'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, September 17th, 2013
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THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
September 17, 2013
Guest: John Stanton, Mark Kelly
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thanks to you at home for staying with us
for the next hour.
We have some breaking news from "The New York Times" about a key
detail of how yesterday`s mass shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington,
D.C. happened. "The Times" reporting tonight that the apparent shooter,
Aaron Alexis, tried to buy an AR-15 military style semi-automatic rifle at
a Virginia gun store last week but he was stopped from buying that
particular kind of weapon because of a state law that prohibits the sale of
that particular kind of weapon to buyers from outside the state of
While he was at that gun store, he did test fire the AR-15, he
expressed interest in it. But because of that state law, apparently, he
instead purchased a pump action, what they call a law enforcement style
Remington shotgun and ammunition. And it is that loaded shotgun that
officials believe was the weapon Mr. Alexis brought with him into his
assault on the Navy facility. He reportedly used that shotgun to shoot one
or more police officers immediately inside the facility. And then he took
handguns from police in order to continue his assault.
So, he had the shotgun and two handguns, is the best understanding now
of what he was armed with. He tried to get an AR-15 and could not get it
from that particular shop in Virginia. So, that`s breaking tonight from
"The New York Times."
Here`s something else interesting that came out late today into this
investigation of what happened yesterday at the Navy Yard. You`ll recall
yesterday pretty much as soon as authorities named Aaron Alexis as the
shooter, Aaron Alexis, age 34 of Ft. Worth, Texas, it was the Ft. Worth,
Texas Police Department, that released this police arrest record. This is
the record from the time that Mr. Alexis was arrested there in 2010, he was
arrested for discharging a firearm inside his apartment in Ft. Worth.
Now, what was interesting about that given yesterday`s events, other
than just the weapons charge and the arrest itself, what was particularly
of interest was the upstairs neighbor who`s apartment he shot into saying
in that police report that she was terrified of him. But that was the
first police report that came out very early in the day as soon as we
learned he was from Ft. Worth.
Then, a few hours later, yesterday afternoon, it was the police
department in Seattle, Washington, saying that they too had a police report
from arresting Aaron Alexis. This incident happened a few years earlier,
happened in 2004. It`s that when he shot out the tires of a construction
worker`s car. He confessed to police officers that he had done it in what
he described as a rage-fueled blackout. He said it did it because he felt
that the construction workers on the site next to his home had disrespected
Now, what seemed particularly interesting about that, again, beyond
just the arrest itself and the weapons charge itself -- what was
particularly interesting given yesterday`s events was this young man`s
father telling the Seattle Police Department at the time that his son had
anger management issues, as well as the claim by both father and son that
the younger Mr. Alexis had been part of rescue efforts on September 11th in
New York City and that he felt he might have been scarred or stressed in
some way by that experience.
We still do not have any confirmation as to whether or not Aaron
Alexis actually did take part in 9/11 rescue efforts in Lower Manhattan
back in 2001, but NBC News and "The New York Times" both reported today
that Mr. Alexis on the books as a part-time clerical worker at a college in
that region, at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. He was on the
books there as a part-time clerical worker from February `01 until February
`03. And that would mean that at least his workplace at the time was just
a couple of blocks from where the towers fell on 9/11.
But the Ft. Worth Police Department report and the Seattle Department
Police report, were what we had by the end of the day yesterday in terms of
his police records, that they had some interesting details. The fact that
they were police records themselves was an interesting part of figuring
this puzzle out.
Well, now, we have another one that is very recent and very strange.
It`s from Newport, Rhode Island, and it is from just a few weeks ago.
Officer number who gives his name in the report, Officer 364, for what it`s
worth, said that he and his partner, another officer got a call at just
before 6:30 in the morning last month, it was August 7th, a Wednesday
They were called to the Marriott Hotel in Newport, Rhode Island, on
what they call a harassment report. Upon arriving on the scene, Aaron
Alexis told the police officers that he was a naval contractor who had
flown in to Rhode Island from Virginia for work. He went on to explain to
the officers that while getting on to his flight from Virginia to Rhode
Island, he got into a verbal altercation with an unknown party in the
Aaron Alexis then told the police officers that he believed that the
individual who he got in the argument with had sent three people to follow
him and to keep him awake by talking to him and sending vibration into his
body. Quote, "He stated that he first heard them while talking to them
through a wall while at the Residence Inn in Middletown. He then packed up
and went to a hotel at the Navy base, but there, he heard the same voices
talking to him through the walls, through the floor and through the
ceiling. He then stated that he moved to his third hotel and is currently
at the Marriott. Remember, that is where he is giving statement to the
police at 6:00 in the morning.
The reason he has called police to his third hotel of the night to
report harassment is because at this third hotel of the night that he has
been to over the course of the same evening, quote, "He said that the three
individuals were speaking to him through the floor. Then he stated that
the voices were coming through the ceiling. Then he stated that the
individuals are using some sort of microwave machine to send vibrations
through the ceiling, penetrating his body so he cannot fall asleep."
Police officers taking that report, at 6:00 in the morning on a
Wednesday this past month, they did not take any action. I mean, what
would you do, right? They told him, they say in the report, to stay away
from these individuals who he said he could hear through the microwave
machine. They told him they could call the Newport, Rhode Island Police
again if those people he thought were following him actually turned up and
he could see them.
Here`s the really, really interesting though. There is a final page
of this Newport, Rhode Island, report. It was two officers who respond to
call from this delusional guy at the hotel. One of those officers wrote up
the narrative of what happened that I just quoted. But then, after they
came to the station and did the paperwork and filled that report that you
just heard, their sergeant reviewed. The sergeant read this report, of
this pretty obviously hallucinating, delusional guy who was agitated enough
to move three times in the night and called police to tell them about the
microwave machines, and the voices -- the sergeant sees that the guy is
calling himself a Navy contractor a and he decides to alert the Navy.
Look at this. I reviewed this report for approval. Based on the
naval base implications and the claim that the involved subject was hearing
voices, I made contact with on duty naval station police. I advised the
naval station police of the report and of the claims by Aaron Alexis. I
then faxed a copy of this report. They advised me that they would follow
up on this subject, and determine if in fact he was a naval base
Yes, it turns out he was, in fact, a naval base contractor.
This report about him having paranoid delusions, so motivating to him
that he was calling police and staying up all night and moving three times
in a night to three different hotel rooms, this happened apparently while
he really was traveling for work, to various U.S. Navy installations as a
contractor for the United States Navy who had a security clearance and had
passed a background check in order to be there.
Since July, Aaron Alexis worked at Navy installations in Arlington,
Virginia and Cherry Point, North Carolina, and Stafford, Virginia, and, of
course, at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. The company what employed him
to work on those Navy m installations said that had they known of his
multiple arrests and about the mental health implications in his
background, quote, "that would be a black flag. We would not have hired
But they did. And after a Newport, Rhode Island Police encountered a
severely paranoid and obviously delusional man requested the intervention
of police to help him with the voices that were tormenting through the
microwave machine, and that police department notified the Navy that they
had contractor on their hands with serious active mental problems and they
faxed them the report and even after naval station police said they would
look into it, apparently no one did, or if they did, nothing happened.
Nothing triggered anything on his employment as a contractor. Nothing
triggered any problem with his security clearance or his background checks,
nothing triggered any problem with him having continued access to U.S.
naval facilities. None of the arrests, none of the misconduct problems
that he had while he was in the Navy, which the Navy, you would think might
know about. None of his known and documented mental health issues, none of
his weapons charges, nothing. Nothing happened.
And now, less than six weeks after Newport, Rhode Island police called
the Navy to tell them they had a guy on their hands who thought he was
being screamed about through the microwave, less than six weeks after
utterly responsible notification from that local police department to the
Navy, 12 people who work at his most recent posting as a naval contractor
are dead and so is he.
And now, here is tonight`s lead on "The Washington Post`s" main story.
The headline is, broad review of government security check system launched.
Revelations that Aaron Alexis was twice able to pass the government`s
security check system despite a history of arrests, mental illness and
shooting incidents has now triggered multiple examinations into how
background checks are conducted. It`s the system already under scrutiny in
the wake of NSA contractor Edward Snowden`s leaks of classified
information. Remember, Ed Snowden was also a military contractor.
There are 4.9 million people who hold security clearances in our
country, 4.9 million. That`s according to the director of national
intelligence. And you`ll remember, director of national intelligence is a
job we didn`t used to have, but we do now. The hugely expanded world of
intelligence makes up a huge number of those security clearances,
especially for contractors like Edward Snowden.
But the even bigger kahuna is defense, which was basically leviathan
in terms of its size, as compared with the rest of our government and the
budget that`s spent on it and the proportion of its work that is done by
contractors. So much of what we do in national security now is done by
contractors, that you know who has the job of deciding whether or not
contractors get security clearances? You know who has that job?
Contractors clear other contractors in terms of their security
clearances. A private firm apparently called First Advantage, checked out
Aaron Alexis as recently as July for his clearance, despite the arrests,
the weapons charges, the shooting incidents, the mental health issues, he
apparently came up clean, got his pass, got his contractor job, got into
the Navy Yard and presumably did what the voices in his head told him to.
If our national security state is too big to run well, then it is too
big to rung. Edward Snowden only stole secrets. Aaron Alexis stole a
dozen like lives. What`s next?
MADDOW: "The Des Moines Register" this past Sunday went to a sporting
goods store in Altoona, Iowa, with a man and his wife who were not who you
would think of as typical gun buyers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Can you see a light at all?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can see a light, yes.
REPORTER: You can see a light.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s got a flashlight down here, which I wouldn`t
obviously need. But it would be handy for Kim if she ever wanted it again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Republican-led Iowa state legislature, and the Iowa
Republican governor in 2011 changed Iowa law so that being legally blind is
no longer a barrier to not just buying a weapon, but to getting a permit to
carry one in public. So, we`re not talking about the specially shooting
ranges set up for the blind and the visually impaired where they`ve got a
trainer working with each person and they`ve set up targets to allow you to
aim with sound and they make a sound when they`re hit.
We`re not talking about that specialist high tech, highly regulated
shooting range set up specifically for the blind. We`re talking about a
guy at the mall with a holster on his hip and a red tipped cane in his
hand. When "The Des Moines Register" ran their big Sunday feature on
Iowa`s new law which made blindness no longer a barrier to gun permits in
Iowa, the point of that story was not that this loophole had been found in
the law and that it now be theoretically possible for legally blind people
to get gun permits in the state.
The point of the story was that it was all right happening. Local
sheriffs are prohibited from saying no to anyone who is blind who seeks
this kind of permit. So, they`ve been giving these permits out to blind
people, at least three so for in Iowa. Because why not?
After that caused consternation not only statewide in Iowa, but across
the country and even to a certain around the world, "The Des Moines
Register" run a follow-up on how Iowa legislators and the governor feel now
about their guns for the blind law getting all this attention. And it
turns out, they don`t even really remember doing it.
Quote, "Some Iowa lawmakers now say they were confused about or can`t
recall their specific intentions when they voted to approve a law that
grants blind people permits to carry guns in public. So, that`s one group
in Iowa, one group that`s confused that they did this or don`t remember
doing it." The second group through says they were aware some of these
loopholes in the law, but their efforts to fix these loopholes were, quote,
So that`s group two. They knew something was wrong but they did it
anyway. The law did pass anyway. There are now blind people getting gun
permits in Iowa. And there is a third faction in terms of how lawmakers
feel about this.
And this third faction, "The Des Moines Register" says includes Iowa
Governor Terry Branstad. That third faction says the law is working just
fine and no changes are needed.
All sides, though, agree on one thing, there`s little chance that
serious consideration will be given to changing Iowa`s gun permit law.
So some people did think it was problematic to give blind people gun
permits. They tried to fix the law, but it didn`t work. Some people think
it`s fine to give blind people permits, including the state`s Republican
governor. Hi, Gov. Terry Branstad, hello.
Some people cannot even remember doing this or they find the entire
thing confusing. We give blind people guns? We voted for that? I don`t
even really remember that. Yes. That`s the third group.
But all of those agree that this definitely will not be fixed in Iowa.
It is interesting that while the blind people with gun thing has
gotten the most attention, including from late night comics and others who
marvel at things like this about our country, the sheriffs, the Iowa
sheriffs who rejected had to give gun permits to blind people, the sheriffs
have even more vocal about the fact that the same law has required them to
OK gun permits also for registered sex offenders, more than 50 of them,
people who are convicted of sex crimes who are registered as sex offenders,
who are banned from whole swabs of public and private activity that`s
considered to be too dangerous, too threatening for somebody who`s a sex
offender, but they can now carry guns in public.
The blind thing is not getting fixed and neither is the sex offender
thing, none of this is going to be fixed in Iowa. This is similar to the
situation they`re facing right now in Louisiana.
In October of last year, Republican Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana
was very happy to make a case for an NRA supported amendment to the
constitution of that state. A constitutional amendment that would make gun
ownership in Louisiana a, quote, "fundamental right in the legal sense" and
that sounds awesome, right? The constitutional amendment was supported by
the governor, it passed.
Turns out, though, it has the practical affect of basically nullifying
or at least putting at risk, all laws related to guns in the whole state of
Louisiana. Including the ones they didn`t necessarily want to get rid of.
Like if you are a convicted felon, you`re not supposed to have a gun.
Most people don`t have too much of a problem with that law. Even the
gun rights lobbyists are not out there saying more guns for murderers, more
guns for convicted rapists, it doesn`t sound like. It doesn`t look good in
the bumper sticker. You can`t hear that from the NRA, right?
But this law, this NRA supported law says if you are a rapist or a
murderer, you ought to be able to have a gun, because the Louisiana law
that prohibits it is at risk now, thanks to the NRA. The Louisiana law
that says a felon shouldn`t have a gun was struck down by a lower court
judge because of this new constitutional amendment written by the NRA and
supported by Bobby Jindal.
Next month, it`s going to be heard at the Louisiana Supreme Court, in
a lawsuit brought by convicted felons who would like to own guns.
Governor Jindal says he doesn`t want convicted felons to buy guns.
He`s not in favor of murderers and rapists getting guns. He says it was
all a big misunderstanding. He says he didn`t know this constitutional
amendment might do this to his state.
But the NRA wrote it, the governor supported it, it passed, and now,
the chips are falling where they may.
In North Carolina last night, the Winston-Salem city council voted to
change it`s local laws to allow guns on Winston-Salem`s city play grounds.
They don`t want it, but a new state law signed in July by the Republican
governor in North Carolina, same day he signed the state`s new abortion
restrictions, signed another law that day that basically forces every city
and town in the state of North Carolina to allow guns on their playgrounds.
Even if they do not want to, even if they do not think it is right for
their city or towns, state Republicans are forcing them to with this new
state law. North Carolina is about to enact a new state law basically
banning gun buy backs. This is something that private organizations do.
Sometimes a lot of sheriff`s department and police departments will do it.
There`s local support for it.
They`ll offer some sort of cash payment or maybe a gift card or a bag
of groceries or something as a sort of gun amnesty. So, if you have a gun
laying around, if there`s some gun in your life that for some reason you do
not want, at one of these buybacks, you can hand it over to is local
authorities. Maybe you get something in return, maybe you don`t and they
just agree to take it no questions asked. But it gives local law
enforcement to get unwanted guns off the street.
The new law that`s about to go into effect in North Carolina that just
did go into effect in Arizona, blocks local law enforcement from taking
guns off the street with these kinds of programs. They are no longer
allowed to destroy the guns they collect. They are allowed to sell them to
local gun shops so more people can buy them, they can go back into
circulation, back out on the streets, right?
But the point is, they have to be put back into circulation, so they
are not off the street. Because any local community that thinks it`s got
too many guns on the streets and wants to voluntarily remove them is wrong
to believe that and is now banned from doing that by new state laws in
Arizona and now in North Carolina.
And that`s pretty much how things have been going in the country, ever
since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut,
December of last year.
Pro gun laws gain ground. Within six months of Newtown, yes, five
states did pass laws strengthening some gun restrictions, but twice that
many states passed laws weakening gun restrictions, making guns less
Republicans have long advocated making it easier for all sorts of
people to get guns, but their ability to do that in states they control
have actually been accelerated by the murder of those 20 first graders in
Newtown. Since Newtown, there have been five other mass shootings,
yesterdays was the fifth.
Hialeah, Florida, in July, six dead, plus the gunman. Santa Monica
College, four dead; Manchester, Illinois, in April, five dead, including
two kids plus the gunman. And Federal Way Washington, three days before
that, that was four dead plus, the gunman. March 13, that was Herkimer
County, New York. A guy walked into a barbershop and asked if anybody
remembered him before he started to shoot, four people dead plus, the
Those are all since Sandy Hook, since Newtown. Before Newtown,
though, it was Accent Signage Systems in Minneapolis, seven dead. Before
that, it was the Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, seven dead.
Before that, it was the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater, 12 dead. Before
that, it was that Seattle cafe, six dead. Oikos University before that in
Oakland, California, seven dead. Seal Beach, California hair salon,
southern California, eight people dead there.
The IHOP mass shooting in Carson City, Nevada, before that, five dead.
In Tucson, the Gabby Giffords shooting, six dead. And, and, and, and.
The FBI definition of mass murder in which a killer takes at least
four other people`s lives, whether or not the killer himself also dies in
that incident. Mass murder perpetrated by a lone gunman is a common enough
thing now that most of those incidents, most of the ones I just mentioned
are not famous.
Whenever there is one that is shocking enough or big enough to be
famous, it rises close to becoming a policy matter, close enough to
becoming a policy matter that you see leaders do get asked about them in
person, right? So, after yesterday`s mass murder of 13 people at the Navy
Yard in Washington, after yesterday`s latest mass shooting which the FBI
now says was committed by a young man who was acting alone, after that one,
that one is big enough and famous enough to rise to the level that our
leaders get asked about it.
So, President Obama was asked about it today by Telemundo`s Jose Diaz-
Balart. He was asked whether we should stop hoping that this kind of thing
will ever get better.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSE DIAZ-BALART, TELEMUNDO: Are we condemned in this country to live
in a country where massacres are just part and parcel of our daily
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we don`t have to
be. And the overwhelming majority of the American people understand that
there`s some common sense gun safety laws that we can put in place that
could prevent some of this tragedy from happening.
It`s not going to prevent all violence. It`s not going to prevent all
gun violence. But initial reports indicate that this is an individual who
may have had some mental health problems, the fact that we do not have a
firm enough background check system, is something that makes us more
vulnerable to these kinds of mass shootings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The president speaking tonight on Telemundo. The last effort
to strengthen the background check system after Newtown did not pass.
Senator Harry Reid said today that it would not have the votes passed if it
came up again now.
Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia said that he would bring up that
legislation or some version of it again, if he had enough senators on board
for it to have any hope. It does not seem like that is the case now.
That said, one Republican senator, the appointed senator from South
Carolina, Tim Scott, did tell John Stanton of BuzzFeed today, he said, "I
understand this person from the Navy Yard incident suffered from mental
illness. Perhaps we will have an opportunity to take a look at that."
Perhaps, perhaps we will. Perhaps the fifth mass killing since the one at
the elementary school in December will be the one that makes the
But so far, what`s happened is that the Democrats hearing yesterday on
stand your ground laws and gun violence, that was called off yesterday.
That was put up for a day because of the massacre at the Navy Yard.
But Texas Governor Rick Perry`s simultaneous photo-op of him touring a
gun factory in Maryland, that was not put off. That went full steam ahead,
because it is never untoward. It is never inappropriately political to
bolster the gun industry and promote more guns even on the day of a gun
massacre in the nation`s capital. But it is very frequently appropriate,
it is very frequently the wrong tragic moment to discuss gun violence,
because that`s something we have to be really sensitive about and not talk
about too much.
Joining us now is John Stanton, Washington bureau chief at "BuzzFeed".
Mr. Stanton, thank you for being here tonight. It`s always nice to
JOHN STANTON, BUZZFEED: Good to see you.
MADDOW: So, you had a piece in "BuzzFeed" today, talking with members
of Congress about the prospect of their being any national policy response
to this latest gun massacre, it seems like the answer is basically no, or
is it thoroughly no?
STANTON: I think it`s thoroughly no. I think Republicans have more
of a chance of abandoning attempts to defund Obamacare than there is a
chance that they`re going to agree to any kind of legislation on gun
control at this point.
MADDOW: When Tim Scott told you that there maybe is an opportunity to
do something on mental illness, what do you think he meant?
STANTON: Well, I think he was talking about -- there is this narrow
possibility that the parts of the Manchin-Toomey bill that deal with mental
that are not background checks or not expanding background checks to say
gun shows and things like that, there is a chance that they may be able to
broker a deal there. Harry Reid said he will bring up that narrow piece of
And there are some Republicans I think who believe that this is an
issue that needs to be addressed. At the same time, you know, I`m not sure
that will last very long. Shortly after Sandy Hook, there were lots of
Republicans that made some sorts of noises about maybe being open to some
kind of expanded background check or strengthened background check and they
quickly backed off on that.
If Republicans feel pressure and more importantly, if Democrats are
unable to feel pressure on them, which is sort of what`s happening right
now, you can see that kind of momentum evaporate operate very, very
MADDOW: John, do you see I guess the converse side of this? Do you
see any possibility in Washington that we`re actually going to move
backward toward more lax gun laws in a way that we did in the United
States. I`m struck by the fact that everybody seems very impressed that we
had a handful of blue states and in the case of Colorado, sort of a purple
state, move toward sort of centrist gun legislation, gun reforms after
But twice as many states moved in the opposite direction.
Is there any indication that you`ve seen that federally they might try
to move in the opposite direction and actually lose some things for that?
STANTON: I don`t think so. If for no other reason, then I don`t
think that the Democrats in it Senate would agree to any of that and
President Obama would veto any bill and that would be no chance of
overriding that veto. But I think, you know, for supporters for this
weakening of these laws, the federal government not doing anything is sort
of enough at this point for them. You know, they can pull back these laws
to the state level, so long as the federal government isn`t stepping in,
that is essentially a weakening of the law in and of itself for them.
So, I think that as long as they have the status quo in Washington,
they`re winning that sort of battle.
MADDOW: John Stanton, Washington bureau chief for "BuzzFeed" -- John,
thank you for your time tonight. It`s good to see you.
STANTON: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. Just ahead on the interview tonight, NASA space shuttle
commander, husband of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and gun owner
himself, Mark Kelly, will be joining us.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK KELLY: Hello.
GABBY GIFFORDS, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: Hello.
KELLY: How are you?
I`m going to go to the gun store and buy a gun today.
KELLY: I want to demonstrate to everybody that will be watching how
easy it is to get a universal background check.
GIFFORDS: Background checks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Honey, I`m going to buy a gun. Mark Kelly and Gabby Giffords
made that video so they could make a point about getting a background check
isn`t about making it impossible to buy a gun, if the gun store checks your
record, before selling you that gun. Still, the whole process, only takes
a few minutes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY: Today, we`re going to demonstrate what the whole process is
and how relatively simple it is.
This will not be my only gun. I`ve got a 9 millimeter Ruger, a
hunting rifle, a shotgun, a .25 semi-automatic pistol. Very small.
Hey, you don`t have that Colt .45 anywhere, do you? I wanted to buy
that Colt .45 that was here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two important things. Are you under indictment
for a felony? No. Have you every been convicted of a felony? No. Are
you a fugitive? No.
Are you an unlawful user connected to marijuana? No. Have you been
adjudicated, mentally defected? No. Are you subject to a court
restraining order? No.
Have you been convicted of any court of any misdemeanor for domestic
OK, appreciate it. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My pleasure.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Five minutes and 36 seconds. That is how long Mark Kelly
spent in that Arizona gun store waiting for his background check he could
bring home a new gun and show it to his wife, former Arizona Congresswoman
Two years ago today after the mass shooting in Tucson that killed six
people and wounded more than a dozen others, Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly
announced that they were forming a new organization. They launched a
nonprofit and a super PAC called Americans for Responsible Solutions. It`s
founded on the belief that it is fine to use guns and enjoy guns and
support gun rights while also changing policy to try to combat gun violence
and to try to combat the misuse of guns.
They started that group in January, two years after Gabby Giffords was
shot. Since then, they have been on the road for their cause. They began
by testifying before a U.S. Senate committee, pushing for background
checks, which of course got filibustered to death in the Senate.
Over the summer, they took their case to seven states in seven days,
sort of a whistle stop tour, that included Mark Kelly going through another
background check at another gun shop, this time in New Hampshire, again,
visually and implicitly and explicitly making the point that you can be gun
owners, and even gun enthusiasts and still support reforms for gun safety.
They also stopped at a shooting range in Las Vegas, Nevada, where
Congressman Giffords fired a gun herself for the first time since she was
shot and so grievously wounded in 2011. Ms. Giffords can no longer shot
with her right hand, but she seems to do OK with her left one.
The debate in our country over gun policy most often casts as people
who hate guns versus people who love guns. That`s the way the beltway
media casts the debate most often. That`s the way that both sides like to
pose the reform. But that is not how the debate is cast for people who are
on the side of the debate that want gun reform.
Last month, Mark Kelly called on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to
sign a bill for universal background checks in that state. Mark Kelly,
former astronaut, New Jersey native, tells the governor of New Jersey, "I
would like to think we share in the belief that we must prevent gun
violence and also protect gun rights, and that there are moderate, common
sense policies that do both."
Mark Kelly and Gabby Giffords did not get much of what they were
asking for from the New Jersey governor. He even vetoed a measure that he
himself had suggested that would have banned .50 caliber sniper rifles in
New Jersey. The governor suggested it, the legislature passed it, but when
it got to Chris Christie`s desk, he changed his mind and decided to veto
But however many roads end that way in this debate, however difficult
it is and however many set backs there, there`s also a kind of remarkable
persistence that sustains that side that wants reform -- the Newtown
parents, the Newtown Action Alliance, back in Washington, D.C. today, 40
meetings scheduled, talking to anyone who will talk to them in Congress,
not giving up.
Yesterday, the debate thrust back upon us, again, by another mass
shooting, the fifth one since Newtown. Something like the 14th since
Congresswoman Giffords was shot in that mass shooting in Tucson.
And yesterday, Mark Kelly and Gabby Giffords were back again, again
crossing lines of demarcation in this gun debate, this time crossing the
one that separates of the victims of gun violence from the rest of us
watching the news unfold, of yet another mass killing in America.
Captain Kelly writing, "Gabby and I are holding the victims of today`s
massacre at the Washington Navy Yard in our thought and prayers and we know
that nothing will bring solace to the families who lost loved ones. As the
hours and days pass, Americans should match their anger and sadness with
gratitude for the sailors, marines, police and first responders who are
acting with courage today and support for the injured who have such a long
Gabby and I have been there. In times like this, it is the ultimate
affirmation to have a nation behind you. And as proud members of the Navy
family, we take note of the tragic fact that this terrible attack on men
and women who dedicate themselves to keeping America safe did not occur in
a war overseas, but in a mass shooting here at home."
Captain Mark Kelly joins us live for the interview next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY: The ATF background check form.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the kind of thing you think folks at gun
KELLY: It doesn`t take long to fill out?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ll hope he passes. This is the moment of
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It took how long?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That long.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congratulations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
That was Mark Kelly, advocate for gun safety reforms, buying a gun in
New Hampshire this summer, demonstrating his belief that as a gun owner,
going through a background check is not too much to ask.
Joining us for the interview tonight is Captain Mark Kelly. He is the
cofounder of Americans for Responsible Solutions. He, of course, is the
husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Captain Kelly, thank you very much for being here.
KELLY: You`re welcome, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, you`ve obviously served as an astronaut and a naval
aviator. You spent 25 years in the Navy.
I have to ask first just your reaction when you heard about
yesterday`s shootings at the Navy Yard in D.C.
KELLY: Well, I was shocked, you know, for a number of a number of
reasons. I mean, one reason is, you know, I served in the Navy for 25
years and to see something like that happen to your Navy family, you know,
that really hurts.
Also, it`s about block from where Gabby lived in Washington, D.C.
There seems to be so many of these mass shootings that they can touch
people, multiple ones can touch people in different ways. She lived very
close to where that building was.
MADDOW: One of the things we have been trying to make sense of
statistically in trying to understand this problem in our country, is why
it seems like we`re getting increased frequency of those mass shootings. I
mean, they`ve always existed -- they have long existed in this country to a
certain extent. But in recent years, the pace has picked up for both mass
shootings in general and very large scale mass shootings.
Do you have any insight or any theories into why that might be? Why
we`re having more of these now than we used to?
KELLY: Well, mental health and the roll back of mental health care in
this country, certainly has to be part of it. You know, you pointed out
that we have had more mass shootings and I think since 2007, when you look
at shootings that included more than 12 or more people, so a higher number,
about half of them have occurred in the last six years.
So, we have seen an increase, it`s substantial and it`s something that
we really need to address. We need to have an honest conversation about
why this is happening. We need to look at the data and the metrics like we
do at NASA when we have a problem. We follow the date to an answer. We
haven`t done that with this issue.
And we`ve got to stop yelling past each other and we need to come up
with some common sense solutions.
MADDOW: We spoke with John Stanton who`s the Washington bureau chief
for "BuzzFeed" earlier on in the show today, because he had some sort of --
on the surface, very depressing reporting, but also some provocative
reporting today when he was talking with senators about whether or not
there could be new national policy to try to mass shootings and gun
He came up with some results that seem very pessimistic, in terms of
pursuing traditional gun safety reforms, gun control type measures. It
seems like there`s a little bit of a ray of hope on the issue of mental
health, trying to pursue it through that lens, having that be a way in,
maybe in a way that might be less of a hot button, particularly for
Republican senators? What do you think about that?
KELLY: Well, there should be and our organization has been working
with congressional staffs and members of the Senate and the House as well
on this. I mean, the mental health piece of this needs to be addressed.
It could be addressed separately, you know, from the larger issue like
background checks or magazine size. I mean, we need to have conversations
about both of those.
But I think, you know, especially after -- in the case of what
happened at the Navy Yard, when you have another shooter that clearly had
some mental health issues, we need to address that, and we should do it
now. We`ve got to stop just shouting past each other on this issue like we
do on so many others.
MADDOW: On the issue of the character of the debate, which you just
referenced there, you and your wife have done a lot in your advocacy,
especially over this past few months to try to, I think get rid of this
false sense that you`re either a gun owner or a gun grabber, that you`re
either a gun lover and you don`t want any restrictions or you`re a gun
hater and you want everyone`s guns taken away.
What can be done -- what do you think people need to understand about
the falseness of that divide?
KELLY: Well, I think people -- you know, everybody should understand
that most gun owners like Gabby and I are responsible people, we often get
a background check and in some cases, you know, some people who buy from
gun shows do not get background checks. You know, what I worry about,
Rachel, is that when we have one mass shooting after the next -- I mean,
we`re just nine months since Newtown where we had 20 first graders murdered
in their classrooms, the national response has been nothing. And then we
have had a couple more mass shootings since, including what happened at the
You know I think it puts responsible gun owners in a really bad
position. And I imagine that, you know, in this country, I think upwards
of 65 percent of the people do not own guns and they`re going to start
thinking badly about all gun owners. So, I would hope that the gun lobby,
including the NRA at some point would see this and see that, you know,
there is -- you know, we can have it both ways.
People can enjoy ways. People can enjoy Second Amendment rights at
the same time we can keep guns out of the hand of criminals and dangerously
mentally ill. And we need to have that conversation.
MADDOW: Captain Mark Kelly, cofounder of the gun safety group
Americans for Responsible Solutions -- thank you very much for your time
tonight, sir. I know you don`t accept a ton of interview requests. And I
really appreciate you being here tonight. Thank you.
KELLY: You are welcome, Rachel. Thanks for having me on the show.
MADDOW: Thanks very much.
All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Hurry, hurry. Only 13 more shopping days left until the
self-inflicted crisis in Washington. Except this time, the crisis is so
big and so self-inflicted that not even Republicans are supporting the
Republican whose are planning it. And that story is next.
MADDOW: Bad news for unchecked disease and for the bankruptcy
For the second year in a row, the proportion of Americans who do not
have health insurance is down. Thanks to government programs, the
proportion of Americans who are uninsured has dropped again. More
Americans have health insurance. Yay! Or, this must be stopped!
Depending on your political persuasion.
In the House of Representatives last week, Republicans voted for the
41st time to defund health reform, 41 times. So, since they have been in
charge, take 41 times divide by 2 1/2 years, carry the three, that means
they repeal Obamacare more than once a month. Wow, well done, you guys.
How is that working out for you?
Now, for good measure, House Republicans are gearing up for lucky
number 42. The 42nd time they think will be the charm. This time, it will
Maybe this time it will be different, because this time, even
Republicans are starting to ridicule each other about this thing they keep
doing. Even the rather Paleolithic, fire-breathing, super right-wing
conservative editorial page of "The Wall Street Journal" has now joined the
chorus of hecklers, heckling the Republicans.
In an editorial today about Republicans planning to try to shut down
the government as their ransom demand for defunding Obamacare for the 42nd
time, "The Journal" today said, "Here we go again." They describe the shut
down plan as a campaign that captured the imagination of some conservatives
this summer, "Republicans threatening to crash their zeroes into the
aircraft carrier of Obamacare."
"Their demand is that the House must pair the `must pass` bill to fund
the government with defunding Obamacare. Kamikaze missions rarely turned
out well, least of all for the pilots."
They say, quote, "We have often supported backbenchers who want to
push GOP leaders in a better policy direction, most recently on the farm
bill. But it is something else entirely to sabotage any plan with a chance
of succeeding and pretend to have leverage that exists only in the world of
town hall applause lines and fundraising letters."
When the editorial page of "The Wall Street Journal" is calling you
out for reckless right-wing radicalism, it is probably a soon to leave your
keys at the bar and get a cab ride home. Who knows if House Republicans
are going to sober up before government funding actually does run out on
October 1st. We could be heading for a self-created, stay tuned to MSNBC
because we`re going to be live all night crisis.
Closing time is coming. It`s the end of this month that they have to
sort this thing out. The clock is ticking. Watch this space.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Thanks for being with us tonight.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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