The Rachel Maddow Show | February 26, 2013
>>> i spent a career carrying typically they're an m-16 and later an m-four carbine. and an m-4 carbine fires 5.56 millimeter at about 3,000 feet per second. when it hits a human body , the effects are devastating. it's designed to do that. and that's what our soldiers ought to carry. i personally don't think there is any need for that kind of weaponry on the streets and particularly around the schools in america . i believe that we've got to take a serious look. i understand everybody's desire to have whatever they want. but we've got to protect our children. we've got to protect our police. we've got to protect our population. and i think we got to take a very mature look at that. the number of people in america killed by firearms is extraordinary compared to other nations. and i don't think we're a blood thirsty culture. so i think we need to look at everything that we can do to safeguard our people.
>> general stanley mcchrystal speaking on " morning joe " here on msnbc last month. general mcchrystal was the commander of forces in afghanistan until he resigned back in 2010 after michael hastings ' profile of him in " rolling stone " that was so controversial. last month general mcchrystal put out his own book and started doing the interview rounds to promote it. but anybody booked to talk about anything in america in early january 2013 was going to end up talking about gun violence . because of what happened at sandy hook , the elementary school massacre at newtown . even retired military commanders were asked to weigh in, and they had something to say about it. well, today that happened at a whole another level.
>> i know. i know what guns can do.
>> guns in the right hands protect us.
>> guns belong on battlefields.
>> guns belong in a place that is safe and secure.
>> assault weapons are weapons of war.
>> not for cowards to use.
>> in movie theaters.
>> in classrooms.
>> or on our streets.
>> as a general.
>> as an admiral.
>> as a member of the armed force .
>> as a gunowner, i demand a plan.
>> demand action.
>> the latest national ad from mayors against illegal guns . senior flag rank retired military officers weighing in favor of gun reform. this is i think part of the answer to the anti-reform side trying to claim that they're the tough guy side, that they're the manly side in this debate. who would you pick in a fight? i would pick mcchrystal personally, even if he did have cat scratch fever . that's just me. today vice president joe biden 's office tweeted out this picture. on the other s military officials in the mayors against illegal guns ad that you just saw. the vice president met with those flag officers at the white house to discuss the administration's proposals to reduce gun violence . tomorrow vice president biden is scheduled to speak before the national association of attorneys general on the same topic. if you are sensing a rather unrelenting focus on this issue, you are right. and it may be changing things already. what i mean by that is this. nbc news and "the wall street journal " released a new poll tonight with some really interesting new numbers on the gun debate. they asked people if laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict, less strict, or kept as they are now. 61% of americans favor making gun laws more strict. which is a clear majority just on the face of it. but look at the evolution of that percentage. back in october 2010 , only 44% of the people in the country -- 44% of the people in the country thought that gun laws should be more strict. it was 44. now it's 61. in recent years, each time that question gets asked, that number ticks higher. if you think our gun laws should actually be less strict as a country, you stand with 4% of your fellow americans in believing that. and no offense, but that means you're kind of on the fringe and getting fringier with each pasting day. if you want gun laws to be more strict, you stand with 60% of your fellow citizens. so why isn't that the way we think of this debate? well, here is what happens next. on thursday, the senate judiciary committee scheduled to vote on four separate gun reform measures. now, this is important strategy. they're not doing everything together in a big combined package. they're breaking it up a la carte measure by measure. one bill is an assault weapons ban . one would make gun trafficking a federal crime . a third would provide schools with enhanced security protection. more cops in schools for schools that want that and the fourth measure is one that would expend background checks so everybody has to have a background check to buy a gun, even if you buy it at a gun show instead of a store. it's not an accident that the judiciary committee plans to vote on each of these simply. it's a purposeful tactical approach by senate judiciary committee chairman pat leahy . this way a senator who is in favor of, say, universal background checks , which have bipartisan support in something like 92% support from the public, such a senator could vote for universal background checks without binding his or her vote on one of those other measures that he or she may not support. so hypothetically, a senator's opposition to a ban on assault weapons , under this strategy should not keep that senator from voting to support more security in schools or background checks or anything else. four separate bills unveiled today and scheduled for a vote in the senate on thursday. there is movement every day now on the guns issue that the beltway told us would never see any movement. it is happening now regardless. joining us now is senator richard blumenthal of connecticut who is a member of the judiciary committee . he is co-sponsoring the ammunition background check proposal introduced earlier this month. senator blumenthal, thanks for being here.
>> thank you, rachel.
>> as a member of the judiciary committee , do you think there is strategic significance in introducing these measures simply?
>> i think it enables senators to be for one or thee and not necessarily all four. probably the most acceptable, the most palatable even to potential opponents are the criminal background check proposal and the trafficking ban. remember, the trafficking ban applies to straw purchases which incredibly are not prohibited now effectively under federal law .
>> and straw purchases, it's legal for you to buy a gun, but then you deliver the gun to somebody for whom it would be illegal to purchase it.
>> in effect, the licensed dealer is selling a gun to someone who knows is a straw purchaser, someone who is buying it for someone else . and that should be punished. and this bill would make it punishable. and of course school safety is very acceptable. the toughest climb will probably be the assault weapon ban. but remember tomorrow we're going to have a hearing on assault weapons . and just to give you a little bit of a preview, one of the witnesses is going to be a first responder who went to that school in sandy hook in newtown and saw the shattered bodies and blood and can tell the committee what these assault weapons do. another will be a parent of a child who was killed in one of those classrooms. so it's going to be very powerful evidence. but, you know, the decisions truly, and i think you really have alluded to it tonight and before, are not going to be made necessarily inside the beltway. they're going to be made by millions of people who are paying attention to this issue as never before, and they're organizing. they're making their views known. and that's what makes this time different.
>> when you look at the nbc polling, nbc / wall street journal polling that came out tonight, more than 60% of the country saying they want gun laws or the more strict. 4% of the country saying they want gun laws to be less strict. we also look at the popularity of issues just take the universal background checks , 92% popularity in the last "new york times" poll on that. what is important about or -- what is the most important way to try to translate support like that, public opinion like that into legislative change?
>> well, first, remember that the opponents, like the nra, are counting on the connecticut effect, as they've called it, to dissipate, for people to turn their attention to other issues. and to really diminish their attention to this one. what's required really is a sustained effort. people calling and writing their representative. i know itneyed and corny. but it really makes a difference. the mayors committee, the brady campaign , the victims themselves, the newtown alliance, the sandy hook promise, these are organizations that have sprung from this horrific tragedy. all are making a difference in organizing that grassroots appeal for action. and it really has to be out in the communities that are no different from sandy hook . because if it could happen in sandy hook , it can happen anywhere. the quintessential new england town where you have an all volunteer fire department , a police department that does fine on the kinds of crimes it investigates, nothing ever of this dimension and magnitude. and it could happen anywhere. and it has happened everywhere. since newtown , 1900 people have been killed by gun violence in our cities and in our rural communities , all across america . if america pays attention, communicates to the congress that it really cares, really cares as much as the folks who have been so vocal on behalf of the nra, it will get done.
>> you heard it here first. it may sound hackneyed, but when you call your congress member, people listen. senator blumenthal, thank you very much. good to see you again.
>> thank you.
>>> tonight we have the interview coming up next, which is something very different than what we normally do on this show. when they appear here next, i think you will agree that it makes sense that we are talking to three people at once and that you want to hear from them. please stay tuned.