Hardball | March 14, 2013
>>> gun smoke . let's play "hardball."
>>> good evening, i'm chris matthews in new york . let me start tonight with this. i am rarely startled by political opinions but the other day i heard a college student say he believes people have the right to walk into any bar, restaurant, hockey game, nfl stadium, openly carrying a firearm. they have a right to do this and he suggests duty to insist on that right. i think of the world this would create, go into a bar midnight friday, people are all over the place carrying, packing. all have loaded guns. handy for use. all can drink all they want. no one will take away their drink and certainly no one will take away their gun in their holster. how long will it take for the combination of alcohol and attitude and the presence of bad drugs to detonate into a gunfight? how long will it take before someone had, well, five or ten drinks and getting ticked off at that guy looking at his girlfriend? that guy who staid something about his favorite sports team ? that guy who he doesn't like the looks of, that guy who's shooting his mouth off? this is the concoction of my imagination only because i thing that think it's what they want. second moment people want the country to come, a place where people walk in or out of banks, barbershops, churches, movie theaters armed and loaded. they want this just not as a theoretical right but their day-to-day reality. they look to a yearning to a world where most people are armed, moeflt people have a semiautomatic available. people barge through bar doors sporting the latest scariest weapons they can get their hands on, which according to the gun people is anything they can imagine. we begin tonight with the " huffington post " sam stein and cynthia tucker of the university of georgia . today's hearing, on assault weapons , an assault ban. it included a dramatic exchange which i'll never forget between freshman tea partyer, ted cruz of texas and dianne feinstein who's a grown-up. cruz challenged feinstein on the constitution and feinstein hit hard back. let's take a look.
>> the question that i would pose to the senior senator from california is would she deem it consistent with the bill of rights for congress to engage in the same endeavor that we are contemplating doing with the second amendment in the context of the first or fourth amendment ? namely would she consider it constitutional for congress to specify that the first amendment shall apply only to the following books? and she'll not apply to the books that congress has deemed outside the protection of the bill of rights .
>> i'm not a sixth grader. senator, i've been on this committee for 20 years. i was a mayor for nine years. i walked in. i saw people shot. i've looked at bodies that have been shot with these weapons. i've seen the bullets that implode. in sandy hook , youngsters were dismembered. it's fine you want to lecture me on the constitution . i appreciate it. just know i've been here for a long time. i've passed on a number of bills. i studied the constitution , myself. i am reasonably well educated. and i thank you for the lecture.
>> there, again, cynthia tucker , i really want your thoughts and feelings on this. i don't understand how people can elect somebody like ted cruz . here's a guy so far right, so unlimited in this notion of the second amendment , that anyone should be able to have any kind of gun. anybody who says you can't have any kind of gun is somehow limiting their rights under his view of the constitution . in other words, matt dylan, wyatt earp , anybody who ever said leave your gun out of town on the way into town had to be stopped in their tracks because his view of the constitution is the bad guys . guys in the gangs. they had a ragt to carry guns anywhere they wanted and any kind of gun they could get their hands on. then he challenges a grown-up, again, dianne feinstein who i have enormous respect for, who watched her mayor die right in front of her, who's dealt with criminal matters her whole career. she's an expert on criminality. and have her lectured to by this farout character. your view on what this has come to, this gun discussion. i think it's so polarized between the middle, reasonable middle, and the far right. it's hopeless.
>> well, chris , not only is ted cruz an extremist, he's also overbearing, arrogant, and condescending.
>> thank you.
>> and i can only imagine how dianne feinstein felt. how dare he? he just got there. how dare he show up and commence to lecture her on the constitution ? she wasn't having it. so she just ground him back into his place with the heel of her high heeled pump. good for her.
>> let me go to sam on this. sam , maybe you'll have different metaphors to use. hopefully you'll have the same view. i'm tell you, this guy is -- i hate to use words like crazy -- but his notion of how america should be, where everybody carrying a gun of any kind they want, anywhere i want. this is being taught to kids now in their late teens. you should have a gun, you should insist on your rights, you should walk around with one everywhere you go and anybody stops you from having a gun at any time, any kind of gun, is bad. that's what they're being taught. these kids.
>> i like the metaphors, but i do think that ted cruiz is way out of the mainstream even within his own party. a ruling said you can't restrict handgun access but can put limitations on guns.
>> have you been following the post this week? every single republican on the committee voted against, even background checks , voted now against assault weapons . they're not really doing anything.
>> there are complexities with the background checks bill. there are expectations in democratic leadership that when they adjust the bill there will be republican support. they had to go with the schumer bill because tom coburn pulled out at the last minute. yes, there's no republican support for an assault weapons ban though i think it's fair to say an assault weapons ban would be constitutional or would be for ten years without legal challenges. i don't know where ted cruz gets the idea that the second amendment and first amendment is salu absolutist. you can't scream fire in a crowded theater. he has this idea of the constitution he wants to impose on every one of his colleagues and does come off condescending in the process of doing so.
>> cynthia , it looks to me like the gun legislation fight even despite it's only three months since the horror of new town has not moved left, if you will, toward gun safety . i'll use that term loosely. it's moved right. these people have circled the wagons like an old western and insisted most important thing in the world is to have guns. they're not afraid of a coup or military government . they're afraid of a popular government. it's that or they want to take on vigilante justice because they can't protect the government. now they're saying any gun, any time. by the way, sam , i don't see any resistance by this guy on limited gun ownership . not any.
>> i don't see any either. the logical question for ted cruz is, can you own a grenade launcher? how about a tank? where is the restriction that he'd be comfortable with? are there no restrictions? i have no idea.
>> cynthia , here's senator feinstein raising the question of escalation. how far do you go? he asked him to respond to this. his interpretation of the second amendment seems to be there's no weapon the government should prohibit from owning and carrying openly. let's listen to senator feinstein on the very point sam raised.
>> you use the word, prohibit. it exempts 2,271 weapons. isn't that enough for the people in the united states ? do they need a bazooka? do they need other high-powered weapons that military people use to kill in close combat ? i don't think so.
>> cynthia , a bazooka. what is the limit for this crowd? what you can carry?
>> the gun lobby would say, yes, chris . and if sam sees that there are some republicans who are willing to sign on to reasonable gun legislation, i'm happy to hear that, because i haven't seen it. let's remember that on the judiciary committee , there were no republicans who voted for a proposal that would say, if you traffic in guns, if you're convicted for gun trafficking, you get a very long prison sentence. i believe one republican voted for r that.
>> it was a republican.
>> grassley. one republican. so the gun lobby is so extremist, let's remember this, chris . the national rifle association thinks it's okay that if you're on the terror watch list , you can buy a gun. bloomberg calls that the terror gap. the nra says, yes, but that's just fine. let people who are on the terror watch list buy guns. why the republican party has signed up to that kind of extremism is quite beyond me, but most republicans have.
>> who's the boss here, sam ? is it the nra bossing the republican party around because they deliver a lot of the votes and maybe some of the money? certainly the members? or is it the republican party simply embracing the nra because they think it's like the evangel evangelicals or any other group or neocons can they use and exploit for electoral victory? who's winning here? who's bossing?
>> i think it's a combo of both. the nra 's power as been about its membership. a lot of it goes back to the lore of the '94 election when the assault weapons ban was passed. a ton of democrats who voted for that measure lost their seats. since then it's been assumed you take tough gun votes at your own political peril. at the same time, there's a new pattern that's emerged where republicans are afraid of being primaried in their own party. why, i guess in their mind, would you allow anyone the opportunity to run against you on the issue of guns? on the issue of background checks , to clarify one thing, tom coburn was 95% saddled with chuck schumer on a bill. they're disagreeing over record-keeping aspects of it. senators like mark kirk are going to very, very, very likely be there regardless.
>> how many republicans do you think will vote on the floor for any kind of background check strengthening? even that? not the 30-round limit or 10-round limit on the magazines. not the assault weapon , but just a minimal step of a background check enhancement. how many republican senators do you expect right now, sam , will vote for it?
>> well, of course, it depends on how they adjust the record-keeping language. i would guess they could get four to five, maybe a little bit more.
>> of the whole senate?
>> republicans in the senate. it's going to be close.
>> 1-10 is a high mark. that's a good statement about the republican party . 1-10 senators might go as far as a background check . senator feinstein and other democrats pointed out in the hearing today the first amendment isn't absolute, either. it doesn't cover child pornography. cruz stayed focused on his one single point he brought in. let's watch him again.
>> is it the view of the senior senator from california that congress should be in the business of specifying particular books or for that matter with respect to the fourth amendment , particular individuals who are not covered?
>> sir, congress is in the business of making law. the supreme court interprets the law. they strike down the law, they strike down the law. the tests in heller with respect to unusual weapons, to other things, i think do not cover -- in other words, they cover an ex-exception for assault weapons .
>> is that true, cynthia ? the supreme court ruled in favor of assault weapons ban , as pointed out a few moments ago.
>> i guess you can have the right to carry in d.c. which i don't agree with, but you can do it.
>> there are absolutely no rights in the bill of rights that are absolute, as sam said earlier, and the assault weapons ban was in effect for a decade. no one said, at least the supreme court didn't say it was unconstitutional. heller has come along since then, but heller does not say all assault weapons must be legal. it says that authorities may, in fact, pass laws restricting gun ownership .
>> in fact, that bastion of liberal thinking, justice scalia said that you can't have regulations on guns. i mean, i don't understand what the argument is about. conservative members of the court saying it's okay for regulations, what are we talking about?
>> the crap will sell down there from texas . people in texas watching tonight believe you can walk into any saloon, the law branch, local pub you go to, chinese restaurant . anybody who wants to walk in carrying, as much firepower as they want to and sit down next to you at the restaurant and drink all night with their guns there. anybody who's comfortable in a situation like that is an idiot. thank you, sam stein. thank you -- maybe there are some idiots down there, but why they voted for this guy, cruz , beyond me. he gets worth every night.
>>> coming up, cpac, conservative political action conference , rolled into washington, d.c., today. birthers like donald trump and louie gohmert will be there. so will sarah palin . not governor chris christie . he might just actually win the white house next time. can't have him at cpac. what does it say about a party that has room for the characters on the extreme right fringe, the birthers, but shuns practical conservativeses like chris christie ?
>>> in rome, pope francis started the first full day of his papacy by visiting a shrine to the virgin mary . devotion we know for latin-american catholics. the first hispanic pope is a testament to latinos around the world. the same group who helped put president obama into office this past november. kept him there.
>>> there could be a historic first in new york . we're going to meet mayoral candidate, herself, christine quinn , hoping to begin something big-time. the first woman to be mayor of new york .
>>> here's another republican in need of a civics lesson. new york congressman jim briden stein says the supreme court doesn't get to decide what's constitutional. really? his flamed, or rather flawed reasoning is in the "sideshow" today. also flamed. this is "hardball," the place for