On her Wednesday CNN Newsroom program, Carol Costello gave an anti-gun rights activist a platform to defend his crass exploitation of a recent fatal shooting spree to smear the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, the National Rifle Association.
Costello introduced self-styled “progressive PR guy” Cliff Schecter by quoting from his most recent Daily Beast piece, where he called out the “treasonous and murderous role played by the leaders of the NRA.” [MP3 audio here; video below]
Schecter, a consultant for the National Gun Victims Action Council – a stridently left-wing group that has a recurring blog feature titled “Beware the Law Abiding Citizen” – hardly backed down from these comments in the interview, as he persistently put nearly full blame in the hands of the powerful gun-rights group. He accused the NRA of “pumping paranoia into sort of the most unstable members of society and feeding them with conspiracy theories.”
Costello began the interview telling Schecter that labeling the NRA murderous and treasonous was “really strong,” but her efforts at countering the Daily Beast writer’s hyperbole more or less ended there.
Costello would only go so far as stating, “but to blame everything on the NRA strikes me as kind of unfair because you have to place the blame on the lawmakers as well.” Presumably, Costello wants to blame lawmakers – who are sworn to uphold the Constitution and its protections of individual liberty – for failing to pass gun control legislation which arguably infringes on 2nd Amendment liberties. As to the blame game, no mention is made of the actual shooters themselves; evidently they are not morally responsible, because it is just the NRA and lawmakers.
In response to Costello’s comment, Schecter proclaimed with pride that he labeled “the entire Republican caucus cowards” and lamented the fact that the United States has “a powerful lobby and cowards in Congress” stopping any meaningful gun legislation. Schecter is hardly unfamiliar to gun bashing; merely two weeks ago he ripped into the supposed “gun fetishists” following the UC Santa Barbara shootings.
The least Costello could do for viewers was to balance out the segment with a defender of gun rights in a follow-up counterpoint segment, but the CNN host failed to do so.
The relevant portion of the transcript is below:
June 11, 2014
9:29 a.m. Eastern
CAROL COSTELLO, host: Cliff Schecter of the Daily Beast is gonna join us, and he blames the NRA for the recent spate of violence we have seen in our schools and schools across the country and also the awful incident that went down in Las Vegas. He says, quote, “we are reaping what they, the NRA, have sowed. Their rhetoric, their firearms policies, their followers. If we want to change things, it starts with not sugar-coating or ignoring the treasonous and murderous role played by the leaders of the NRA, but by acknowledging it and taking them on every day.” So Cliff Schecter is here. Hi, Cliff.
CLIFF SCHECTER, the Daily Beast: Hi, can you hear me now?
COSTELLO: I can hear you now. We are all set to go. Um, I don’t know, calling the NRA murderous and treasonous. That's really strong.
SCHECTER: It is, Carol. But I feel like, you know, we have watched this same play over and over again. While I was writing the piece that I wrote on this murder of these two police officers in Las Vegas, we had this next shooting in Oregon and you almost can't sit down to write something without the next one happening. And the NRA has spent 30 years pumping paranoia into sort of the most unstable members of society and feeding them with conspiracy theories telling them that black helicopters are coming to get them, that President Obama is coming to get them, that the government is killing them, that the ATF–who are only trying to do their jobs– are jack-booted thugs. So they feed this rhetoric and then they fight every attempt at reasonable gun regulation. 90% of the country supports background checks and they blocked it. 70% supports an assault weapons ban. They blocked it. So they basically have done what they can to light the fire to incite riot among people that are less than stable, who have a far right wing agenda and they have made sure these people have access to weaponry of war that as recently as 30 years ago, people couldn't get those kind of weapons. Now, they are everywhere.
COSTELLO: I will say, the Las Vegas shooting, let's go back to that for a second. Because there was a customer in Wal-Mart. His name was Joseph Wilcox. He was carrying a concealed weapon legally. And police called him a hero–I mean he died in this. He tried to stop it. Police called him a hero. So, in that instance, I think the NRA would argue that, you know, carrying a gun can actually save lives.
SCHECTER: Well, they would but, you know, I think the evidence here. I feel terrible for what happened to him. But look at the evidence. We had two what the NRA calls good guys with guns. Policemen, somebody walked up to them and shot them point blank range and killed them. Now, we have this gentlemen in Wal-Mart, another good guy with a gun we would say, who was shot and killed, even though these two terrible people had only asked everybody to leave the store. What if he had missed and hit other innocent people there? What if they had fired back? It is the job of the authorities to show up and handle that situation. We are not living in a cowboy movie. And again, I don't want to be disrespectful. I think he did what he thought was right. But we have encouraged people to open carry guns to restaurants, to conceal carry guns. We are telling them they are the law, they’re jury, the judge and the executioner and more people end up getting killed. I mean, the University of Pennsylvania School of Epidemiology produced a study that has said that if you have a gun in your house, you are 4.5 times more to die from that gun than you are to stop an intruder. So there’s consensus on this– go ahead.
COSTELLO: There is consensus on this. But to blame everything on the NRA strikes me as kind of unfair because you have to place the blame on the lawmakers as well, don’t you? Because they are not exactly, you know, running to the front of the line getting something done.
SCHECTER: No, you are entirely right. I do blame lawmakers. I probably reserve my strongest language–but in many of these pieces I have written, I have called the entire Republican caucus cowards. There are a number of Democrats tooso don’t think I’m just–
COSTELLO: What about the Democrats?
SCHECTER: I just said there is a number of Democrats, blue dog Democrats, those four senators who voted against the background checks. They are cowards also. It is a bipartisan problem. But to be clear, it is a lot more on the Republican side where you can barely get one to support it. Here is the quick answer. We know how to do this. Every other high-income country, as President Obama said, has done this. Australia in 1996 had the Port Arthur massacre, like our Newtown where 40 people or so were killed. Many others injured. What did they do? They passed a series strict gun laws. They’d had 11 mass shootings in the 10 years before that. They’ve not had one since. Their suicide rate has gone down 70%. The guns with homicides rate have gone down about 70% strict gun laws. They have not had one since. We have seen it in England, we’ve seen it in France and we’ve seen it in Canada. Canada and Australia had that same frontier history as us. We are willing to look at this as a public health problem like drunk driving, second-hand smoke and regulate it in that manner which is to say some people should not have access to guns. We should have universal background checks, there should be psychological tests. People should have a few family members vouch for them, which is what most other countries do. In every one of these cases from the Navy Yard, to Tucson, to Aurora–family members knew that these people were in trouble and didn't want them getting their hands on guns. We can do this. Every other country has done it. We’ve just got the powerful lobby and cowards in Congress who are stopping us from doing it right now.