Soledad O'Brien Bullies Gun Rights Activist; 'Your Position Completely Boggles Me'

CNN's Soledad O'Brien interrupted, bullied, and dismissed guest John Lott on Monday's Starting Point when Lott argued in favor of less gun laws. "[Y]our position completely boggles me, honestly. I just do not understand it," the liberal journalist lectured Lott after he cited statistics supporting his position.

O'Brien sidestepped his facts and condescended to his position from the beginning. "How does that possibly make sense to you?" was her first question to him. She claimed the "rational" conclusion is a ban on high-powered assault weapons.

Perhaps the kicker was after Lott opined that areas with strict gun laws are a "magnet" for shootings. O'Brien derided him, retorting that "or a rational person could say that having access to a high-powered semiautomatic rifle is inappropriate. That there's no reason to go deer hunting with that, there's no reason to have access to that. And that is the connection that these killers have access to those weapons."

A transcript of the exchange, which aired on December 17 on Starting Point at 7:30 a.m. EST, is as follows:

[7:30]

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: We want to turn now to John Lott, he's the author of a book that's called "More Guns, Less Crime." And that kind of is his theory in a nutshell. If people had more guns, then there'd be more opportunities for self-defense, and not only is he against new gun laws, he'd like to see many of the gun laws that are currently on the books taken out of the books all together. It's nice to have you talking with us. We appreciate it. On Friday, you were talking to Piers and then again with Wolf yesterday, and you said it's time to get rid of gun laws, like the takeaway for you from this massacre at an elementary school is it's time to get rid of gun laws. How does that possibly make sense to you?

JOHN LOTT: Well, because of my research, I've talked to dozens of people who have been present at these horrible events over time, and the feeling of utter helplessness is just overwhelming for these individuals. It's hard to think of something more terrifying than being helpless there when one of these attacks occur. Look there's one common feature across these attacks. The ones the President mentioned, you go back from 1950 at least on, with only one exception, all the multiple victim public shootings have occurred where more than three people have been killed, have occurred where guns are banned. We try to make an area safe by banning guns, but what happens is, it's the law-abiding good citizens who obey the ban and not the criminals, and rather than making –

O'BRIEN: But there's more than one thing in common, right? Well there's more than one more thing in common. One thing is common is that somebody has weapons too, and they go into a place where they should not be with a weapon. So I would say it's not just one thing in common. They are also armed often to the hilt and often with automatic weapons or semiautomatic weapons. Right?

LOTT: Never with automatic weapons, but with semiautomatic weapons, sure. They have those. But here is the point. We only have very tiny areas in the United States which are these completely gun-free zones, and yet time after time, that's the place these criminals go. Take the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shootings. There were seven movie theaters within a 20-minute car ride of the killer's apartment. There's only one that banned guns. He didn't go to the movie theater that was closest to his home. He didn't go to the movie theater that was largest. The movie theater that he went to was the only one that banned guns, and you see that –

O'BRIEN: Let me stop you there. Let me stop you there. And here, again, a case where someone had a semi automatic rifle, how do you know that he chose that because they banned guns? Have you talked to him? I have not seen anywhere in any transcript of anything he has said that he picked it specifically for that. He has not spoken to the media. How do you know that? You don't know that.

LOTT: Okay. There are two points. One is, I don't know in this particular case. But he picks one out of seven. It's the only one there, and the point is, every time. You go look at these mall shootings, most of the malls in the area aren't posted as gun-free zones, and yet the only ones they always pick are the ones that are banned. Pick the Columbine case. You probably don't know – let me give you one piece of information here. Take the Columbine case. Do you know that Dylan Klebold, for example, was lobbying against the concealed handgun bill when it was before the state legislature? He was writing his state legislators, he was strongly against it, he was particularly upset about the part of the law that would allow concealed handguns on school property, and do you know the day the Columbine attack occurred? It occurred on the day of final passage of the state concealed handgun law. At Columbine, how many times do you talk about that?

O'BRIEN: Why is your takeaway from all of this to get rid of gun laws, and your takeaway is not to say there are people who should not have access to certain types of weapons? In this particular case, we now know the investigation is just at the beginning stages we know, but we know that he used a semi-automatic rifle to blow out essentially the glass wall at the entrance to the school. So the security was useless. Why? Because he had a high-velocity, multishot with many rounds with him to be able to access the school. So why would you not say, that's exactly the kind of weapon that someone should not be able to easily get their hands on? And he was able easily to get his hands on it because it was legally registered to his mother. Why is that not your takeaway?

LOTT: You know what country had two of the three worst public shootings prior to Friday? It was Germany. Germany had three of the five worst public school shootings in the world. Now, they have extremely strict gun control laws. You can't get semi-automatic weapons. It takes a year to get a bolt action long rifle there. And yet they've a worse record in terms of multiple-victim shootings at schools than we've had here in the United States, even with this attack. And so I –
 
O'BRIEN: I don't see how any of that brings you to the decision that the answer is to get rid of gun laws. The other question that I would ask you, and often people will say –
 
LOTT: Because they serve as a magnet for these attacks. Because these criminals –

O'BRIEN: Or – or – or a rational person could say – or a rational person could say that having access to a high-powered semiautomatic rifle is inappropriate. That there's no reason to go deer hunting with that, there's no reason to have access to that. And that is the connection that these killers have access to those weapons. Let me ask you another question. Let's go back to the Second Amendment, because –

(Crosstalk)

LOTT: Now I'm not a Second Amendment. I don't argue Second Amendment. I argue crime. That's what I do. Now I just want to answer your question here. These guns are just like any hunting rifle. The inside guts, they fire one bullet. In fact, the bushmaster gun there is – would be equivalent of a rifle that would be used for hunting very small game, like squirrels. It's not – it looks different on the outside, because some people like to have guns that look like military weapons, but it's not. It's like any hunting rifle. If you want to ban all hunting rifles, that's fine.

O'BRIEN: Sir, sir – if you are trying to kill a large number of people in a massacre, that kind of gun is what you grab. If you are trying –

(Crosstalk)

O'BRIEN: – that you possibly could inflict on people, it is that kind of semi-automatic rifle that you grab. So how you can say that people should have fewer laws, and not more, I think is – it just boggles the mind, honestly, and if you were to come here and talk to the people in this town, they'd be stunned by you.

LOTT: I have talked to, unfortunately, lots of people at many multiple victim public shootings, as I started off.  Semi-automatic guns are the most common guns in the United States. They're beneficial for self-defense. If you had two criminals coming at you, you're not going to want to have a gun that only fires one shot like that. What are you going to do? What are you going to do? You can't fire even a warning shot. If you miss the first shot and you don't have a semi-automatic gun, what are you going to do for self-defense at that point?     

(Crosstalk)

O'BRIEN: And if you have a man who seems to be troubled, and he is armed with a semi-automatic weapon, a rifle, then there is a high likelihood that is he going to massacre a lot of people in one location, sir, in a very small amount of time. We could continue this debate for a long time, I appreciate you talking with me this morning, but I just – I have to say, your position -- your position completely boggles me, honestly. I just do not understand it.
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014