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Confounded Chris Matthews to Pro-Gun Senator: You're Getting Us Into a 'Strange World' of 'Cowboys and Indians'

A confounded Chris Matthews, on Tuesday's Hardball, couldn't get his head around the concept of Texas allowing 21-year-olds on college campuses to carry concealed weapons to defend themselves, as he repeatedly threw out scenarios, seemingly from TV, movies and his own imagination, of crazed students with guns.

Fortunately Texas State Senator Jeff Wentworth was on hand to repeatedly and ably clarify and correct Matthews of his misconceptions. In fact Matthews was so bewildered by Wentworth's command of the facts that by the end of the interview he admitted his own anti-gun bias as he blurted: "I don't know. It's a strange world you're getting us into Senator. Maybe it's cultural, maybe it's cowboys and Indians. I live in a city, I think it's strange."

First up Matthews, drawing from his expertise in old TV and movie Westerns, questioned Wentworth if he thought it was okay for college students to bring guns "into saloons" to which the state senator had to notify Matthews that bars weren't even allowed on Texas campuses.

(MP3 audio)

MATTHEWS: You know, back in the old days, we all watched, you and I watched television probably at the same age. We watched old movies and we would know what it was like in the Old West. They apparently had a, put their guns at the city limits, they couldn't carry them into saloons with them and places like that. Do you think it's okay for a 21-year-old kid or a 22-year-old grad student to be walking into a campus bar or something and, and when you got alcohol involved, there are guys and girls together with the usual kind of competition that goes on there, social competition, with booze, and guns? You think that's a healthy combination?


Wentworth who had to repeatedly correct a confused Matthews told the Hardball host: "That's a misrepresentation of the fact. You cannot go [to a bar] in Texas legally with a concealed carry license with a gun" adding, "We don't have bars on campus in Texas."

Then Matthews, who perhaps has seen too many late night cable viewings of the Bruce Willis film The Last Boy Scout, worried about football players bringing guns to the field:

MATTHEWS: Okay so, so but you would bring them, you would let them play, how about kids who want to play football? Would they be allowed to carry a gun during the game or what? Not during the game?

Again Wentworth had to dissuade Matthews from his false assumptions as he explained: "No, actually the, the law does not allow, currently, and this law would not change it for athletic contests, they're not permitted."

Finally, Matthews feared that a Texas student who received a poor grade from his or her professor may resort to violence:

MATTHEWS: Do you think it's gonna be weird for a student to get his grades from a professor while he's armed? Senator?...Well you imagine a meeting between - it just seems odd that if I were a professor and had a student who was armed when we're having our tutorial, we're talking about the grades or anything, it just seems odd to know that you're looking into a classroom and you're seeing men and women with guns in the classroom. Doesn't that seem odd to you?

It was then that Wentworth pointed out to Matthews that in the Lone Star state average citizens, aged 21 and over, carry concealed weapons during daily routines such as grocery shopping and theater going without incident, which led Matthews to reveal his personal bias: "I don't know. It's a strange world you're getting us into Senator. Maybe it's cultural, maybe it's cowboys and Indians. I live in a city, I think it's strange."

The following is a transcript of the entire segment as it was aired on the February 22 edition of Hardball:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Would having more guns on college campuses make them safer places to take, to study? A long list of lawmakers down in Texas says the answer is yes. And with a big Republican majority in the state capitol it looks like it might just happen. Republican state senator Jeff Wentworth is the sponsor of a bill that would allow people with concealed handgun licenses to take handguns into college dorms and to other buildings and to classrooms. Colin Goddard, of course is with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. He's a survivor, by the way, of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting. He was shot in that four times, in fact, in that horrible incident. He's featured in a new documentary about the tragedy at Virginia Tech called Living for 22. Senator, thank you for joining us.

STATE SENATOR JEFF WENTWORTH: For sure.

MATTHEWS: Just make your case. Why do you think students, why colleges, should be basically required to allow students to have concealed weapon carry with licenses?

WENTWORTH: Well, in the first place Chris, I'd like to change the characterization. It' not college kids carrying concealed weapons on campus. In Texas the law requires you to be at least 21-years of age to have a license. So if you're a traditional freshman, sophomore, junior, you're 17, 18, 19, 200-years old, so you're not eligible for a concealed carry license. It's mainly members of the faculty, staff, graduate students and a few seniors. And it's purely for self-defense.

MATTHEWS: Well most seniors turn, I mean I was the youngest kid in my class and I was 21 in my senior year.

WENTWORTH: Me too. I was 21 in my senior year. So-

MATTHEWS: So I mean I don't think...

WENTWORTH: But we're not talking, we're not talking about freshmen, sophomores and juniors though.

MATTHEWS: We're talking about seniors being allowed - I know. We're talking about seniors carrying guns on campus. And my question to you is tell me how that makes it safer for those students, for anybody?

WENTWORTH: Well, if I'm in a class and a deranged madman comes on campus in Texas, as he did at Virginia Tech, and starts shooting, and everybody is unarmed and defenseless and vulnerable, we're all dead. If somebody in that class has a license and has been through a significant period - I mean, in order to get a license in Texas, you have to go through a 10-hour class, you have to pass a test, you have to go on a shooting range and pass. You pass a criminal background check, you give up your fingerprints, photographs, pay a not insignificant fee of over $100.

MATTHEWS: Yeah?

WENTWORTH: It takes several weeks. It's not something you just go down and plunk down a $10 bill and get a card for it.

MATTHEWS: You know, back in the old days, we all watched, you and I watched television probably at the same age. We watched old movies and we would know what it was like in the Old West. They apparently had a, put their guns at the city limits, they couldn't carry them into saloons with them and places like that. Do you think it's okay for a 21-year-old kid or a 22-year-old grad student to be walking into a campus bar or something and, and when you got alcohol involved, there are guys and girls together with the usual kind of competition that goes on there, social competition, with booze, and guns? You think that's a healthy combination?

WENTWORTH: Well, that hypothetical you gave doesn't happen in-

MATTHEWS: It's not a hypothetical at all, sir!

WENTWORTH: Yes, yes-

MATTHEWS: You can walk into a bar with a gun, under your law.

WENTWORTH: No, you cannot. That's not, that's a misrepresentation of the fact. You cannot go in Texas legally with a concealed carry license with a gun. Now people do it illegally all the time. But this bill would not allow that.

MATTHEWS: No, but a campus - you said, but you said campuses would be allowed to have kids carrying guns. What about a bar on campus?

WENTWORTH: We don't have bars on campus in Texas.

MATTHEWS: You don't?!

WENTWORTH: It's against, it's against the law in Texas. That's exactly right.

MATTHEWS: It is?!

WENTWORTH: Yes, sir. No alcohol allowed-

MATTHEWS: You can't have a bar - on private college campuses you can't have a bar?

WENTWORTH: No you, now you flipped it. We're talking about public-

MATTHEWS: Well I didn't flip it. I'm...

WENTWORTH: We're talking about public universities. We're not talking about private universities.

MATTHEWS: Okay. Okay, where I went to college and a lot of colleges I know they have campus bars. They have them right on campus.

WENTWORTH: Well they don't in Texas, they don't in Texas.

MATTHEWS: Okay so-

WENTWORTH: We're talking about Texas.

MATTHEWS: Okay so, so but you would bring them, you would let them play, how about kids who want to play football? Would they be allowed to carry a gun during the game or what? Not during the game?

WENTWORTH: No, actually the, the law does not allow, currently, and this law would not change it for athletic contests, they're not permitted.

MATTHEWS: Okay but you would be allowed to take it to the contest or not?

WENTWORTH: No.

MATTHEWS: No. So you can't take it to contests, you can't take it to a, to a, any kind of bar scene or anything like that? But you can walk around campus-

WENTWORTH: That's correct.

MATTHEWS: Okay now we got it straight.

MATTHEWS: Let's go to Colin with the other point of view. What is your view about this? Guns on campus?

COLIN GODDARD, VIRGINIA TECH SHOOTING SURVIVOR: Right, well what the senator fails to mention, also in the Texas public schools there are hospitals, there are daycare centers. What about a judicial referral, what about a tenure hearing? These are all places that you're allowed to be, allowed to be bringing a gun. You know, unfortunately people who support this idea have a very narrow focus on the problem. It's multi-dimensional. They look at it as, "Hey, someone's about to come shoot you, do you want a gun or not?" And when you look at it like that, you miss the ideas and the concepts of the fact that 93 percent of student violence victimization happens off-campus where concealed carry is already allowed. You miss the fact that police officers will no longer be allowed to respond effectively. The cops that pulled me out of Norris Hall said that the first man they would have saw with a gun they would have, they would have shot him. And they need to be able to respond that way. This would totally change their dynamic. And also the, the senator needs to know that there's currently a lawsuit, that was filed in Lubbock that would dropped the minimum age of a concealed carry licensee in Texas from, from 21 to 18.

MATTHEWS: Senator, your response?

WENTWORTH: Well, there's no, no bill that I know of that's dropping the age and I would object to that and oppose it. I think 21 is the, the correct age. As for law enforcement, law enforcement when they arrive on a scene like he's describing, they're instructed in their training, before they're certified as peace officers, when they show up and they're not sure what's going on, they say, "Everybody put their guns down, everybody put that their guns down." The good guys, that are law abiding, will. The only ones that won't are these mentally deranged people that are, that are the law breakers in the first place.

MATTHEWS: Do you think it's gonna be weird for a student to get his grades from a professor while he's armed? Senator?

WENTWORTH: Well, they're posted usually on a bulletin board in the hall. I mean you don't walk back to your professor...

MATTHEWS: Well you imagine a meeting between - it just seems odd that if I were a professor and had a student who was armed when we're having our tutorial, we're talking about the grades or anything, it just seems odd to know that you're looking into a classroom and you're seeing men and women with guns in the classroom. Doesn't that seem odd to you?

WENTWORTH: No, no you're not. In Texas you cannot display your weapon.

MATTHEWS: Okay you got guns in your pocket.

WENTWORTH: That's why they call it the concealed...

MATTHEWS: Doesn't that seem odd? That a student comes to study philosophy, theology, English, whatever and he's armed? Doesn't that seem odd to you?

WENTWORTH: Chris, right now in Texas, if you go shopping at a grocery store, a drugstore-

MATTHEWS: Yeah?

WENTWORTH: -go to a movie theater, a shopping mall, there are kids - you call them kids -

MATTHEWS: Okay, we gotta go.

WENTWORTH -21 or 22, they're walking around with concealed carry weapons legally.

MATTHEWS: I don't know. It's a strange world you're getting us into Senator. Maybe it's cultural, maybe it's cowboys and Indians. I live in a city, I think it's strange. Any way thank you State Senator, I appreciate the way you've carried yourself. You made your points well tonight, Senator.

WENTWORTH: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Senator Jeff Wentworth of Texas, thank you. And Colin Goddard, this is a fight that's going on. I think it's - well I know where I stand.


-Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here