The Rachel Maddow Show | December 20, 2012
>>> okay. when dylan klebold and eric harris killed 12 students and one teacher at a high school in littlet littleton , colorado they used these four guns. two shotguns, a semi- automatic handgun and a rifle. these are the actual weapons that they used in that massacre. that shooting rampage took place on tuesday april 20th , 1999 . it was in littleton , colorado . one of the tragic ironies of the timing of the columbine massacre , it was just a sad coincidence, was that the national rifle association , the nra , was holding their annual convention a week later in colorado . in denver, colorado , only about a 20-minute drive from where the columbine massacre happened. the nra said they would not cancel their conference because of columbine, but they did scale it down to a one-day event. it had been planned to be a three-day thing. and in response to the tragedy at columbine and the awful coincidence of the nra conference that was being planned for just a few days after the shooting the nra put out a statement in the form of a letter to its members that said, "our spirits must endure this terrible suffering together and so must the freedoms that bring us together. we must stand in unshakeable unity, even in this time of anguish." about a week after that an nra spokesman said it really was "not the most appropriate time and place to debate public policy ." so not a good time to talk about policy. that was the nra 's response to columbine. fast-forward almost exactly eight years to april 16th , 2007 . a student at virginia tech in blacksburg, virginia shoots and kills 32 people before killing himself. a day after that shooting another statement from the nra expressing their sadness, saying they join the entire country in "expressing deepest condolences to the families of virginia tech university ." then a few days later, another nra statement, "this is not a time for political discussions or public policy debates." so not the time for policy debate , not after virginia tech either. fast-forward to january 8 , 2011 . jared lee loughner kills people and injured congresswoman gabrielle giffords . she was in a grocery store parking lot near tucson . a 9-year-old girl was killed that day. the nra statement that day, with the our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this senseless tragedy. we join the rest of the country in praying for the quick recovery of those injured." and then four days later, the at this point requisite follow-up statement from them. "at this time anything other than prayers for the victims and their families would be inappropriate." so still not appropriate to broach the topic of policy in this country. not the right time after tucson . not the right time after virginia tech . not the right time after columbine. tucson was january 2011 . fast-forward to this past summer, july 20th , a midnight screening of the batman movie " dark knight rises" at a movie theater in aurora, colorado . gunman opens fire, kills 12 people and injured 58. on the day of the attack the nra 's official comment on the aurora shooting is "our thoughts and prayers with with the victims, their fleemdnimes, and the community." but four days after that "the nra believes now is the time for families to grieve and the community to heal. there will be an appropriate time down the road to engage in political and policy discussions." that appropriate time will come but it will be down the road. and down the road came newtown , connecticut. 20 children dead. all 6 and 7-year-olds. six staff members of sandy hook elementary school dead. the alleged gunman's mother also dead. but for anybody waiting for that initial nra statement that seems to come every time something like this happens the immediate statement about their sadness for the tragedy and then a statement a couple days later about how this isn't the time to talk about policy, it did not happen that way this time. they're breaking pattern. this time the nra went completely dark online for several days. various nra news personalities, they sponsor like news shows that's just talk radio that's pro nra . they spouted their beliefs about gun control . but nobody paid attention to that. in terms of an official statement from the group, the nra as an organization did not put out a statement of any kind until four days after the newtown attack. and at first it seemed to follow the nra pattern. they're just going to express their sadness, right? and say this isn't the time that talk about policy. but this statement actually was different. "the nra is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again." the nra 's planning to hold a major news conference in the washington, d.c. area on friday, december 21st . a major news conference planned for tomorrow in response to that mass shooting. as far as we can tell, the nra has never reacted to a mass shooting in the way that they are very proudly promoting this news conference for tomorrow. they've certainly never said anything like they said in this statement about being prepared to offer meaningful contributions to make sure this doesn't happen again. it's -- they are touting this thing as big as they can. they would like as many media outlets as possible to report on this. they will probably get their wish. it's a big deal they are doing this. one word of caution, i would say. if what you hear at this news conference is an nra leader lamenting violent video games or calling for us to study mental health issues in this country, be aware that while those may be things that we should do as a country they are also ways for the nra to avoid just talking about guns. if the nra is prepared to make meaningful contributions to make sure elementary school children are not massacred again in our country in their classrooms, they will need to talk about guns. that's where they are powerful. they will need to talk about the work they do to keep gun laws the way they are. if they do not talk about guns tomorrow, then this news conference tomorrow is a sideshow, it is a distraction from a policy debate that we needed to start happening many, many years ago. joining us now is bob herbert . he's a dwishtd senior fellow at dmos and he's a contributor at policyshop.net. bob, it's great to see you.
>> hi, rachel, how are you doing?
>> good. what do you expect tomorrow?
>> not much. i think that the nra has spent the last several days deep in public relations mode. i do think that they're worried that their brand has really been damaged. i think they've been thrown by the tremendous outrage in the country since newtown . i mean, this has been an extraordinary outpouring of grief but also outrage at what has happened. and so they seem to feel that they have to respond. but the whole raison d'etre of the nra and the gun manufacturers who are their allies is to get as many guns into as many hands as possible, and it would just -- not just surprise me, i mean, it would shock me if they did anything that would be counter to that. so i don't expect them to say or propose anything significant in terms of gun control .
>> you know, i went back and looked at transcripts of nra officials doing public appearances, press appearances after those previous horrible incidents that i just listed there. and an nra executive went on an msnbc show the night of the littleton -- the night after the columbine massacre . it was an msnbc show that was hosted in part by oliver north , who was an nra board member at the time. so he knew he was in friendly territory. what he did was he got on our tha show and talked about how violent our vikds are and how violent our culture is and how this isn't a gun problem, america needs to change its kurmt. i find myself believing that's what's going to happen tomorrow, that they're trying to make it seem like it's a debate they're responsive to, this they want to be part of the solution, to but it has nothing to do with their core issues.
>> it has nothing to do with guns. the president of smith & wesson , a fellow who took over last year, before that he basically sold garbage bags, now he's selling guns, but he put out a statement, i believe it was in the fall, where he said he gets excited over the social acceptance that he sees now for guns in this society. and that's what really is going to have to change, in addition to significant gun control if you want to bring down the number of gun deaths in this society. we have to change the culture so that it's not socially acceptable for everyone to willy-nilly have guns. and this is not a position that i can imagine the nra or any of the large gun manufacturers taking.
>> what do you think about the policy impact but also the cultural impact of gun buybacks? we talked on the show last night and showed a lot of visuals about some of the surprising numbers that have come in for gun buybacks since this shooting. and we know there's a community in connecticut very near newtown that's going to have -- has just scheduled a gun buyback and a number of other communities that hadn't had them scheduled, have put them on the schedule right away to try to take advantage of this moment. what do you think the impact of that is?
>> i saw a story that said just in the past couple days that camden, new jersey, a very tough town, that there had been a huge gun buyback. i'm very much in favor of that. what you want to do is get guns out of people's hands. you know. in any way that you can do that. there's a range of ways. and the gun buyback issues, very often these guns are in the hands of people that really, really should not have guns. for whatever reasons they decide, you know, they're going to turn these guns in. so i'm very much in favor of that.
>> it's one of these things that -- talk about everybody's looking for low-hanging fruit, what can be done, if only to prove that something can be done. on a voluntary basis because it can happen with no action at the federal level . any community can organize it. you can talk to your sheriff --
>> exactly. you don't need ledge slairgs. it's not a constitutional issue. it's a great tool.
>> bob herbert , it's great to have you here. nice to see you.
>> take care.
>>> historically, a president's cabinet is at its most effective when it isn't full of holes. president obama , when are you going to have a second-term cabinet? that's coming up next.