UP WITH CHRIS HAYES
December 15, 2012
Guests: Dave Cullen, Howard Wolfson, Amy Goodman, Esther Armah, Carolyn McCarthy, Jackie Hilly
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC ANCHOR: Two handguns were found at the school as well
as a semi-automatic rifle. Law enforcement told officials have told NBC
the weapons were legally purchased and were registered to the gunman`s
This morning, President Obama addressed the shooting in his weekly address.
We`ll have that a little later, but his call for meaningful action has
raised some hopes that he might make an effort to tackle gun control in
earnest for the first time. The shooting, the second deadliest in U.S.
history, has raised questions not only about the nation`s gun laws but also
about school security and prevention.
We`re going to get to those questions during the program this morning.
Right now, let`s go to MSNBC`s Chris Jansing who`s outside Sandy Hook
Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut this morning. Chris, can you give us an
update on what we have learned from people that are just tuning in now
between last night and today? What new facts have we acquired?
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC: Well, from the time, Chris, went off the air last
night, we saw a large exodus from the area around the school. We were
stationed very nearby at the staging area which is in a local firehouse.
And we began to see some of the coroner`s vehicles leaving at one point.
We saw four cars in a row with priests in them leaving the scene.
And I spoke this morning with state officials, with Lieutenant Vance (ph)
who told me that all of the identifications have been made and all of the
families have been officially notified. The medical examiners` team did
work through the night into the early morning hours. Obviously, this is a
situation where you want to make sure that you have everything absolutely
And some of those identifications were difficult. They have described this
shooter as chillingly accurate. Of course, all the people who were shot,
only one survived and was taken to Danbury hospital. There are also
obviously a lot of questions we have. We are hoping to get those
identifications this morning.
I know that Lieutenant Vance has been working on them throughout the
morning, again, to make sure that everything that they do is absolutely
correct. There are a lot of questions about the shooter, how he gained
entry to the school. Did he shoot his way in? Was he let in? And of
course, the very difficult question in all the situation, Chris, is why.
We know from his brother, he told investigators who interviewed him
yesterday after reaching him in his home in Hoboken.
He said his brother had some mental health issues. So, a lot of questions
yet to be answered here this morning. Huge gathering of international
reporters. Yesterday, I spoke with reporters from Russia, from Japan, a
journalist from Canada here as well. Obviously, the fact that we have
kindergartners, that we have elementary school students has touched a nerve
in a way that I think some of these mass shootings have not before, Chris.
HAYES: MSNBC`s Chris Jansing reporting this morning from the scene of
yesterday`s shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, we`ll be hearing more from
We`re going to hold on. There`s going to be a press conference in just a
few moments. Right now, I just want to bring in my panel. We have Dave
Cullen, the author of "Columbine," Esther Armah, radio host of WBAI-FM
wake-up call, Howard Wolfson, New York City deputy mayor for government
affairs and communications in Bloomberg administration joining us the first
time, and Amy Goodman back at the table, host and executive producer of the
one and only "Democracy Now."
It`s wonderful to have you all here this morning on a really awful and
somber occasion. I want to start out by just saying, Dave, you know, I
have this horrifying realization yesterday that you know, we have developed
a go-to roster of guests to deal with mass shootings, and -- which is sort
of a chilling realization just in a very basic human level.
You get caught up in the news cycle. And one of the things I want to start
out with, because right now, there`s a tremendous are demand for
information, and sometimes, an appetite for information, completely
understandably, and everybody, my colleagues are doing the best to feedback
-- and get people the information they need in a responsible fashion.
But inevitably, there`s a lot of confusion in the wake of these. And one
of the things that comes out very clearly in your book is just how much
there was a mismatch between what we knew about Columbine the first day, a
week, a week and a half and what actually was the case.
I want you to just talk about a little bit just so that everybody who`s
watching this can be cautioned that the narratives that we`re forming and
the judgments that we feel that we have, the certainty that we feel we
have. Yesterday, we thought the name of the shooter was someone who turned
out to be the actual shooter`s brother. Everyone should be, I think,
consuming all this information with that grain of salt.
DAVE CULLEN, AUTHOR, "COLUMBINE": Right. OK. And I guess, I`ll say the
same thing I said just last week, that I feel a little bad, but I think
it`s worth repeating, because unfortunately, you guys had me on the -- last
week which is sort of awful. But, within two to three days after
Columbine, we had it completely figured out. And everybody understood what
it happened there.
Two angry loner Goths from the Trenchcoat Mafia who were pissed off at
jocks who would pick on them relentlessly and bullied them went back,
seeking revenge a year later, and you know, slaughtered, you know, against
the jocks and took some other people down in the process. That`s what
And to this day, most people still think, not one single bit of that is
true. They weren`t Goths. They weren`t part of the Trenchcoat Mafia.
There is no real evidence that they have been bullied unusually. They were
not loners or outcasts. None of that. But we took this little bit of
information and we drew this picture.
And if I could, you know, jump in one thing that we heard that was really
useful, the brother of the shooter said that he had mental health issues.
That`s a really useful piece of information.
CULLEN: And we should take that in to continue gathering information, but
also, with this huge caveat that they can mean all sorts of things.
CULLEN: And, and, the brother may or -- that was the brother, one moment
in times, perhaps, thinking off the top of his head who may have just been
thinking. So, that may not even be reliable information, even though I`m
sure he meant it authentically at the time. A lot of, you know, "buts."
HAYES: Can you talk also a little about the collective trauma that a
community goes through in the wake of this. I mean, it`s just, you know, I
think we all just have a very hard time doing anything but despairing.
HAYES: It`s very despairing-inducing set of facts. And, I wonder what --
how the community reacted in Columbine.
CULLEN: Well, yes. A whole lot of things. In fact, I mean, one thing
that I can tell the moms which may or may not be relevant and they might
not want to hear, but I was thinking as I was lying in bed this morning,
not able to sleep. I`m feeling a little guilty struggling with that and
realizing, remembering 13 years ago, nobody had slept.
I talked to the kids. I was back in Plymouth Park (ph) outside the school
12 hours later and none of the kids had slept. But almost all of them told
me, too -- these were high school kids, but they said that their moms were
just hugging them like crazy yesterday, the day of the event and that was
so important. It helped so much.
But now, they needed them to stop, and especially all that week, the kids
were telling me even more and more, and almost all of them, that their
parents, particularly, their moms were too overprotective and were pushing
them away. And they were literally leaving their houses and escaping and -
HAYES: I`m very sympathetic.
CULLEN: I know. I know. It may be different with kids this age, but I
mean, that`s just one caution too to just, you know, check in. And -- the
kids were in different places than their parents, and it was really, really
hard for them. The kids had each other. And there`s this amazing sense of
-- almost like a war thing of having gone through it together.
CULLEN: They really only wanted -- well, they wanted to talk to people
who`d been through with them. And they also wanted to talk to other
outside adults. I felt also guilty at the time really spilling everything
to reporters. I think, partly, we were adults who weren`t overprotective
parents. They wanted talk to somebody who could help them figure it out.
HAYES: You know, when one of these happens, it seems like there`s this
ruts that have been developed. Not only ruts that are developed in our
editorial process, but there are ruts developed in the national debate.
And, it starts to play out on Twitter in basically in the same way, almost
like a computer program has programmed national popular reaction.
Obviously, when, you know, guns are involved. So, people say guns, and
then, another part of people say, it`s crazy, don`t politicize this. I
want to talk about guns at length today. You can`t separate, but I want to
actually put that to the side to begin the conversation, because one of the
things -- the first thing I think I want to discuss.
I want to play this bit of tape that was on Fox yesterday that made me
really think hard about how I react to these kinds of tragedies in a policy
context. And I think I want to talk about the ways in which we respond to
horrific events from a policy perspective and a political perspective,
because I think if you look at the history of a lot of policy, right?
There`s a connection between tragedy and action, right?
The Triangle Shirt Factory and Workers laws. Obviously, what happened in
9/11 and the entire regime of security that`s been put in place afterwards.
And I`m not -- I`m not clear that -- are instincts necessarily in the wake
of a tragedy get us to the right place from a policy perspective and I
thought about this when I saw this clip, one of our producers found from --
this is Robert Strange who runs a security firm talking to Fox News anchor,
Megyn Kelly. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: You know, I have two kids. Now, I suddenly
want to see an armed police officer in the school. I mean, I never even
thought about that prior to now, but I mean, what would that take to have
an armed police officer in every school?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unfortunately, I think we just saw it. I think we just
saw it. I think it`s going to change the way we look at things. I think
this is going to be for schools what 9/11 was for airports.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: This will be schools what 9/11 is for airports. I want to get all
of your thoughts on that about how we think about security in this country,
particularly, in the wake of something like this right after we take this
HAYES: Howard Wolfson, you work for Mayor Bloomberg, and obviously, any
mayor, particularly, mayor in New York City, is thinking about security
lock. And we just played this clip of someone talking about this being a
9/11 for school, which to me was a really chilling phrase.
Partly, because it seems to that many of the ways we responded to the
obvious trauma of 9/11 haven`t been necessarily long-term productive in
terms of where we put our resources and how we thought about security. And
so, I guess, the question to you is, how do you think about making policy
in the aftermath of this in a way that doesn`t fall prey to making those
kinds of mistakes?
DEPUTY MAYOR HOWARD WOLFSON, (D) NEW YORK CITY: Well, there are obviously
instances in which governments overreact or react incorrectly in the wake,
in the immediate wake of a national tragedy. And, I think it is incumbent
upon chief executives, members of the legislature to think thoughtfully, to
take a deep breath, and gather the facts before rushing forward with a
solution or another.
I would say, though, that with regard to these kinds of shootings and gun
violence, I don`t think that`s our problem.
WOLFSON: I think, in some respects, we have the opposite problem, which is
when these incidents occur, you hear these voices, as you said, now`s not
the time to talk about what we do about this or we don`t want to politicize
the tragedy by talking about legislative solutions. And I think those
voices really have been the loudest ones over the last decade or so after
these kinds of incidents.
And they`ve kind of drowned out voices like Mayor Bloomberg`s or others who
think, you know, that what we do need to act. And I think, perhaps in the
wake of yesterday, that`s shifting a little bit. I think the voices and
the preponderance of the American public may now think, yes, we don`t want
to act tomorrow precipitously, but we do want to act.
And there are things that we need to do to adjust our laws to take into
account these kinds of activities.
AMY GOODMAN, DEMOCRACYNOW.ORG: I mean, I think there`s no question right
now. In the wake of this horrific event, there is no more important time
to talk about it right now. If people were driving through an intersection
there was no traffic light, and every day, they were crashing into each
other and people were dying. We wouldn`t say it was a political solution
to say why don`t we put up a traffic light.
GOODMAN: Right now, this is the moment, not only for President Obama, and
it will be a real test of his leadership. Most people in this country are
for regulating guns. How is it that there are 9,000 gun deaths in the
United States in the year and 150 or 70 in Canada or Germany?
GOODMAN: Australia -- we`re just talking to Michael Moore last night.
Australia, a country of hunters, after a terrible mass killing in 1996, in
a moment, they turn around gun control. It goes to zero. Whether -- there
are two issues here. One is gun control, and one is deep concern about the
cuts that will be taking place in this country and around mental illness.
We don`t know particularly in this case what Adam Lanza`s condition was.
GOODMAN: But we know if we look at the string of killings that have been
taking place from Aurora on back and not to mention just what happened this
week. This is a very serious issue. That the issue of mental illness, its
stigma, and the lack of support and our problems with health care in this
country, you put these two together, and it is a perfect storm. Gun
control and helping to support people who are mentally ill in this country.
ESTHER ARMAH, WBAI.ORG: What I find so disturbing is the reaction is
always around the additional criminalizing of those who are the least
involved in the attack and the death. And so, so we talk specifically
about the importance of having more security in schools. So, now five-
year-olds -- an armed policeman is what five-year-olds need.
ARMAH: As if weapons in a school with babies is a solution. Yet, to
exclude policy (ph) in gun control is not viable. It`s not viable. So, I
think you have the extraordinary political (INAUDIBLE) on the part of
Congress and the Senate. You have the power of the NRA, but on the ground,
so many millions of people are advocating for gun control.
So, I think, at this point, you need to -- when you think about the
strategic coalitions that make people power recognized that the NRA`s not
omnipotent. It may behave like God, but actually, it is not. And that,
also, you know, people talk about what we need armed police in schools, we
need more metal detectors in schools. In New York, in urban areas, that`s
exactly what you have.
ARMAH: And what you have is criminalization of young people, particularly,
young people of color. When you think about a piece like Mother Jones that
takes you through masculine over 30 years, 62 (ph), most of the guns are
HAYES: Right. And that`s clearly what we have in this case.
ARMAH: That is what we have in this case. The guns were legal. And so,
what don`t want to do, what we never want to do is go to where the power
and profit sits. So, what we do is we talk about we need this for
children. And we need to deal -- we need to criminalize the mental health
which is actually what we do, but what we don`t do is treat the issue.
HAYES: Well, and I think we also -- I mean, I think we have a security
mind-set, understandably, right? I mean, in some ways --
HAYES: Right. Exactly. But the impulse -- you know, the impulse of
apocalypse for security is primal, and in some ways, it is the pre-
condition upon which all other politics can be dealt, right? You know, if
you don`t have security, then a lot of the things about the way that we
self-govern become very difficult to pull off.
And yet, at the same time, I don`t think we necessarily think in a great --
rigorous fashion about security and a lot of security policies they could
mean (ph). I mean, this is Eric Madfis who`s assistant professor at
University of Washington Tacoma. And he has studied mass shootings, and
particularly, school shootings.
And this is what his research is in. He says "One of the key findings to
emerge from my research is these incidents were not prevented through
enhanced security measures or incredibly strict discipline," right? So,
there are different things that happened (INAUDIBLE). We`ve had increased
lockdown of schools and metal detectors.
"But instead, by alert students and faculty members coming forward with
knowledge about a violent plot being planned in the vast majority, both
completed and averted school rampage shootings the perpetrators inform
multiple people about their plans in advance, it is vital to encourage
students to be more than passive bystanders, actively speak up about
threats made by their peers."
"Additionally, anti-bullying programs increase support for risk youth are
crucial." And Dave, I guess, my question is, is there some set of policy
framework you can imagine that isn`t metal detectors, that isn`t armed
police officers in every kindergarten class in this country which is a
genuinely dystopic (ph) vision. Some set of policies we can implement that
would interrupt this before it happen. I want you to answer that right
after we take this break.
HAYES: Dave Cullen, I asked you before we went to break, if you can
imagine a set of policies being implemented that aren`t medal detectors and
aren`t armed policemen in kindergarten classes that could have a plausible
-- would increase our chances of stopping people before they do something
horrific like this?
CULLEN: Yes, there definitely are. And most of them are not what people
think. First of all, let me tell you what we have done and what the person
in the quote alluded to which has been fantastic is most of these plots are
foiled now, and it`s by kids telling adults because the FBI calls it
leakage. Shooters leak their plans before. So, this awareness, this kind
of thing, that`s really helpful. Excuse me.
But the other big thing that we can do, believe it or not, is treating
depression, because there`s sort of three different types of killers who
most of these. And we can talk about it if you want, but the biggest group
are the angry depressives.
And we`re not just talking about depressives like sad, the people who have
a deep usually suicidal problem that goes on for years, and they get to the
state of helplessness and hopelessness where they`re distraught and they
feel like they have no more options and they`re going to lash out in some,
quote, "crazy way," and that`s how we get to that place.
ARMAH: You know --
CULLEN: Let me just -- so, it`s really hard to identify. There are so
many -- there`s millions of kids who are depressed right now. We don`t
want to target all of them.
HAYES: We don`t want to criminalize --
CULLEN: Exactly. Exactly. What we want to do is help all those kids who
most of whom are going to have problems like dropping out of high school,
drug and alcohol addiction, teenage early pregnancy, all sorts of other --
and just messing up their lives.
So, if we would address this huge problem of adolescent depression, which
is when it usually first manifests, in the process, we will help all these
kids like somewhere mixed in there will be all these future school shooters
who we don`t know about who we will help and will sort of neutralize
without ever knowing we did that. but the net effect --
HAYES: Right. It`s good policy to begin --
GOODMAN: I was just going to say after the Arizona shooting with Jarad
Loughner. I interviewed head of national association of mentally ill in
Arizona who said the massive cuts to care for the mentally ill in Arizona
at that point were so drastic. But also, just to make this point, it`s
something like 12 hours before this killing, this massacre took place was a
man in China who went into an elementary school and maybe people saw it
fleetingly on television.
And, he had a knife. He didn`t have a gun. And he knifed 23 people, 22 of
them children, at least at this point, at the time of broadcast, all
survived. It was a knife. It wasn`t a gun.
HAYES: Right, right.
GOODMAN: Gun control is the answer right now.
WOLFSON: You know, in the wake of Columbine, schools did kind of take a
look at what happened and made a series of recommendations that now are in
place in most parts of the country, that when a teacher learns of a plot,
they immediately have to report it to somebody. They encourage children to
And so, there are a set of policies in place that, perhaps, have prevented
these kinds of factions from taking place after Columbine. The problem
that you have here among others is that this was not a high school student.
HAYES: Right. Yes.
WOLFSON: And, Jared Loughner, not a high school student in Arizona.
WOLFSON: Gabby Giffords, not a high school student. So, in high school,
there is a community that hopefully is a loving community that can watch
out for these kinds of kids who have a mental break or what have you. Once
somebody leaves high school and goes to college or goes on with their life
and they`re depressed or, you know, potentially suicidal, there is less of
a community around them to help them and identify that.
CULLEN: At Virginia tech is a great example of that where in the very much
larger college community, he was much more lost in the system. People were
trying to get him to help. He actually checked himself in at one point.
But yes, in that morass, it`s that much harder to --
HAYES: Let me just happen to reiterate what we know and don`t here. The
gunman, Adam Lanza, has been identified, and he took his own life. So, we
know that there was suicide. It wasn`t shot by police officers on the
scene. It was suicide.
We have confirmed report from Chris Jansing reporting on our air that in
being asked questions by police, his brother, who was initially wrongly
fingered as the shooter, mentioned his brother had mental health issues.
But we don`t know anything about his mental health history. What kind of
diagnosis he had. So, I just want to be clear that we do not know what
that profile looks like.
That said, I will note just in my own life, I`ve had, you know, a
tremendous -- a lot of people very close to me who have wrestled with
mental illness, really severe in some cases, and it`s incredibly difficult
to watch someone that you love go through struggling with mental illness.
And part of I think what makes it hard is that it does feel -- one of the
things I`ve noted is it does feel outside the social contract in some ways.
It`s not a topic of policy we have. There`s a tremendous amount of stigma
around it. Tremendous amount of stigma. Even to the point when we saw
this whole Jesse Jackson JR. thing play out about this kind of cat and
mouse game of what is he up to that were shrouded in this kind of stigma.
Is it drug addiction and there`s sorts of all this moral judgment attached
to whether it`s drug addiction or something else.
And then, the third thing is the amount of resources and the people that I
know in my life who have successfully managed to seek treatment and be
treated in a way that`s allowed them to flourish as human beings. It has
been an unbelievably expensive undertaking. And they have been people with
a lot of resources.
Luckily, you know, family members and other people who can find those
resources for them. And I think all the time about what that same life
trajectory would look like if not in close proximity, that sort of thing.
ARMAH: Yes, or if he was, you know, young and Black living in New York or
young and Black male living on the south side of Chicago or in D.C.,
because I think then we`re talking about cultures. And so, you made the
point about, you know, we are a nation that is about security. But we are
not about security for all Americans.
And that is profoundly clear by the way in which we criminalize the
mentally ill. So, we don`t know the details of who Mr. Lanza was, but we
know that in this country, you look at the statistics of those who are
incarcerated and so many of them are actually mentally ill. That is not
about security. That is about the profit from incarceration.
And so, the idea of security that is tagged to dollars, and then, so
profoundly politicized to the point of paralysis, to the point of cowardice
from our so-called elected leaders, it makes me crazy, because what we
never do is deal with the actual source of the power and the organizations
who use a mixture of fear and threat and lies and statistics to maintain a
position that means that we keep having conversations around --
HAYES: There`s also these places of policy where we can have this sort of
marginal discussions, but we were saying before, if yesterday, we found
that the shooter`s name was Abdullah Mutallab --
HAYES: -- and he had been attending a mosque in Connecticut, everything
about the response would be different. And every -- and the way that
resource (inaudible) and the very quick policy conclusions that people come
to -- Washington would now be on fire with policy discussions, with
official policy discussions about -- and no one would say don`t politicize
the tragedy of someone named Abdullah Mutallab walking into a school and
GOODMAN: If we don`t have a discussion about gun control right now. Yes,
I mean, even today, that`s what honors the children and the mother of Adam
Lanza who was killed. I mean, right before the first presidential debate,
I went to Virginia Tech, and Colin Goddard (ph), who was one of the
victims, one of the 32 who didn`t die but has three bullets in him you
today, took me through the place where he was shot up and where his
classmates and his teacher were killed in Virginia Tech.
I was with him because the next day, President Obama and Mitt Romney would
be holding their first debate at the University of Denver, and he was
leading a campaign, Colin Goddard was the campaign (ph). They`re already
campaign against gun violence to get the moderator, Jim Lehrer, the PBS
host, to ask a question about gun violence.
After all, the debate was taking place in Colorado. You just had the
Aurora shooting, you had Columbine before that. Tens of thousands of
signatures they got, was a question asked? No. And then, the second
debate, the only reason it was asked is because it was a --
GOODMAN: And a regular person asked the question.
HAYES: And basically, both candidates did everything they could to not
address guns. I mean, it was like the answers that that precipitated were
really remarkable. Dave Cullen, author of "Columbine," Amy Goodman of
"Democracy Now," thanks for your time this morning.
We`re going to talk with Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy whose husband was
killed by the Long Island railroad gunman right after this.
HAYES: Joining me now is Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy whose husband was
killed in the Long Island railroad massacre and who has made gun control a
central policy priority of her political career. Congresswoman, it`s
really good to have you here, and I appreciate you coming in this morning.
REP. CAROLYN MCCARTHY, (D) NEW YORK: Thank you, Chris. The pleasure is
HAYES: I guess, I know this is probably difficult emotionally for you
right now given what you lived through, but I did want to ask you, if you
wouldn`t mind, taking me through how you came to work through the grief you
had as a personal tragedy and then come to believe that there was a
political and policy factor in what had happened?
That there was a matter of public import, a political import, that really
did kind of change the trajectory of your life in terms of what you did and
what party I think you`re registered with.
HAYES: And led you to ultimately run successfully for Congress. How did
that journey happen in terms of going from just the overwhelming emotion of
what had happened to seeing it in these political terms?
MCCARTHY: Well, to be very honest with you, if you look at my situation on
what happened on Long Island railroad back in 1993, my husband died. My
son was fighting for his life. And my training as a nurse kind of -- I
can`t do anything about my husband. He`s dead. But I had my son to
concentrate to. And I think that`s what gave me the strength to get
through everything that we were facing for the years to come.
I worked in ICU for the majority of my life. Even as a nurse, seeing my
son being rolled in from recovery, I didn`t recognize him. And even though
I`d been trained for this, I was not prepared for what I saw, especially
when you love someone. And with that being said, all my energies went into
taking care of my son, to make sure that, number one, he survived.
Number two, his goal was to walk again. That was my goal. And I told him
very early on, I`m not going to be your mother. I am your nurse. And
you`re not going to like me at the end of it. And, at the end of it, when
he was being released from rehab, he said, mom, you told me something a
long time ago. I did not like you.
MCCARTHY: But to be very honest with you, when Kevin was learning how to -
- and I`m making this very, very simple. When Kevin was learning how to
speak again, he did ask me, how could this happen? I didn`t have the
answer. And that`s when I became a little bit more involved, trying to
find out, why was this kind of gun violence? Why was he able to get a gun?
Why did he have so many bullets?
And to be very honest with you, I got involved with neighbors against gun
violence at that time, went up to Albany, and I met so many victims. And I
was the star. And I said to myself, am I the newest star because I`m the
newest victim in the meeting with the politicians? And they basically
ignored us? We were there.
We were talking to them, and they weren`t paying attention. And I was
furious when I left. Absolutely furious. Then I got involved with
President Clinton, trying to get the assault weapons bill passed because we
had put language in there for large magazine clips.
HAYES: Which were used in the Long Island?
MCCARTHY: They were used on the Long Island railroad shooting. And
meeting with my Congress people and other congress people from Long Island,
and their attitude and how they were going to vote and how they said, yes,
they were going to, you know, support the president and then turned around
and voted the other way.
Happened to be just walking down the steps of the Capitol, a reporter came
up to me after the vote, that my congressman voted to repeal the assault
weapons ban, how mad are you? I`d be honest with you, I was furious. They
said, would you run for Congress? And I said yes. I didn`t think anybody
would pay attention to what I said.
By the time I got home, people were ringing my door bell, coming at my
house. Somebody named Dick Gephardt (ph) called, do you want to run? I
didn`t know who he was. And (inaudible) we won`t be there for you. I
didn`t know who they were. And, it just started that way. It just started
So, when you say how I handled my grief, you can`t compare it to what --
well, other people. Each person handles their grief totally different.
MCCARTHY: Some handle it well, some don`t. Some become activists. Not
just on gun violence. You know, I`ve had the pleasure of meeting children
that have taken care of their parents with Alzheimer`s disease, parents
that have taken care of their children with autism. And they have become
So, each thing throws us into maybe a path that we certainly didn`t want to
take but decided that we must.
HAYES: I want to talk to you about -- it sounds like you had a
radicalizing experience coming up against the way in which gun policy is
made in politics. And I want to talk to you a little bit to you about
that, about where we were before, where we are now, where we`re headed,
right after we take this break.
HAYES: Congresswoman, I want to play a bit of sound from President Bill
Clinton on gun control in 1993, because I think it`s important for us to
sort of understand the context of this policy issue which is the politics
of it have fluctuated so wildly in so many ways, one of the real changes in
my relatively brief career covering politics.
This is President Bill Clinton on gun control after the 1993 Long Island
railroad shooting that killed six, among them your husband. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The gun that was used
contained apparently a two 15-round clips that were expended while this man
in a manic state was walking down the subway. And one of the reasons we
ought to pass the crime bill is that Senator Feinstein`s amendment to limit
assault weapons would make those 15-round clips illegal.
They`re not necessary for hunting or sports purposes, and it simply allows
you to shoot more and more people more quickly. So, I hope that this will
give some more impetus to the need to act more urgently, to deal with the
unnecessary problems of gun violence in the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: I think 1990s, in the wake up, and it`s the period when your
activism leads you to run for Congress is kind of the high water mark for
gun control. It was a national issue. It was championed by Democrats.
The assault weapon ban was passed. It was something that people came to
Washington, D.C. to march about.
There was a lot of discussion of it as you go back and watch old issues of
"The West Wing."
HAYES: It`s like every episode is about gun control. And then it just
kind of fell off the map of our politics. And, I wonder what your
understanding of why that happened is.
MCCARTHY: Well, there`s actually a couple of myths out there --
MCCARTHY: -- on what happened after that. If you remember back after the
bill was passed, Democrats actually lost the House in the following
election. And the myths that came that Democrats lost because they passed
the crime bill. What everybody kind of forget is, also during that term,
taxes were raised to get us into the economy --
MCCARTHY: -- to do what was right for the country.
MCCARTHY: So, it was very easy for certain groups to turn that debate
around to be a myth, and that myth only grew, and that`s when you saw a lot
members of Congress saying I`m not touching this issue again. Even the
Democratic Party started to believe this myth and even our leadership, on
the Democratic side, walked away from the issue.
HAYES: And in 2000, obviously, Al Gore lost. And there were lots of
people that, again, I think the NRA and gun advocates were able to tell a
story about Gore`s loss being attributable to the fact that he was, you
know, for regulation, for control, for the assault weapons ban, and that
hurt him in the national campaign.
MCCARTHY: Well, again, I disagree with that and not because of the
position of him (ph), but if you really look at the politics of what was
going on during that particular election, and, you know, certainly, Vice
President Gore, and you know, I thought he was a great person. I loved the
issues that --
MCCARTHY: -- but he tried to be something that he wasn`t. And going way
back, you know, I said to him, I said, don`t let them try to turn you.
Just be yourself. And, I remember he was giving a speech to the Irish-
Americans, and he comes out with all these papers to read his speech.
And I looked at him, I`m going, because we were working on the Good Friday
agreement at the time, I said, what are you doing? If you go out there and
trying read a speech to these people, you`re not going to get their vote.
MCCARTHY: And to his credit, he went out there and gave an absolutely
wonderful speech. So, I think people forget when they go into politics, be
who you are.
MCCARTHY: And I will say that to an awful lot of members that lost this
last election. They went to the far right. I`m talking about my
MCCARTHY: They went to the far right and that`s not who they were. And
HAYES: But the near total retreat of the Democratic Party on this issue,
it`s hard for me to come up with another analog or historical example. And
I just -- I want to get a sense from you of why that is and how that can be
turned around right after we take this break.
HAYES: We`re still waiting on a press conference from police officials in
Newtown, Connecticut, this morning with more information about the latest
about the mass shooting there. I have with me Congresswoman Carolyn
McCarthy from Long Island, whose husband was killed in the Long Island
railroad shooting in the 1990s. The retreat on Democrats on this issue has
been almost complete, I mean, at the national level.
Not necessarily at the local level, and I was a reporter in Illinois where
there`s still very strong political constituency for gun control and
members of the sate legislature who fight for it, but the national level,
it`s been your total. What explains that in your mind, and how do you
MCCARTHY: Well, to be very honest with you, I have great hope for the near
future that we can reverse that. When you look at the NRA and their fund-
raising skills being supplied by money, large amounts of money, going from
the gun manufacturers, and if you look at who they actually support,
they`ll throw a token Democrat in here and there.
But with that being said, the power that they have over state legislators,
certainly, members of Congress and certainly members of the Senate. So,
this myth that`s out there, basically, you`re saying you either vote for us
or we come against you and you lose, which if you saw in the last election,
I know that Mayor Bloomberg, you know, he decided he was going to go one
more step on trying to reduce gun violence.
And he went after a Republican or a Democrat, and took the other challenger
and gave them money. I think he`s -- I personally believe Mayor Bloomberg
is going to be a force in the future.
HAYES: We had Howard Wolfson here who`s one of the strategists who is part
of that. He`s going to join us in a second, but here`s my question about
the NRA. You know, it becomes this -- the NRA becomes this behemoth in
imagination of liberals, or say, of gun control advocates. The NRA is all
powerful. And I wonder how much that helps the NRA themselves.
I mean, if it`s almost everybody is complicit in saying that -- and the NRA
wants you to think they`re powerful and gun control advocates will tell you
how powerful the NRA is and is there a kind of self-fulfilling prophesy
about the power of the NRA?
MCCARTHY: Well, in my opinion, there is, because if you actually look at
the courts across this country where you have a number of lawyers that take
pro bono, going into court, fighting some of the things that the NRA, going
on in local issues, we`re winning on that side. That never gets sent to
MCCARTHY: So, again, you know, it`s this myth out there. When the sUPREME
court came out and said a person had a right to own a gun, I`m saying to
myself, OK, that issue is off the table now. You have the right to own a
MCCARTHY: If you look at any literature that the NRA puts out or any e-
mails that they put out. What does it say? They`re coming to take your
MCCARTHY: So, you have people that don`t follow a subject as closely as
some of us we do. And so, everybody out there, hunters, especially, even
our police officers across the country think they`re going to take their
HAYES: But is it -- you know, America has a gun issue (ph) rate that
almost twice the next highest country, number two is Yemen, number three is
Switzerland. Switzerland is declining. Switzerland, of course, mandates
that its male citizens have --
HAYES: -- from its well-regulated militia days.
HAYES: Yemen is not a place that American policymakers look to emulate in
other contexts. Is it -- I mean, I think there are people who say, no,
it`s not the NRA, it`s that Americans like guns. It`s a deep part of our
culture. And you, you people who want to regulate guns, your problem isn`t
with this industry. Your problem is with the American people.
Your problem is with democracy. Your problem is with a population that
from the very beginning has had this deep affection and strong connection,
culturally to the guns.
MCCARTHY: But I think if you`re actually be able to explain to the
American people, what am I asking for? Anyone that buys a gun, you have to
go through a background check. The majority of NRA members actually
believe that, because they know that there are, you know, honest citizens,
most of them are hunters and sportsmen.
MCCARTHY: If you look at --
HAYES: Right now, we should say that the gun show loophole so-called means
that I think 40 percent, if I`m not mistaken, 40 percent of purchased guns
go -- are purchasded without a background check.
MCCARTHY: Absolutely. And then, with not even counting what the store
purchases might be which happened, unfortunately, with Columbine. So, I
mean, there`s precedence here on what we need to do. You know, terrorists
can go on to a plane, but -- a banned from getting on a plane, rather, but
they can buy a gun.
MCCARTHY: Where do you see the balance of that? So, when you think about
what the NRA has been pushing the legislators to do. Last two weeks ago,
Senator Coburn went on to the House floor saying it was a disgrace that we
were stopping veterans from being able to get their guns. What he didn`t
explain was these are veterans that basically have been adjudicated through
the Veterans Administration to be incompetent.
MCCARTHY: That somebody was -- but he wanted them to be able to have their
HAYES: I want to have some other people join the conversation, because I
want to talk about the politics of this which are tricky and talk about how
we might see a change in the political landscapes. We`re also awaiting a
press conference in Newtown, Connecticut. We may be hearing from authority
The president called for meaningful action to stop tragedies like this.
What that should look like, next.
HAYES: Good morning from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. Here with New York
City deputy mayor, Howard Wolfson, Esther Armah of WBAI FM`s Wake-Up Call,
Jackie Hilly, and Democratic congresswoman, Carolyn McCarthy, of New York.
If you`re just joining us, we are awaiting the press conference from police
officials in Newtown, Connecticut, the site of the mass shooting. We will,
of course, bring that to you live when it does happen.
I just had a conversation with the congresswoman about the politics of
guns. And, Howard, I`m very happy to have you at the table because Mayor
Bloomberg made quite a bit of news in this last election cycle, in which he
used some of his personal money to start a super PAC, I believe, and spend
money on candidates specifically on the gun issue, and made the
intervention in the California.
Tells us about that race, what happened, and what the thinking is there.
DEPUTY MAYOR HOWARD WOLFSON (D), NEW YORK CITY: Well, the mayor has long
been fighting for sensible policy in this country. He started an
organization called Mayors Against Illegal Guns that now has over 500
mayors around the country. And so this is an issue that he`s very
He became very frustrated and angry during the presidential campaign, that
this was not an issue that either of the candidates was addressing. We
talked about that in one of the early segments. And after the debates in
which the answers were so lackluster, he decided that he was going to take
action on his own and start a super PAC, and spend money to influence
policy around this issue.
So, he -- we, identified candidates who had been A-rated by the NRA, who we
saw as potentially vulnerable, running against people who would do a better
job if they were elected. And we spent over $10 million to influence those
And the particular race you ask about, long time incumbent Congressman Joe
Baca from California --
HAYES: Who set next to you, Congresswoman?
REP. CAROLYN MCCARTHY (D), NEW YORK: For years.
WOLFSON: A Democrat, who was an A-rated, dependable NRA voting member,
running against a California legislator, in a somewhat redrawn district.
It was not on anybody`s radar screen. When we went in and polled, both
candidates were like 30 percent.
HAYES: This is a primary challenge?
WOLFSON: No, in California they have nonpartisan elections so two
Democrats can be in the race against each other.
HAYES: Right, right. Right.
WOLFSON: We polled the race. They`re both at 30 percent, redrawn
district, nobody really knows either one of them, neither one has the money
to go on television in the Los Angeles media market. And we said this is a
perfect opportunity to go in and make a strong statement about what could
happen if you vote with the NRA.
We spent over $2 million on that race. And Joe Baca was defeated.
And you talked earlier about the narrative in Congress. The perception in
Congress after 1994, that if you voted against the NRA, you`d lose your
And I think that the congresswoman is exactly right. That myth has taken
hold. And it`s one of the ways that the NRA has kind of had a stranglehold
on Congress, on this policy, this issue.
We wanted to change that story. We wanted to make it clear to members of
Congress that there could be a price to pay if you voted with the NRA.
WOLFSON: And, you know, I know that Joe Baca has gone back and talked to
all his colleagues about why he lost. And I hope he tells everybody in
America why he lost. He lost because he voted consistently with the NRA.
He lost because he was out of step with his district on that issue, and he
lost because people finally learned about the bad votes he had taken -- not
just on that issue, but other issues as well.
And, you know, the mayor said this is a model for how he wants to approach
this issue going forward.
HAYES: One of the interesting things --
MCCARTHY: And, by the way, he`s absolutely right. Because the first day
that we came back after the election, he came up to me, and he said, "I
lost my election because of Mayor Bloomberg." And I said, "It`s not like I
hadn`t warned you. I said to you for years, we sat next to each other.
Background checks, why can`t you sign on to this simple piece of
legislation? Everybody should be able to go through a background check."
So I hope that -- certainly, I support the mayor in going after the
Republicans and Democrats in trying to make a difference.
JACKIE HILLY, NEW YORKER AGAINST GUN VIOLENCE: I was just going to say, I
think one of the interesting things that happened in that race and other
races, the mayor has been an independent voice, backed up by other elected
officials who are similarly situated in issues.
So, I think he`s bringing ahead a coalition of people that deal with gun
violence every day, law enforcement, domestic violence community. It`s
really what we were talking about before in the green are room, the people
of the country are starting to realize. But the mayor has done a great job
of putting a voice to that on a national scale, which no one else has done.
HAYES: Jackie, you worked for -- you run New Yorker Against Gun Violence.
I just for the sake of disclosure, my father is on the board of your
organization, I`ve given you guys money. That`s on the table. Obviously,
I support what you do.
One thing that I thought was interesting about the Baca race, and I think
this is an interesting -- this is an interesting fact about where the NRA
is headed and how it might be opening itself up to vulnerability. And let
me tell you, the NRA is, of course, not making anyone available to the
press. It`s not like we`re talking about them and they`re not in the room.
They`re not doing press right now.
Baca, even though he had an A-rating, did not get NRA support. They stayed
neutral in the race and part of the reason was he refused to sign on to
some letter about the Fast and Furious pseudo-scandal. And what`s
interesting about that, if their litmus test is do you sign on to this
letter of the Fast and Furious, you`re basically, they`re saying
Republicans only. That was a partisan as it got.
And the NRA`s strength has genuinely bipartisan it`s been, right? I mean,
it really has had a lot of Democrats, a lot of Democratic support. It`s
been able to plausibly support the Democrats in races.
It seems to me -- and, Jackie, this is something that you work on, that
they`re moving in a more partisan direction, where you have the Republican
Party and the conservative movement and the NRA stacked up and more tightly
fitting with each other and less genuinely sort of a bipartisan operation.
HILLY: Well, I think at this operation, the state level and national
level, you`ve seen that most of the people have been supported by the NRA
are Republicans and the vast majority who`ve been opposed by the NRA are
Democrats. So -- and they`ve also, one of the reasons that they`ve had
claim to success over the years is they overwhelmingly support incumbents.
Now, we know that incumbents are overwhelmingly --
HAYES: Take that as 97 percent of the election rate, yes.
HILLARY: -- to support an incumbent, you`re pretty likely to get that
person in. But I think what Baca has said, we can turn the tide and make a
difference when people start paying attention to these races that are
suddenly races that people are paying attention to. What are they saying
about gun violence, particularly after an event like this? All of our
elected officials at every level have to talk about gun violence.
HAYES: One of the other aspects of the NRA is that they`re in some cases
victims of their own success. We were talking about this in the green
room, right? I mean, the NRA can`t say, well, we did. You got basically
any gun you want.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
HAYES: And gun ownership rate is going basically like this. Democrats
have basically retreated on the issue, so we`re just going to close up our
shop. We`ve got this big thing. We`ve raised money and we`ve got all this
staff. So, we`re just going to close up shop and declare victory.
No, they got to -- they have to keep justifying their existence. So, what
happens is it leads them towards finding more and more obscure issues.
I mean, there`s this law in Florida. This is my favorite example. Rick
Scott signed this law in Florida banning physicians from asking about gun
storage in the house, just as a public safety method, because some NRA
members were asked by their, I think, pediatrician about how they`re
storing their guns. They were offended. They went to the NRA.
The NRA said, oh, this is an issue we can deal with. Now, this is really -
- we are really in the weeds here, it`s not a big issue for most gun owners
in America, probably. And yet, that`s the place you have to go to pick a
fight successfully, at the NRA.
MCCARTHY: But the background on that basically is, that came from the
Centers for Disease Control looking on how can we reduce homicides and
children actively being shot. Ad the pediatricians said, we have found in
our studies that by just talking to the parents --
MCCARTHY: -- do you have a gun? And if you have a gun, what precautions
are you taking to keep that gun out of the hands out of their children or
someone that might do themselves harm, a teenaged son?
So, when that came out, that`s how far they`re willing to go.
HAYES: In 2008, 2009, twice as many pre-age school children were killed by
guns than law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.
HAYES: A hundred seventy-three pre-age school children. And that`s a
pretty interesting stat.
I want to talk about some of the legislative initiatives on the table and
the president`s comment yesterday which seemed to signal perhaps a new
willingness to take on this issue -- right after this break.
HAYES: Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked about
guns in the wake of the news of the shooting in Newtown. And then
President Obama addressed it somewhat obliquely as well. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As a country, we have been
through this too many times. Whether it`s an elementary school in Newtown
or a shopping mall in Oregon or a temple in Wisconsin or a movie theater in
aurora, or a street corner in Chicago -- these neighborhoods are our
neighborhoods. And these children are our children. And we`re going to
have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies
like this, regardless of the politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The thing that caused me as most significant about that was the
"street corner in Chicago" line, because that was a way of saying it`s not
just these mass shootings that get a lot of attention. It`s the daily gun
deaths in this country.
ESTHER ARMAH, WBAI.ORG: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think what he`s
speaking to is this endemic culture of violence that has been created that
normalizes the ways in which guns are used, but that we have this very
specific attention on the mass shootings. And -- I mean, how can you not
when there are babies who are 5 years old being killed.
And then I think about Lloyd Walton (ph), who`s a little 4-year-old black
boy who was killed when he was enjoying watching his game of basketball, as
he did on his stoop, and some younger teenagers started shooting and he`s
now dead. And he`s 4. No major press team turned up on his door and now
his mother will never see her child again. And so, for many mothers,
that`s the conversation.
I think part of the challenge politically, though, after Wisconsin, after
Aurora, and now after Newtown, President Obama has made statements about
the time to take meaningful action.
The point is, when does the conversation about meaningful action become
meaningful action? At what point does -- you know, the sentence most
haunting for me was regardless of the politics, because in that sentence is
an ocean of a tsunami of drama.
HAYES: Right, right.
ARMAH: Because it`s the politics that has paralyzed our motion when it
comes to policy.
HAYES: Well, also, I mean, were you: (a) were you cheered -- cheered is
the wrong word -- were you encouraged by the president`s state yesterday?
MCCARTHY: You know, I was encouraged only because the tone seemed a little
bit different. The tone was even different than after he spoke about Gabby
Giffords, his tone was a slightly different after Aurora. So that`s where
I`m going on it.
I have to say, you know, earlier in the day when the press conference -- or
I should say when this press person came out and said today was not the day
to talk about it. I mean, I was on the phone to the White House like you
couldn`t believe, mainly because, when do we take about it then? We`ve
been talking about this, talking about this. I`m tired of talking about
this. This is when action has to be taken.
HILLY: I agree with what Esther said, too. We`ve been talking about,
talking about it for too long.
HILLY: I mean, nobody has really taken any action. There`s nothing wrong
with people taking action. We have bills on the table. We have action
that can be taken.
HAYES: OK. So, what action would you like to see taken?
HILLY: I`d like to see gun checks to be passed.
HAYES: Explain that.
HILLY: OK. So it has a lot of really good things in it. Right now, we
are checking 60 percent of the sales of guns in this country, and not the
other 40 percent. So that`s like saying in the airline industry, we`re
only going to check 60 percent of the planes flying, the rest of you, you
know, whatever happens, happens.
That`s what the system that we`re dealing with. We`re allowing 40 percent
of the guns to go unchecked. So that`s the thing that addresses. It says
let`s check all gun sales, no matter where they happen, no matter what kind
of guns they are.
HAYES: That`s fine because the people -- the people who -- gun advocates
are going to say, in this case, we had three weapons in a state with
relatively strict gun laws. All legally purchased, registered to the
mother. So, you guys have your own -- you`re coming with your prepackaged
solutions, which is to crack down on the laws, even though the facts in the
case, as we know them, don`t manifest themselves as things that would have
WOLFSON: But let`s talk about that child in Chicago who I`m sure was shot
by an illegal handgun. And let`s talk about the vast bulk of the murders
in this country that occur with illegal weapons.
And if we want to do something about that, if we want to say that that
little girl, that little boy, that child matters, regardless of the
circumstances around their shooting, what we`re going to do is pass
legislation to ensure that every transfer, every sale of a weapon, goes
through a check.
MCCARTHY: And you have to understand something -- you know, people fall
into this trap because you`re saying the same thing.
MCCARTHY: We cannot save every single person. We can`t. You know, let`s
be realistic about it.
But that should not prevent us, you know, it`s like saying you have cancer,
we can`t do anything about it. Well, that`s not true. There are
medications out there that can help. Are we going to stop because this
person can`t be helped?
It`s the same with gun violence. That`s why I said earlier, we need to
have that open conversation. Maybe in this case, there might not have been
anything that we could have done.
MCCARTHY: But do they have the large magazines? And I think the question
to bear is, to be very honest with you, why did the mother have these
particular guns? Those aren`t usually the kind of guns you would have to
HAYES: Yes. I should say that two of them are handguns, semi-automatic.
A Glock and a Sig Sauer, and then I think the third one. It`s very unclear
if it was found in the car or on the scene, is a rifle that is designed and
sold for military use.
HAYES: Used in Iraq and Afghanistan.
ARMAH: And that goes to the point of culture. And the cultures of
violence and masculinity that has made domestic spaces into battlegrounds.
So this young man went in. They talked about he was dressed as if he was
in a battlefield in a kindergarten school. So there`s a combination of
conversations on gun control as one.
HAYES: And people will say to me -- this, to me, I think is a really
important comparative chart. Because America, there`s two things at play
here when we`re talking about gun violence in America. There`s the
violence and there`s the guns, right?
And America has, like I said before, it`s a gun ownership rate is
approaching one to one, right? That we have as many guns in the country as
citizens. At a certain point in the near future, probably, 2014, one is
going to overtake the other, right?
HILLY: Can I stop you right there before we go with that myth?
HILLY: Because that`s a myth that we have 300 million people in the
country and 300 million guns. They are not owned by most people.
HAYES: Right. Forty-seven percent, right.
HILLY: Actually, the individual ownership has been declining in this
country in all categories among men, women, rural. Everybody is
So, another question for us where are those multiple guns going? Are they
going more and more to smaller numbers of people?
HAYES: Explain that again, because I want to make sure I`m understanding
this. Hold on one second.
We`re going to take a break.
HAYES: And then I want you to explain that because I think that`s a really
crucial point for people to understand.
HAYES: Jackie Hilly from New Yorker Against Gun Violence, you`re making a
really important point about guns in this country, which is I was making
the point that the number of guns in the country have been increasing and
they are set to outpace the number of people.
And you were saying what in response?
HILLY: Well, I think basically, that is one of the NRA myths because it
implies that everybody in the country wants a gun or has a gun. But it`s
really not true.
In a survey that was done within the last six months of gun owners and
they`re self-describing, gun ownership is on the decline in this country as
an individual matter in every category. Men are owning fewer.
HAYES: So, a fewer percentage of men own guns?
HILLY: Yes, and women. And it has gone down pretty dramatically in the
last few years.
So, the myth that everybody wants a gun, has a gun, needs a gun --
HAYES: So that data would suggest there are more and more guns
concentrated set of people.
HILLY: Yes, more and more arsenals. I think some of the national
incidents that we`ve watched, we have heard about arsenals being built up
HAYES: Mass shootings -- I mean, there`s gun violence, right, and then
there`s mass shootings.
I think one of the points you made, Congresswoman, this gets back to the
point at the tom of the show, right? How are we going to think about
policy based on what the broad parameters of the problem are or specific
horrible, horrible, tragic, iconic incidents? But it is the case that mass
shootings are disproportionately an American event. Over the 20 worst mass
shootings worldwide over the last 50 years, of the 20 worst mass shootings,
11 occurred in the United States. The second highest is Finland with two.
And if you have a feeling that this seems like it`s been happening more of
late, this graph shows you that 2012 is now the worst year for mass
shootings in 30 years with more than 140 injured or killed. And five of
the worse, 10 were in the last five years since 2007.
So, there is -- you know, to the extent we have data on this there seems to
be something going on.
HILLY: So one of the things that that points to, it points to the
instruments that are causing this mass of carnage in our streets. And
since the assault weapons ban was let expire in 2004, the availability of
assault weapons is, you know, robust. You know, almost everywhere.
And with those come the high-capacity magazines. And every one of the mass
shooting that we have seen have involved both -- some kind of an assault
weapon with high-capacity magazine.
HAYES: We don`t know yet about high-capacity magazines in this case, I
HAYES: It`s not been established. I think there are expectations. We
will find out that a high-capacity magazine was used, but we do not know
HILLY: Right, we don`t know that. But the carnage implies there was a
mechanism for delivering that --
MCCARTHY: Rapid delivery.
HILLY: Rapid delivery and --
HAYES: Gun violence in this country, we should note, is very distributed
geographically. Even a number of small -- in an area where I lived in
Chicago, there was not very much in the neighborhoods of Andersonville, in
the north side.
HAYES: No, but we lived in Humboldt Park, on the west side of Chicago.
There`s a tremendous amount of gun violence.
It`s also, regionally, very, very unevenly distributed. In states like
Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, have, have much higher. Nevada, Arizona,
Alaska, much -- much higher rates.
HILLY: But the rates are related to the gun ownership in those states.
HILLY: So, when you look at a state that has weak gun laws and has high
rates of gun ownership, you will find a high rate of death among all
different categories of people and especially police officers. They have
higher rates of death of police officers in those states as well.
So there is a proportionate representation of more guns and injury and
death in the state where you live.
WOLFSON: We may have moved a little too quickly out of the political realm
HAYES: Please, go back, yes.
WOLFSON: And I hope that President Obama does move forward and demonstrate
real leadership around this issue. I don`t think his record as president
has been all that encouraging in this regard. I mean, the only gun
legislation that the president signed is one that made it easier to carry a
weapon in a national park.
So that is not from my perspective a great track record on this issue while
he`s been president. And it`s time, I think, for him and for members of
Congress to really step forward and say, there is a problem. This is an
increasing problem, as your chart showed. And we must do something to
HAYES: Howard, you worked in politics stuff.
HAYES: Political capital is a finite thing. You get to pick so many
fights. You choose which fights you pick.
HAYES: And let`s not pretend this wouldn`t be a fight. Even if we think -
WOLF: It`s a huge fight.
HAYES: A huge fight. And even though we think it`s a more winnable fight
than is often thought, it`s still -- the House Republican Caucus won`t even
extend the debt -- won`t even vote to raise the debt ceiling. Do you think
they`re going to vote for assault weapons ban?
So, I mean, it seems to me there`s a pragmatic political justification --
I`m partly playing devil`s advocate here -- pragmatic political
justification, which is we only have so many fights we can pick, this one
is that one we`re going to fight?
ARMAH: Well, I think that`s when it becomes about people, because the
entire history of the United States, it`s movements that have moved
politicians to act. Politicians have rarely acted on their own capital, on
their own merit, or even on the narrative where a little physical
So, at this point, whether or not the president acts, the question becomes
what are the people going to do?
HAYES: Right. Then the question becomes, why can`t we get a million
people on the streets of Washington, D.C. when we could 10 years ago? Why
isn`t the movement as vibrant as it once was?
MCCARTHY: Well, you know --
WOLFSON: That`s a good question.
MCCARTHY: I`ll be honest with you, we came home from Washington on
Thursday. Before we left, I had met with my staff, and we were looking
over our agenda, what I plan on doing in the next two years. And I said,
listen, I said, you know, I`m capable of doing two or three things at the
I want -- you know, we passed Dodd-Frank. We`re working on higher
education. The gun issue is coming to the very top of my agenda. To be
very honest with you, my staff is like, why? I said, because I`ve been
fighting this, and I said maybe you don`t have the interest for it, but I`m
going back to my roots.
Why did I run for Congress? I said, I can`t take -- and every one of you
know this -- I cannot take these kind of killings, I cannot. Then the next
morning, this happens, this shooting.
So if anything has resolved me. I said to Howard a little bit earlier, I
said, I was going to call you next week because I wanted to talk to Mayor
Bloomberg. I wanted to see what we can do to push this issue even further.
And I will say, yes, the chances are slim. But if you look what the
president can do. And actually do what an awful lot of NRA members want to
do, strengthening the background checks, closing the gun show loophole.
This is what NRA members want to do.
So, I mean, I think that`s something that we can look at.
WOLFSON: To President Obama`s credit, I think he showed unbelievable
courage when he passed health care reform.
WOLFSON: I mean, you know, all the pollsters said this is about issue,
people are going to lose their seats. He felt strongly enough about it
that he did it. And he got it through. This is another issue that is
crying out for presidential leadership. And I think the president needs to
follow through on what he has said.
HAYES: Jackie, I want you to answer this question, though, about the
movement, because it has been in certain periods a very powerful movement.
I don`t think it`s wrong to say it`s relatively less powerful now than it
was before. I want you to explain that right after we take this break.
HAYES: We are awaiting a press conference from police authorities in
Newtown, Connecticut, with the latest updates on the aftermath of the mass
shooting there that killed 20 children, six adults -- seven adults total,
and the shooter, a total of 28.
We`re talking about gun control and its political prospects.
MCCARTHY: Can I just ask you?
HAYES: Yes, please.
MCCARTHY: I`ve been trying to do this for 16 years.
MCCARTHY: We were actually told about gun safety issues, not gun control.
HAYES: Yes. Interesting.
MCCARTHY: I`ve always felt that way, we`re using the word "control" as if
we`re trying to control everybody into our mindset. That`s not what we`re
trying to do. We`re trying to have gun safety issues out there so
hopefully we can save lives which I personally believe is a national health
care crisis. So maybe I`m talking about --
HAYES: No, no, that makes sense. I think when you talk about -- I mean, I
think there`s actually really interesting research on this, about how --
when you poll people on this issue, they`re very suggestible, depending on
the frame. When you talk about in terms of rights, people have a strong
attachment to rights. When you talk about safety, public safety, they`re
much more willing to consider interventions that would reduce harm.
WOLFSON: In New York, it`s part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce
violence and reduce crime.
WOLFSON: I mean, we`re going to set -- we`re on pace, anyway, to set a
record low number of murders in New York City this year. And one of the
ways we`ve done that, is we`ve got really sensible laws around guns. There
are other ways we`ve done that as well.
But you have a continuum of policies that is aimed at reducing violence and
reducing crime. And this legislation around guns has to be a part of it.
ARMAH: I also want to talk about, once again, the culture of violence,
because I think that every day that there is this kind of prevaricating
around legislation on policy, I think about the legacy of trauma for young
people whom (INAUDIBLE) culture of violence for a traditional masculinity
where all emotionality is channeled through violence, so violence becomes
the revolution of whatever you`re going through and that legacy of that
kind of reality means adding to a culture of violence is literally stitched
into the fabric of what it is to be American.
HAYES: This is -- I want to get back to this, on this gun movement
question. But since you brought this up, this is, I think, a really
important chart for Americans to look at. And this is about violence, not
just specifically guns, violence -- all violence.
This is deaths due to assault in the U.S. versus other developed countries.
And you see, at the bottom are all the OCED countries clustered. So,
basically, every other industrialized country of the 23 countries are all
basically in this narrow band. And there`s one massive outlier -- massive,
massive outlier -- which is the United States.
Now, partly that`s due to the increase in guns. Partly, that`s due to the
fact we are, relative to other places, are a more violent country, in the
amount of violence that we have. And we have -- again, there`s a huge
geographic distribution in terms of places that are intensely violent
places that are much less violent.
Getting back to the question I left on the table before we went to break.
Esther talked about the fact that nothing is going to happen in national
politics unless there is a grassroots push. What is the state of gun
safety, I`m using the congresswoman`s term now -- a successful intervention
you made. What is the state of the gun safety movement now, why is it not
as strong as it once was?
HILLY: Well, I think when we talk about the gun state and the million mom
march goes to Washington, there was a really big push based upon political
events that had happened -- people being killed, and laws being enacted.
And then the Democrats walked away, as you talked about in an earlier
segment, from the issue of gun violence and blamed defeats on our issue of
And I think, now, it`s coming back, because there is a movement of people.
There`s occupied Wall Street, there are other people who are starting to
express the values that will bring us back to the place that we should be
in discussing gun violence because it really is a safety and health issue.
And it particularly impacts our public spaces.
So, I feel like it`s --
HAYES: Because the -- I want to put you on the cause and effect there. I
mean, why wasn`t -- if it was citizen mobilization that pushed this issue,
why was leadership moving away from the issue so devastating to citizen
HILLY: I think that citizen mobilization, there are many people who look
at gun violence as a distant issue because it`s not portrayed accurately,
for one thing. We sort of touched upon and passed the suicide issue.
HAYES: Yes, let me put that stat up. More deaths this year, we might have
more deaths this year, injuries from firearms than motor vehicle accidents.
They`re pretty very close to each other.
HILLY: Yes, for the first time.
HAYES: For the first time. And you wanted to make a really important
point that 32,000. That`s a big number, 32,000 people died from firearms.
HILLY: OK. So the point that I think most Americans don`t know is that
year after year, the overwhelming majority of people who died by guns died
by suicide. If you take the statistic of 32,000 people, usually 18,000
people are killing themselves. A lot of these high-profile mass shootings
aren`t mass. They`re really murder/suicides.
HILLY: So the other number is 11,000 which are homicides. That`s the
number that we always hear about. That`s the number that`s always
associated with communities of color. And that`s the number that most
people think about.
And then there`s a couple thousand that are unintentional, you know,
shootings or police interventions. So I think there`s a massive amount of
misinformation about how people are dying by guns.
And, frankly, there`s a lot we can do. Harvard School of Public Health and
Bloomberg School down at Johns Hopkins do a lot of work on the public
health approach to gun violence. Trying to intervene where there are
suicides with people.
HAYES: And one of the things we know about suicide via firearm, is that
it`s incredibly lethal, compared to other methods which are unsuccessful.
And the other thing we know about suicides is that if someone attempts
suicide and fails, there`s a very, very good chance that could be their
only attempt. And they`re successful intervention.
So, if you do not give people an easy way to end their own life, there`s
tremendous hope in treating someone who has a problem. If a firearm is
near and is accessible, the odds are extremely high they`re going to be
successful in taking their own life, and, of course, there`s no second
chance for intervention.
We are awaiting a live press conference from police authorities in Newtown,
Connecticut at this moment. We will bring you that live, of course.
More on this, right after the break.
HAYES: We are discussing gun violence right now in the wake of the
horrific, horrific shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, which we know -- we
don`t know that much about. I should actually restate.
We know the shooter`s name, Adam Lanza. It`s been confirmed that he killed
himself. That he killed his mother. That he drove to the school where we
think -- where it`s been reported that she had worked and that at the
school, he killed 20 children and six adults.
That he did so with three guns that were apparently legally purchased and
registered to his mother, two of which were handguns, one of which was a
rifle. That`s about all we know I would say at this point.
We are talking about gun violence because this is the worst year for mass
shootings in 30 years. Now with the total, we already had Aurora this
year. And what can be done politically in the wake of it.
You have legislation -- the legislation that Jackie referred to before that
would essentially close this loophole on background checks. There`s some
other provisions to legislation that you proposed, that you`ve authored,
that can be -- that`s sitting in the House right now. What are they?
MCCARTHY: Well, basically, we want -- to be very honest with you, we got a
bill passed back -- after Virginia Tech. President Bush at that time
signed where the courts adjudicate somebody that`s mentally ill or someone
has a felon again them. Or someone, domestic violence, they wouldn`t be
allowed to buy a gun.
But in the basement in courts all over this country are all those files.
Those files need to get on to the computer and into the instant background
check, but it comes down to money. That would be expensive.
HAYES: Can I ask you this question, we were talking about, I think one of
the things that happens is this clash of world views about how to view
guns, right? There`s a certain segment of the population views it as a
right enshrined in the Second Amendment.
In my own part, I believe that Heller is wrongly decided. I think it`s
interpretation of the Second Amendment doesn`t make much sense, both in
historical context and current context. But that`s just me. I`m not a
Supreme Court justice.
People view it as right. Other people view it as a public safety issue.
One of the things I know from being around gun safety activists because my
father is in that world. A lot of those folks are emergency room doctors.
They are people -- they are the kin survivors of victims of gun violence.
And they`ve seen the ravages of it.
Is there a way of squaring the circle between these two, if we were to
approach the gun issue in this country, obviously, there`s a legislative
angle, but also as the way that we approach smoking, the way that we
approached seat belts? Which is as something that we need to undertake a
massive kind of public health cultural campaign.
HAYES: Right? There`s the legal aspect of it, but we`ve actually been
relative successful both through legal means and cultural means of
stigmatizing smoking, of deeply stigmatizing, and also penalizing, not
buckling your seatbelt, right? There`s a legal framework and cultural
Is that what we need? Because it seems to me that the stuff that we`re
talking about, even with yours, a little bit at the margins when we`re
talking about the size of the problem we have, that the gun ownership rate
in the U.S., compared to the next highest country, which is almost double,
right? That if we`re really serious about the dramatic reduction in guns
and gun violence in this country, we need something much bigger and more
comprehensive than the kinds of relatively small bits of legislation that`s
HILLY: So you`re really describing the public health approach to gun
violence, which is a very important part of our discussion. And if you
just look at the suicide part of it, there public health models out there
that say, look, most people who have suicide ideation and been depressed,
seek mental help in some way or make some part of their depression evident.
So, where are those points of entry? And a lot of sometimes, they are
points of entry in hospitals and sometimes they are public hospitals. So
you can put a program in a hospital that would, if they see a man coming in
who just lost his job, and the people who kill themselves are in a very are
specific age category group. They are young males who are between the ages
of like 15 and 20. And they`re older males between the ages of 55 and 65.
So you can set up a protocol, where people discussed with them and said,
you know, do you have guns in your home? Which is what the pediatricians
are trying to do.
HAYES: In Florida, it was pled to Rick Scott, signing a bill banning these
kinds of questions.
HILLY: Right. So, having that kind of open discussion about whether or
not you`re at greater risk because you those guns easily available, and
perhaps taking them away at the time. Without saying anything about the
ownership and what you`re doing with them, take them away because they`re a
risk factor and somebody killing themselves.
ARMAH: I think about -- what you do about the gun safety movement, the
point of that goes to strategic coalitions and using the examples of
history so there exists models to legislate behavior. Seat belts is an
example. Smoking is an example.
And so, with gun safety, irrespective of perspective, we can adopt the same
models. And part of it is around shaming and stigma in order to secure the
many, because when we talk about homeland security and domestic terrorism,
children -- so many children do not feel secure.
ARMAH: You talk about African-American children, children of color, young
boys and young girls, young girls become victims of violence inflicted by
young boys. And young boys are victims of the culture of violence that
channel everything and make violence such an accessible and natural
response to anything.
ARMAH: So that becomes a huge, how do you tackle it. But we have models
that exist that have worked.
HAYES: I want to ask you folks of the panel, what you now know that you
didn`t know at the beginning of the week, what you have learned in watching
this unfold, right after we take this break.
HAYES: We are being advised that within moments, we believe that the
police authorities in Newtown, Connecticut, will be giving a press
conference to give the latest updates on what is known about the tragic,
horrific shooting there yesterday.
In the interim, if we go to that right out of this, of course, Melissa
Harris-Perry will take over the coverage on the other side of that. But
for now, I want to go around the table and ask you, Howard Wolfson, after
watching this unfold in the awful, awful last 24 hours, and what do you now
WOLFSON: Well, we have reached a tipping point on this issue. I think
that the conversation that has ensued since the shooting is fundamentally
different than the national conversation that occurred after similar
incidents over the last few years, and I think that there is much more of a
will and a willingness on the part of policy makers and the American public
to do something legislatively around this issue.
HAYES: How much is the mayor prepared to spend on this?
WOLFSON: Well, I have not talked to him about a number. He spent $10
million in the last election and described it as dipping his toe in the
water. He is passionate about this issue. He believes it is vital to the
nation`s future, and vital to the future of the city he leads, and he
remains very, very committed to it.
HAYES: Esther Armah?
ARMAH: I am now more convince odd of the power of movements to come
together for the kind of strategic coalitions to make what you said real.
And that absent the clear political cowardice of Democrats and the
paralysis of the Republicans because of the NRA lobby that the people step
forward, making the kind of strategic coalitions that make movements as has
been demonstrated throughout America`s entire history.
HILLY: I think what I`ve learned this week is that nobody in this country
ever wants to wake up again and find out that 20 kids have been killed in
their classrooms by someone who has mental health issues and that we are
ready to address that issue now. We should have a conversation and then
really take purposeful steps.
HAYES: Yes. I think we should skip the conversation, just start on the
action, and that is what is going to force us to debate it, right?
HAYES: I mean, if you have a legislative initiative that`s what -- it`s
not that -- the way that it works is you don`t have conversation and then
you have some sort of political initiatives. Political initiatives are
what stir a debate, right?
HAYES: The most intense debate we had was in the Affordable Care Act
process, right? That`s what makes debate happen.
HILLY: Right. So we should pay attention to the choices that we have out
there in terms of policy and changing things and start doing something.
MCCARTHY: You know, the elections were just over a few weeks ago and a lot
of people would say, you know, during the election, we are so happy that
you are there, and that has only renewed my faith in the American people
that we can change this culture of gun violence. I pledge to myself the
day after the election that I was going to still continue to do everything
I could, because the pain that is out there, I`m going to approach it as I
always have in my life as a nurse, being practical about it, and holding a
hopefully a lot of my congressional members` hands, because they need to be
MCCARTHY: And try to get something done. And, certainly, I will be on the
forefront of bugging the White House.
HAYES: My thanks to the New York City Deputy Mayor Howard Wilson. We`re
going to have back on to talk about stop and frisk and some other aspects
of the mayor`s policy on this issue I love to talk about.
Esther Armah of WBAI-FM`s "Wake-Up Call", Jackie Hilly of New Yorkers
Against Gun Violence, Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, thank you
so much for taking so much time this morning, under this condition. I
really do appreciate.
Thanks for getting UP. Thank you for joining us today for UP. Join us
tomorrow, Sunday at 8:00. I`ll have Ezra Klein of "The Washington Post"
and columnist David Sirota.
Coming up next is "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY". And on today`s "MHP", Melissa
will have the latest on the horrific gun violence in Connecticut, including
that news conference we`re expecting, what authorities know now and what we
as a country can do moving forward to prevent such tragedies in the future.
That`s "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY" coming up next.
We`ll see you right here tomorrow at 8:00. Thank you for getting UP.
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