CNN's Carol Costello threw ugly smears and liberal talking points at the NRA's president David Keene on Thursday. Keene repeatedly had to deflect criticisms that the NRA is out of touch with most Americans during a lengthy 15-minute grilling.
Costello resorted to sharing smears of the NRA from her Facebook page. "And many, many comments said, 'Why is the NRA crazy? Why are they, like, out of touch with reality?' A lot of people said – why do you think that people say those things about the NRA?" she asked Keene.
Costello also quoted GOP pollster Frank Luntz smacking the NRA as out of touch. She described Luntz "as conservative as you can get," even though he also polled for the anti-gun Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
And Keene, not Costello, brought up that interesting fact:
"All that Frank Luntz is doing – and by the way that poll that he's talking about was paid for by Mayor Bloomberg's group. But all he's doing is misrepresenting the views of the National Rifle Association."
Costello wasn't finished. She cited questions from Luntz's MAIG poll after Luntz claimed the NRA leadership was out of touch with NRA members on gun regulations.
"Let's go back to Mr. Luntz. Because he conducted a poll for the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns this past May. It showed NRA members strongly support what Luntz called common sense public safety measures to keep guns from criminals. And I want to go through them one by one," Costello told Keene.
A transcript of the segment, which aired on CNN Newsroom on December 27 at 10:17 a.m. EST, is as follows:
CAROL COSTELLO: I must say, David, when we found out that we were going to interview you today, I have a very active Facebook page and I put on my page, "What would you like me to ask David Keene from the National Rifle Association?" And many, many comments said, "Why is the NRA crazy? Why are they, like, out of touch with reality?" A lot of people said – why do you think that people say those things about the NRA?"
DAVID KEENE, president, National Rifle Association: Listen, the question of firearms in this country is a question on which people disagree very deeply and some people tend to personalize it.
I'll tell you this though. Recent Gallup polls show that the NRA is quite popular, certainly more popular than either of the national political parties, although that's a pretty low bar I'll have to admit. We asked voters in Wisconsin following the recall election of Governor Walker up there whether they agree with the goals and the principles of the National Rifle Association and 45 percent of them had a simple answer. That answer was yes.
So yes, there are people who are detractors, yes there are people who disagree with us on policy and yes, there are people who think that because we support firearms rights that we're crazy. But the fact of the matter is that most Americans don't feel that way at all. And most Americans support the 2nd Amendment.
COSTELLO: It's been nearly two weeks since the Newtown shooting. One week since the widely-criticized NRA response. In that time, Americans seem more confused than ever about how to react to gun violence. On one hand, people are buying up guns like mad. But in Los Angeles, we have seen what some say is the biggest gun buyback in history. People waited two hours in line to get rid of their guns. Why do you think that is? Why the dichotomy in the country?
KEENE: Well, I think – I wasn't in Los Angeles for the buyback, but if you offer me $100 for a $50 gun, I'll sell it to you.
COSTELLO: But some people said that they wanted to get rid of the guns because they just wanted them out of their house after Newtown.
KEENE: People have every right to either own or not own a gun. That's what a free country is all about.
COSTELLO: Let's move on to the polls that I was talking about earlier. There are some who are as conservative as you can get who say that you, the NRA not listening to your own members. Frank Luntz is a Republican pollster. This is what he had to say on CBS.
FRANK LUNTZ, Republican pollster: I don't think the NRA is listening. I don't think that they understand. Most Americans would protect the 2nd amendment rights and yet agree with the idea that not every human being should own a gun. Not every gun should be available at any time, anywhere, for anyone.
(End Video Clip)
KEENE: All of our members agree with that. All that Frank Luntz is doing, and by the way that poll that he's talking about was paid for by Mayor Bloomberg's group. But all he's doing is misrepresenting the views of the National Rifle Association. There are people in this country who should not be allowed to purchase firearms and the law provides prohibiting such purchases. By, for example, convicted felons. We have argued for years that those who have been adjudicated to be mentally incompetent should be included on the instant check registry with the government so that they can be denied the purchase of firearms, and 23 states haven't even done that. There's no argument about whether there are some people –
COSTELLO: I think Mr. Luntz was talking about arming – having armed guards at every school in America. He said most Americans do not want more guns in schools, they want less. He says some of your members even agree with that and you're not listening to them.
KEENE: Well I'll tell you something. There are 23,000 schools today that have armed guards, private schools and public schools. This "Cops In the Schools" program was initiated in the 1990s by Bill Clinton. Now whether an individual school wants that kind of protection or doesn't want that kind of protection is really up to the individual school.
And when we made that statement, when Wayne LaPierre spoke about a week ago, he suggested that what has to happen and what should happen is that in every school district, administrators, teachers and parents should sit down and ask what's needed to protect the students in that school. Some of them will want police officers there. Others of them will want private security guards. There may be some places where they want volunteers to do it. We're willing to work with everybody on those questions, but the fact is that is not a crazy suggestion.
COSTELLO: How do you get past the fact that two of the biggest teachers unions in this country don't want to have armed guards patrolling our schools? Most police officers don't want that.
KEENE: Let's not got into an argument about who teachers unions are mostly interested in. But the fact of the matter is that in some schools – and we're not urging that teachers be armed. But in some schools, school districts and teachers are armed today. And if the school district and the teachers want to do it that way, that's really up to them it seems to me.
COSTELLO: Let's go back to Mr. Luntz. Because he conducted a poll for the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns this past May. It showed NRA members strongly support what Luntz called "common sense public safety measures" to keep guns from criminals. And I want to go through them one by one. Here's the first one, 87 percent of NRA members agree 2nd amendment rights support goes hand in hand with keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.
KEENE: Absolutely. That's the NRA's position.
COSTELLO: So how do you keep guns out of the hands of criminals? And I say that because if you go back to Sandy Hook, this kid wasn't a criminal. He got hold of a legally-purchased gun and he committed mass murder.
KEENE: He stole the gun. He could not have probably have purchased that firearm himself. In fact he tried, I think, to buy a gun and couldn't. That's been the case of some of these other folks. In a country the size of ours, there are some people who are evil.