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CNN's Costello Bemoans 'Bizarre' Focus on 'Text Rage' Over Guns in Florida Shooting Aftermath

Carol Costello hinted at her liberal slant on the gun issue on Wednesday's CNN Newsroom as she discussed the recent movie theater shooting in Florida. Costello lamented the "bizarre conversation now taking place in America: instead of talking about whether loaded guns ought to be allowed in movie theaters, many people are talking about 'text rage.'"

An on-screen graphic during the segment also suggested that a lack of strict gun control was partially to blame for the incident: "Which Is To Blame: Gun Laws Or 'Text Rage'?" [MP3 audio available here; video below]

The anchor brought on psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere and CNN legal analyst Mark O'Mara to discuss the case. Costello repeated her "bizarre" labeling in her first question to Dr. Gardere: "First off, I'm not blaming the victim. It is not his fault. I just find it bizarre that someone can become so enraged over texting. Dr. Jeff, some psychologists have suggested that being trapped in a movie theater with a texting person is a volatile mix. I mean, seriously?"

Moments later, the CNN on-air personality further hinted at her leaning on the issue in a question to O'Mara: "Let me ask you this question: like, this guy becomes enraged over texting, and according to prosecutors, he's done this before. Yet, he chooses to bring his loaded gun into a movie theater. Is that really responsible?"

The analyst answered, in part, by underlining the controversy over concealed carry:

MARK O'MARA, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think what happens is most people have concealed permits – and I'm sure he did – carry a gun as a matter of course, so they carry it everywhere except for those places that are forbidden by law. Should most guns be left at home? A lot of people would say yes.

I'm sure – particularly as a police officer – he was used to carrying it with him. But in the same sense, if you're going to carry a gun, you have a heightened level of responsibility of how to use it – and, most importantly, how to not use it, unless the ultimate faces you – which is your own life or someone else's life in immediate peril. And he overreacted to virtually nothing of an attack – if it was like popcorn or some other event. It was just an overreaction.

Near the end of the segment, Costello noted that "the sheriff investigating this case says it's not about the gun, but the guy who pulled the trigger." She then asked Dr. Jeff Gardere, "In your opinion, is it about the gun, or the man who pulled the trigger, or what is it?" The psychologist replied, "Well, I think it's a combination of both. Certainly, if you have someone who is an unstable personality, as I believe this individual is, a gun simply enables the person to do something much worse. If he didn't have the gun, then it might have stopped at a verbal argument...but certainly, not pulling out a gun and shooting someone."

Back in April 2013, the CNN anchor bewailed Senate Republicans' threat to filibuster a gun control bill: "Republicans, including [Rand] Paul, have vowed to filibuster away any debate on guns, as in we don't want to talk about guns, period.... let's say a mother who lost her child, knocks on Rand Paul's door and says please don't do this, what will Rand Paul say? Will he even meet with her and answer the door?"

The transcript of the relevant portions of the segment from Wednesday's CNN Newsroom:

CAROL COSTELLO: In other news this morning, a bizarre conversation now taking place in America: instead of talking about whether loaded guns ought to be allowed in movie theaters, many people are talking about 'text rage.' A 71-year-old former cop, Curtis Reeves, is now charged with murder, after he pulled a gun in a movie theater and killed a Chad Oulson, a 43-year-old father who was texting in the darkened theater.

In a strange twist, Florida prosecutors say the alleged killer has a history of retribution for others texting at the movies. A witness told them Reeves came after her at the very same theater just a few weeks ago.

[CNN Graphic: "Which Is To Blame: Gun Laws Or 'Text Rage'?"]

MANUEL GARCIA, ASSISTANT STATE ATTORNEY (from court proceedings): Indicated that he was glaring at her the entire time throughout the movie – and he also followed her to the bathroom when she had gotten up to go to the restroom, and made her feel very uncomfortable.

COSTELLO: Okay, so let's talk about this. Mark O'Mara is a CNN legal analyst and defense attorney; and Dr. Jeff Gardere is a psychologist. Welcome to both of you.

DR. JEFF GARDERE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Thank you.

MARK O'MARA, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Good morning

COSTELLO: Thanks so much for being here. First off, I'm not blaming the victim. It is not his fault. I just find it bizarre that someone can become so enraged over texting. Dr. Jeff, some psychologists have suggested that being trapped in a movie theater with a texting person is a volatile mix. I mean, seriously?

GARDERE: Well, I guess it could be, because it is very much a distraction. I know – when I'm sitting with my own son, watching television – and he's on the computer and the light coming from the computer – and I tell him to turn it off and he won't, that – I become agitated with it, too. But I think we're dealing with a person, in Reeves here, who I believe may be a very unstable person to begin with anyway. So, if it's not the texting, it might be somebody else talking in the theater, or doing something that involves bad manners that distracts from the movie.

(...)

COSTELLO: Let me ask you this question: like, this guy becomes enraged over texting, and according to prosecutors, he's done this before. Yet, he chooses to bring his loaded gun into a movie theater. Is that really responsible?

O'MARA: I think what happens is most people have concealed permits – and I'm sure he did – carry a gun as a matter of course, so they carry it everywhere except for those places that are forbidden by law. Should most guns be left at home? A lot of people would say yes.

I'm sure – particularly as a police officer – he was used to carrying it with him. But in the same sense, if you're going to carry a gun, you have a heightened level of responsibility of how to use it – and, most importantly, how to not use it, unless the ultimate faces you – which is your own life or someone else's life in immediate peril. And he overreacted to virtually nothing of an attack – if it was like popcorn or some other event. It was just an overreaction.

COSTELLO: Well, Dr. Jeff, along those same – along those same lines, the sheriff investigating this case says it's not about the gun, but the guy who pulled the trigger. This guy was a former cop. He was well respected. In your opinion, is it about the gun, or the man who pulled the trigger, or what is it?

GARDERE: Well, I think it's a combination of both. Certainly, if you have someone who is an unstable personality, as I believe this individual is, a gun simply enables the person to do something much worse. If he didn't have the gun, then it might have stopped at a verbal argument; maybe, it would have gotten physical where they wrestled or fought with one another; but certainly, not pulling out a gun and shooting someone.

I also want to point out to Mark that this individual – it's reported – three weeks earlier from a Miss Dixon that she was texting – he not only objected to it, but he followed her around the theater for hours. And to me, this speaks of an unstable personality – 71 years old – possibility of dementia. I'm not an attorney, but if I were one, I would say we have to have this man evaluated psychologically, and look at an insanity defense, because what happened was insane. It was unjustified.

COSTELLO: All right. We will have to leave it there. Dr. Jeff Gardere, Mark O'Mara, thanks so much.

— Matthew Balan is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matthew Balan on Twitter.