NBC's Tim Russert shows ignorance on guns during Bill Richardson interview

During a weekend Meet the Press interview with pro-concealed carry Democrat presidential candidate Bill Richardson, NBC anchor Tim Russert exhibited exactly why Buckeye Firearms Association's Larry Moore wrote "The media and guns – things they should know".

More than two years after it sunsetted, Russert's grilling of Bill Richardson over his support for the sunsetting of the Clinton Gun Ban reveals that he is still under the false impression that the failed legislation banned automatic weapons, which he refers to as "street sweepers" and "uzi machine guns".

Click 'Read More' for applicable excerpts from the interview.

From the Meet the Press interview:

    MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to gun control, and this is an article from your Sante Fe Mexican newspaper. "Listening to U.S. Representative Bill Richardson" -senior congressman- "explain his position on gun control to a Sante Fe audience is like watching Fred Astaire dance. 'I voted to repeal the assault weapons ban because it's always been my view that occasionally a member of Congress on an issue where he or she has some difficulty in justifying a vote, that I should respect the wishes of my constituents. In this case, the strong majority favor repealing the ban. That doesn't mean it's the right vote.'"

    You voted to ban assault weapons, uzis, street sweepers, then you voted to repeal it, and you're basically saying, "Well I know it's not the right vote but my constituents want it, therefore, I'll give it to them."

    GOV. RICHARDSON: Well, listen, I know-I've been in public life 25 years. I was the whip when President Clinton was-I was the whip, in other words, in charge of getting some of those votes for the crime bill, which put 100,000 cops on the street, which took some of those initiatives. But, look, Tim, you know, I-I'm a gun owner. I'm a western governor. I believe the issue is not gun control. The issue, as, as happened in, in Virginia Tech where I, I just-those-the tragedy there, the issue is instant background checks. I am for instant background - I am for a bill that Carolyn McCarthy is doing now in the House of Representatives which tightens background checks, which, which says...

    MR. RUSSERT: Well, why do hunters need street sweepers or uzi machine guns. You voted to ban those. As president, would you seek to ban assault weapons.

    GOV. RICHARDSON: Tim, Tim, the assault weapons ban did not work. It didn't work.

    MR. RUSSERT: So you would...

    GOV. RICHARDSON: It didn't work.

    MR. RUSSERT: You wouldn't do that as president?

    GOV. RICHARDSON: It didn't work. What I would do is I would focus more of our efforts-for instance, background checks with those with criminal backgrounds and the mentally ill. We have to tighten up those background checks. I am for doing that. I am for do-but the problem is the states don't have the database, the resources.

    MR. RUSSERT: OK. You received the endorsement of the National Rifle Association, NRA, running for governor. There's a picture of you at their podium heartily accepting their endorsement. Would you accept the endorsement of the NRA for president?

    GOV. RICHARDSON: Yes, I would. I'm a gun owner. You know, Tim, gun control shouldn't be a litmus test in the Democratic Party. I am for reasonable controls on - I don't want to see uzis when you're hunting, obviously, but...

    MR. RUSSERT: But you wouldn't ban them.

    GOV. RICHARDSON: ...this is the West. But, Tim, I'm a western governor. It's a cultural issue. I am for strong law enforcement, putting criminals-I have a very strong law enforcement record. I believe it's not necessarily a gun control issue. Let's look at some of the issues affecting the mentally ill, the fact that mental health doesn't have parity with other illnesses. The instant background checks are critically important. I'm for that. You don't want anybody with a criminal background or mentally ill having these-and I think Representative McCarthy, who is one of the strongest advocates for gun control is - I am for that.

    MR. RUSSERT: But the-being the NRA's man is not going to be popular in some Democratic primaries.

    GOV. RICHARDSON: Well, I - you know, I don't, I don't change my positions to run for president.

    MR. RUSSERT: Well, you did on assault weapons.

    GOV. RICHARDSON: I don't change my positions.

    MR. RUSSERT: But you did change it on assault weapons.

    GOV. RICHARDSON: But, Tim, that was a vote as part of an overall bill that President Clinton proposed.

In asserting that the Clinton Gun Ban had anything to do with "machine guns" or "street sweeper" shotguns, Tim Russert has fallen for his own media rhetoric.

Machine guns have been heavily regulated since the National Firearms Act of 1934. The "street sweeper" shotgun was declared a destructive device with a stroke of the pen by Lloyd Bentsen, the Secretary of Treasury during Bill Clinton's administration. (Shotgunners beware - Bentsen was able to declare the shotgun a
destructive device because it had a bore larger than .50 caliber and he
deemed the street sweeper shotgun had no sporting use. How long do you
think it will take another anti-gun administration to "deem" semi-auto
and pump action shotguns aren't sporting?)

Both machine guns and the "street sweeper" shotgun are still legal to own - one just has to follow a heavily regulated process. Specifically, any person who is not otherwise prohibited from owning a firearm can complete the Federal Form IV paperwork, have their chief local law enforcement officer do a background check and sign off on it, then submit the application to the BATFE for their approval. Once approved, the individual pays a $200 tax on the transfer and can now legally own a fully automatic machine gun.

As for hunting, Mr. Russert appears to want his viewers to believe that, in the two years since the sunset of the Clinton Gun Ban, people have suddenly begun hunting with machine guns or short-barreled shotguns. This is, of course, patently absurd.

Before he interviews any more presidential candidates, it is clear that Mr. Russert should better inform himself, lest he continue to embarass himself and NBC.

Related Story:
Pro-gun Democrats should look west to find hope in the Presidential primary

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