Lawrence O'Donnell Yells at Arizona Congressman for Not Agreeing With Him on Gun Control

January 19th, 2011 9:39 AM

In a fine example of the new civility at MSNBC, Lawrence O'Donnell on Tuesday actually yelled at an Arizona Congressman who didn't agree with him about the need for gun control following the shootings in Tucson.

The discussion on "The Last Word" really got heated after the host made the case to Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) that additional security at Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' (D-Ariz.) Congress on Your Corner event wouldn't have mattered because "The overwhelming majority of bullets fired by police officers always miss their target" (video follows with transcript and commentary):

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, HOST: Joining me now, Republican congressman from Arizona, Trent Franks. Thank you very much for joining me tonight, Congressman Franks.

REP. TRENT FRANKS (R), ARIZONA: Lawrence, thanks for having me on.

O’DONNELL: Congressman, don’t you wish Jared Loughner had a smaller capacity ammunition clip when he went to Gabby Giffords’ event in Tucson?

FRANKS: Lawrence, I wish that Jared Loughner had the capacity to have a moral impulse towards fellow human beings and a commitment to protect them as children of God. That’s the real issue here.

You know, from the very first hours of this tragedy, Lawrence, I have listened to the left try to politicize this while people are making funeral arrangements for lost loved ones. And I have to tell you, I think that when the left says, well, it’s the rhetoric or, well, it’s the Tea Party or, well, it’s Sarah Palin -- you know, I guess, first of all, I’d like to say if every person on the earth had the respect for innocent human life that Sarah Palin does, we wouldn’t have violence anywhere on any corner of the globe.

And I’m just frustrated that in this tragedy, that people have tried to politicize this and have tried to make everything but a crazed killer the problem. The real problem here is that whatever statement this lunatic was trying to make, he was willing to kill innocent children of God to do it. He had no respect for innocent human life, and that is the great challenge of society. If we can’t put that forward as the central focus here, then, I think we missed the boat on all counts.

Nice thoughtful response, yes? Not as far as O'Donnell was concerned:

O’DONNELL: Congressman Franks, I’ll try again. Do you wish that his gun held 10 bullets instead of 31 bullets?

FRANKS: I wish he had not had a gun and he shouldn’t have a gun at all. He was, I think, mentally ill, and we have laws against that in many places. And I think to focus on the clip is like saying that, you know, we’ll combat drunk driving by limiting the size of fuel tanks.

The bottom line is that the real focus here should be on the killer and not the gun. The gun was essentially the same type of gun that police officers use in across Europe and in many places here and perhaps, you know, you mentioned a quote that I made earlier. You didn’t mention the context of the quote. If perhaps a police officer or someone there was responsible, maybe very few people would have had to die. Maybe the gunman would have been stopped before he started. We don’t know.

But I do know this: it wasn’t the gun that was the problem. It wasn’t Sarah Palin that was a problem. And it wasn’t the rhetoric that was the problem. It wasn’t the Tea Party that was a problem.

It was a crazed lunatic without regard for innocent human life. That was the problem.

O’DONNELL: Well, you did entertain the hypothetical that you wished there was someone else there with a gun who could have --

FRANKS: You left out the last -- you left out the second part of the quote.

O’DONNELL: Go ahead.

FRANKS: I was responding to when people were saying it was the gun, it was the gun, it was the gun. And I said, well, perhaps, if someone -- an additional gun has been there in responsible hands, I said in responsible hands. We have the -- you know, the truth is very few people would advocate taking guns out of the hands police officers. They think police officers should have guns to be able to stand against those who have no regard for innocent human life, and I agree with that.

But the real argument is then that it’s not the gun, it’s whose hands its in that’s the issue. And my quote was in responsible hands, and again, it was in response in an effort by the left to say that the gun was the problem. That wasn’t the focus of my comments here in the media here at all. I’ve been trying to essentially make the case.

And again tonight, I make the case that the real challenge in our society is to see each other as children of God, as fellow human beings. And if we did that, the rhetoric would be transformed, the debate itself would have a whole new emphasis, and maybe we could se this last best hope of mankind extended for future generations a little longer.

Now watch as O'Donnell starts getting angrier and angrier:

O’DONNELL: OK. Your actual quote was, "I wish there had been one more gun there that day in the hands of a responsible person."

FRANKS: Yes, in response -- in response to people who were saying that the gun was the problem.

O’DONNELL: A responsible person -- a responsible, Congressman, would have been a police officer, let’s say a very well-trained in firearms New York City police officers. You are aware, aren’t you, sir, that most of the bullets fired by American police officers miss their target. The overwhelming majority of bullets fired by police officers always miss their target.

O'Donnell might have been referring to a December 9, 2007, article in the New York Times dealing with the issue of police officer marksmanship. What Lawrence potentially missed was the intention of the piece was to address how difficult it is for cops to shoot to wound:

While popular culture has embedded both extremes — the hardened mantra of “shoot to kill” and the benevolent private eye (think Barnaby Jones) who expertly inflicts only a flesh wound — the truth is that neither practice is a staple of police guidelines. In fact, the most likely result when a policeman discharges a gun is that he or she will miss the target completely. So an officer could no sooner shoot to wound than shoot to kill with any rate of success. In life-or-death situations that play out in lightning speed — such precision marksmanship is unrealistic.

The article did address statistics showing that in New York City and Los Angeles, police officers do typically miss their targets. However, the Times pointed out this data is misleading:

Bad marksmanship? Police officials and law enforcement experts say no, contending that the number of misses underscores the tense and unpredictable nature of these situations. For example, a 43 percent hit rate for shots fired from zero to six feet might seem low, but at that range it is very likely that something has already gone wrong: perhaps an officer got surprised, or had no cover, or was wrestling with the suspect.

“When you factor in all of the other elements that are involved in shooting at an adversary, that’s a high hit rate,” said Raymond W. Kelly, the New York police commissioner. “The adrenaline flow, the movement of the target, the movement of the shooter, the officer, the lighting conditions, the weather ... I think it is a high rate when you consider all of the variables.”

Indeed. Yet O'Donnell on Tuesday seemed to be suggesting that as a result of these statistics, those killed and wounded in Tucson wouldn't have been better served by additional security at the Giffords event:

O'DONNELL: So, what the hypothetical you’re entertaining is an extremely reckless one in which bullets would be fired, very likely miss their target, according to law enforcement records on how handguns are used there.

I’m asking you to entertain another hypothetical, and that hypothetical is, imagine this event occurred in 2003 when Jared Loughner, by federal law enacted by the Democrats, 10 years earlier, would not have been allowed to get his hands on a magazine that held 30 bullets. He only would have been able to fire 10. Then he would have had to reload, and those heroes who stopped him when he tried to reload would have stopped him after firing 10 and more citizens of Arizona would be alive today in your state if that magazine held only 10 bullets.

I’ll ask you again -- do you wish Jared Loughner’s magazine only held 10 bullets instead of the 31 that he fired?

FRANKS: And I will tell you again, sir, that I wish he had not had a gun at all.

O’DONNELL: So, you’re not going to answer that question about the magazine? Will you answer the question about the magazine?


FRANKS: I will on one basis, on one basis. Will you answer the question -- you said that the police officers miss all the time -- will you say that you’re glad there were no police officers there that day?

O’DONNELL: No, I will not say that.

FRANKS: All right. And I will not say, I will not say that --


O’DONNELL: -- entertain your hypothetical. Your hypothetical might have been helpful, might not have been not helpful. But now, consider my hypothetical, it’s 2003. He can only fire 10 bullets. Arizona would have been better off, right? Your constituents in Arizona would have been better off if Jared Loughner, by law, could only fire 10 bullets?

FRANKS: See, I think that that presupposes he couldn’t have changed clips or all kinds of things.

O’DONNELL: He couldn’t change clips because the colonel was there to stop him, because those heroes in that parking lot were there to stop him. We saw him try to change clips, and he couldn’t do it. That’s what stopped him.

FRANKS: Well, I give every credit to those who stopped him. But I will say to you again to blame the gun rather than the individual is why we continue to have these problems.

O’DONNELL: I blame the individual for the first 10 bullets. I blame the law for the next 21 bullets that he fired.

FRANKS: Well, you know, you’re suggesting that there wouldn’t be other ways that he could have done that. What if he brought a bomb and all kinds of things?

O’DONNELL: W know what happened, we know what stopped him. When he had to reload, it was over. We know the facts, Congressman. We know exactly how it ended.

Don’t pretend that you don’t know how it ended and who ended it. He couldn’t reload, and the heroes there on the scene stopped him.

FRANKS: He shot -- according to what you’re saying, he shot 31 times, and there was no one there to stop him that could have. That was the basis of my comment. The fact is that we need to try our best to see each other as children of God and to point the finger at the lack of respect for innocent human life, which is essentially the biggest challenge in all of society. And we need to make sure that crazed lunatics don’t get weapons and we need to make sure that if they do, that we can stop them if necessary.

O’DONNELL: There was a lack of respect for human life in the federal government in 2004 when the ban on those magazines was allowed to expire.

FRANKS: Let’s just take --

O’DONNELL: Congressman Trent Franks, we got to cut it there. We’re out of time.

FRANKS: Yes, let’s take the guns away from everyone, our police officers, everyone. That will solve the problem, right?

O’DONNELL: Don’t be silly. Congressman Trent Franks, Republican of Arizona, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

Actually, Franks wasn't being at all silly. It was O'Donnell who demonstrated some pretty pathetic interview skills by not only bringing up the police accuracy issue, but also screaming at his guest when he didn't agree.

And these folks on MSNBC have the nerve to lecture America about the hostile tone on Fox News and conservative talk radio.