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MSNBC's O'Donnell Slams 'Merchants of Death' Gun Makers After Child Death

Media Research CenterOn Thursday's The Last Word, MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell attacked the owners of the gun maker Crickett as "merchants of death" after a five-year-old boy in Kentucky, without adult supervision, used one of their guns to kill his younger sister: "The names I want you to know are the merchants of death, the merchants of this death, the guys who made and sold the rifle that killed this two-year-old girl. "

As he began his show's regular "Rewrite" segment, he compared selling guns to profiting from pornography:

What wouldn't you do to make money? I'm not talking about criminal stuff here. I want you to think about what legal thing you would not do to make money. Everyone has something they wouldn't do to make money. You can't think of anything? I bet you can. How about porn? See? Everyone has some legal thing that they won't do to make money.

After recounting that his father refused the opportunity to help run a liquor store on principle, he began to mock the ethics of the father and son who run the Crickett gun company:

I'm guessing that Bill McNeal never had that conversation with his son, Steve McNeal. I'm guessing they never talked about what they would not do to make money because what they decided to do as a father and son team in a small town in Pennsylvania was to start a company to make guns and sell guns for children.

Now, you got to wonder how that conversation went: "Hey, Dad, I've got an idea!" Or was it, "Son, I've been thinking, not enough five-year-olds have guns"? Now, what at least one of the McNeals should have said in that formative conversation is, "Hell, no, I would do porn for money before I'd make guns for children!" You'd think one of the McNeals would have had the good sense to say, "If we make guns for little kids, someone's going to get killed." Well, if one of them said that, the other one must have said, "Yeah, but we can get rich." And getting rich mattered more to the McNeals than someone getting killed.

Below is a complete transcript of the "Rewrite" segment from the Thursday, May 2, The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC:

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, BEFORE COMMERCIAL BREAK AT 10:38 P.M.: Coming up, we're going to show you the most loathesome commercial ever made. It is actually kind of hard to watch. It is about selling guns for children, for four-year-olds, five-year-olds. And it's in the "Rewrite" tonight.

(...)

O'DONNELL, BEFORE COMMERCIAL BREAK AT 10:41 P.M.: Up next, the legal business of marketing guns for children. Perfectly legal. And it's next in the "Rewrite."

(...)

O'DONNELL, AT 10:43 P.M.: What wouldn't you do to make money? I'm not talking about criminal stuff here. I want you to think about what legal thing you would not do to make money. Everyone has something they wouldn't do to make money. You can't think of anything? I bet you can. How about porn? See? Everyone has some legal thing that they won't do to make money. While I was a kid, my father told me he had a chance to be part owner of a liquor store in my neighborhood. And let me tell you, a liquor store in my neighborhood was guaranteed to make you rich on day one. But my old man wasn't even tempted. He said he'd seen booze destroy too many lives and kill too many people. He never second-guessed himself as the liquor store owners got richer and richer. And he would have liked to be rich, but not that way.

I remember exactly where we were in his car when he told me that. We were driving by the liquor store. That was a formative conversation for me because the list of legal things I won't do for money includes selling alcohol and selling tobacco and selling guns and ammunition. I'd like to be rich, too, but not that way.

I'm guessing that Bill McNeal never had that conversation with his son, Steve McNeal. I'm guessing they never talked about what they would not do to make money because what they decided to do as a father and son team in a small town in Pennsylvania was to start a company to make guns and sell guns for children.

Now, you got to wonder how that conversation went: "Hey, Dad, I've got an idea!" Or was it, "Son, I've been thinking, not enough five-year-olds have guns"? Now, what at least one of the McNeals should have said in that formative conversation is, "Hell, no, I would do porn for money before I'd make guns for children!" You'd think one of the McNeals would have had the good sense to say, "If we make guns for little kids, someone's going to get killed." Well, if one of them said that, the other one must have said, "Yeah, but we can get rich." And getting rich mattered more to the McNeals than someone getting killed. So they started working on names for their guns for children.

The big sellers are the Crickett and the Chipmunk. Here's a Crickett in pink. That one is obviously aimed at the Barbie crowd. Little boys tend to prefer the brown one. "My First Rifle" is the slogan that Bill and Steve McNeal came up with to market guns for kids.

(CLIP OF CRICKETT AD)

BOY #1: Hey, where you going?

BOY #2: To shoot my new Crickett rifle.

BOY #1: I wish I had one.

VOICE OF MALE NARRATOR: My first rifle, a moment you'd never forget. The Crickett is the perfect way to get young or small-framed shooters started right. With a safety-promoting design, it's soft-shooting, affordable, and accurate. Girls and even mom will love the way they can pick one to their own taste.

Start your own tradition: Crickett. Find yours online or ask for a Crickett rifle at your local dealer.

O'DONNELL: The McNeals hit their marketing target when a family living in a mobile home on Lawsons Bottom Road in Cumberland County, Kentucky, bought a Crickett for their five-year-old little boy. On Tuesday, the boy picked up his Crickett in the kitchen and killed his two-year-old sister. He accidentally shot her in the chest. We know their names -- the little boy, his little sister, their mother, their father -- but I don't want to mention them in deference to the family's loss and their grief.

The names I want you to know are the merchants of death, the merchants of this death, the guys who made and sold the rifle that killed this two-year-old girl. Yes, the parents made the choice to buy that gun. But I don't feel like talking about the parents tonight, not with their daughter lying dead. I'm going to leave the discussion of the parents' responsibility in this case to others. I'm feeling too much compassion and sorrow for that family to criticize them right now.

I want us to think about the merchants of this death. They make guns 20 miles away from where the Little League World Series is played, and they market their guns to kids who aren't old enough to play Little League baseball. Bill McNeal and Steve McNeal market their guns to five-year-olds. They have pictures of younger kids than that on their Web site toting Cricketts and Chipmunks. They have a picture on their Web site that is pure child abuse. I can't show it to you. It shows a toddler who is two years old at most, maybe younger, holding a rifle on his lap over his arms, like that. Because the toddler obviously isn't strong enough to lift it up. That picture is legal child pornography.

So this is the country you live in now. You live in the country where five-year-olds are not allowed to play Little League baseball because we are  afraid of them getting hit by fast balls, thrown by 10-year-olds, because we think fast ball pitching is too dangerous for five-year-olds. Little League allows them to play only T ball, you know, for safety.

You live in the country where Bill and Steve McNeal legally sell guns for five-year-olds without even worrying about safety. If you're concerned with child safety, you don't give children guns. You don't give five-year-olds the keys to the car. There's a whole lot of stuff you don't let five-year-olds do if you are concerned about child safety. But America's merchants of gun death are not concerned about child safety or adult safety or anything other than getting rich. And so, tonight, you live in a country where Bill McNeal and Steve McNeal make and sell guns for little kids because they can and because, obviously, there is nothing, nothing Bill McNeal and Ste McNeal won't do for money.

-- Brad Wilmouth is a news analyst at the Media Research Center