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BOTH SIDES NOW w/ HUFFINGTON & MATALIN: Debating Madness, Giffords & Guns

01/18/2011 10:22 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

By Mark Green

They were the shots heard around America. As the host, I established two premises: while you can't show that lyrics triggered Columbine or that political rhetoric caused Tucson, why does America have four times the murder rate of Great Britain?

*Mental Health Care and Cuts: There was agreement beyond right and left that mental health facilities failed to detect and help an obviously mentally ill person, as also happened at the Virginia Tech massacre. "We've learned nothing" said Mary, arguing that policy needed to figure out how to find such troubled people so they could get treatment and be reported to legal authorities. Arianna wondered how that could possibly be administered in a world where Arizona, citing budget and spending problems, cut such services by half in the last year.

*Guns and the NRA (No Reform Again?): Can we at least revive the lapsed federal ban (1994-2004) on semi-automatic guns? Mary objected to that reasoning - "it's the symptom not the disease" since a murderer could use a "bow-and-arrow...or two guns" - but concluded that she wouldn't personally object to such a ban. Arianna passionately asserted that if such weapons weren't sold and such magazine clips so easily available - at "Wal-Mart?" -- it's likely that far fewer people would have been shot or killed.

So if Rep. Carolyn McCarthy introduced "Cynthia's Bill" and then if Obama and Bush repeated their support - could that overcome the NRA's proven muscle? Both doubted it - Mary because popular opinion was not pro-gun control...and Arianna because Members were too politically scared of that lobby.

Might some states make it easier to carry or conceal guns into churches, supermarkets, bars, schools? Mary thought there's value in people being armed to stop a crime while Arianna concluded that would be "pure insanity."

*Political Threats: Both-Sided or One-Sided? Mary argued that liberals should be consistent and denounce provocative violent language from the left - like the Weathermen, like a movie that had the plot theme of Bush being assassinated. But what about recently? Threats against Hill Democrats were up 300% in the past year...O'Reilly said that the Washington Post's Dana Millbank should be "beheaded" for criticizing Fox... Beck discussed whether he should "murder Michael Moore" or hire someone else to do it...and the couple dozen times Beck went after the Tides Foundation as communist and anti-American, before one Byron Williams was captured last July in a shootout enroute to killing its staff, his mother saying that the Fox host had riled him up?

Mary enthusiastically defended Beck as a man of non-violence guided by "providence and primary sources... He's Ghandi-esque, Martin Luther King-esque." Arianna though thought that his constant provocative language -- how the government was "leading people to slaughter" -- had nothing to do with either God or facts.

*Obama & Palin: How were their Wednesday remarks? Arianna thought the President's eulogy was pitch perfect, essentially coming across as "America's dad," as HuffPost's Howard Fineman wrote last week...but Palin's narcissistic video showed a tin ear since "this was not about her!" Mary defended Palin's use of the crosshairs graphic as just another military-like metaphor -- citing (her husband's) "War Room" -- and sympathized with her need to rebut those who implied that she was somehow responsible for Tucson.

*Quick Takes: Shifting gears, the women agreed that Alec Baldwin would make a terrific political candidate...that Mark Twain publisher shouldn't change the N-word into "slave" in The Adventures of Huck Finn... and that 3-D TV was coming and we might as well get used to it. As for Bill Daley in the White House, there was a split opinion: Mary called him a "practical, business-oriented great guy" while Arianna, who is rumored to be the anonymous author of Third World America, explained that he failed the test of focusing on the battered middle class as their "north star."

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now, which is powered by the American Federation of Teachers.

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