MSNBC Mocks NRA, Suggests It's Better to Confront a School Shooter Unarmed
On Monday's The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, MSNBC's Richard Wolffe mocked NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre for asserting a year ago that "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," by using the example of Antoinette Tuff, who last August heroically talked a gunman in a school into surrendering.
Wolffe treated one exceptional and unlikely case as if it proved LaPierre wrong as he awarded Tuff the show's "person of the year" award. Wolffe:
No, really, because when the NRA says the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, this woman single-handedly not only saved lives but changed the course of that ridiculous debate to show that the thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a country with a heart. And she has a heart.
On August 21, O'Donnell devoted the entire first segment of the show to ridiculously arguing that this one case proves a "good guy with a gun" is not necessary to prevent shootings. The MSNBC host teased the August 21 show: "Wayne LaPierre says the only way to protect children in their schools is with a gun. Well, it's not the only way. Meet Antoinette Tuff."
After noting the LaPierre quote, O'Donnell recounted the day's news: "Today, the McNair Elementary School still has 870 students, and it wasn't a properly trained good guy with a gun who saved them. It was Antoinette Tuff, the school's female bookkeeper."
Not recognizing that it would be preferable to be armed so that one has the option of using the weapon if negotiation were unsuccesful, the MSNBC host repeatedly noted that she was "unarmed." O'Donnell: "But with no weapon, Antoinette, completely unarmed, continued to try to talk him down."
A bit later, between extended clips of the 911 call, O'Donnell reiterated: "And here is what happened in the final 90 seconds when the bad guy with a gun was stopped by a good woman without one."
Then came a discussion with MSNBC contributor Frank Smyth, MSNBC host Krystal Ball, and The Guardian's Ana Marie Cox, who all pushed O'Donnell's anti-gun thesis that the NRA had been discredited by one exceptional event, even though members of the panel, including O'Donnell himself, used words like "luck," "miraculous" and "providence" to convey that it was, in fact, an unusual case.
By their logic, the fact that millions of Americans get through their lives without utilizing unemployment benefits would prove that such a government program is unnecessary, but the MSNBC left would never take such a position.
Smyth began by preposterously asserting: "Lawrence, I think that Antoinette Tuff puts the National Rifle Association, Dirty Harry, and Clint Eastwood all to shame. They've peddled this myth that only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun. And this proves that that is not the case."
Below are transcripts of relevant portions of the Monday, December 30, and the Wednesday, August 21, The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC, with critical portions in bold:
#From December 30, 2013:
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL: All right, now, Richard Wolffe, "person of the year"?
RICHARD WOLFFE: So I was tempted to do Harry Reid, but, honestly, I couldn't be bothered to finish the sentence, and so I'm actually going to go outside the world of politics.
O'DONNELL: He would have been so great.
WOLFFE: He would have been an inspiration.
O'DONNELL: First time ever.
WOLFFE: Antoinette Tuff.
O'DONNELL: Oh, yeah.
WOLFFE: No, really, because when the NRA says the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, this woman single-handedly not only saved lives but changed the course of that ridiculous debate to show that the thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a country with a heart. And she has a heart.
O'DONNELL: Now, Nia, your person of the year?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: I have the same one.
O'DONNELL: Remind us of the situation.
HENDERSON: Well, this is Antoinette Tuff. She is a bookkeeper at Ronald E. McNair school. It's a suburban school outside of Atlanta. A guy comes in, Michael Brandon Hill. He is intending to shoot up the school and she talks to him for minutes on end. She's on the phone with the dispatcher.
O'DONNELL: You know what? The control room quick moving. They tell me they've got some of it right now. Let's listen to Antoinette Tuff.
ANTOINETTE TUFF: It's going to be all right, sweetie. I just want you to know that I love you, though, okay? And I'm proud of you. That's a good thing that you just given up and don't worry about it. We all go through something in life. All right? Okay, guess what, Michael? My last name is Hill, too. You know, my mom was a Hill.
O'DONNELL: It was amazing. We're never going to forget that.
HENDERSON: It was amazing. I mean, she talked to him about her own story. She had tried to commit suicide the year before. She had a terrible divorce. And she has a son who she deals with who's an invalid.
O'DONNELL: So he's standing there, right, and she's on the phone to 911, and they are hearing her talking to him. We don't hear him very much.
HENDERSON: Right, we don't hear him. We just hear her essentially testifying and ministering to him about his issues. He is off his medication at this point, and she completely calms him down, calms the dispatcher down, and does this amazing thing. I watched it. I listened to the tapes when I was at the office at the Post and I was crying and wanted to share it with everybody there. It was really moving.
#From August 21, 2013:
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, IN OPENING TEASER: Wayne LaPierre says the only way to protect children in their schools is with a gun. Well, it's not the only way. Meet Antoinette Tuff.
O'DONNELL: Yesterday, the McNair Elementary School in Decatur, Georgia, had 870 students. That was before a 20-year-old man allegedly walked in with a semi-automatic weapon and 500 rounds of ammunition and started shooting. Well, there's only one way that story could end. Wayne LaPierre told us so seven days after a 20-year-old man with a semi-automatic weapon walked into a school in Connecticut and killed 26 people.
WAYNE LAPIERRE, NRA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CLIP #1: The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
LAPIERRE CLIP #2: Security is only available with properly trained, armed good guys.
O'DONNELL: Today, the McNair Elementary School still has 870 students, and it wasn't a properly trained good guy with a gun who saved them. It was Antoinette Tuff, the school's female bookkeeper. She was in the front office of the school, behind a locked door when the gunman slipped in behind a parent who had been buzzed in through the security door. Antoinette described her first encounter with the shooter.
O'DONNELL: Antoinette Tuff, who was unarmed, knew that she had to keep the gunman occupied. At this point, the school was on lockdown, and police were already on scene. She called the local news media and 911, at the gunman's request. And the 911 call released today captured what happened in the final 14 minutes of the encounter.
O'DONNELL: Antoinette Tuff did put the phone down, but she did not hang up the phone. She stayed on the line with 911. Antoinette later told reporters the gunman ran out of ammunition when he fired those shots. He came back into the office and started to reload in front of her with ammunition he brought in a book bag -- 500 rounds of ammunition, according to the police. But with no weapon, Antoinette, completely unarmed, continued to try to talk him down.
O'DONNELL: And here is what happened in the final 90 seconds when the bad guy with a gun was stopped by a good woman without one.
O'DONNELL: Joining me now are MSNBC's Krystal Ball, The Guardian's Ana Marie Cox, and MSNBC.com contributor, Frank Smyth, a reporter who's done an extensive investigative reporting on the NRA. Frank, this is a scene that Wayne LaPierre said we would never see.
FRANK SMYTH, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Lawrence, I think that Antoinette Tuff puts the National Rifle Association, Dirty Harry, and Clint Eastwood all to shame. (O'DONNELL LAUGHS) They've peddled this myth that only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun. And this proves that that is not the case. There are times when an active shooter needs to be actively stopped, but those are very few actual cases where that has occurred. And this demonstrates there are other approaches to public safety in our communities and schools that need to be talked about and pursued.
O'DONNELL: And, Krystal, the police were on the scene fast enough, and they were on the scene fast enough to go in there with guns and intervene, and we have no idea what would have happened if they had.
KRYSTAL BALL: Right, that's exactly right, and God bless Antoinette Tuff. What an incredible woman. We can't always count on there being an Antoinette Tuff at the school, in that position to be able to talk the person down, to be able to make that call. It's unfortunate, it's unbelievable that we have a system where guns are so prevalent, where they have proliferated so much in our society, that it can get to that point where someone can show up, a mentally disturbed person with an AK-47, and have to rely on someone like an Antoinette Tuff, as that last line of defense for these children. It's just an unbelievable situation.
O'DONNELL: Ana Marie, the NRA has made sure that our mass murderers and our aspiring mass murderers are the best equipped in the world, and one of them walked in there today with the 500 rounds of ammunition, and the NRA did everything that they could to make him as effective as he could be today.
ANA MARIE COX, THE GUARDIAN: Right, and what they would like to do is make Antoinette Tuff as effective. You know, they talk about training teachers with guns. I think they should train teachers to do stuff like what Antoinette Tuff did. And also, if teachers (AUDIO GAP) that kind of negotiation and that kind of way of talking to students, that does a lot of good in a lot of other situations. Not just talking down a gunman.
Actually, I was looking at the national education statistics, and it's true that actually schools are one of the few places in our lives whre the presence of guns are decreasing. School security measures like metal detectors, like having to sign in and like uniforms, like training teachers about being able to stop gun violence, schools have gotten more safer. Students report that they feel safe at school. To add guns into that equation would actually undo (AUDIO GAP) last 10 or 20 years.
O'DONNELL: The background on the shooter, Michael Brandon Hill, 20 years old. He carried an AK-47 style rifle, two bags of ammunition, and he has felony arrests, a prior felony, threatened to shoot his brother. He's on three year's probation. And, Frank Smyth, this is the kind of guy who the NRA says, oh, we don't want to have a gun. But he's shown us how easily, how easy it is for him, with his criminal record, with his mental instability to get his hands on whatever he wants.
SMYTH: And on top of that, Lawrence, I've been monitoring the NRA Twitter feeds and like-minded Twitter feeds. And they have said next to nothing about this case. It doesn't fit within their world view. They can't process it. So they are saying absolutely nothing or next to nothing about this particular incident that has the attention of the rest of the nation because they have no response. They don't know what to say.
O'DONNELL: And, Krystal, if this had been the worst case scenario, and we saw 26 bodies or more coming out of that school, you know, we would obviously bring a kind of saturation coverage to it, all of the cable news channels would have stopped. And, you know, as soon as I heard this was stopped and there wasn't one fatality, there wasn't harm done to anyone, I thought we have to bring as much attention to this in this program tonight as we would if some of those kids in that school had not survived.
BALL: That's exactly right, and not only should we bring attention to it on the platforms that we have, but we also need to pressure our legislators in the way that we did after Sandy Hook. I mean, it's unbelievable that we couldn't even pass a basic background check bill in the wake of Sandy Hook.
O'DONNELL: You know, Ana, for the parents in that school today, it is something of a miracle. It is luck that their kids came home safely.
COX: It is luck, except I guess I do believe in providence. I don't believe it was just luck. It sounds to me like there was a reason why Antoinette Tuff was there. I was very moved by that entire conversation. And I do come back believing that this is what we need to train teachers in.
This is the kind of, this is what, if the NRA wanted to use Sandy Hook as an excuse to say that what we need to do was train teachers and arm them and shield our schools with weapons, what we need is teachers who know how to talk to people, administrators who know how to talk to people. This is the thing that we can replicate in other schools. This is the thing that could actually save more lives because it wouldn't be putting more weapons into the equation.
O'DONNELL: Mm-hmm. And, Frank, it shows that there is a kind of empowerment you can bring to school administrators and teachers in situations like this without them strapping guns on their hips.
SMYTH: Absolutely, if you have armed guards and armed teachers in schools, it creates a terrible environment for learning. It undermines the goals you're trying to achieve, and it divides the community. And what you want are exactly what Ana Marie said, are teachers who have the skills and are trained to have the skills to be able to talk through and avoid violence and cool things down, as opposed to escalating them. And that's something that the gun lobby simply doesn't understand.
O'DONNELL: And, Krystal, the outrage for those parents that we're seeing on the video there, getting their kids today, is that a guy was in their school with 500 rounds, he had no trouble getting that. He had a weapon that could have wiped out hundreds of kids. He was in there, and it is, you know, it is something of a miracle that those kids were able to go home. But how can you feel good as a parent? Well, you know, there was a gunman in there today, but, you know, he didn't kill anybody, and so, let's all just go back to school in this happy country of ours where a gunmen gets to walk into our schools.
BALL: No, that's exactly right. I mean, any sense of safety that those parents had before has certainly been shattered because there is nothing to keep another person, another mentally ill person from bringing another AK-47 to that school or to any school in our country, with 500 rounds of ammunition. And, as Ana Marie said, I think it was providence that Antoinette Tuff was there. Thank God she was there. But we should not be putting our kids in such a situation where we have to rely on that kind of Providence and having that kind of a miraculous person in the line there.
COX: Yeah, if I can just add, the Sandy Hook parents were mobilized out of grief. These parents could be mobilized out of gratitude.
O'DONNELL: Yes, Krystal Ball, Ana Marie Cox, and Frank Smyth, thank you all for joining me on this extraordinary story.