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Mitt Romney’s Solution To Gun Violence: ‘Changing The Heart Of The American People’

On the first leg of his 3-nation world tour, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney sat down for an interview with NBC News’ Brian Williams that was most notable for several things Romney didn’t say. However, during a follow-up question about Friday’s tragic mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, Romney offered an alternative to changing gun laws, telling Williams “Changing the heart of the American people may well be what’s essential to improve the lots of the American people.”

Williams, referencing the former Massachusetts Governor’s description of assault weapons as “instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people” while signing an assault weapons ban in 2002, asked Romney “On things, however, like Aurora, Colorado, do you see why Americans get frustrated at politics? They c– they can see and hear your words from earlier in– in their career. People are hurting out there. Perhaps they want to start a national conversation about whether an AR-15 belongs in the hands of– of a citizen, whether a citizen should be able to buy 6,000 rounds off the internet. You see the– the argument?”

Romney replied, “Well, this person shouldn’t have had any kind of weapons and bombs and– and– and other devices. And– and it was illegal for him to have many of those things already (note: all of the weapons and ammunition used in the attack were obtained legally). But he had them. And– and so we can– we can sometimes hope that just changing a law will make all bad things go away. It won’t. Changing the heart of the American people may well be what’s essential to improve the lots of the American people.”

The Last Word‘s Lawrence O’Donnell correctly pointed out the utter silliness of Romney’s assertion that we can’t just “hope that just changing a law will make all bad things go away” as a reason not to enact laws, a standard which would make Romney the very first anti-any-laws-whatsoever candidate in US history. It’s a talking point, however, that has gained widespread popularity among politicians who are either gun nuts themselves, or simply fear the gun nuts.

But perhaps worse than that is Romney’s juxtaposition of the futility of gun laws with an assertion of the need to “change the heart of the American people,” which O’Donnell called nonsense, but which, if said by Barack Obama, would cause apoplectic cries of “Why does Barack Obama blame the heart of the American people for gun massacres?”

Romney’s remark bears a buttoned-down similarity to the the Rev. Jeremiah Wright quotes that caused so much outrage in 2008, and to those which didn’t seem to bother people when they were made by white preachers in the wake of 9/11. It’s possible that Romney was just in such a hurry to change the subject that he blurted out whatever word-salad “croutons,” as Jonathan Capehart called them, popped into his head, but some reporter ought to ask Romney to explain what he meant.

What is utter nonsense, however, is the way Romney pivots, a few sentences later, from the Aurora massacre to…gutting business regulations? “I recognize that there’s some things Washington and the law can do,” Romney continued, “And there’s some things the law can’t do. What we can do is remove the impediments for free people wanting to build enterprises from having the capacity to do so and going to work to hire people and putting people back in good jobs.”

Romney also demonstrated the diplomatic chops he hopes to hone on this brief tour by throwing in a gratuitous shot at the place he was actually giving the interview in, telling Williams “We’re– we’re at– a point here where we have two different roads we can go down. One leads to Europe. The other leads to the kind of dynamism and prosperity, which has always characterized America.”

Pro tip: maybe your get-acquainted visit to Europe is a good time to hit the “pause” button on the “Europe sucks” part of your stump. That one’s a freebie.

Here’s that portion of the interview, followed by a transcript, courtesy of NBC News:


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Transcript via NBC News:

BRIAN WILLIAMS:
On things, however, like Aurora, Colorado, do you see why Americans get frustrated at politics? They c– they can see and hear your words from earlier in– in their career. People are hurting out there. Perhaps they want to start a national conversation about whether an AR-15 belongs in the hands of– of a citizen, whether a citizen should be able to buy 6,000 rounds off the internet. You see the– the argument?

MITT ROMNEY:
Well, this person shouldn’t have had any kind of weapons and bombs and– and– and other devices. And– and it was illegal for him to have many of those things already. But he had them. And– and so we can– we can sometimes hope that just changing a law will make all bad things go away. It won’t. Changing the heart of the American people may well be what’s essential to improve the lots of the American people.

I recognize that there’s some things Washington and the law can do. And there’s some things the law can’t do. What we can do is remove the impediments for free people wanting to build enterprises from having the capacity to do so and going to work to hire people and putting people back in good jobs. For me, this campaign is overwhelmingly about getting more good jobs for middle-income Americans, getting them rising incomes.

When that happens, they’ll have more money to buy the things they want to buy. That helps the economy. They can pay more taxes with higher incomes. That gets us to a balanced budget. We’re– we’re at– a point here where we have two different roads we can go down. One leads to Europe. The other leads to the kind of dynamism and prosperity, which has always characterized America.

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