The Rachel Maddow Show | March 08, 2013
>> thanks to you at home for being with us. happy friday to you. lots to get to tonight. today's news started with happy economic noises. on vmment falling to its lowest rate in four years. an unexpectedly high number of jobs being created, which is great. and we'll have to see how that holds up in the face of the sequester which will try its best to screw that up. and, yes, the sequester still exists. today the new director of the cio, john brennan , was sworn into office using an original draft of the u.s. constitution . that was what he got sworn in on. today the new secretary of defense, chuck hagel , took a surprise trip to afghanistan to visit the troops there, to talk about how that war ends. today the president's nominees to run the energy department and the epa got a new framing for their reason to exist when a new study in the journal science came out showing that the global warming news is really, really bad news. like global temperatures highest in 4,000 years bad news. but we start tonight just east of denver, colorado . the town of aurora , colorado , which, of course, was the scene of a mass shooting in a movie theater this past july. 12 people were killed. 58 people were injured by a gunman whose many weapons included an assault-style rifle that was loaded with a magazine that looked like this. it's called a drum magazine because it holds its rounds in a spiral instead of a stack. this drum magazine can hold 100 rounds. when that mass killing unfolded in aurora last year in 2012 , one of the underappreciated things about it at the time, i think, was that it was not the first time that that specific town in colorado had had a mass shooting. december 1993 , a 19-year-old young man went on a shooting ram age at a pizza parlor where he had previously been employed. it was a chuck e. cheese . he killed four people. he himself survived. he's on death row now. the supreme court just turned down his execution appeal. he only left one person alive in the building after that rampage that night and that may have been only because the lone survivor played dead. when the next mass shooting happened in aurora , years later, this past sum ethat's lone survivor of the previous mass shooting in aurora ended up back in the news talking about what it meant to be a survivor of a mass shooting like that.
>> i remember playing dead and more or less waiting for him to finish me off. running through an area and seeing bodies and everything else, those are images that you'll never, never lose. those will stay with you no matter what. why am i still here? why didn't i do things differently? why couldn't i have been more help?
>> mass shooting that he survived in aurora , colorado , was in 1993 . the other mass shooting in aurora , colorado , which killed 12 people, happened 19 years later. in the intervening years, colorado also saw, of course, the mass shooting in littleton, colorado at columbine high school which left 15 people dead, including the two gunmen. now there's no reason to think that colorado is a magnet for this kind of violence, that it is any more prone to gun massacres or gun violence in general than any other state in the country. but for whatever reason, colorado just in this past generation has had a couple of the most high-profile massacres in the country. and after columbine and after aurora , there was not just national attention to those outrages, but there was a wave of national outrage. national attention. national outrage. national outpouring of grief. and ultimately, no change in public policy . colorado has, meanwhile, become this very illuminating lens through which to view what is going on in our country now on this subject because colorado will always be the home of columbine. and colorado will always be the home of aurora . but columbine and aurora were not enough to change anything in colorado when it comes to policy. nothing happened. and that seemed to prove that nothing could happen, even in the face of the worst kind of gun violence . today something began to happen. the first change it reflects is newtown . each horrible gun massacre we go through as a country feels like it's going to be the one that we go through as a country that will galvanize us to demand some kind of change. it's always impossible to imagine that anything could be worse. and with newtown , maybe this actually is going to be the one that we cannot imagine anything worse. and it really does change us. newtown has happened since. but also, a much more pedestrian change has happened since in colorado , one that may have profoundly changed the realm of what is possible in colorado . it's what happened in the last election. colorado 's governor is a democrat. colorado 's senate had been democratic controlled before. in the november election, colorado 's house also went democratic. so colorado now is all blue. not by huge margins. not by overwhelming numbers, but it's blue. in the legislature and the governor's house. that meant when newtown happened, after aurora and after columbine -- i mean, after aurora , before that, after all the other experience that colorado has had with gun violence , today colorado decided to change some things. after all these previous things, nothing had changed. today, something started to change. today has been a very dramatic day. seven pieces of gun-related legislation moving one after the other through the state legislature today. the first one was about domestic violence . it already says in federal law if you have a domestic violence conviction if you have a domestic violence protection order against you, under federal law you are not supposed to be able to have a gun. colorado did not have in place a mechanism at the state level to enforce that. so what passed this morning, the first bill that advanced this morning in colorado would create that mechanism at the state level to keep people who have been convicted of domestic violence related offenses or have domestic violence protection orders against them. there was a loophole that said you have to apply and get a license and get checked out to give you a concealed carry permit. but none of that had to happen in person. you could do the whole thing online. from your padded cell or wherever. nobody ever had to look at you face to face . under the second bill that moved today, now that loophole will be closed in colorado . you cannot do it just online. another bill that passed today would close the loophole that says not everybody has to have a background check before they buy a gun. buying a gun at a gun show should not be a way to evade having a background check anymore. and they are still working. this evening they advanced a goil make you pay ten bucks to cover the cost of that background check . also another bill to limit the size of ammunition magazines. there's a bill to try to get around the federally imposed immunity for gunmakers so they cannot be sued for the way their products are used. nobody seems to believe that all of these bills are going to pass, but nobody seems to believe that none of these bills are going to pass either. they have been in session, they have been debating this stuff in colorado today. they've been fighting it out for ten hours today and still counting. they plan, i hear, to stay until they vote on the last of the seven bills however long that takes. this is happening right this second. they've already seen charges filed against one angry opponent for allegedly threatening one of the state representatives who sponsored some of the legislation. she's a representative who already lost a son to gun violence . the man being charged in this case allegedly threatened to kill both her and her daughter who he named in racially explicit messages. his defense is that those messages may have been vile but were not intended to be threatening. the problem of gun violence in our country is so widespread that almost any state could claim to be ground zero for change on this issue. could claim to be the place where change should start. well, today, with its specific history in colorado , they are not only making decisions for their state. they seem to be making those decisions knowing that the eyes of the nation, to a certain degree, are upon them. it has helped that gabby giffords ' husband mark kelly was among those who testified. he testified in favor of the universal background checks bill. vice president biden personally contacted legislators in colorado to talk to them about the national importance of these bills that they are considering. right now it is still going on in colorado . it is likely to continue into the wee hours , if not into tomorrow. we are joined live right now from just outside the senate chamber by colorado senate president john morse , democrat of colorado springs . thank you for being here. it's really nice to have you here.
>> you're welcome. my pleasure.
>> i understand this has been a trying day, a long day, and that in that work is still under way. by the end of the night tonight, or by the time you guys stop, what do you think will have happened today in the senate? do you think you'll get to all seven bills ?
>> i do think we'll get to all seven bills . and i think we'll pass most of them. i think by the end of today, we will have passed a comprehensive package that in the long run will make colorado safer and will blaze a path for the whole country to follow.
>> colorado is home, of course, to littleton, colorado , where the columbine mass shooting happened. home to aurora where we've had two mass shootings in aurora . the one most recently this past summer. but it was newtown that happened in connecticut that seems to have changed the national discussion around this issue. did what happened in newtown change what was possible? colorado , or do you think you might be doing this without that having happened?
>> i think that aurora had a big impact , and this is the first legislative session that we've had. we started january 9th . since the aurora shooting. but i agree with you that newtown really seared the consciousness of this country and that includes colorado . and so i think that has made it possible to do the things we're doing now that might not have been possible even in november after the aurora shooting. i think some of this we would have tried, but it's great to have a comprehensive package and actually have a shot at getting it done.
>> the other thing practically that is making this all possible, we know that democrats have control in the state senate and democrats have control in the state house and there's a democrat in the governorship in colorado . and that's a political reality. but i wonder if you can think about this and sort of meta terms. not just in terms of what's possible but what ought to be. it doesn't seem like you're getting republican support for this package. seems like you were able to do this because you've got democrats in the numbers that you need to have them. does that surprise you that this has ended up being so crisply partisan that there isn't more crossing over ?
>> it has surprised me. i think it is important to make the distinction. there are republicans that support this in the state of colorado . there just aren't any that are elected and here under the gold dome . i do think republicans support what we're doing in large numbers . i think there are nra members who support what we're doing in large numbers . but there aren't elected republicans, and that is frustrating.
>> in terms of understanding why that is true and whether that might ever change, can you describe a little bit about the atmosphere around this debate? we've seen -- i've been following the " denver post " and some of the other colorado media, the coverage of this one man who has been charged now with threatening two state representatives , and i know that there's been some real intensity rising to that potentially criminal level. but has there been a lot of -- has the pressure been intense?
>> the pressure has been amazingly intense. and there's actually a better example, i think, than what you are talking about with e-mails that are threatening and rise to the level of criminality. there's one of my senators that lives in a town that still has a newspaper, a pretty good sized newspaper that like 85% of the folks in her district read. and the general manager of that newspaper sent her an erail that said, i'm the general manager of this newspaper. i'm the one that controls the newsroom. i control which stories get done and how those stories get done. and i don't like these bills . so he threatened her with how he's going to cover her. and then followed through, really, she was in the paper and on the front page for a week, practically a week straight and including with pictures that weren't very flattering, almost deliberately. so the level of intensity here is really profound, both with respect to e-mails, some of which like you say rise to the level of criminality. some that are just mean and nasty. i personally have gotten some that have words in them that rhyme with fire truck . but we've also seen lots of threats but mostly to either women or people of color . i haven't personally gotten any threats in my e-mails, but the level of intensity is profound on so many different levels.
>> given that, do you -- what advice do you give to your senators in terms of coping with that? and as the rest of the country watches colorado go through this, do you have any advice or anything you've learned about this process about how to get through it?
>> the biggest piece of advice i give is the piece of advice that i got from abraham lincoln . and he didn't read the papers because he didn't want to be mad at people. he wanted to just be able to do what he needed to do. he still tapped into public opinion but didn't worry about what the papers were writing about him and the opinion pages. and that's what i tell my senators as well, even though at this point when you are getting thousands of e-mails, you can't read all of them physically anyway. we just have to stay away from some of this toxicity. we got the point that some of these folks think their second amendment rights are being abridged. even though we know that's not true, it's not worth getting into that argument with them. so just move along and don't read any more of these than you absolutely have to because it will wear on your psyche. and it has weared on my psyche. but i'm very proud of my caucus and the way they've stood up and gotten this done.
>> john morse , colorado senate president. i have a feeling it's going to be a late night yet. thank you for taking time to speak with us. stay in touch.
>> thank you for having me.
>>> lots to come on this fine friday night, including the political imporance of keeping mummies around under glass. [ male