Interview with Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley

By Hardball, Hardball - December 19, 2012

HARDBALLDecember 19, 2012

Guests: Martin O`Malley, Hedrick Smith, David Ignatius, Rajiv Chandrasekaran

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Getting serious.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this -- as I said, getting serious on guns in the hands of dangerous people. The president`s given Vice President Biden a month to deal with the lethal combination of semiautomatic guns, high-capacity ammunition clips, mental illness and a violent culture. It`s the brew that blew in Newtown, Connecticut. Is there something we can do?

The fiscal cliff -- the president now says we`re so close, it makes no sense to fail. Well, let`s see tonight how close is close and whether or not the grownups can bring this to a healthy conclusion.

And back to Benghazi. There are reports in the State Department`s have been -- the State Department`s being blamed here. Christopher Stevens didn`t have the protection his people asked for. Did they ask enough? Did they keep asking? The report says no.

But what if they had? Would they have gotten the reinforcements, or would the CIA have said they didn`t want their cover blown? Again, let`s get serious.

Joining me right now to talk about gun violence is Maryland governor Martin O`Malley and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.

Martin O`Malley, thank you for joining us right now.

President Obama spoke forcefully this afternoon about needing to take action on gun safety. Let`s listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This time, the words need to lead to action. We know this is a complex issue that stirs deeply held passions and political divides. We`re going to need to work on making access to mental health care at least as easy as access to a gun. We`re going to need to look more closely at a culture that all too often glorifies guns and violence.

And any actions we must take must begin inside the home and inside our hearts. But the fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing.


MATTHEWS: Governor O`Malley, thank you. And I`ve come to really respect you and the other governors, and Governor Rendell, because I`ve watched it during Sandy and I`ve watched it during what happened up in Newtown. Governors really are the responsible adults. They have to take care of their people.

So in taking care of the people of Maryland, what do you think`s the most important thing, deal with the gun -- the issue of the semiautomatic weapons, the so-called assault rifles, dealing with the high-capacity gun clips, the ammunition clips, or the mental illness piece, or the violent culture piece?

What can you go at in a month?

GOV. MARTIN O`MALLEY (D), MARYLAND: Well, you have to go at all of those things and you have to go at all of those things simultaneously. Clearly, school safety`s an issue. Mental health access is an issue.

But there is no reason why we should have military assault weapons anyplace but on the battlefield. They`re -- and most of the hunters that I know agree. I mean, we -- law enforcement is a piece of this.

You know, Governor Rendell, who I know you`re going to be talking to in just a second -- he and I both had the about highest title in the land, and that was the title of mayor. We had to order police officers in the middle of the night to go into homes, and oftentimes they would bring out these assault weapons, these combat weapons that have no place in a civilized society.

For their safety, if only for their safety, we need responsible bans and controls on these military combat assault weapons that play no purpose in a civil society.

MATTHEWS: Governor Rendell, you`re right in the heart of it up in Pennsylvania, which you and I know, and you better than me, how sensitive people are about the gun ownership, the deer hunter culture, the whole thing.

Can we get something done here in terms of the assault rifles, the ammunition clips, et cetera?

ED RENDELL (D), FMR. PENNSYLVANIA GOV., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think the answer is absolutely yes, Chris. It just takes leaders, and the president looks like he`s ready to lead, to do something that takes a tiny bit of courage but not much.

Look, Governor O`Malley is absolutely right. There`s no excuse. I was on TV with Governor McDonnell from Virginia, and I asked him a question. Give me one good reason why ordinary citizens should have the semiautomatic rifles or clips that have more than 10 bullets in them? And there is no good reason. There`s no answer to that. We`ve got to get rid of them.

We`ve got to make it impossible to buy a gun in this country -- you can`t buy it on the Internet, you can`t buy it at a gun show -- without going through a background check. We`ve got to tighten the existing law now that says states have a duty to report to the national computer that does all these background checks when there are mental illnesses. But right now, it`s not being enforced because it`s too vague. It has to be specific.

If we do all those things, we can do it. And it`s easy to do because 74 percent of NRA members in a Frank Luntz poll, Chris...


RENDELL: ... said that they support the concept that no one can buy a gun without a background check.

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