Not only did MSNBC's Thomas Roberts jump on top of yesterday's deadly Oregon mall shooting to push gun control, he presented his softball interview with gun advocate Dan Gross of the Brady Campaign as a "debate." That's right, the segment's title, given in an onscreen graphic was "Gun Control Debate." Of course, Roberts failed to bring on a gun-rights advocate to balance out Gross's appearance, meaning the audience didn't witness an actual debate.
Spokesmen for the Brady Campaign appear regularly on MSNBC, as they share the same gun-control stance of the network's anchors. Coupled with friendly interviewers like Roberts, they get a platform devoid of any hard questions or valid counterpoints. [See video below page break. MP3 audio here.]
Although at the time of the interview with Gross, no one in the media knew the name of the dead suspect or the circumstances of how he obtained the rifle, Roberts lumped the shooting in with other high-profile shootings to ask, "Why can't we get the weapons... off the streets?"
Gross responded by mentioning non-controversial measures broadly accepted across the political spectrum and already in place, such as background checks, in order to insist we need new gun control laws:
We just need to reframe this whole conversation and have it in the context of what can we do to prevent all the tragedies that happen, taking assault weapons off the street is clearly an important conversation to have. But so is the fact that 40% of all gun sales in our country don't have background checks. So people that are convicted felons, convicted domestic abusers, dangerously mentally ill and God forbid terrorists are able to get guns without any background check. And this is the kind of thing; these are solutions that the overwhelming majority of Americans support because, you know, we know as a country we're better than this.
Roberts then used comments by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) as a springboard to dive into an attack on conservatives and gun-rights advocates in Congress:
So when we talk about the fact that elected leaders need to get a better understanding of this, even after having one almost assassinated in January of 2011 on a Congress On Your Corner event at the local supermarket, if that's not going to get anybody's attention in Washington, D.C., what is?
Oddly enough, yesterday a federal appeals court struck down Illinois's ban on concealed carry weapons, saying that state's making it completely illegal for anyone to obtain a concealed carry permit violated the Constitution.
"A Chicagoan is a good deal more likely to be attacked on a sidewalk in a rough neighborhood than in his apartment on the 35th floor of the Park Tower," Judge Richard Posner noted in that ruling, the Chicago Tribune reported.
If Roberts were truly interested in a real gun rights/gun control policy debate, he may have balanced out the discussion by asking Gross if some gun control measures, like Illinois's concealed carry ban, simply go too far and violate the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans.
See relevant transcript below.
December 12, 2012
11:30 a.m. EST
THOMAS ROBERTS: This is all raising a lot of questions, the issue of gun control in this country and joining me now live is Dan Gross, President of both the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and its sister organization, The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Dan, it’s good to have you here. And as we learn more details specifically about what took place in this latest incident less than 24 hours ago, the law enforcement officials telling NBC News the weapon used at the town center mall in Portland was a 223 caliber semiautomatic rifle similar to that of an AR-15. It had a high capacity magazine and it seems that time after time when we're talking about these situations, that semiautomatic rifles are involved in shooting rampages like this one. When we think back to not that long ago to Aurora, Colorado, and then also Gabbi Giffords in January of 2011 and then we have the domestic gun violence situation with the football player, Jovan Belcher, just a couple of weeks ago. Why can't we get the weapons though, specifically like what's being described that was used in this incident most recently in Portland off the streets?
DAN GROSS: Yeah. I mean, you know, it's a good question. It's a good conversation and it's a conversation that the American public wants to have. You know, the American public, we know that as a nation, we are better than this and we don't want to live in a country that has shootings in malls and movie theaters and places of worship but we also don't want to live in a country where there are 32 murders every day and whether you hunt, whether you believe in the second amendment, you know nobody wants to live in that kind of country. And you know, we just need to reframe this whole conversation and have it in the context of what can we do to prevent all the tragedies that happen, taking assault weapons off the street is clearly an important conversation to have. But so is the fact that 40% of all gun sales in our country don't have background checks. So people that are convicted felons, convicted domestic abusers, dangerously mentally ill and God forbid terrorists are able to get guns without any background check. And this is the kind of thing; these are solutions that the overwhelming majority of Americans support because, you know, we know as a country we're better than this. And it's why we've started this campaign, this website, WeAreBetterThanThis.Org, for the American public to really make its voice heard on this issue. Because it's very clear until we do, our elected officials are unlikely to take action.
ROBERTS: Let's talk about the elected officials on this Dan, because prior to this shooting and the news of it happening, Senator Lindsey Graham was on CNN talking about how he owns eight guns. Take a listen.
LINDSEY GRAHAM: Why should my constitutional right be limited because you don't understand why I want eight guns?
PIERS MORGAN: Why do you want eight guns?
GRAHAM: Because I enjoy shooting. I hunt. It's something me and my dad did together in the south as part of growing up. If my individual rights under the constitution are limited by the sensibility of others, I don't have a whole lot of rights.
GRAHAM: So when we talk about the rights of gun ownership, second amendment rights in this country, the conversation is more about these assault weapons Dan, these high capacity magazine clips that probably the Senator doesn't need to go hunting deer or rabbit or whatever he's trying to track down there in South Carolina, or anybody else, for that matter. So when we talk about the fact that elected leaders need to get a better understanding of this, even after having one almost assassinated in January of 2011 on a Congress On Your Corner event at the local supermarket, if that's not going to get anybody's attention in Washington, D.C., What is?
GROSS: The American people are going to get our elected officials' and our leaders' attention. I'm so glad you played that clip, because, you know I watched it and it just made me nuts, as it made you know anybody who is educated on this issue, because it's based on this flawed assumption that any conversation about what we can do from a policy perspective is an infringement on second amendment rights. Listen, the second amendment has been decided. It's been decided in the Heller case. There is a right to own guns in our country and we need to respect that. And the fact is, that there are things we can do with a deep inherent respect for the second amendment and Lindsey Graham's love of hunting and love of shooting and his belief in the second amendment to save lives and prevent tragedies and just to cut off that conversation just in the name of, you know, it's an infringement on my rights, it's irresponsible leadership, actually. You know, there are things that we can do to prevent many of the 32 gun murders that happen every day without doing anything contradictory to the second amendment. The American public wants to have that conversation. 74 and this is a Frank Luntz poll, 74% of NRA members support criminal background checks. Because NRA members like average Americans realize that that has nothing to do with the right of a law-abiding citizen to responsibly own a gun. These are the terms on which we have to have this conversation. And we need to hold people like Lindsey Graham accountable for making statements like that, that automatically equate any sensible conversation in our country about gun laws with second amendment rights because that's not an accurate portrayal of the conversation.
ROBERTS: Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Dan great to have you on. Thank you, sir.
GROSS: Thank you.