The Rachel Maddow Show | February 06, 2013
>>> the presidential citizens medal is the second highest civilian honor this country, second only to the presidential medal of freedom . it was created in 1969 . the first person to win it didn't win it in 1973 . the first presented was by richard negatives and awarded posthumously to the great baseball player roberto clemente . his widow accepted it on his and a half. he died the previous year when he was only 38 years old. he died in the crash of a cargo plane he was in that was flying to deliver relief supplies to earthquake victims in managua. he had helped collect $150,000 in cash and literally tons of clothing and food donations. "the new york times" reported at the time that roberto clemente had insisted on being aboard the cargo plane himself along with all of the donations because, quote, he suspected that relief supplies were falling into the hands of profiteers. so he insisted on making the trip himself with the supplies to make sure those supplies got into the hands of the people who really needed them. oh, and he also won the national league batting championship four times, was named to the all-star team 12 times, was named mvp once, and was only the 11th player in baseball history to get 3,000 hits. roberto clemente was an exceptional citizen. and on may 4th , 1973 , roughly five months after his death, his widow accepted the very first citizens medal on his behalf. next friday, president obama is going to present that same citizens medal , against posthumously to the newtown teachers who died trying to protect their students at sandy hook elementary school . the announcement by the white house is jet another point of focus on gun violence . bringing the issue to the front of the news again. but that's been happening a lot these days. in fact, i think it is an important salient political point to note just how many days there have been since the mass shooting at sandy hook elementary school in which gun violence , gun policy, gun reform in one way or another has been a huge part of the day's news. it's not an accident that guns and gun violence have stayed in the news so much. it is very much by design that this is happening. the common wisdom, particularly the beltway common wisdom is that reform on the issue of guns is hard, if not impossible, to achieve. and that's in part because we'll get bored of even talking about this as an issue. it will fade away. what happened at sandy hook was terrible, but it will go down as just another one on a list of horrible gun massacres that have happened in the u.s. and yes, they are terrible and horrible and tragic and heart-wrenching, but ultimately they effect no significant change because they are eventually forgotten about. here is a sampling of that common wisdom. it holds that as of christmas , we as a country were basically over gun control already. that this time the aftermath of this shooting is no different than any other time. it's not a watershed moment. gun control is losing steam in congress. obama is losing on gun control . gun reform , period, is losing steam. that's the common wisdom, right? and this is not to single out any of these prognosticators or pundits as unusually wrong or unusually cynical about this country. they're basing this on what has happened in the past. because in the past, even after mass shootings, efforts at real serious meaningful gun reform have failed, or at least they have fizzled out. for the people who are pushing for reform on this issue right now are also aware of that past history of failure. and they are determined evidently by how they are behaving to break that pattern of failure this time after this massacre. and here is how you can tell. if you have a vague feeling that there has been a qualitatively different reaction to this particular mass shooting as compared to others, you are correct in feeling that way. look at what has happened. the shooting at sandy hook happened on december 14th , okay? on december 16th , two days later, the president travelled to connecticut to speak at an interfaith prayer vigil at newtown high school . the same day on the 16th appearing on "meet the press", dianne feinstein of california introduced plans to introduce a new assault weapons ban in the new congress. then the next day, december 17th , a new group called newtown united , which has since been renamed the sandy hook promise, they held their first meeting to talk about ideas for addressing gun violence , and for keeping their town's tragedy in the news until change was made. then two days later, december 19th , president obama announces the formation of a white house gun violence task force and puts vice president biden in charge of that effort. the next day, december 20th , vice president biden already gets to work, already meeting with law enforcement leaders in washington . and we get the photo op to show he is doing it. that same day, mayors against illegal guns makes news with data shows major gaps in the background system. the very next day, december 21st , president obama observes a moment of silence at the white house that they allow to be photographed to honor the victims of the sandy hook shootings. that same day the nra breaks its silence on the issue since sandy hook . they call for armed police officers to be posted in every american school . that leads of course to a cascade of more than 24 hours of outraged and almost uniformly disgusted response to the nra as a national spokesperson -- as a national spokes organization on this issue. then we have christmas . and the day after christmas , on the 26th, arizona's attorney general proposed not armed guards at schools, but arming a principal at each school to defend against potential shooters. that same day, thousands of people lined up at a gun buyback event in los angeles to trade their guns in for grocery store gift cards. then in january, the issue does not die down, even as everybody says oh, it's over now. no. on january 2nd , wednesday january 2nd , gun violence victim gabby giffords meets with new york city mayor and gun reform advocate michael bloomberg . they talk about efforts to reportedly pressure the president and congress to act on gun reform . they allow themselves to be photographed meeting. january 4th , two days later, we learn that the police chief of waterbury, connecticut , which is near newtown , has issued a moratorium on gun shows in his town after the sandy hook shootings. and he says why he is doing it. just a few days later, january 8th , gabby giffords , her husband astronaut mark kelly launch a new anti- gun violence group. that same day, a group called the coalition to stop gun violence launches an ad, a political ad targeting newly elected north dakota senator heidi heitkamp for her criticism of potential gun reforms. on january 9th , the very next day, vice president biden meets with gun violence victims groups. they allow themselves to be photographed for meeting. the same day, new york governor andrew cuomo in his state of the state address promises to push for the toughest assault weapons ban in the nation, period. it will not be long before he has got it. the next day, january 10th , vice president biden again allows himself to be photographed, makes the meeting public. he is meeting here with gun rights groups. january 11th , the next day, new york city mayor michael bloomberg pledges to be a counterweight to the nra . pledges to spend some of his considerable pile of money to balance them out. he tells the " washington post ," you can organize people. i can write checks. the following monday, january 14th , vice president biden meets with house democrats. and again, allows the meeting to be photographed to show this meeting happening to talk about gun reform recommendations. the same day, a new gallup poll comes out showing the number of americans who think gun laws should be stronger is up very sharply from a year ago. also that same day, maryland governor martin o'malley says he plans to push for strict new gun laws for his state in the new legislative session. january 13th -- on january 15th , new york governor andrew cuomo signs into law the first state gun reform to be passed since the newtown shootings. told you that one was quick. that same day the nra releases an ad criticizing calls for gun reform and targeting weirdly, the president's own children in the ad. on january 18 -- excuse me, january 16th , president obama reads allowed from letters that he received from children urging him to act on gun reform . and he releases the recommendations from joe biden 's task force , calling on congress to require background checks , to ban assault weapons , and to limit high-capacity magazines. that happened really fast because that happened early. he said he wanted it by the end of the month. joe biden got it to him by the 16th. the same day announcing 23 executive acts on the issue of guns and mental illness. and he announces his nomination for a real permanent atf director, which the agency had not had since 2006 . the next day for good measure, the president writes an op-ed outlining all the stuff he had just done for the connecticut post . it's not an accident that it's connecticut , right? the same day new jersey's republican governor chris christie announces a task force to study ways to reduce violence in his state. he calls the nra 's latest ad, the one that targets the president's kids, he calls that ad reprehensible. the same day vice president biden addresses the u.s. conference of mayors . the topic? gun violence proposals. the next day, january 18th , the attorney general, eric holder , addresses the same group, in part on the same topic. january 20th , the day that president obama was officially sworn in at the white house for thousands of obama campaign alumni meet in washington , d.c. across town. remember this? under the banner of the obama legacy conference. the topic of discussion that day, helping the president advance his gun safety reform legislation. then of course the 21st. what happens that day? inauguration. president obama himself cites gun violence and the need to address it during his second inaugural address . three days later, january 24th , vice president joe biden participates in a google hangout with people across the country to discuss the administration's gun proposals. january 26th , thousands of demonstrators, including people from newtown , connecticut , gather on the national mall in washington , d.c. to publicly call for gun safety legislation. organizers plan similar events in about a dozen other cities. two days later, january 28th , the president, the vice president, the attorney general hold a high profile meeting at the white house with local police chiefs and sheriffs. that meeting includes the police chiefs from aurora, colorado, and oak creek , wisconsin, and newtown , connecticut , communities that have all felt the effects of mass gun violence just in the past six months. two days later, january 30th , the u.s. senate holds its first hearing on gun legislation since newtown . that hearing in the senate judiciary committee includes an emotional statement at the top from former arizona congresswoman gabby giffords . she encourages congress to be bold. january 31st , the vice president personally attends the senate democrats ' weekly policy luncheon. the vice president attended in order to help coordinate the push for the administration's gun violence proposals. then it's february. february 4th , the first monday in february, monday this week, president obama takes the push for gun legislation on the road. he goes to minneapolis, minnesota, to give a nationally televised speech on gun safety reform in front of a tableaux of law enforcement . the president surrounded by local law enforcement officials as he delivers that speech and praises minneapolis as a model of how realistic gun reform can work to reduce gun violence . then tuesday, yesterday, the push for gun safety reform gets bipartisan. republican senator dean heller of nevada comes out for universal background checks . the number two house republican, eric cantor , also comes out for a beefed up background check system. and a bipartisan group in the house, republicans and democrats, outline their proposals for some gun safety reforms that they think can pass even the republican-controlled house. and that brings us to today. just about an hour ago, vice president joe biden attended the house democrats retreat in virginia. the topic he came to discuss? gun violence . and here is part of what he had to say.
>> when people tell me that you can't prevent these kinds of occurrences, that doesn't mean we can't do something to god forbid if it happens again diminish the carnage. it matters. it matters. folks, you agree with me i'm sure. enough is enough is enough. we have to stand up.
>> the common wisdom that nothing can be done on guns in this country is based on the premise that what happened in the past will happen again. it's based on the fact that in the past nothing has been done. the common wisdom is that nothing can be done, period. yes, this is awful. we feel bad about it in the moment. but you wait long enough, which is not very long, and we'll forget about it, go back to normal and stop talking about it. that is not happening this time. it is known and understood not just by the pro-gun side, but also by the gun reform side of the debate. and recognizing that, what we have seen over the past two months is what cutes a full-court press and a determination that will that will not happen again. and that is what makes this a qualitatively different matter in american politics than it has before. and here is what that looks like in the form of a bar graph . public policy polling just released data this week showing more americans now see an nra endorsement of a particular politician as a negative thing than those who see it as a positive thing. an nra endorsement in america today is more likely to lose you voters than it is to win you voters. the gun debate is not like we're having in other years. something new is happening. we'll have more on what the new and what happens