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updated 12/18/2012 11:08:25 AM ET 2012-12-18T16:08:25

HARDBALL
December 17, 2012

Guests: John Larson, Blanche Lincoln, Larry Pratt, David Chipman

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Law and order.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews down in Washington.

"Let Me Start" tonight with this. Is gun violence, mass violence -- mass
violence against children -- the price we pay for freedom? Is watching and
doing nothing what we have to put up with to obey the 2nd Amendment? Is
it? We`re supposed to do nothing because the Constitution upholds the
right to bear arms.

Well, we have easy access to semiautomatic weapons in this country,
semiautomatic rifles. Is it a good society that does this, allows this, a
country where anyone can get hold of a rifle that can kill 26 people in 10
minutes? Is this a good society? Is it really a free society when you
can`t be sure your kids are safe sitting at their school desks?

I ask the questions knowing that the only way we can end this is with the
votes of politicians from deer-hunting country, not from the big cities.
Will they be there? Will politicians who fear the gun lobby bear up under
the strain of attack against any measure, no matter how small, to curb the
power of the gun owners?

The question tonight, what should, and most importantly can, be done to
stop this kind of gun violence? And if nothing will work, say it. Go
ahead, politicians, say so. Say nothing can be done. I want to hear an
American elected official tonight or any night say that what happened on
Friday in Newtown, Connecticut, is just part of living in the free society
of America.

Chuck Todd is NBC`s chief White House correspondent and political director
and Chris Cillizza is managing editor of Postpolitics.com.

Gentlemen, I want you to just -- I know we all saw this, so it`s called the
-- this is what we used to call in high school the topic sentence. I think
this is the most telling, action-oriented piece of what the president said
last night up in Connecticut.

Let`s listen to it now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the coming weeks, I`ll
use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law
enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators, in an
effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.

Because what choice do we have? We can`t accept events like this as
routine. Are we really prepared to say that we`re powerless in the face of
such carnage, that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that
such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow
the price of our freedom?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Chuck Todd, you know, gun control was probably not in many
politicians` songbook going into this coming year, but now it is. Reality
-- reality checks, reality bites. Do you think the president has given any
sign that he will do something about gun safety in this next term?

CHUCK TODD, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT/POLITICAL DIR.: Well, if he
wants that speech -- that speech was a powerful speech. It was
galvanizing. It was remorseful. It mourned those precious little kids
that were lost.

But it`s that galvanizing part -- and if he`s going to make that speech
live in history pretty high up in his presidency, then he has to. I mean,
he`s all but pledged, saying that he`s going to tackle this. The question
is, how do you do it? How do you navigate the politics of this? It`s not
easy. He himself acknowledged there`s not one answer, but he also said
that doesn`t mean you don`t try.

So look, they`re still trying to put this together here. They`re not going
to sit here and say they have this exact idea of what this is going to look
like. It could be a commission. How do you engage the NRA? Do you try to
bring them into the conversation...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TODD: ... along with Hollywood, along with law enforcement, along with
educators? You know, do you try to have one of those types of
conversations at first just to sort of see if there`s any common ground
here? And then where do you go?

I think that, honestly, they`re still in the beginning stages of this and
of trying to figure out -- but I think that he seemed -- if he wants that
speech to mean anything, he has to do something real.

MATTHEWS: You know, climate change -- we can argue all the time about
whether it`s man-made, but this is man-made, guns. This is a unique
culture. I love so much about America, the freedom with live in, the
individualism, the cowboy attitude. But why is it legal to own a gun?
Anybody can buy one, a semiautomatic -- call it an assault rifle, call it
what you want, but the bottom line is you can just keep pulling that
trigger and the bullets keep flying out pulling to the point where you can
kill 26 people in 10 minutes. Any imbecile can do it. You don`t need to
go to training (INAUDIBLE) just start pulling that trigger.

And the society decided that was considered carrying a musket from the 18th
century. That was just like a guy who took 10 minutes to load up a musket.
That`s what they meant by the right to bear arms, to be part of a militia
so a bunch of guys together could defend their community. That`s now been
transformed by modern logical to anybody can own a frickin` bazooka and
walk around!

CHRIS CILLIZZA, POSTPOLITICS.COM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it -- I
would say, Chris, it has become tied up with this idea of "land of the
free"...

MATTHEWS: Right.

CILLIZZA: ... that we have the right to do these things. Now, I would say
-- you mention in the ammunition used in this shooting was one of these
high-round ammunitions. From 1994 to...

MATTHEWS: And also explosive bullets.

CILLIZZA: From 1994 to 2004, those sorts -- anything that carried more
than 10 rounds was banned under the Assault Weapons Act. The question is,
what does a comprehensive plan look like?

Chuck is right, the president, I think, can`t -- you can`t give a speech
like that and then just say, OK, fiscal cliff, or just move -- he has to do
something. The question is, does he do something around these high-round
ammunition holders? Does he include something about mental health in
there, sentencing?

Is it an attempt to be a more comprehensive approach that some folks who --
the Michael Bloombergs will not be happy with.

TODD: Right.

CILLIZZA: They don`t want -- they want gun control, not sort of this broad
mental health, sentencing, and a little bit on ammunition. But that, to
Chuck`s point, Chris, may be what`s able to get through...

MATTHEWS: Well, let me...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... you guys -- I really want to get to your strengths here.
Both of you guys are Obama watchers. We all are. You got a closer look at
him. I think, Chuck, you really do because you`re with his people all day.
You got great sources.

Have you been able to measure how deep that emotion that we see on the
president`s face, the tears he had to fight back last Friday -- is he
willing to say, You know what I was going to do this year? I was going to
do immigration. I think I`ll push that back six months. I know I got the
Iranian threat coming at -- the nuclear threat. I got to deal with that.
That`s front burner, no matter what I do. But I got to find a way to jam
this baby into my agenda.

Did you get a sense he`s willing to go for gun control as part of his
legacy, as you, I think, suggested?

TODD: I do, but -- well, first of all, yes. I do believe that he believes
this has got to become a priority. Now, Jay Carney today, for what it`s
worth, was fighting back. He`s not going to order what his priorities are.
But no, the bottom line is he -- this is a window. You know you only have
a finite window, sometimes...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TODD: ... when there are policy fights that are sort of thrown at your
doorstep, whether you wanted it or not, and you have to deal with it. So I
think he knows that this is -- this is something he`s got to tackle early,
first six months type of thing...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TODD: ... next year, kind of early. So no, I do sense that -- but the
problem is, What is it? And I go -- you know, the issue with guns, Chris -
- and I hear what you`re saying, and there`s a -- and -- but this --
there`s a real -- you want to understand the divide between rural America
and suburban and urban America, it is this issue of guns.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TODD: It`s not a policy. This is never -- it never turns into a policy
debate. As Chris hinted at, this turns into -- this turns into an
ideological -- and then people lose their sort of -- they lose their --
they lose their grounding in this...

MATTHEWS: I know.

TODD: ... and it becomes an irrational back and forth on guns. You cannot
have a -- nobody will have this sort of, Well, geez, we`re having somebody
come on planes, let`s start more security. People will rationally have a,
Oh, yes, we need to have more security going onto airplanes. They will
have a rational conversation about that.

It is hard to get the two sides on the gun debate to have this rational --
for some reason, finding a rational middle ground has been impossible to
find in the gun issue.

And frankly, as a parent, I find it very frustrating and disturbing to
watch. It`s like, Why...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TODD: I get it. I get it. I get it -- rural -- I get the culture. You
can`t tell me there`s not a middle ground here.

MATTHEWS: Yes, well, I think that`s a wonderful way to look at it. If we
could go -- the people who are concerned about safety, Chris, and the
people who are concerned about reasonable American life -- is it a threat,
a real threat to the gun owner? Not just the gun owner who believes in
hunting. That`s the easy part because hunters go don`t with these kind of
rifles.

The 2nd Amendment person who really does believe they face a threat down
the road from the government -- how do you talk to that person and say, you
know, The kind of caliber weapon you have is really not going to make much
difference in terms of your personal ability to resist the government at
some point. But they`ll say, No, it does matter. I want to have...

CILLIZZA: Well...

MATTHEWS: No, I want to have a multi-round. I want to have a
semiautomatic to defend myself against the government when it comes.

CILLIZZA: And I think there`s...

MATTHEWS: And that sort of ideological reality which is connected with the
Tea Party and all the guys who had to come to all those rallies --
remember? They had to bring guns to the rallies.

CILLIZZA: You know...

MATTHEWS: This is tied into ideology, not just hunting licenses.

CILLIZZA: And I think -- and I don`t -- the NRA gets, I think -- the NRA
spends the most money on the one side of the issue and so they get credit,
blame, depending on where you come down on all this. But somehow, the
debate -- Chuck`s point about the frustration with the lack of any middle
ground possible...

MATTHEWS: Well, when Chuck Carlson (ph) -- Chuck Heston, Charles Heston...

CILLIZZA: Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... Charlton Heston said, You`re going to have to take this gun
out of my cold...

CILLIZZA: Right.

MATTHEWS: ... dead hands -- that`s not a compromising position.

CILLIZZA: Well, and that`s the problem, Chris, is it`s become -- it`s
become this slippery slope argument...

MATTHEWS: Oh!

CILLIZZA: ... which is any -- any...

MATTHEWS: I know (INAUDIBLE)

TODD: I hate that phrase.

CILLIZZA: ... then it -- then it...

MATTHEWS: I hate the slippery slope.

CILLIZZA: Well, eventually -- eventually -- OK, let`s say assault weapons
or let`s say these high-caliber -- these high-pack rounds -- if they do
that, what will they do next, and that -- that ultimately...

MATTHEWS: By the way, let`s get honest about it!

CILLIZZA: ... that`s the -- that`s the problem with this...

MATTHEWS: Can we be honest about it?

CILLIZZA: ... debate, that you can`t have a discussion...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK, you know what the problem is? There is a sliver of American
people, a slice of American people, who are anti-gun. They would like to
go around the country and collect every gun.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

TODD: Correct.

MATTHEWS: Let`s be honest, they are there. They live in big cities. They
live in apartments. They think the police will be there to protect them.
Then you live out in Kansas, out someplace out in the country, and you know
the police won`t be there for a half hour, no matter how hard you yell, how
many 911s you call. You do have to defend yourself, right?

CILLIZZA: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: So they have different attitudes about -- it is country mouse
versus city mouse, and I think every time Bloomberg, who I really respect,
the mayor of New York, says something...

TODD: He`s the wrong...

MATTHEWS: ... I`m sure the guy in Reading, Pennsylvania, says, OK, big
East Coaster, tell me how to live.

TODD: Right.

CILLIZZA: He`s the mayor of...

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: He is the wrong person, the absolutely wrong person to be the face
of the gun control movement, it really is, because of just what you`re
pointing out. Well, what does that guy in New York City -- and you know --
and this is where, if you have this conversation -- if you lived in New
York City, you understand his mindset of not wanting 9 million people
armed...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

TODD: ... on New York City. But if -- what you just pointed out about
living in rural America, whether it`s Kansas, Arkansas, you name it, it`s
different. You`re right. You know -- you know, I know of incidents where
it takes the authorities half an hour to come and show up someplace, so of
course, you`ve got to defend yourself.

MATTHEWS: They come to put the chalk around the body. Let me tell you
another culture (INAUDIBLE) In all fairness, when it sounds like I`m a big
anti-hunter guy, I`m not at all. I like go shoot traps, shooting and all
that.

But here`s the thing. And I had my kid with a Daisy rifle because I
thought it would be one thing to do, shoot at milk bottles on weekends,
like we did, the plastic milk bottles. I`m not against guns.

But here`s the thing. The important, weird thing about this -- Chris, you
first -- is that the men out there -- largely men, who were born -- my
uncle Bill, I was just talking to my cousin -- these people are members of
gun clubs. They -- my brother, Bruce -- they pack their own bullets. They
would never commit a crime. They`re environmentalists. They`re really
good people. And they don`t break the law and they would never hurt
anybody.

But their ideological conviction on this, this slippery slope idea...

CILLIZZA: That`s what it is.

MATTHEWS: ... protects some of the bad people out there and allows the
nutty people to get guns.

CILLIZZA: And that`s the problem. I have an uncle...

MATTHEWS: They`re not bad themselves.

CILLIZZA: I have an uncle who`s in a fishing and gaming club in
Connecticut close to Newtown. He does it because it`s social, which I`m
sure is...

MATTHEWS: And they`re harmless people.

CILLIZZA: It`s just he likes to go out, have a few beers and talk to his
buddies.

MATTHEWS: It`s like bowling.

CILLIZZA: It`s like playing basketball for me. It`s just cultural. And
that`s what the problem is. But we have to get beyond it.

Chuck is right, you can`t -- the idea that it`s either we take every gun
away or we do nothing to restrict this...

MATTHEWS: I know. That`s right.

CILLIZZA: The idea that we can`t have a reasonable debate in this country,
where there`s -- where there`s...

MATTHEWS: Well, Joe Manchin may have started this morning, at least from
(ph) West Virginia, saying he`s willing to talk to the -- and I do believe
what you both guys are -- Chuck, you said this conversation isn`t going
anywhere unless it includes the 2nd Amendment concerned (ph) people because
if they`re just listening to...

TODD: No, I think you have to have them involved.

MATTHEWS: ... us talk...

TODD: Right. And not only -- and not only that, I do think you -- we`ve
got -- I`m -- you know, we go to the whole common sense question about, you
know, should somebody be able to shoot off 30 rounds in 10 seconds,
whatever it is, but we got to have the cultural conversation. We got to
have this culture of violence -- and I think that the NRA is more likely to
come to the table if you do have Hollywood there, if you have the video
game makers.

And by the way, patients have to wake up here. If your kid for three hours
is disappearing in the basement doing nothing but playing Halo (ph), you
may want to make sure your kid doesn`t have a problem.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Thank you. Well said. By the way, every time I go to the
movies, and I love the movies, there`ll be six previews, one unbelievably
worse than the other. I don`t mind the cars turning upside down 500 times,
but the shooting!

Anyway, thank you, Chuck Todd. Thank you, Chris Cillizza.

Coming up: President Obama promised action, but what can Washington really
do to tackle the unholy trinity of guns, mental illness and what he just
talked about, Chuck, the culture of violence?

We`re also going to get to the latest on the investigation in Connecticut
and what really may have driven this gunman to such violent and deadly
action, if there is a motive that makes any sense.

And politics tonight. President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner met
again, and there`s renewed optimism on the fiscal cliff negotiations. Do
you believe it? Optimism? We could use that for Christmas.

Let me finish tonight with why I`m hopeful, really am, about the fiscal
cliff.

This, of course, is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You`re looking at pictures now from Fairfield, Connecticut, of
course, where mourners have gathered for a candlelight vigil to remember
the victims of the Newtown school shooting, of course.

And as the country mourns the loss of 26 lives lost at Sandy Hook
Elementary School last Friday, the conversation moves to Washington, of
course, and what can be done. Here I am, and it`s the whole question of
what can you do to prevent this unholy trinity, I`m calling it, of factors,
an unholy trinity of factors -- guns, obviously -- these are semiautomatics
-- mental illness -- the guy was mentally ill, apparently -- and the whole
culture of violence, and video games, especially where you can get hooked
on this kind of relentless shooting and killing in terms of virtual reality
becomes in some horrible cases reality.

With me now are Connecticut congressman John Larson and former Arkansas
governor -- actually, senator, Blanche Lincoln. Thank you both. You
should be governor.

BLANCHE LINCOLN (D), FMR. ARKANSAS SENATOR: Thanks.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Congressman Larson, you`re from Connecticut, and I -- I
know you`re close up there -- by the way, I`m very impressed by the way
Governor Malloy`s been handling this, and all you fellows up there, and
women.

REP. JOHN LARSON (D), CONNECTICUT: Outstanding.

MATTHEWS: What is your sense of how it fits together and what you as a
lawmaker -- you`re leader of the caucus and you`re a leader in the House.
And when you put it all together, this isn`t just -- I mean, this is like
John Hinckley, who wanted to do something to impress Jodie Foster.

You know, we`ve had political assassins that have done terrible things for
either the Middle East, like Sirhan Sirhan, or you know, Lee Harvey Oswald
did it because he`s in love with Castro or -- there`s all kinds of motives.
But then you get into the mentally ill people who are moved by the things
that your kids or my kids might say -- well, they`re a little -- they rough
you up, but they don`t really change you, like video games.

How do we put all it together and do something as Americans?

LARSON: Well, I think it`s -- I think it`s a must. And let me say, Chris,
that you`re right, both Governor Malloy has been outstanding, the first
responders, the community, the support from all across the nation, the
calls that are coming in for members.

Something has changed here. The slaughter of the innocents and the frailty
of these kids, the poignancy of it all, I think, is resonating in a way
that usually doesn`t inside the Beltway.

And I think you`re right that it has to be a comprehensive approach that
certainly includes guns and mental health and violence. And there`s no
shortage of responses that we have.

The president`s call -- and he was both solemn but also very -- very
committed last night in speaking both as a father first and also as the
leader of our country. I do expect that we`re going to see leadership from
him. But leadership has to come from the United States Congress, as well.
And for us not to act -- because we all know that this will happen again.
And so not to act is to be complicit in the next thing that happens. And
it`s going to require comprehensive support, and we should include the NRA
in this discussion, and we should include in a discussion the whole idea of
the culture. I`m sure Blanche can add an awful lot to that, coming from
Arkansas.

But, clearly, in Connecticut, we`re hurting, but as the president said last
night, we`re inspired by these people there. Now let`s take that
inspiration and actually do something. The Califano article today in "The
Washington Post," you know, we got to...

MATTHEWS: I read it.

LARSON: This is -- we have an opportunity here to do it.

MATTHEWS: Move quickly. We have got to move.

Let me go to senator -- it seems to me that the country -- and I don`t want
to involve the City Mouse/Country Mouse stuff here. I want to try to
figure out what do we have in common here. Arkansas, every state, once you
get -- I always say, once you get past Philadelphia into Reading,
Pennsylvania, it`s the West. And you have to go all the way to Seattle to
get to something like the East Coast again.

The heartland of America is gun country. It`s pro-gun rights. It`s Second
Amendment country, not just for hunting, the rights to protect yourself
against your government if you have to do it.

You represent a state like that. How could a state like Arkansas see its
way to something like gun safety when it comes to semiautomatics?

BLANCHE LINCOLN (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Well, first and foremost, Chris,
I have to say to the people of Connecticut and to those families that have
suffered such a tremendous tragedy that we have them in our thoughts and
prayers.

And I think that`s where we start. I think all of us, whether we`re in the
heartland or on one coast or the other, we need to coalesce around that.
We need to coalesce around our feelings, our thoughts, our prayers for
those who have suffered this tragedy.

And then, as we do that, we find our common ground, and it has to be coming
together, but it`s got to be coming together with trust and respect, not
from two extremes. It`s to be coming to that...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. Only in America, many things are possible and they`re all
good. But some things in America, it`s only in America.

They don`t have shoot `em ups like this around the world. They don`t have
people with easy access to semiautomatic weapons, where any imbecile can
click, click, click, and kill 26 people in 10 minutes. So, what do we do
about our American situation? These are problems that man made in this
country, laws that were passed by men. Should they be changed?

LINCOLN: Just as the president said, we have got to begin the
conversation, and the conversation begins around a table with everyone
there.

I did go back to Arkansas and run in 19 -- for reelection in 1994 having
voted for the ban on assault weapons, and I got hit pretty hard, but one of
the ways that I...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What`s the knock against you for doing it? What`s it sound
like?

LINCOLN: Well, it sounds like I`m trying to take away weapons or guns
from, you know, those who want...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Why do they want -- why do they need the semiautomatic to do
hunting? What do they need it for?

LINCOLN: Well, that`s the point.

(CROSSTALK)

LINCOLN: The point was when I went home, I went to the NRA meetings, and I
visited -- there`s some people there that didn`t want to listen, but there
were those who did, and when I talked about what it was we were doing,
simply banning the domestic production of these weapons, they could still
own them and sell them.

They could still purchase one. They just couldn`t purchase a new one
because we were banning the domestic production. We had already banned the
importation of them under Bush I.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

LINCOLN: So, you know, there are reasonable people there.

And when you go to them with the trust and respect to have a conversation,
then, you know, I have worked with NRA.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Well, you were courageous in voting for it.

Let`s take a look. Here`s...

(CROSSTALK)

LINCOLN: But I won my reelection too.

MATTHEWS: Let`s listen to Joe Manchin this morning. He`s a Democrat,
obviously, a brand-new senator from West Virginia. He`s an NRA member. He
told Joe Scarborough this morning why he thinks we ought to be talking
about this because of what happened.

Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Never before have we seen our babies
slaughtered. It`s never happened in America that I can recall, ever seeing
this type of carnage.

Anybody, anybody that lives in America, anybody that`s a proud gun owner,
anybody that`s a proud member of the NRA, they`re also proud parents,
they`re proud grandparents, they understand this. This has changed where
we go from now, from here.

I`m going to speak to all my colleagues. I`m going to reach out to all of
my friends at the NRA. I will go over and sit down with them and I will
say, how can we take the dialogue to a different level? How can we sit
down and make sure we`re moving and not be afraid that someone is going to
attack our freedoms and our rights?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Mr. Larson.

This -- this is a real trouble here, because we -- it always goes back to
freedom and the fact we love this freedom. We feel -- Adlai Stevenson once
said freedom in this country is something you can actually feel. It just
feels great, the sense of being a grownup and being able to go out and get
in the car and going somewhere where.

You don`t have to -- going anywhere you want in this country, living
anywhere you want. There`s so much freedom we don`t even know how to think
about. It`s like swimming in an ocean. And then we realize that some
people because of mental problems or because they`re bad guys or they want
to make more money than they should, are either committing crimes or
they`re blowing up people because they`re mad at the world or mad at their
mother.

I guess once you shoot your mother, the rest is different. There`s a
different world out there. You can`t, like, saying a deterrent is going to
work. You can`t say to the guy you`re going to the gas chamber, like in
the old days. He`s going to kill his mother, he doesn`t care about the gas
chamber or anything. So what do we do?

LARSON: Well, we know -- we know certainly that doing nothing doesn`t work
either and we only continue this whole culture of violence.

You know, Chris, the president was clear on this, too, and it`s something
that should be mentioned, and you know this because you know Philadelphia
and Pittsburgh so well and the East Coast. Every day almost in our cities
and areas, kids are involved in drive-by shootings, innocent kids.

MATTHEWS: I know.

LARSON: But it doesn`t get reported, it doesn`t get magnified like this
does.

And it`s important that we bring that to the forefront as well. That kind
of always gets swept under the carpet in all of this. But when you get
people like Mike Thompson calling me, a Vietnam veteran, a gun owner, and
someone, as Blanche said, who wants to start this conversation with all the
Sportsmen`s Alliance, how about all of our veterans, bringing them into
this conversation?

MATTHEWS: Yes, sir.

LINCOLN: Absolutely.

LARSON: Especially those who are overseas and understand what it`s like
and have seen the carnage firsthand and knows the lethality of these
weapons and why this is so important?

I think we can have a commonsense dialogue about this and come together and
do something for the sake of kids. If this were a terrorist attack, Chris,
we would not leave a single stone unturned to do everything in our power
comprehensively to prevent from this happening again. That`s what has got
to happen.

MATTHEWS: My question, like it was after 9/11 -- I say it over and over
again -- it`s not very liberal a statement -- how do we know it won`t
happen again five minutes from now, tomorrow morning at 8:30 in some school
near us?

What do we now? Same guy shows up with the same amount of firepower, he`s
got three automatic weapons, semiautomatic weapons, he`s got hundreds and
hundreds of bullets. He walks through the door, he shoots whoever is in
the way, heads towards the kids and starts shooting them until the cops
arrive.

What stops that happening anywhere? Unless somebody has got a solution to
that, they`re not part of this conversation.

Anyway, thank you, Congressman. Merry Christmas my friend, John Larson, up
in Connecticut. And I`m sorry for what happened. Who isn`t?

Anyway, Blanche Lincoln, I have always liked you. I`m a moderate Democrat
on so many issues. This one, I`m a little more liberal.

Anyway, up next, the latest on the investigation and what we`re learning
about the Connecticut shooter himself. Let`s get to Mike Isikoff, the
investigative reporter for NBC, and find out what possibly motivated all
this. We`re talking about it.

The place for politics, we`re still here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.

As we continue to learn more about the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook
Elementary School up in Connecticut, we continue to have questions about
20-year-old Adam Lanza and what happened in the weeks, days, and hours
before the tragedy began to unfold.

We will begin with the sequence of events as we know them from police at
this point. Some time before 9:30 this past Friday morning, the suspect,
20-year-old Adam Lanza, drove to his mother`s home in Newtown, Connecticut.
At that point, police say he shot and killed his mother, Nancy Lanza,
before taking four guns from her home, one of which was a Bushmaster
semiautomatic assault rifle.

Police say Adam Lanza then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School, arriving
around 9:30 a.m., a bit later. Unable to gain entry through the main
entry, Lanza broke through a window and that`s when police say Lanza`s
shooting rampage began.

In total, 20 children were killed, as well as six adults. There were also
two surviving adult victims. Police say Adam Lanza turned a gun on himself
when he heard and first saw the responders coming onto the scene. Well,
three guns were recovered from inside the school. There they are. And one
handgun was left in Lanza`s car.

We`re joined by NBC national investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff,
who is in Newtown, Connecticut.

Michael, thanks so much for joining us. We have only got about three
minutes for your presentation, so run through what you think is salient,
what you have been able to put together about the motive and the method of
this killer.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, Chris, about
motive, we are still clueless.

He didn`t have any connection to the school at all. He may have gone there
as a child. In fact, he probably did, according to friends, but he didn`t
work there. He had no association with people there, so that doesn`t seem
to go anywhere.

His mother, we know, didn`t work there either and had no current
affiliation with the school. We do know that Nancy Lanza was worried about
her son. He was a recluse. He stayed at home, spent hours in front of the
computer. She was trying to help him get a job, trying to help him get an
internship some place, but doesn`t seem to have succeeded. In fact,
there`s no real record of him doing anything other than taking a few
college courses since he graduated high school.

Spoke to one friend today who said that, through Nancy Lanza`s help,
intervention, she got her son to help a friend set up a computer system at
home. And that`s about the last thing -- and that was about a year ago --
that`s the last thing we know that Adam Lanza did. Did he have any
proclivity towards violence?

Not that anybody can see. He had no police record. The people who know
Nancy Lanza said they saw no sign of violence. If anything, one friend
said today that he was a vegan, that he expressed moral objections to
killing animals that he would eat. So, you know, looking for any kind of
pattern here that would explain what happened last Friday so far has not
yielded anything that adds up.

And we also learned -- we have been told that the computer where he spent
so many hours in his room was damaged before this attack. He actually
removed the hard drive. So hopes of finding some writings that he might
have done on the computer so far has not yielded anything public.

Now, Police Lieutenant Vance said today that they have seized significant
evidence in the house. They haven`t -- he hasn`t told us what it is, but
he did say today that it`s going to be months before we get a report from
the state police that pulls together all the evidence and might shed some
light on what continues to be a very big mystery.

MATTHEWS: Well, Michael, you`re the best. Thanks so much for joining us
from the crime from up in that area to tell us what`s going on. We`re
going to keep checking back with you as you continue investigating, if
there`s any way to find out a motive in these cases.

Much more, by the way, on this horrific tragedy up in Newtown, Connecticut,
in a moment, including whether new gun laws could curb gun violence in the
country we all live in.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DIANA OLICK, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Diana Olick with your CNBC "Market
Wrap."

Fiscal cliff optimism lifts stocks. The Dow jumps 100 points, the S&P adds
16 and the Nasdaq gains 39. Apple says it sold two million iPhone 5s
during its weekend launch in China, sending shares up $9. AIG finished
nearly 3 percent higher. The company raise $6.5 billion from its sale of
its stake in AIA, an Asian life insurer.

And manufacturing activity in New York state slipped for a fifth straight
month.

That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: We`re back.

In the wake of the Friday horrific massacre up in Connecticut, a number of
gun rights advocates have argued that the problem isn`t that there are too
many semiautomatic weapons in society; the problem, they say, is that there
weren`t enough armed people on site to challenge the killer.

Here is what Larry Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America,
wrote this morning in "USA Today." "In addition to the gunman, blood is on
the hands of members of Congress and the Connecticut legislators who voted
to ban guns from all schools in Connecticut and most other states. They
are the ones who made it illegal to defend oneself with a gun in a school,
when that is the only effective way of resisting a gunman."

Is he right? Larry Pratt joins us right now. He`s sitting right here.
He`s joined on the other side of the table by David Chipman, who is in the
group called Mayors Against Illegal Guns. He`s a former ATF agent.

First of all, let`s imagine my same question I asked about 9/11. How do we
stop it from happening again exactly what happened on Friday, Larry?

LARRY PRATT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GUN OWNERS OF AMERICA: Nothing is 100
percent, but, certainly, if teachers and janitors and principals were able
to defend themselves, they might...

MATTHEWS: With guns?

PRATT: With guns.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You would arm -- you would arm teachers?

PRATT: I would allow teachers and other adults in the schools who can
qualify for a concealed carry permit to be able to go into the school like
they go into just about every other place in our country once they have
those permits.

But we`ve said, no, no, no, there`s something really special and who knows
what about those schools and maybe teachers can`t be trusted with a gun
there. So, we`re not going to let them do that.

Well, every one of our mass murderers in the last decade with one exception
was at a gun-free zone.

MATTHEWS: Which is where you`re not supposed to bring guns.

PRATT: Where you`re not supposed to have a gun.

MATTHEWS: But you say if the teachers were allowed to carry a gun or
school administrators or janitors or a hired watchman even would be good.

PRATT: It might have had a chance. It`d serve you better than sitting
like fish in a barrel.

MATTHEWS: David, your reaction? What`s the best way to prevent this from
happening again? The kind of thing going on rather relentlessly in this
country, they`re called "mass shootings".

DAVID CHIPMAN, MAYORS AGAINST ILLEGAL GUNS: Well, the first step is to
make sure anyone buying a gun passes a background check.

MATTHEWS: But the mother would have passed the background check in this
case. The kid shot her in the face to get rid of her so he could have her
guns. How would you stop it with a background check?

CHIPMAN: Well, I think what we would stop is other people and other
scenarios.

MATTHEWS: No, this scenario, this thing from happening again. How would
you stop it?

CHIPMAN: Things from happening again.

MATTHEWS: If it happens tomorrow morning, a crazy kid goes after his
mother`s gun, kills her grabs the gun, heads to school and shoots a bunch
of people.

CHIPMAN: Chris, I don`t believe guns is the answer.

MATTHEWS: You can`t answer my question.

CHIPMAN: I believe I can.

MATTHEWS: How do you stop it from happening again?

CHIPMAN: I believe that you stop it again with reasonable legislation and
empowering our law enforcement to protect people. That is my belief. And
as --

MATTHEWS: How -- let`s get particular.

CHIPMAN: OK.

MATTHEWS: Which law enforcement officials were on site at the elementary
school where all the shooting happened on Friday? Would there be a
policeman on site?

CHIPMAN: Chris, what we do know is that the woman who was killed was
heavily armed and it didn`t protect her. So all I can say is back from
that is moving forward, there are many scenarios that aren`t quite like
this --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CHIPMAN: -- that I think can be stopped. One of the things I got to do at
ATF is work with United States Secret Service, the most heavily armed group
that we have in this country and they haven`t used their guns to protect
the president and thwart an assassination attempt since 1950. So what I`m
saying is that I believe that the answer is keeping guns out of the hands
of criminals before they get them. Before law enforcement officers --

MATTHEWS: Wait a minute, are you saying the Secret Service isn`t necessary?

CHIPMAN: That`s not what I said.

MATTHEWS: What do you mean?

CHIPMAN: What I said is their use of guns, shooting guns, is not
necessary.

MATTHEWS: Because their whole rule is to cover and evacuate. That`s what
they do.

CHIPMAN: OK.

MATTHEWS: Get the president out of there.

CHIPMAN: So possibly we need to think of strategies like that in schools.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go in another direction here. What they`re called assault
rifles, they`re semiautomatic.

PRATT: Right.

MATTHEWS: We have outlawed automatic weapons since the 1930s, since the
days of Machine Gun Kelly. What`s wrong with making the same rule
effective? You need a special license to have a semiautomatic weapon.
What`s wrong with that rule, sir?

PRATT: We`re talking about each little increment --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: No, no, slippery slope. Let`s not get into slippery slope.

PRATT: That`s what we say. Let`s not get into --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Would this be a less free country if you couldn`t have an
assault rifle?

PRATT: Yes, because we have guns fundamentally protected by the Second
Amendment --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Wait a minute. Why would anyone -- what?

PRATT: I thought you`d hear that. Yes. We have guns in order to control
the government.

MATTHEWS: And where have assault rifles been useful in controlling the
size or direction or policy of the United States government in our history?

PRATT: Well, the Brown Bess rifle was used to win our independence.

MATTHEWS: From the British?

PRATT: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about our government.

PRATT: The militiamen used their militia rifles under Andy Jackson to
defend New Orleans against the British.

MATTHEWS: Against the British. When have guns been useful in curtailing
the power --

PRATT: Athens, Tennessee, 1946. Townsmen rose up against corrupt
government and threw them out at the point of a gun.

MATTHEWS: Keep going.

PRATT: Is that not enough?

MATTHEWS: I want more. I want to know where your head is going. You`re
like Sharron Angle out in Nevada who said we need Second Amendment rights
when the politicians get out ever hand.

PRATT: That`s what the Second Amendment is for. She`s not making that up.

MATTHEWS: How would you use your Second Amendment rights if you didn`t
like the way your congressman or senator is representing you.

PRATT: Well, we have a political action committee and we tried to be --

MATTHEWS: No, but how would you use your Second Amendment rights which you
are now extolling?

PRATT: By being prepared.

MATTHEWS: To do what?

PRATT: We don`t have to shoot anybody.

MATTHEWS: What you have to threat though?

PRATT: You know, I think it bothers lawmakers we have that capability and
sometimes they kind of let it loose when they`re not quite in --

MATTHEWS: So, Larry, it`s not just the right to use guns to protect your
home it`s the right to protect guns to take on your government.

PRATT: The government has been overboard --

MATTHEWS: You`re saying the menacing -- I want to give you more minutes.
The menacing quality of the gun owners is what limits the size of the
United States government? The United States government has gotten rather
big lately. Do you really think it`s working?

PRATT: The Israelis used to think la-di-da about having guns.

MATTHEWS: Oh, here we go.

PRATT: They finally got it figured out. And after some Muslim terrorist
killed a bus load of kids, they started arming --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But anybody in Israel -- I read the reports on this. You have
to be qualified. There`s a whole rule you have to go through --

PRATT: Concealed carriers are qualified. They`ve taken preparations.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me --

PRATT: These laws say they can`t be in schools.

MATTHEWS: David, this gentleman here primarily I know because I have it in
my family, primarily believes that the purpose of the right to bear arms is
defend yourself against a popular elected government. That`s what they
believe. They don`t fear seven days military coup taking over, they mean
the popular government they have to hold off.

CHIPMAN: Let`s be very clear, what he means is me. I was one of those
people for 25 years, and I was in Texas when I heard on a radio someone
said the way to solve this nation`s problems was to shoot me in the head as
an ATF agent, and after that we had a president of the United States retire
from the NRA. He wouldn`t take it anymore. A line had been crossed.

I don`t believe most Americans believe that. I mean, I believe, and I
think most Americans do, that law enforcement is here as a force of good
and we`re the good guys, and that`s what we saw in Newtown, and so when we
get rhetoric like I`m hearing right now, I think this is extremely fringe.
I believe that most Americans believe otherwise.

PRATT: Well, anybody that worked in a gun control agency would naturally
think that people that want to own their guns under the Second Amendment is
fringe. That`s how far to the left and --

MATTHEWS: When do you decide when the government has done wrong with your
gun?

PRATT: Well, when they steal elections --

MATTHEWS: Who stole an election?

PRATT: In Athens, Tennessee, elections were stolen and that`s when people
knew --

MATTHEWS: I hope everybody is listening to this Larry Pratt, who believes
he holds guns to defend himself against the federal government, right, or
local government or any government.

PRATT: That`s what the Second Amendment is all about.

MATTHEWS: And who decides when to use the guns?

PRATT: Well, we call up 911 and we find out.

MATTHEWS: What do you?

PRATT: You know, that`s not something we know until the outrage like our
forefathers said after a long train of abuses. This is not something that
anybody is proposing we rush right into.

MATTHEWS: We`ll have you back. I want to hear this argument. You were
with Branch Davidian, all that stuff, right?

PRATT: I was what?

MATTHEWS: You were with Branch Davidian.

PRATT: I thought what happened to them was absolutely over the top.

MATTHEWS: Ruby Ridge and all that stuff.

PRATT: Sure, that was an abuse of government power.

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. You speak for a lot of people out there.

Larry Pratt for the gun owners against the government when necessary.

David Chipman, thank you -- for the ATF, thank you for your service over
the years.

Some breaking news. Sources in the United States Senate are reporting
Senator Daniel Inouye who served wonderfully in World War II in Italy has
died of respiratory complication. That`s Dan Inouye. He was the longest
serving member of the Senate for years, and the Senate pro-tempore, of
course, for years. His last words according to a statement released by his
staff were, aloha.

Senator Daniel Inouye, 88 years old, a fine man.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

With time running out now to get a deal in place before the fiscal cliff is
overrun, some signs of optimism this weekend. On Friday, John Boehner went
further than he has in the past. In a phone call with the president, he
made an offer that would actually include raising the tax rates on people
with incomes over $1 million. On Sunday, it was also reported that he had
offered to raise the debt ceiling for the next year as part of the deal.

David Corn is the Washington bureau chief of "Mother Jones", of course, and
an MSNBC political analyst. And Joy Reid, of course, is the managing
editor of TheGrio.com.

Thank you both for joining us.

Let me go to Joy. I think you`re more optimistic. I see you`re smiling
there.

I`m hopeful -- I`m looking at these numbers it looks like Boehner is
talking a trillion dollars, but mainly getting it through the very rich,
over a million dollars a year. Not over $250,000 a year, the president
wants to do it. And he`s also talking about getting rid of some deductions
to help boosted that up a bit. The president sticking to, he wants to get
$1.4 trillion in revenues.

Is that something that can be bridged by simply arithmetic? Or where are
we?

JOY REID, THEGRIO.COM: Well, you know what? I think it`s very important
that John Boehner has conceded the fact that rates have to go up, period.
I think that is huge concession for the speaker, the one, the future
speaker, to make. So, I think that`s important.

I don`t think a million is going to be enough on the revenue side.

MATTHEWS: You mean a trillion?

REID: No, I mean doing it on people`s incomes over a million.

MATTHEWS: OK.

REID: I don`t think that`s going to be enough, because the principle
that`s at work here is not that we just want to raise the rates on 400,000
families, which is how many people who would affected, but that the rates
need to go up. And I still think the $250,000 is where the president needs
to stay.

But I will tell you, I think we`re at a moment in our politics, given the
horrors that happened in Connecticut, where nobody wants to go to the mat
fighting over rich people`s taxes.

MATTHEWS: I agree with that.

Well, let me ask you about two of those points. Do you think the fact that
Boehner broke and said we have to raise the rats for somebody at the top,
is that important?

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: It`s important. But in order to do that, to
sell to his own caucus, which is really the key issue here to all these
negotiations. What can he sell to his caucus that doesn`t trigger a
rebellion against him?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: He`s going to have to get something big back. There`s talk about
getting big concessions from Obama on Medicare.

And then you go back to the Democrats to say, wait a second, these tax
rates are going up on these people anyway.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CORN: So, why should we give up Medicare, raising the eligibility age
which is terrible policy, we can talk about another time, in order to get
what we`re going to get anyway.

MATTHEWS: So an intangible question that Joy just raised. Do you think
the horror that we`ve been living the last several days is going to make,
you don`t want to look like the bad guy, I think.

CORN: I think that will make a short term deal more likely. But whether
it gets to the heart of the issue about what you do with the debt ceiling
and what you do --

MATTHEWS: What did make of the worry before it got out, that they weren`t
going to diddle around with the debt ceiling come February and March?
They`re not going to hold up us and fragment the country again.

CORN: If Boehner gives tax breaks in any degree to the president, I don`t
know how he keeps his caucus in line without a debt ceiling.

MATTHEWS: OK.

CORN: They want to fight on something. They don`t want to lay down on
everything.

MATTHEWS: I know, I know.

Joy, I`ve got a sense the president has a plan here. I think he`s cool
hand Luke in this one. He`s got a series of this week, we do did this,
this week, we`ll squeeze a little harder. Next week, we begin to un-
squeeze. And then we finally cut a deal when they`ve given up.

But it`s all planned around the idea of meeting this deadline of the 31st.
I think he`s got a plan. I`ve underestimated him before. And I think you
may be right --

REID: Right.

MATTHEWS: -- more often than I think.

REID: Yes, and, Chris, you know, the history is this president does really
well in lame ducks. He really does how to play a lame duck, even after the
disastrous election for Democrats in 2010, he got "don`t ask, don`t tell"
repeal, START Treaty. He got a lot through.

So, there`s a potential. But I don`t think the big deal, the big overall
deal can get done by the end of the year. I kind of what David thinking
that they will at least do a patch, because they just don`t want to be
debating this right now.

MATTHEWS: I think so.

REID: Gun control is the thing that`s on the table. And you know what?
I`ll give you one last thing. I hope they try to do something in the lame
duck about gun control. I think that would be smart.

MATTHEWS: That`s what Joe Coffman (ph) said this morning.

Anyway, thank you so much, Joy Reid and David Corn.

REID: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Little less optimistic than I am.

Coming up, why I`m optimistic about the fiscal cliff. It`s already on the
script.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics. I got a point on this coming up
to out do their optimism deficits. I`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with this:

I`m hopeful about the cliff, the fiscal cliff. I`m hopeful that the
president can get the change in the top rate, that we can get a balanced
plan to cut the growth in the national debt. I think getting an agreement
would be a powerful catalyst for boosting business confidence in this
country, getting some real power behind this economic recovery.

I`m also hopeful we can use this success on the deal between Obama and
Boehner to go for big positive deals in 2013. If they can do this, they
must be able to able to deal with all kinds of issues like immigration, tax
reform, gun control and other things. Let`s hope they get the deal this
week. That it`s a fair deal. And, yes, it`s the start of something big.

I`m a guy who believes in government, who believes in winning, who believes
in this country`s ability to govern itself. To be honest with you, on this
case, I simply want to be confirmed in my belief. It`s tough, some days.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
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