send our thoughts and prayers to all at the Navy Yard who
have been touched by this tragedy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We now know, of course, that the alleged shooter was shot
himself and killed.
We`re going to get to the political debate that always comes about after
this, and I think fairly so, about guns. These were guns again. "Pow,
pow, pow," semi-automatic guns. How`d they get into this guy`s hands?
Maybe he took them off police officers at the time. The question remains,
how do we deal with this stuff? It just keeps going on in this country.
It doesn`t happen in other countries.
HARDBALL back after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: And obviously, we`re going to be investigating thoroughly what
happened, as we do so many of these shootings, sadly, that have happened,
and do everything that we can to try to prevent them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, back to HARDBALL. That was President Obama, of course,
speaking about this morning`s shooting, at (ph) the morning. Of course, it
took place at the Washington Navy Yard, I said, 15 blocks from the U.S.
The story is developing, but these scenes have become all too familiar to a
country that it seems has been routinely victimized by indiscriminate gun
violence on a mass scale. Tucson, Arizona, Aurora, Colorado, Newtown,
Connecticut, each evokes a painful memory, but all these senseless killings
have seemingly failed to move the debate in favor of gun safety
Dr. Janis Orlowski, the chief medical officer of a prominent Washington
hospital that treated victims today, summed up the feelings of many today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. JANIS ORLOWSKI, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, MEDSTAR WASHINGTON HOSPITAL
CENTER: There`s something evil in our society. I may, you know, be the
chief medical officer for a very large trauma center, but there`s something
wrong here. When we have these multiple shootings, these multiple
injuries, there`s something wrong. And the only thing that I can say is we
have to work together to get rid of it. I`d like you to put my trauma
center out of business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Well, this tragedy, of course, this morning came on the heels of the
successful NRA-backed recall just days ago of two Colorado lawmakers, state
senators, both of whom supported gun safety legislation at the time when
the president was saddled with Syria, the debt ceiling, the Affordable Care
Act rollout, a federal nominee of course for the Fed, and a hostile right
wing in the Congress.
So today`s events offer any additional hope for tougher gun laws? Big
Joining me now is Sam Stein, White House correspondent and political editor
for The Huffington Post, and Mark Glaze, executive director of the Mayors
Against Illegal Guns.
I want to start with you, Mark, because you`re out there advocating on
behalf of your principal, Mike Bloomberg, and others, and working to try to
match the dollar power of the NRA.
And all I`m going to say here is we don`t know much here. We know that
semiautomatic weapons were used. We know that somebody who shouldn`t have
had them in his hands did it. We know what happened. And we know 12
people are dead. And we know this is unusual for the world.
The United States has a hell of a lot of guns. It has a hell of a lot of
gun owners, not just NRA gun owners, a hell of a lot of guns in the hands
of a hell of a lot of people. And it`s very easy to get a gun.
Now, the question is what makes us uniquely bad in that direction? What is
it about America that makes us different than Japan, Britain, France,
Europe, old Europe, new Europe, Asia, a good part of Africa, a good part of
Latin America? What makes America a country where we`re watching this kind
of scene now with some regularity? You have got to tell me the answer,
Mark, or we`re not going to get to the bottom of this.
MARK GLAZE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MAYORS AGAINST ILLEGAL GUNS: Sure.
Well, the answer is, the reason we have a gun murder rate that is 15 to 20
times higher than in most other industrialized countries is the way we
regulate or, rather, don`t regulate guns. People in the United Kingdom are
not more mentally ill than we are. They watch the same video games and
movies that we are.
But in any given year in the United Kingdom, you have 40 or 50 firearm
homicides and in the United States you have something like 12,000. And the
reason is they make it harder for people who should not have guns to get
guns. And we make it extremely easy.
MATTHEWS: OK. You`re saying that they had lax or no gun laws in Britain
like we have lax gun laws, you would be seeing Brits, palmies (ph), driving
around with the gun racks on the back of their trucks.
You`re saying the culture would immediately inculcate in Britain like we
have here, where guns are part of life. Talking about shot guns, living
with guns, having the part of teaching your kids guns. That would
immediately become part of British life or French life or Japanese life if
their laws were changed. Are you serious?
GLAZE: No, not quite so much.
MATTHEWS: Well, not quite so much. Is it the culture or is it the law
that makes us who we are on gun?
GLAZE: Well, I think it`s a little bit of both. My dad was a gun dealer
in Colorado. I grew up with guns, as did everyone around me, but we had a
very low gun murder rate.
The reason that, you know, you see...
MATTHEWS: There you see it.
GLAZE: The reason you`re seeing crime with guns sort of drop in countries
like Australia and the United Kingdom after they passed comprehensive gun
laws is that it`s harder to get guns. I think the same would be true here.
If you were just to expand the background check system so that everybody
who bought a gun had to take a background check no matter where they got it
or who they bought it from, you would solve a big chunk of these problems.
MATTHEWS: Yes. But you say just.
MATTHEWS: With all of Bloomberg`s money and goodwill and your good
efforts, you go out to Colorado and you get two senators blown away
politically, just taken out of office because they dared to back your
position on gun safety. That`s the voter.
GLAZE: Yes, the reason is the NRA is very smart about the way it does
these things. But in addition, you had a bunch of people involved in those
elections, like the Koch brothers, who I don`t think would recognize a
rifle if they fell over one, because they didn`t like a lot of things that
the legislature did.
If you`re a Democrat, the last session was your absolute wish list. And
some people were angry about a lot of different things.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s get to that with Sam.
Sam, you`re a general political correspondent and commentator. Could it be
that what has happened is that guns like abortion have joined sort of the
blue plate specials of the right and left? It`s part of their argument.
Even if you don`t own a gun, even if you don`t even think about a gun, you
support the gun rights people because that`s part of your cause, that`s
part of this anti-Obama, anti-government, anti-Washington, anti-New York,
anti-the whole thing, including Bloomberg, big city guys?
The country mice against the city mice, the whole thing? It seems like now
it`s easy to do. You just vote with that right-wing cause generally.
Isn`t that what`s going on?
SAM STEIN, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Yes. You hear this in gun rights rallies
all the time, which is that this is a slippery slope. I don`t know if you
have ever sat through a Wayne LaPierre speech at an NRA convention, but a
good chunk of it is devoted to the evils that will come with Obama in
It`s not about what Obama has done. It`s that if you let him do this, then
five different more terrible things will come down the road. I think
that`s a huge motivating factor for gun rights advocates. The other thing
is that gun rights advocates tend to be more often than not single-issue
If you go after gun rights, they will come out and they will try to get you
out of office in the case of Colorado or try to not elect you in the first
place. Much more than gun control advocates, gun rights advocates will be
vote on a singular issue and they will be motivated by that singular issue.
MATTHEWS: Let me talk about it. Let me talk about this thing with Mark.
What about the NRA and what do you think -- how many days will pass before
they comment about what happened in Washington today, the shooting of 12
people because they went to work that day, basically, at the Navy Yard?
That`s what they did. They went to work. Some guy came to shoot people
who were at work.
What is the NRA going to say about this? It`s senseless beyond senseless.
So, what are they going to say?
GLAZE: Yes, look, I think they will probably say that.
But I don`t blame them, because we`re doing the same thing, for waiting
until we know more about exactly what happened. It`s entirely possible
that no law would have changed this, but that`s a false argument. And the
NRA sort of says those things and says we should have a moment of silence,
and that moment of silence drags on into months because nobody wants to
sort of address the core issues, despite the fact that there`s pretty broad
agreement in the country about what you would do.
If everybody got a background check, far fewer of these kinds of murders
would happen. The Tucson shooter who almost assassinated Gabby Giffords
and more than a dozen others slipped through the background check system.
Type it up, you will have far less opportunity for folks like this to do
this kind of thing.
MATTHEWS: In all fairness -- and I`m trying to be fair here -- the average
NRA member probably has a very low crime rate, probably a very low violence
rate. And yet their positions on the Constitution and their strict
abhorrence of any kind of gun safety law allows people who are the bad
people or the crazy people, the dangerous people to get those guns. That`s
MATTHEWS: These could be good people doing bad things.
GLAZE: We have talked about this before, but the interesting thing about
the NRA is that there`s a big divide between what Wayne and the NRA
leadership are trying to do in Washington and what the average NRA member
who is a guy who likes to be alone wants.
MATTHEWS: You say that. I know the politics you`re expressing here, Mark.
Good try. But if they didn`t want them as their leaders, they wouldn`t be
Look, that`s not -- doesn`t work with me, that stuff.
Sam, your thoughts about this. Be completely objective here, because I
think it requires objectivity, that the average NRA person is as law-
abiding as anybody we know. They don`t believe in -- my brother`s a big
gun guy. He wouldn`t -- he`s the most environmental person you will ever
meet in your life, wouldn`t kill a deer in a million years. A good guy,
but he supports gun rights to the last nth.
STEIN: So, I think Mark is right in one respect.
If you read NRA members` certain polling framing, and you say do you
support a background check for any gun purchase, by and large they will say
yes. And the polling data backs it up a lot. The question is though when
you get down to it, is it more like what you were talking about with me
earlier, which is, do you view it as a slippery slope?
I think the NRA member would also say yes to that. And so it becomes a
very complex issue, not to mention there`s a huge geographical component
STEIN: This is a different issue for cities and urban areas than it is for
the country, for Montana, for instance.
And so when you have a Congress that where every state has two senators and
the people of North Dakota have just as much representation in the Senate
as the people of California and New York, you`re going to have paralyzed
politics around this.
MATTHEWS: I guess we blame George Washington.
Anyway, thank you, Mark Glaze and thank you, Sam Stein.
STEIN: Yes, I blame Washington.
MATTHEWS: That`s the way we -- that Washington. Thank you. Thank you
both for coming on. Mark, good luck with the cause.
And the doctor we heard from at the beginning of this segment, remember
her, the one who made those emotional, strong comments about guns in this
country, will be Lawrence O`Donnell`s guest tonight. Boy, she will have
something to say tonight at 10:00 Eastern on "THE LAST WORD."
We will continue to follow developments in real time here at the Navy Yard
shooting of what happened today and what may have motivated the gunman when
we get back with you in a minute, what caused him to do this, kill 12
people, pow, pow, pow.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CMDR. TIM JIRUS, U.S. NAVY YARD: I ended up on the backside of our
building in an alleyway, evacuated a bunch of people, pushed them in the
right direction to get them out.
And then there was an individual who came from the building behind us, the
maintenance building, that came up and was talking to me and basically
saying that, hey, there`s a shooter in your building. And then I heard two
more shots. One of them hit him, and he went down in front of me. And
then I took off from there.
QUESTION: The guy you were with?
JIRUS: The guy I was talking to.
QUESTION: Got shot?
QUESTION: And what was his situation afterward? Did you just move or did
you try to assess it?
JIRUS: He was shot in the head and did not look like he made it, so I ran
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was an eyewitness to today`s
Navy Yard shooting, U.S. Naval Commander Tim Jirus, who was standing next
to one of the victims at the time the victim was gunned down right in front
of him. Well, you heard that.
Joining me now is retired ATF negotiator Jim Cavanaugh, and back with us is
former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt.
Jim, thank you for joining us.
You come at the worst times. And this is another one of those worse times.
And I guess the question -- let`s talk about security. We haven`t talked
about it before. This is the United States Naval base in D.C. This is a
historic place, the oldest Naval -- longest -- it`s the oldest actually
military base in the country. It goes way, way back.
And, of course, you would expect it to be well-guarded. Apparently, they
don`t use state-of-the-art metal detection at the door. Things like that
are not available, apparently.
JAMES CAVANAUGH, FORMER ATF SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Yes, these bases I
have seen over the course of four decades don`t seem to have the security
they used to have.
And maybe the military commanders will look at that all around, because I
think they really need to tighten up. Businesses do too. Schools do too.
Look, if you have a facility that someone can walk in with a shotgun or a
rifle, a long gun, basically, your facility is not secure.
So you have got to start from that premise. And you need to have a double
deadlock, which is a person comes in a door, has to go through another door
before they can get in. So if they`re seen coming with a long gun, they
can be isolated in the doors. There`s many security things.
But if someone can walk in your facility with a long gun, Chris, it`s not a
secure facility. And the military in this era we live in now not only with
-- maybe this will be a workplace shooting, but even what`s going on around
the world, you really, really got to tighten up that security.
MATTHEWS: When you go through the White House, Jim, you have got to go
through a very special thing. You put your I.D. card in and all that, and
it`s quite redundant, the whole system. They make sure you don`t get in
there if you`re in the wrong person. I guess the Navy doesn`t do that yet.
Well, Chris, and you noticed today from the reports from Pete Williams, the
Secret Service were the only people in Washington not spinning up security.
And the reason is, it`s always spun up. They always have that level, that
high level of security to deal with any kind of a threat like that. The
Capitol Police, your alma mater, they went to long guns. Good call by the
Capitol Police chief. Go right to the long gun, because you don`t know
what else could be going on in the city. Could be multiple shooters. I
saw your piece with -- I`m sorry.
MATTHEWS: Go ahead.
CAVANAUGH: I was going to say that the history of American gun laws is
American tragedy, murder, and assassination.
And from the `30s, Dillinger days, to the assassinations of the `60s of Dr.
King and Robert Kennedy and John Kennedy, and to Reagan`s shooting, the
Brady bill, the assault weapons ban after schoolyard shootings in
California, it`s a history of murder, tragedy, assassination. And we don`t
get any laws past until those things happen.
MATTHEWS: What do you think should be the level of firepower of a guard at
a U.S. installation? We had .38 police specials, Smith & Wessons years
ago. It was a long time ago. What do police officers have now guarding
our facilities? What should they have? And they`re always vulnerable to
having those weapons taken from them by an assailant this guy, like Aaron
If you engage as a police officer a person with long gun, a rifle, and you
have a handgun, you`re already losing. So, certainly, it`s got to be
determined by the commanders. Judy radio cars need to have long guns. Key
choke points, key security points need to have long guns. M.P.s, there`s
got to be somebody with a long gun, because when the assailant show up,
he`s going to have a long gun.
CAVANAUGH: And so you have got to be at least -- have the ability to stop
I`m talking about on a secure facility. Yes, we can`t just -- it`s a
different era. You can`t just pull out -- I started with a .38 revolver as
a uniformed officer as well, but I also had a shotgun close too because we
were in a one-man car. So, you need that shotgun or you need that rifle
and you need to be able to pull that out. It`s disgusting to watch these
things happen. It`s terrible.
MATTHEWS: I know the Secret Service with the president always has an
adequate supply of long guns. I can tell you. Just look in the car.
Anyway, let me go to -- let me go to Clint Van Zandt on this profiling
Give me your sense of this thing what we can actually tell from the fact he
went to a place. He was a Naval Reservist. He had gotten a job apparently
there. It`s not clear yet. But going into a workplace with the same --
you know, the same brand name of where he worked before as a uniformed
serviceperson, and here he goes into a Naval place in the morning, 8:00
this morning and just starts shooting people there.
CLINT VAN ZANDT, MSNBC ANALYST: Yes.
MATTHEWS: Obviously, he`s shooting an organization. He`s not shooting
individuals, although he`s killing them. But he`s shooting at an
organization, the Navy.
VAN ZANDT: Yes.
What you find many times, Chris, is an individual -- you know, we all have
challenges, frustrations, situations. But there are certain people in the
world who look for somebody to blame. They never take it on themselves.
It`s always somebody else`s fault.
MATTHEWS: I know.
VAN ZANDT: Somebody`s responsibility.
In this case, I have heard suggestions that, as a contractor, he said he
wasn`t being paid fast enough based upon the work he was doing. Well, this
is one -- I mean, you know, try to be a private contractor and get paid on
time by everybody. It doesn`t work that way.
But other issues he had in life, I think he did what you`re suggesting. He
focused in. It became this narrow focus and now it`s the Navy, it`s the
facility, it`s what it stands for. And, again, this guy, like so many
workplace shooters, realizes he`s going to be perhaps one of the few armed
people within that facility.
And if he encounters armed officers, he has the advantage because he knows
he`s going in there to kill. Armed officers don`t realize what they have
until perhaps they have been shot.
MATTHEWS: You know, if you work on Capitol Hill, as I did for all those
years, you know what you come across? And these are sane people, good
people who have real problems. They may have been turned down for a
disability claim 20, 30 years ago.
They were turned down. And so what they do is they write letters to
everybody they can think of, people in the media, people in the politics.
And then they accumulate piles and piles of these letters and they staple
them all together, these Xeroxes of people saying, I agree with you. I
sympathize with you. You have got a good case, blah, blah, blah.
And they build this and build it. And they will show it to anybody they
can show it to. And they will put a new cover letter on top of it. Their
whole life is to try to win back that chance they had for basically a
coverage for the rest of their life for a disability.
And then these are healthy people who have pain. And I understand the pain
they go through. But you get a person with a problem with their mind and
their emotions and they take something like that and they go do something
really bad with it. And that is maybe what we`re going to see in cases
like this. Who knows. We will find out more tomorrow.
Jim Cavanaugh, thank you, sir, for joining us
Clint Van Zandt, thank you for staying on.
Our coverage of the mass shooting today at the Washington Navy Yard
continues after this.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
And let`s go back to the scene of the crime today.
NBC`s Kasie Hunt is outside the Washington Navy Yard, the site of today`s
horrific mass shooting.
Kasie, give us a complete update on what`s happened today. A lot of people
are tuning in right now.
KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS: Absolutely. We started the day here pretty early
on, not that long after we first got those initial reports that a shooting
When I first arrived shortly before 9:00 in the morning it was still a
really chaotic scene. I had police officers pushing me back off o the
perimeter because they said that there was physical danger from the snipers
who at that point were on the roofs of the Navy Yard, trying to track down
And just a few minutes ago, before I came inside here where police have
been doing press conferences to update all of us about what`s been
happening, there were still buses taking people out of the Navy Yard down
to national stadium. The stadium has been repurposed since it was supposed
to host a Nationals/Braves game tonight. There were a few fans who were
uninformed about the news, didn`t realize what had been going on and were
sort of trickling down to the stadium.
So, all in all, just a very sort of tragic day here outside the Naval Yard.
We also spoke with the secretary of the Navy who said that this was just a
really difficult day for the Navy family, especially considering that we`re
now learning that the shooter was, in fact, in the Navy Reserves -- Chris.
MATTHEWS: Kasie, is there any concern about this second person of interest
they talk about? There`s something still at large -- someone`s still at
HUNT: There was a lot of confusion about that late this afternoon
especially after that first mention of a potentially at that point we
thought two potential suspects. They later said one is no longer a person
of interest. There are definitely especially among those of us who were
sort of waiting outside on the sidewalks, some of the residents nearby
wondering, you know, was it a place of danger and how much concern did
there need to be about whether it was a safe situation.
But at this point, the activity outside has sort of dissipated to the point
where people aren`t necessarily concerned about it. And reporters are
still asking questions. Officials still are saying they`re not 100 percent
certain. The reports are so far unconfirmed.
But it was definitely a cause for concern over the course of the afternoon.
MATTHEWS: OK. Kasie Hunt with NBC -- thank you so much for that report
from the site of the Navy Yard.
NBC`s Michael Isikoff has new information on the gunman himself, Aaron
Alexis -- Michael.
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC NEWS: Yes. A couple of new details just in the last
couple minutes, Chris. Just got a statement from Hewlett-Packard, the big
computer firm confirming that Aaron Alexis was an employee of a company
called The Experts, a subcontractor to a Hewlett-Packard enterprise
services contract to refresh equipment used on the Navy Marine Corps
intranet network. And HP, Hewlett-Packard, is cooperating fully with the
So, that gives us some insight that confirms he was, in fact, employed. He
was working for a subcontractor. It does give some idea of how he had
access to the base. Apparently, he was employed and authorized to be
Number two, spoke to a federal law enforcement official not long ago who
confirmed investigators believe the AR-15 that Alexis is believed to have
used in this shooting was purchased just recently within the last few
weeks, I was told, at a gun shop in Virginia.
Now, as you know, this is in D.C., there are not gun shops. You cannot
purchase AR-15s, but there has been for years a practice of people going
across state lines into Virginia and buying the guns there where you can
legally do so. We do not know what Alexis` exact residence has been in the
last few weeks.
So, some new details, but a lot of people have focused on his work. He`d
been in the naval reserves. He enlisted in 2007, was discharged in January
2011, just a few months after he was arrested on that misdemeanor charge
for accidental discharge of a weapon. We still don`t have hard
confirmation that was the reason for his discharge. But it would not have
been a bar for him purchasing that weapon.
MATTHEWS: And we don`t know if it was for him being discharged or fired
from his job as a contractor.
ISIKOFF: Well, the statement from Hewlett-Packard is he was an employee of
the company called The Experts. It doesn`t say the dates of employment.
MATTHEWS: Past tense, though.
ISIKOFF: The implication is, it was current.
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you so much, Michael Isikoff, reporting as usual in an
investigative capacity for NBC News.
When we return, the mood in Washington today after today`s shooting --
strange mood tonight, no baseball game, a lot of lockdown.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
MATTHEWS: We`ll be back with more of the investigation as it continues
into the mass shooting here in Washington at the Navy Yard.
HARDBALL returns in a minute.
MATTHEWS: We`re back.
Washington is stunned tonight by the shooting at the Navy Yard here today.
I`m joined right now by two Washington colleagues of mine. "The Washington
Post" Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Eugene Robinson and "The Huffington
Post" editorial director Howard Fineman.
Howard, I want to start with you. You`ve been out there all day getting
your head around this thing.
What does it tell us about our city, we`re so used to this, the Navy Yard
that`s always been there, doesn`t make any noise, so near us, along the
marine barracks, along the river, near the stadium now, and all of a
sudden, 12 people dead today?
HOWARD FINEMAN, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Well, Chris, I left Washington early
this afternoon to come up to New York, and it actually was, for the
purposes of understanding this, gave me some useful distance.
We don`t realize often that we live among the actual, literal institutions
of our lives, of our government in D.C., that we`re surrounded by big
institutions that we don`t even recognize or realize. I mean, I agree with
you, the Navy Yard down by the Anacostia is a famous, historic place where
important work is still going on, command and control facilities and
acquisition facilities for the Navy, a place that`s 200 years rich in
history and actually battled over and fought for in the past.
We walk by it unaware often, or go to the ball game a few blocks away,
unaware of its history and its importance in the fact that it`s a sort of
magnet for important people, for important decisions and for the very
vulnerabilities that we face in modern society around us.
And, you know, I go back to a day in Washington, Chris, where there was
really very little security, where people walked almost unattended in and
out of every building in town. And there are times in recent years where
I`ve kind of complained out loud or to myself about the security state that
we live in Washington.
But the fact is, we`re not nearly secure enough. And this is the latest
demonstration of that, I think. I think what you can expect in Washington
is more review, more security, more long guns and more awareness of the
importance of the people and institutions around us.
MATTHEWS: Well said. Gene, you live here.
EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes.
MATTHEWS: We live with the tiger teeth and the metal detectors and the
"can`t drive by the White House anymore" and all the things that have
changed in the last several years.
ROBINSON: Yes. I thought today, actually, not so much of the security
involved in living among those institutions but the banality of these
workplace shootings, if, indeed, this is what this shooting turns out to be
and how -- you know, it happens in Tucson, it happens in Newtown, it
For it to happen here, I think, where we talk about it in terms of policy,
where we have the fights over gun control and over, you know, whether we
even have background checks or whatever, it brings it home in a powerful
MATTHEWS: It sure does. Thank you, Gene Robinson, thanks for waiting.
Howard, thank you for joining us from New York.
We`ll be right back after this.
MATTHEWS: That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us on a sobering
day here in Washington, where we learned that all of our problems are not
inferior or anywhere else far from home.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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