December 17, 2012
Guests: John Yarmuth; Joe Courtney; Dana Milbank; Colin Goddard, Brandon Dillon, Michelle Cotter, Douglas Brinkley
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Thanks, Chris. And thanks to you
for tuning in.
Tonight`s lead, we will have to change. The president`s solemn words
last night addressing a town in mourning and a nation in grief. The
question to all of us is if we don`t change now, then when do we change?
Today, Newtown laid to rest two 6-year-olds, killed in Friday`s last
shooting. And as we see the funerals of 25 more victims in the coming
days, we all have to ask ourselves, are we going to accept countless more
images like this, scores of parents burying their children, kissing lives
good-bye simply because we didn`t have the courage or the will to forge a
solution. The answer cannot be no. This country, be our reality. We have
to be better than that. And that`s what the president urged last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we say that we`re
truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they
deserve to live out their lives and happiness and with purpose.
I`ve been reflecting on this the last few days. And if we`re honest
with ourselves, the answer is no. We`re not doing enough. And we will
have to change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: We will have to change. With political will power, we can.
Senator Diane Feinstein vowed today to introduce gun legislation at the
start of the next Congress. The bill would ban the sale, transfer and
importation of assault weapons. And would also prohibit high-capacity
magazines, like the ones used in Newtown. There will be those who say such
legislation will be impossible to pursue. That the country won`t be able
to get it done. But there are already signs that this time is different.
Prominent pro-gun Democrats knight senator Joe Manchin and Mark Warner
say this tragedy have changed their positions. Both senators have "a"
ratings from the NRA. Senator Manchin famously used a rifle to shoot
legislation in one campaign ad. But that was before Newtown. Today, he
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Never before have we seen our
babies slaughtered. It`s never happened in America that I can recall ever
seeing this type of carnage. Anybody. Anybody that lives in America,
anybody that`s a proud gun owner, anybody that`s a proud member of the NRA.
They`re also proud parents and proud grandparents. They understand. This
has changed, where we go from here. Everything has to be on the table and
I think it will be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Now is the time, not months from now, not years from now,
but now. Martin Luther King, Jr. once says change does not roll in on the
wheels of inevitability but comes through continuous struggle. It will be
a struggle to get gun laws changed. But that doesn`t mean we shouldn`t
fight for it.
Joining me now is congressman Joe Courtney, Democrat from Connecticut
and Congressman John Yarmuth, Democrat from Kentucky.
Thank you both for coming on the show tonight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Let me start with you, Congressman Courtney, the tragedy
happened in your home state. What will we be able to get done? When will
we get meaningful gun legislation for those victims.
REP. JOE COURTNEY (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, again, last night, the
president laid out the challenge to our country. I think he very
powerfully spoke really not just as a political leader, but as a parent
that we are failing the test on protecting not only the people of this
country but our children.
And now the whole world is watching, literally, because they were
watching last night. But the people in that room where I was, the brothers
and sisters of the victims who were there holding stuffed animals, their
parents who, you know, the feeling of bewilderment and grief and the first
responders and teachers, they expect us to not just let this thing sort of
blow over. We cannot let that happen.
The assault weapon ban which is certainly being talked about a lot, I
voted for that when I was in the state legislature and prepare to do that
again. But there are, frankly, other issues that we need to look at in
terms of ammunition availability and mental health recordkeeping so we have
a workable data base for background checks.
SHARPTON: And this issue has been screaming for tension all over the
country. But Congressman Yarmuth, you wrote and o-ed today that really,
really grabbed me. Let me just read part of what really got to me. You
said I have been largely silent on the issue of gun violence over the past
six years. And I am now as sorry for that as I am for what happened to the
families who lost so much in the most recent but sadly not isolated
Now, let me just say in fairness, you`ve never been a favorite of the
NRA, but you challenged your own silence, which I think shows a lot of
leadership and I think a lot of leaders around the country need to look in
REP. JOHN YARMUTH (D), KENTUCKY: Well, thank you, Reverend. You
know, as I started thinking over the weekend that the reason these things
die is that we all move onto other things. And we can`t let that do that.
We owe responsibility to our families, whether they`re in Connecticut or
Kentucky or where ever they might be. And we need to make sure that we
continue to speak out, we continue to engage organizations and individuals
around the country who will keep the pressure on legislators to make sure
something happens, keep the pressure on and have teachers and parents from
all over the country and psychologists, ultimately grass roots support will
trump the power of the NRA, however elusory it may be. So, that`s why we
can`t let these things just go away.
And you know, Joe and I are good friends and my heart goes out to all
the people in Connecticut who are agonizing over this. But their agony is
being shared, I`ll guarantee you. We had literally hundreds of phone calls
and letters in my office before noon today asking the Congress to do
something. So I think this is different. And, for one, I`m not going to
be lulled into this acquiescence that we can`t do anything else. We`re
going to do something.
SHARPTON: So you`re saying the way to get this done is grass roots,
people all over the country because this problem of automatic weapons goes
across all lines of region, of demographic demographics, of gender, of
politics. People are feeling this from the urban to the suburban,
YARMUTH: Absolutely. And no one could look at this incredible
tragedy and believe that the answer is to either have every child carry a
gun in their lunchbox or to arm principals or teachers. This is not the
answer. Congress has a responsibility here. Legislatures across the
country have responsibilities. City councils have responsibilities. But
they will move very decisively if they know people are behind them. And
there`s no question that people are behind decisive action now.
SHARPTON: Congressman Courtney, you sat in that room last night and I
know what it is to be among people that have lost something for no reason.
But I couldn`t imagine 20 caskets with 4-year-olds to 10 years old. I went
through that one time this year with a 4-year-old. I mean, when Americans
are seeing children being buried, how does any of us walk away without
feeling compelled to do something, no matter how cynical or no matter how
much we`ve given up?
COURTNEY: When the president did the roll call of the children`s
names and the reaction in the room, I`ve been to a number of funerals in my
day, as well, Reverend. And I`ve never experienced anything as raw and
just agonizing as listening to the response that was happening, again, all
over that auditorium.
You know, I was telling John this morning, I was driving through the
back roads in Connecticut this morning on the way to the airport and I
drove by a number of schools in my district. And at every single one of
them, there was a police cruiser stationed outside the entrance to the
school. It was a plan that the state police and local police did to just
kind of reassure parents and children on the first day after this horrible
But it really, in a way, also shows how inadequate. We can`t turn
schools into fortresses. That`s just not a solution. And we`ve got to
have a much broader, more meaningful solution to this problem which, again,
the president laid out the challenge. Now we`ve got to act.
SHARPTON: And the people have to act. Congressman Courtney, 54
percent of those polls by "the Washington Post" support stricter gun laws.
Fifty nine percent supports a ban on high capacity ammunition clips, 52
percent support a ban on semi-automatic handguns.
There are about 10 laws that Congress could pass right now to deal
with the gun problem. Everything from gun trafficking to better regulation
gun shows to stopping online ammunition sales. What`s what`s holding them
up? What is holding Congress up?
COURTNEY: Well, again, I think right now we were just talking to one
of our leaders, off-camera minute ago about, again, the calendar that we
are looking at with the end of the year. But, you know, the key here is
just to, again, make sure that we quickly go to the leadership of the house
and just say that, you know, we expect that this be dealt with a vote as
soon as possible. Even this week, if it was possible, to bring it up as a
suspension vote. But January 3rd is right around the corner. And I think
that we`re going to see, particularly with some of the new members coming
in, that this issue is going to come flying out of the gate.
SHARPTON: Congressman Yarmuth, we`ve also got to deal with mental
health. But with you coming from Kentucky. You, coming from a state that
it takes courage to stand up, are you ready to help lead this charge?
YARMUTH: Absolutely. You, I said I came to Congress for a number of
reasons. This wasn`t necessarily one of them, but this is now the reason
that I`m in congress, as far as I`m concerned. So, I`m going to do
whatever it takes to lead the charge in my state. I had a Republican
member of the Kentucky delegation today A-rated by the National Rifle
Association tell me the president was right. We need to take meaningful
action. We need to capture that spirit while it still exists and feed that
momentum as much as we can because I think we can get change.
SHARPTON: And this was a Republican colleague from Kentucky?
YARMUTH: Yes, Republican colleague from Kentucky with A-rated from
YARMUTH: And he`s ready to do something. Congressman Joe Courtney
and Congressman John Yarmuth, thank you both for your time tonight.
YARMUTH: My pleasure, Reverend.
COURTNEY: Thanks, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Coming up, conservatives are blaming everything in the
world for gun violence except guns. Mike Huckabee had an explanation that
has a lot of folks scratching their heads.
Plus, think the NRA is all-powerful? Think again. The gun lobby can
be overcome and more and more politicians are talking about it.
And this tragedy has changed a country, but has also changed the
president. We`ll talk about how President Obama himself is looking at gun
violence in a new way with a new determination.
You`re watching "Politics Nation" on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We can`t accept events like this as routine. Are we really
prepared to say that we`re powerless? In the face of such carnage? That
the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence
visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The "Politics Nation" family has been mourning the deaths
of the Sandy Hook`s shooting all weekend.
Today, people had a lot to say about this touching photo of President
Obama holding the granddaughter of the school`s principal who was killed in
Genelle called him the comforter-in-chief.
Richard says he`s a man with a golden heart.
Fifi says the president owes it to that little girl and her slain
grandmother to turn these children`s and teacher`s ashes into a right,
purposeful and just action.
We want you to share your thoughts on this tragic shooting. Please
head over to facebook and search "Politics Nation" and like us to join the
conversation long after the show ends.
SHARPTON: With all the outcry for gun reform since the slaughter
Sandy Hook Elementary school, there`s one voice that`s been
uncharacteristically quiet, the National Rifle Association.
Since Friday morning, the NRA facebook page has been totally
deactivated. The NRA twitter feed has gone silent and the NRA headquarters
reportedly shut down its switchboard Friday and didn`t return e-mails for
comment. In fact, the only thing the NRA has said is that it won`t say
anything. Spokesman said quote "until the facts are thoroughly, NRA will
have any comment. That`s exactly what they said after the tragic shootings
at an Aurora movie theater this summer that left 12 people dead. The NRA`s
silence at this critical moment is shameful and telling. And more and
more, politicians are calling them out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: This myth that the NRA can
destroy political careers is just not true. There`s this myth that the NRA
is so powerful, you go back to what happened when the Democrats lost after
the assault weapons ban, I don`t know that the two are connected then. But
today, the NRA`s power is so vastly over rated. The public, when you do
the polls, they want to stop polls. They want to stop this carnage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The American people do want to stop the carnage. The NRA
may not be talking. But we`ll all have to make them listen.
Joining me now is Colin Goddard from the Brady campaign and gun
violence. He`s also a survivor from the Virginia tech shooting in 2007
when he was shot four times by a lone gunman who killed 32 people. And
Dana Milbank, columnist from "the Washington Post."
Thank you both for being here tonight.
DANA MILBANK, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Hi, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Colin, let me go to you first. Is mayor Bloomberg right?
Is the NRA`s power vastly overrated.
COLI GODDARD, THE BRADY CAMPAIGN: Absolutely. The NRA is an emperor
with no close. You can look back at this past election we just had. The
amount of millions of dollars they spent in races across the country and
they have nothing really to show for it. Ask senator elect Tim Kane from
Virginia what he thinks about the NRA? They swung hard at that man and
he`s coming to D.C. next year, you know. This realized that the NRA is not
the all-powerful lobby that everyone thinks it was. We`re realizing that
any special interest is not as powerful as the American people who come
together and make their voices heard and get out raged. And that`s what
we`ve seen. It`s been overwhelming, the response we`ve had, from
Republicans and progressives and from everyone across this country.
Because when you see images like that of little kids, that shakes your
humanity, no matter who you are. No one wants to see that.
And now, we`re realizing that we`ve got to no longer do what`s in the
best interest of a lobby and industry but what`s in the best interest of
every single one of us.
SHARPTON: Now Dana, what is going on with that? I mean, it is true
that the NRA has not shown that it`s invisible. In fact, they spent $16.5
million on the November elections. Only 0.81 percent of that money back
winning candidates. So what is the real score cards, Dana?
MILBANK: Well, I think a lot of Republicans, particularly House
Republicans are terrified of the NRA because they`re worried if they make
one false move, they`ll end up with a primary challenge.
But that`s not really where the power is in this situation here. The
NRA is following a very familiar script and that is to just go dark and be
quiet. Let it blow over. And then start the lobbying when -- you know, a
few weeks later when there`s the inevitable effort for gun control. That`s
why I`m a little concern when I hear President Obama saying, you know, in
the coming weeks, this is the time when the NRA is back on its heels. You
really need to press the case now and not wait for them to regain the
stranglehold over that they had over so many members that particularly
House Republicans in Congress.
SHARPTON: No, I think that`s a legitimate concern. Today, majority
leader Harry Reid talked about the conversation that has to happen about
gun control. Let me play you, Senator Reid, Colin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: No one can receive them. No
policy can determine a madman from committing a senseless act of violence.
But we need to accept the reality that we`re not doing enough to protect
our citizens. The coming days and weeks, we`ll engage in a meaningful
confers and thoughtful debate to change our culture and allow this White
House to continue to grow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Isn`t that true that in the coming weeks that we need to
use the coming hours, this window open now, Colin, where America is seeing
the most despicable, and, in my opinion, diabolical act we`ve seen on
children? This many children at one time? That we need to use right now
to move this agenda forward about gun reform, Colin?
GODDARD: Absolutely. Which is why we`ve seen an overwhelming amount
of new people, new supporters, new followers on facebook and twitter. I
mean, our Web Site has crushed multiple times. New people are coming
around the idea that the president said we have to take meaningful action
on this, despite the politics, you know?
I mean, he understands that we`re better than this. That we deserve a
nation that`s better than this for all of us, you know. That`s why we
created we are better than this. This idea that we can do better. That we
don`t have to accept these things as normal anymore, you know. There is a
status quo that no longer is going to remain in this country and it is
going to be because of all of us getting outraged to elected officials
directly giving them space to just step forward on this issue. To be
leaders on this issue that they want to be. And coming together, that`s
how we will see change. That`s how we will have a safer nation for every
single one of us.
SHARPTON: And coming together, because this has been happening in a
lot of cities around the country, now we`re seeing there`s no difference
between the suburbs and the urban areas. Everyone coming together and
even, Dana, when you look at the polling of the NRA membership, they want
Look at a recent poll. Seventy four percent, this is NRA members, 74
percent support background checks on gun owners, 74 percent say concealed
carry permits should only be granted after safety training course, 63
percent say concealed carry permits should only be granted to adults 21 and
over, 75 percent say no concealed carry permits for violent misdemeanor
When you see even their membership, it`s the leadership that seems to
be holding back and sending out the lobbyists, even in the NRA, even their
membership doesn`t reflect the hardened position that some of the
leadership has taken, Dana.
MILBANK: Well, I think that`s right, Reverend. And if anything that
those numbers are going to get substantially worse for the NRA now. And
that`s why you saw people like Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator from
West Virginia and Mark Warner from Virginia, both pro-NRA, pro-gun guys,
saying enough is enough. It`s time for some sensible restrictions here.
It is really hoped a window right now. And I think that`s why speed
is of the essence. Because, you know, there`s a lot of money to be spent
in fighting back against this. But you do have the public`s attention now.
And the public`s attention can definitely outmatch special interest groups
when it`s being concentrated. But once it dissipates, it becomes more
SHARPTON: The senator Feinstein says she`s going to present a bill at
the opening of Congress that would deal with ammunition clips and would
deal with the issues around gun control, assault weapons. Is that fast
enough? Is that hard enough? Is that strong enough, Dana?
MILBANK: Well, look, I mean, people in the White House are saying we
are all focusing on not having tax increases for every American right now.
Christmas is a week away. It would be very difficult to do it right now.
But what we have seen each time in the past is there is all of these good
intentions, and then, for some reason, nothing ever happened. There`s a
lot of noise that this time, finally it`s gone too far. Finally, there`s
going to be some change. But, you know, we`ve seen versions of this movie
before, Reverend, and I wouldn`t be too confident.
SHARPTON: But Colin, those of us that consider ourselves activists
for whatever cause, don`t you think the activists and the grassroots that
want to see change has to keep this in front of the public?
GODDARD: Absolutely. I mean, this is a sustain efforts we need, you
know, we can`t let this issue fall sigh lent. I mean, 32 of us are going
to be murdered tomorrow if tomorrow is an average American day like every
other day, you know. We need to do something that all of us can get
behind. Things that all of us already support. Most of us don`t know that
we don`t have things like background checks on all gun sales. That we sell
military weapons to the general public. People are shocked when they
realize that, you know. When they do, things change.
SHARPTON: Colin, I`m going to have to leave you there. Colin Goddard
and Dana Milbank, thanks for your time tonight.
MILBANK: Thanks, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Still ahead, Mike Huckabee`s stunning comment after the
Sandy Hook tragedy. Why are so many conservatives refusing to admit that
guns are the problem?
And we will look at President Obama`s reaction to the tragedy as a
leader and as a father.
You`re watching "Politics Nation" on MSNBC.
SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICS NATION. Millions of America
watched pro-football players paying tribute on Sunday to the victims of the
shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Six-year-old Jack Pinto was a
big fan of the New York Giants. At his funeral today, he was laid to rest
in a Giant`s jersey. He was also a big fan of New York wide receiver
On Sunday, Victor Cruz tweeted today`s game is for you, Jack. Cruz
played the game with the words Jack pinto, my hero, written on his cleats.
Jack`s classmate Noah Pozner was also laid to rest today. His parents say,
he was a loving boy and was inseparable from his siblings, especially his
twin sister, Ariel who survived the shooting, by the way. There will be
more funerals, more tiny coffins in the days ahead. We must honor their
memory with real change and real solutions. But too many politicians
aren`t getting that message yet. We must make them pay attention. We`ll
talk about that next.
SHARPTON: Americans are now starting to have the big, national
conversation. We need to have about gun safety in this country. For
republican politicians? Not so much.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: A note here this morning, we reached out to all 31
pro-gun right senators in the new Congress to invite them on the program to
share their views on the subject this morning. We had no takers.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I think I should note that we tried to get a
republican from the judiciary committee, but all of the members were either
unavailable or said no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: As for the few Republicans who did want to talk, they
offered bizarre ideas like the solution to gun violence is more guns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: I wish to God that she had an M-4 in
her office locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out and she
didn`t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands, but she takes
him out, takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids.
BILL BENNETT, FORMER REAGAN SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: And I`m not so
sure -- and I`m sure I`ll get mail from this -- I`m not so sure I would
want one person in a school armed, ready for this kind of thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Arming teachers. Is that really where we are in this
country? But in Michigan, Republicans are on the verge of exactly that.
The republican Governor Rick Snyder, is debating whether to sign a new bill
that would allow concealed weapons in churches and schools. GOP lawmakers
passed a bill last week late at night in a lame duck session, literally,
literally just hours before the tragedy at Sandy Hook.
Now, Snyder says, he`ll give the bill quote, "extra consideration."
He says, quote, "What that legislation says will be looked at through the
lens of all that`s happened." The governor seems to understand that
everything is different. What is right wing legislator -- through may not
be acceptable anymore. But is the rest of the GOP ready to listen?
Joining me now is Michigan State Representative Brandon Dillon, the
democrat who spoke out forcefully against this new bill. And Michelle
Cotter, Washington correspondent for The Daily Beast. Thank you both for
MICHELLE COTTER, THE DAILY BEAST: Thanks, Rev.
STATE REP. BRANDON DILLON (D), MICHIGAN: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Representative Dillon, does Governor Snyder think we need
more guns in schools after what happened in Connecticut?
DILLON: Well, I certainly hope not. Up until there`s tragedy in
Connecticut and I want to express my deepest sympathies to all the families
and victims of that. Governor Snyder was also said to sign this bill. He
had negotiated with Republicans in the legislature to sign a bill. The
pass legislature as you said in the wee hours tonight, on Thursday night
that would allow guns in schools, churches and day care centers. I hope
that the governor listens to common sense here and takes this tragedy to
heart and vetoes this bill.
SHARPTON: Michelle, as spokesman for the coalition in Michigan, the
coalition for responsible gun owner says, if you have pistol free zones,
they`re actually mass murder empowerment zones.
COTTER: You know, that would be laughable if it weren`t so sad. I
mean, you can say that this is a bizarre approach and a bizarre reasoning,
but it`s not new. I can`t think of a time that when we haven`t had this
kind of response in the wake of one of these tragedies. You always have
somebody pushing back saying well, if only someone in that area have been
armed, we could have ended this faster and there wouldn`t been so many
casualties. But that just seems about as counter intuitive as you could
look for in terms of actually addressing the issue.
SHARPTON: Now, not only do you have that, Representative Dillon, you
look at the national groups supporting guns in the schools. Larry Pratt,
the executive director of gun owners of America actually said, "Gun control
supporters have the blood of little children on their hands. This tragedy
underscores the urgency of gun control in school zones." If we didn`t have
a gun ban in the school zone in Newtown, I mean, that would have stopped
what this madman did. I mean, what are they -- where is the logic in any
DILLON: Well, there is no logic. It`s a desperate attempt to try to
deflect responsibility for this tragedy squarely where it belongs. And you
know, I don`t think I`ve ever talked to anybody who believes that the
solution to these tragedies that we`ve seen in our schools over the last
few years is to put more guns in schools. I heard that argument driving
over here to the studio and some conservative radio shows and it`s frankly
preposterous to believe that children are going to be safer in their
schools if we allow everybody to carry guns into them.
SHARPTON: Now, Michelle, Mike Huckabee made a statement about, well,
let me play for you the statement that he made about God and the violence
in the schools. Listen to Mr. Huckabee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE, ARKANSAS: We asked why there`s violence in
our schools, but we systematically removed God from our schools. Should we
be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage? Because
we`ve made it a place where we don`t want to talk about eternity, life,
what responsibility means, accountability.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Now, I`m a preacher just like Huckabee, and I believe in
God and prayer. But isn`t this a smoke screen to the issue of guns and
violence? This was not a school issues. This man didn`t attend the
school. This was a gun issue and possibly a mental health issue, Michelle.
COTTER: Any time you have a politician or in this case, ex-politician
bring God or the wrath of God or how we`ve mistreated God into the
discussion, it is a last, desperate and utterly disgusting attempt to skirt
the issues at hand. You know, this is, we used to talk about Jerry Falwell
would get up on his high-horse and talk about how God was letting something
happened because we removed him from our society. Any time that happens,
it is a cowards way out and absolutely reprehensible in this case.
SHARPTON: And I might add that most of all of those that anticipated
in that service last night, clearly this problem is not the belief in God,
the problem is, how we protect God`s children. But talking about going to
other than dealing with the issue Representative Dillon, Mitt Romney,
during the presidential debate, he had a different suggestion on what the
problem was with gun violence. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R), MASSACHUSETTS: Moms and dads helping raise
kids, where ever possible, the benefit of having two parent in the home.
And that`s not always possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads.
But, gosh, to tell our kids that before they had babies, they ought to
think about getting married to someone, that`s a great idea. So, we can
make changes in the way how our culture works to help bring people away
from violence and give them opportunity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Single parent homes tell people to get married.
I come out of a single parent home. Anything other than to deal with
the fact that you`re selling magazines with a hundred rounds of ammunition,
you`re closing mental health centers. Blame it on broken homes.
DILLON: Well, Reverend Sharpton, you`re absolutely right. I mean, I
think there`s an opportunity to have a reasonable discussion about this
issue that respects the rights of those who want to keep and bear arms
respects the second amendment but doesn`t jump to the logical conclusion
that the solution is to have more guns on the street or to blame single
parent homes or to assume that if we just turn our heads, the problem is
going to go away. We need to actually focus on a broad range of solutions
to this problem and not try to scapegoat people or pigeon hole people, make
sound bites and don`t offer any real solutions.
SHARPTON: Michigan State Representative Dillon. Dana Milbank, thank
you -- Michelle Cottle, thank you for your time tonight. Still ahead, this
is the fourth time President Obama has had to lead the nation through a
shooting tragedy. Now he`s responding to the latest incident, next.
SHARPTON: President Obama spoke to the nation last night as a leader,
but also as a father. He began the day in the morning by attending his
daughter, Sasha`s dance recital. He ended the day by meeting the parents
of these tiny victims and asking the nation to stop another tragedy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: We bear responsibility for
every child because we`re counting on everybody else to help look after
ours. That we`re all parents. That they`re all our children. Since I`ve
been president, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a
grieving community torn apart by mass shooting. Fourth time, we`ve hugged
survivors. The fourth time we`ve consoled the families of victims. And in
between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the
country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small
towns and big cities all across America.
Victims whose much of the time their only fault was being in the wrong
place at the wrong time. We can`t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies
must end. And to end them, we must change. In the coming weeks, I`ll use
whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens from law
enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators. In an
effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. Because what choice
do we have? We can`t accept events like this as routine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The President said the children in Newtown were all of our
children. And he`ll use his office to prevent more tragedies.
Joining me now is presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, professor
at Rice University. Thank you for being here tonight.
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Thank you for having me.
SHARPTON: You know, this speech was important as a moment for this
president as any. But there was also a call for political action to get
something done. How did you see it?
BRINKLEY: Well, I think he did a great job as sort of grief
counselor for the nation and it reminds one of what he had to do in Tucson,
what he had to do with Fort Hood, it reminds one of what Ronald Reagan did
with the challenger and Bill Clinton during Oklahoma City. But this is
different. The President of the United States said, we cannot take care of
our own children in this country. And I think he did the exact right tone
of being there to console the country. But now action is needed. We need
a Sandy Hook memorial tragedy act that gets passed. And I think he can`t
wait until the State of the Union address in January to address it. It`s
got to do some things quickly.
SHARPTON: Now, you`re a historian. Give me the historic view of
where this would line up with other historic speeches by presidents in the
time of crisis.
BRINKLEY: Well, I mention those two to you. But you know, what? I
think one has to look at this as a time of action now. I mean, you look at
when John F. Kennedy was killed and Lyndon Johnson came in with we shall
overcome. But it wasn`t just a speech. It had legislation associated with
BRINKLEY: We had a Santa Barbara oil spill in `69 and the country was
outrage. Beautiful California coach destroyed. And environmental
protection act came. This is now, you know, life throws you curve balls.
This is a big, sad one. And the president now is going to have to put gun
control I think ahead of immigration reform, which was going to be the
beginning of the second term, as a number one priority of the country.
SHARPTON: Well, the President had tax reform, immigration reform, now
he`s going to have to deal with gun control and gun control and gun control
as you say moves up. At the same time, he`s had to comfort. I mean, when
I look at the photos of him meeting with the Sandy Hook victim`s families
before last night`s vigil, he`s playing the comforter and one that
understands. But then leading a charge, a call to action.
BRINKLEY: Reverend, he is leading the charge. But we Republicans,
senators and governors to join him. We need the great sportsman clubs boon
and cracked and being -- limited and some of these really first rate fair
chase hunt groups to come out now and break away from the NRA on this
issue. Now, quick membership that just say, we`ve had it, we need bravery
right now. You know, when you have Sandy and Katrina, many people don`t
know what to do. You can give money. Connecticut doesn`t need money right
BRINKLEY: We need political leadership. The president is ready to do
it. We need more people in Capitol Hill and in state houses around the
country to do it.
SHARPTON: Does the President`s eloquence last night, if it is matched
by a legislative push, does he put the opponents to gun control to gun
reform on the defensive if he goes all in, if Feinstein proposes something
and they really bring this down to whose side are you on in the Congress?
BRINKLEY: That`s my worry if you wait too long.
BRINKLEY: I think the President now has to use all the executive
power. He intimated that he`s going to do that. Meaning, there are things
the president, the Justice Department can do immediately. Background
checks that make it much harder, you know, to get assault rifles. And even
a continuation of what was once said a ban on assault rifles. But I
believe in, you know, Bush got rid of that in 2004. We need to bring it
back. So, I think in the next ten days, say, before Christmas, no use
talking about the tragedy. He`s got to do everything he can with his
executive power and then also go the legislative route.
SHARPTON: You said about the four incidents, big, mass murders that
he`s had to deal with. And there`s been murders in cities all over the
country, Chicago, his hometown. But he`s dealt with Fort Hood, Tucson,
Aurora and now Newtown. Are we seeing more mass murders? Or are they just
becoming more egregious and despicable? I mean, why are we seeing four
under this President?
BRINKLEY: Well, we`ve always been a country of violence and gun
violence that we could track all that history. But it does seem to be
that, in this way, Hollywood, some of these horrible with violence and
movies and on cable television and all, we`ve become a nation of violence.
And, in some ways, eating popcorn and you watch it and it doesn`t matter.
But this one, when it`s babies being slaughtered, I think is even different
than Fort Hood even different than Tucson. This is something that gets at
what it means to be a human being and our country has to do something.
SHARPTON: Well, it`s scary that we entertain with bloodshed. Maybe
this will wake us up. A sick and sad way to have to be awakened, though.
Professor Douglas Brinkley, thanks for your time tonight.
Ahead, new signs that this tragedy has changed the gun debate in this
country. Stay with us.
SHARPTON: Can things really change? Is Barack Obama president? He
is. Which means things can change. And last night, he reminded American
people we can do better.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the
world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. But that
can`t be an excuse for an action. Surely we can do better than this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: We can do better and we must. Today, we have new signs
that the tragedy in Sandy Hook Elementary has changed the gun control
debate. A new Reuters poll showed that 50 percent now favor strong
regulation for gun ownership. Up eight points from before the shooting.
Eighty four percent support background checks. That`s up seven percent.
And 60 percent support limits on automatic weapons, up six percent. This
tragedy is different. And it`s changing how Americans feel about this
But we must also remember the terrible truth. Little kids die from
guns every day. Since 1979, more than 116,000 children and teenagers have
been killed in gun violence. Hundred and sixteen thousand. All year,
we`ve seen killings from Chicago to Flint, Michigan, from New York. I
ended the show Friday talking about how I preached the funeral of a four-
year-old killed by stray bullets in Bronx named Lloyd Morgan, Jr. Too long
have we buried children in silence.
And now, everyone is beginning to see that it is the suburbs, it`s the
urban, it`s black, it`s white, it`s rich or poor. We have no choice to
deal with a societal problem when we start burying children everywhere.
Today, people were asking what was wrong with this shooter. Twenty years
from now, if we don`t solve the problem, they`ll be asking what was wrong
Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.
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