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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT
Gun Control in America; Aurora Families Speak Out
Aired December 17, 2012 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: Tonight, enough is enough. Americans across the country standing up against gun violence. From the Senate that'll make the Newtown tragedy the last of its kind.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: This is the straw that breaks the camel's back. People have to respond.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: To an unprecedented gathering of people who've been through tragedies who thought and hoped it would never be repeated. Ten family members of the Aurora shooting, they're speaking out in solidarity with the grieving people of Newtown.
Plus, Dr. Ross takes us inside the mind of a killer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was different. He was quiet. A nice kid, a good kid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: And why this time it may be different in terms of changing the law of the land.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.
Good evening. Just a few minutes in the studio, we're going to do something quite extraordinary. I'm going to sit down with 10 Americans who lived through what we hoped might be the last mass shooting in this country, the massacre in a movie heater in Aurora, Colorado. You need to hear what these people have to say about guns in America. But first, a picture that none of us ever imagined or feared we'd ever have to see. The first funerals of the 20 young children killed at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut, on Friday. Six- year-old Jack Pinto was laid to rest today. In his obituary, his family wrote, "Jack will forever be remembered for the immeasurable joy that he brought to all who had the pleasure of knowing him, a joy whose wide reach belied his six short years." He was buried in the jersey of his favorite team, the New York Giants.
Noah Pozner, another 6-year-old, he was also buried. His family said he could get what he wanted just by batting his long eyelashes.
Listen now to what may be one of the most heartbreaking moments of all in this ghastly tragedy. This is from "Good Morning America," the parents of Jessica Rekos, talking about the moment they learned that their daughter had died in the carnage at Sandy Hook School.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KRISTA REKOS, JESSICA'S MOTHER: She was a ball of fire. She ruled the roost. She --
RICHARD REKOS, JESSICA'S FATHER: Our little CEO, we called her. You know, she was -- she was the boss.
K. REKOS: I got to the firehouse.
R. REKOS: We had no idea at that point. We thought OK, the reports are that, you know, one or two people may have been injured.
K. REKOS: I walked around the firehouse. Maybe she's in there. Maybe she's there.
R. REKOS: I must have done 100 laps.
K. REKOS: I know exactly what she was wearing. I knew I was going to see her little ponytail come around the corner and her jacket and her black glittery Uggs that she had on that morning. They finally, around 1:15 asked everybody to sit down, and they said that it was a tragic day in Newtown today, and 20 children were killed. And -- they tell me that my little girl was gone.
R. REKOS: There was so much pain and confusion when that announcement was made that life was just sucked out of everyone in the room. And, you know, I just point-blank found a state trooper and was, like, are there any survivors? Are you telling me that standing here as a parent, my child is gone? And he said yes.
K. REKOS: The bed she had just gotten out of. And we just stayed in bed. It's still not real that my -- my little girl who was so full of life and who wants a horse so badly and who is going to get cowgirl boots for Christmas isn't coming home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: So many awful, awful accounts of this appalling tragedy. But what will America do about guns?
Joining me now is Senator Dianne Feinstein. She is introducing an assault weapons ban when Congress reconvenes in January.
Senator, it's almost too much to bear, isn't it, listening?
FEINSTEIN: Yes, it is.
MORGAN: To these poor families.
FEINSTEIN: It's very hard. I don't know what I would do if it were my daughter. I just -- this is so bad. It is so horrific. You know, one point you feel this terrible grief, and then you feel this anger that this could happen in our country, where children should be at least safe in a school. Anyway, yes, I'm going to do an assault weapons piece of legislation. And it's going to be strong, and it's going to be definitive. And it's going to ban by name at least 100 military-style semiautomatic assault weapons.
And it's going to ban big clips, drums or strips of more than 10 bullets. And it's this particular category of weapon which the Bushmaster is. It's a killer weapon. You can fire it very quickly. It has very little recoil, very little kick, and it's very high velocity. And it doesn't belong on the streets of our city. And it doesn't belong in a place where a 20-year-old like this particular 20- year-old could get ahold of it and go in and do what he did. And this makes me very angry.
MORGAN: What do you say to those who say, I have my Second Amendment rights, I'm entitled to bear arms, you are not entitled to take away that right by removing these kind of weapons from the streets and from the stores?
FEINSTEIN: You -- there is no Second Amendment right to bear every type of weapon that you know of. These are a certain class of weapons. They are designed to kill large numbers of people in close combat. I don't believe the Second Amendment covers them. The Second Amendment was written a long time before these -- this class of weapons was founded, merchandised, and spread all over our country. Where they fall into the hands of juveniles, grievance killers, people who go into our malls, our theaters, our stores, our businesses, and now our schools, and just kill people for no good reason. It's got to stop.
MORGAN: Tell me about the reaction that you've had already from other politicians. We've been trying to get any gun supporting politician on the show. And like most shows on American television right now, they don't want to come on. They're hiding away, as are members of the NRA and all the usual suspects when these terrible things happen.
But are you detecting, Senator, that there is change in mood? That this may be as some are hoping a tipping point for the American public opinion?
FEINSTEIN: Yes, I hope so, Piers. I had to do a brief segment on "Meet the Press" yesterday morning. And afterwards, I probably got 20 phone calls at home here in Washington. Very unusual, people from Washington and California calling and saying we want to help with this. It's got to stop.
I even had one -- man who was a member of the NRA who said I have an AR-15, and I'm going to get rid of it. I'm a hunter, and I want you to do something about these assault weapons. So I'm going to do my level best to try. I did it once before in 1993. We sat down and we wrote a bill, and that bill passed the Senate. Chuck Schumer introduced it in the House. It passed. It was not amended. It was passed.
And it went to the president. President Clinton signed it, and it was the law for 10 years. And over time, it began to wind down the supply of these weapons. And particularly the clips, drums, or strips of over 100 bullets.
I mean, you have to realize the person that went into that heater in aurora had a drum with 100 bullets in his assault weapon. Fortunately, that drum jammed or else he would have had 100 clear shots at people sitting in seats in a movie theater. Now here you probably had this man fire more than 100 bullets. I mean, we've just heard where no child had less than three bullets in them. Of what is a killer weapon.
That shouldn't be on the streets of our city. And now these children, this is the straw that breaks the camel's back. People have to respond. They have to understand that the rights of the many to remain safe are more important than any right you may think you have to have a military-style assault weapon.
MORGAN: Senator Feinstein, I applaud what you're doing and I wish you every success.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you.
MORGAN: Thank you for joining me.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Piers, I appreciate it.
MORGAN: My next guest is a gun rights advocate. He says the Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle, the type of rifle that Adam Lanza used to kill 20 children and six more adults, says, quote, "a blast to shoot with."
Joining me now is Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League.
Mr. Van Cleave, I want to read you what you said on Sunday to the "Washington Post." You said, "I could ask you," when asked about the use of these type of weapons, "why should anyone want a Ferrari? Bushmasters are absolutely a blast to shoot with. They're fast. They're accurate. Guns are fun. Some of them are much more cool than others. It's just like we have television sets that look cool and others are much more boxy."
Are you proud of what you said?
PHILIP VAN CLEAVE, VIRGINIA CITIZEN DEFENSE LEAGUE: It's just a fact. We're talking about firearms. People -- I'm an instructor. And when I teach people how to shoot, you should see their face light up the first time they shoot a firearm. It's nothing like what they expected. It is a lot of fun. It's just the nature of guns. It's been a part of our country for 250 years.
MORGAN: Do you think this is a time to talk about guns being fun when 20 children aged 5 years old are being blown to pieces by a weapon that is freely available in this country?
VAN CLEAVE: Well, you need to ask the reporter, because he was the one that approached me with the particular questions. I simply answered them. Because he was trying to understand. He was not a gun person, didn't understand anything about guns. So I was trying to be helpful.
MORGAN: Well, why don't you try and be helpful and educate me? Why does anybody in America who is not in the military or the police force need a semiautomatic weapon that can unleash hundreds of shots in a matter of a few minutes and slaughter innocent Americans?
VAN CLEAVE: We do understand it's not a machine gun. I just want to make that clear.
MORGAN: I didn't --
VAN CLEAVE: There's a lot of confusion. People think this is about machine guns.
MORGAN: No, I understand very carefully. My brother is a British Army colonel. OK? I know what weapons are. It's a semiautomatic rifle. It's the same rifle that was used in Aurora. And I have many people who were affected by that with me tonight live after this. And also in the Oregon shopping mall shooting.
I know exactly what this machine can do. I know exactly what it did to these children. I want you to tell me why you continue to believe that this weapon and the type of weapons like it should be freely available to Americans when they are being used for a series, and it is an epidemic now. Six of the worst mass shootings in American shootings have occurred since 2007. Why you persist in wanting this to be freely available to Americans?
VAN CLEAVE: Well, automobiles kill more people on our streets than guns do, but we don't say we shouldn't have them because some maniac that's drunk ends up driving a car into a family and killing them. This was a misuse of something by clearly somebody that was mentally unstable. Why should then the rest of the country with the hundreds of millions of gun owners in America that didn't do anything wrong with their guns, why are we turning them, as if this was their fault? This is not their fault. This was a maniac in a state that had a lot of gun control in a gun-free zone that ignored every law there was and murdered all those poor little children.
MORGAN: Do you know any more form of gun control in this country? You're quite happy with where things are?
VAN CLEAVE: Oh, absolutely. Crime has been falling in America. In fact, since the assault weapon ban that was put in place years ago by Senator Feinstein, even when after that expired, our crime rates continued to go down in America. The violent crime rate is down. The assault weapon ban didn't do --
MORGAN: How many -- how many people get killed with guns, get murdered with guns a year in your country? Do you know?
VAN CLEAVE: Well, most of it is either suicides or criminal on criminal shootings.
MORGAN: That wasn't what I asked you.
MORGAN: No, no, wait a minute.
VAN CLEAVE: Somewhere 20,000 --
MORGAN: Wait a minute. I didn't ask you about suicides. I asked you how many people were murdered with guns in America on average in the last two or three years. Do you know that figure?
VAN CLEAVE: I don't because the FBI clumps it together with suicides.
MORGAN: They don't, actually. It's very easy to find. It's about 11,000 to 12,000. Do you know how many get killed with --
VAN CLEAVE: OK. I haven't heard that number. That makes sense.
MORGAN: Do you know how many on average get killed in Britain or Germany or Australia? And I particularly mention Britain and Australia, because in 1996 we had a very similar attack in Dunblane in Scotland that killed 16 young 5- and 6-year-old children. We brought in a national handgun ban.
In Australia they went further. They actually had a government initiative to bring back guns. They would give people money in return for their guns. They banned assault weapons of the type that you're seeing here causing this tragedy. And guess what? There have been no more shootings in schools in Britain since Dunblane, since that ban came in. And there's been no mass shooting in Australia whatsoever since 1996. And I say to you --
VAN CLEAVE: The crime rates --
MORGAN: I say to you -- VAN CLEAVE: Crime rate of guns have doubled.
MORGAN: I say to you again, this statistic of 11,000 to 12,000 murders from guns, it is way, way ahead of any of the civilized countries of this world. It is a disgrace to America and to the American people that it's continued to happen. And the reasons it happens, and I say this with respect to you, is your facetious attitude comparing it to cars.
The fact that even after 20 children are blown to pieces, you still see no problem in this ridiculous assault weapon being freely available on the streets of your country, and that may be a load of other deranged young men who want to make a name for themselves who can just go and get one and find it easier to buy one than it is to buy a pet.
This is shameful to America. And people like you are allowing it to continue. And when you talk about guns being fun on about this being the Ferrari of weapons, I say to you this is not the time to talk about guns being fun.
VAN CLEAVE: Well, talk to the press about that. You guys, you've been pushing that issue, asking these kinds of questions. If you think it's inappropriate you really do need to talk to some of your fellow people in the press.
MORGAN: I think it's inappropriate. Yes.
VAN CLEAVE: They ask the questions like you're asking questions.
MORGAN: I think it's inappropriate the day after 20 children are murdered to compare these guns to Ferraris.
VAN CLEAVE: I agree.
MORGAN: Yes, I do.
VAN CLEAVE: He asked me a series of questions. Most of it didn't go on there.
MORGAN: Yes, you answered the questions. You answered the question. They didn't put the words into your mouth.
VAN CLEAVE: Yes. No.
MORGAN: And I asked you today if you were proud of them, and you stood by it. You said it was the truth.
VAN CLEAVE: It is the truth. Do you want me to lie? Political correctness shouldn't be silencing everybody's speech.
MORGAN: It's not about being politically correct.
VAN CLEAVE: The truth is the truth. MORGAN: It's about this, sir, with respect. This debate is not about the Second Amendment. It's not about the Bill of Rights. There are already extensive gun controls in this country, extensive. What this is about is about reacting to an appalling tragedy, the like of which America has never seen before. In the last five months, there has been the worst ever single shooting in Aurora, 70 people shot. There has been the worst ever school shooting, 20 children aged 5 years old. And America --
VAN CLEAVE: They happened in gun-free zones.
MORGAN: America is looking -- oh, do stop being so facetious. Do you think this young man --
VAN CLEAVE: Well, they do, I'm serious. No no, that's not being facetious.
MORGAN: And you think it's because they're gun-free zone --
VAN CLEAVE: It happened where people can't defend themselves.
MORGAN: You think -- so you believe this theory that if everyone in that movie theater was armed, they would have all stood up and shot him?
VAN CLEAVE: Not everyone.
MORGAN: How many do you want to be armed in that movie theater?
VAN CLEAVE: I believe somebody firing at him would have slowed him down or possibly stopped him, yes.
MORGAN: You're aware --
VAN CLEAVE: If he had --
MORGAN: You're aware of the shooting --
VAN CLEAVE: Not been able to carry them out.
MORGAN: You're aware of the shooting in New York recently where police fired, and these are expert marksmen, used to handling firearms, actually shot eight people. You were aware of that, are you? They were police officers.
VAN CLEAVE: This is where I need to point out to you.
MORGAN: What do you think --
VAN CLEAVE: I was a deputy sheriff. So I know a little bit more about law enforcement than you do.
VAN CLEAVE: And they're highly trained -- yes. They're highly trained --
MORGAN: Well, you explain to me then. You explain to me --
VAN CLEAVE: Patrol officer is not what you think it is.
MORGAN: You explain to me why you think arming every movie theater, shopping mall, and school in this country when you already have 300 million guns is going to help this appalling culture of gun violence in America. You tell me.
VAN CLEAVE: OK.
MORGAN: Even as I speak.
VAN CLEAVE: OK.
MORGAN: I can tell you gun sales will be rising in Connecticut because of people like you. People will be saying I've got to arm myself. And every time it happens, more guns get into circulation, and more of these outrages happen. And at some point, you and your colleagues who support no extra gun control are going to have to wake up and smell the coffee.
VAN CLEAVE: Actually Feinstein's bill when she puts that in, you're going to see a rise in assault weapons sales like you've never imagined. So it's going to work just the opposite of what she wants. Gun control never works. It fails everywhere it's tried. And this will just be another example if she ever -- if she ever does get it passed.
MORGAN: As I've already said to you, gun control has worked very successfully in Britain, in Australia, in Japan. Japan has the toughest gun control in the world. They have two or three murders a year. You have 11,000 to 12,000 --
VAN CLEAVE: How many suicides do they have?
MORGAN: Eleven to 12,000 murders from guns a year in America. And you still don't care, do you?
VAN CLEAVE: Suicides are higher in Japan than they are in America. They don't use guns. They have all kinds of ways to kill themselves. And you have a different culture in England. What has hurt this country is the drugs. The drugs have changed everything. You didn't hear about these shootings when I was growing up in the '50s and '60s. And then you didn't even need a background check to buy a gun.
Now with all the drugs, all the stuff we're treating kids with these psychotic drugs, it's causing some real problems in our community. Almost all of these kids that have murdered, if you look at them, they have had been treated with drugs for their mental problems. And it's changing something. It's taking away their empathy where they can do this kind of horrible thing and not feel remorse or fear or terror of what they're doing. They just go on like a machine.
That's the problem in America. It's drugs more than anything.
MORGAN: I'm glad you've told me what the problem is, Philip Van Cleave. Thank you for joining me.
When we come back, I'm going to talk to the people sitting with me here in the studio. They're all family members and survivors of the Aurora massacre in Colorado. You're going to whatever that they have to say what they've just heard from somebody who believes there's no need for any gun control in America. Things are just fine right the way they are.
MORGAN: Welcome back. The people sitting here with me now have each in their own ways experienced gun tragedy. Their loved ones were killed in the last mass shooting to shock the nation. The massacre in Aurora, Colorado. We also have a survivor of that attack, and the man whose brother was injured in the shooting at the Empire State Building.
They're all here to speak out in solidarity with the people of Newtown, Connecticut.
But first I want to bring in Lee Shull. His daughter lost three friends at Sandy Hook school, and he joins me now from Newtown.
Welcome to you, Mr. Shull. You're leading a campaign really from within there, from Newtown. Tell me about this.
LEE SHULL, DAUGHTER LOST THREE FRIENDS IN SANDY HOOK SCHOOL: Well, Piers, thank you for having me on. And first I want to express my condolences to everybody in our community who's suffering through this, not only the 27 victims, but the children and the teachers that experienced the tragedy themselves. They are suffering from this and have to relive these events. So our hearts go out to them.
MORGAN: What is it that you would most like to see happen? We heard the president yesterday talk very passionately about the need to do something, that doing nothing was no longer an option. But what should that something be?
SHULL: I think it's a multitude of things, Piers. It's -- reasonable gun control. It's looking at emotional instability. It's empathy and compassion for our fellow human being. It really is a multitude of things.
MORGAN: In relation to the debate about gun control, it seems to be increasingly focused now on these semiautomatic rifles and the high capacity magazines. Would you like to see a ban on both of those things, as Senator Feinstein is trying to push through?
SHULL: Yes, I absolutely would. MORGAN: You think the American --
SHULL: I think most of our community -- excuse me.
MORGAN: No, please. After you.
SHULL: I think most of our community is on board. I just came from a meeting, and the majority of people want an immediate assault weapons ban, starting in our community.
MORGAN: How is your daughter? She's lost three of her friends. It must have been unbelievably traumatic for her.
SHULL: Well, she wasn't close with them because they were so different in age. But they are from her dance studio. But we have three deaths within our neighborhood. The shooter lived in my neighborhood. We lost -- our former baby-sitter lost her mother. So it's on multiple fronts.
MORGAN: How do you think the community is doing there?
SHULL: They're very strong. They're coming together. It's really -- these last two days have been a blur. But people are just up in arms. People are motivated to do something and to be called to action. People want to help.
MORGAN: And as people are watching this and want to know how they can help, what is the best way for people outside of Newtown to contribute?
SHULL: Well, to contribute I think for our country, because it's really about our country, if it's only Newtown that goes through these changes and tries to effect these things, that's one small part. We all have to -- every community in this nation needs to understand that this can happen if we have proliferation of guns and emotional instability in your community, this can happen.
And we need all communities, basically, to rally their local and state government, federal government, and get our elected officials to have the moral courage to sit down with each other and have common sense discussions and listen to each other and listen to their points and find some middle common ground.
MORGAN: Lee Shull, thank you very much for joining me. I do appreciate it.
SHULL: Thank you.
MORGAN: Now I want to bring in my special guests here in the studio, loved ones of the victims of the Aurora, Colorado, shooting, and a survivor.
Welcome to you all. Even when I've talked to you in our green room, a lot of emotion, a lot of anger, a lot of great sadness. I can only begin to imagine how you've all been feeling to hear that so soon after what happened in Aurora, arguably an even worse tragedy. Twenty 5-year-old children blown to pieces.
I know you all -- you all feel that.
Steve, let me start with you because you were a victim in Aurora. You were shot. How you doing physically, first of all?
STEPHEN BARTON, AURORA SURVIVOR: I'm slowly recovering. Some nerve damage in my left arm. But all things considered, doing really well.
MORGAN: It's nearly five months to the day since the massacre in that movie theater. And we see this incident happening in Newtown. It's just beyond grotesque. What were your feelings when you heard about the scale of what had happened coming so soon after what happened to you?
BARTON: Yes, I mean, I saw the initial reports like everyone did that maybe just the shooter had been killed. And then all of the sudden it was, you know, 27 people murdered. And growing up, having grown up, you know, 10 minutes down the road from that community, I just -- I couldn't believe that once again my life was going to be affected in this way by such horrible violence.
MORGAN: You actually live literally 10 minutes away, don't you?
BARTON: Yes, that's right. That's where I grew up my whole life.
MORGAN: What does this say about America that you're attacked in a movie theater by a young man with an AR-15 assault rifle and then 10 minutes away from where you live, an elementary school is shot up with a young man with exactly the same weapon?
BARTON: I think it's certainly discouraging in some sense. But, you know, what came after Aurora and what's coming after this horrible event is, you know, community coming together, banding together in an incredibly positive way. And I mean, the support I received from strangers after Aurora was amazing. And it's clear that in Sandy Hook the same thing is happening there.
MORGAN: Theresa and Dave, let me return to you. AJ Boik, he was 18, he was your son, Theresa. He was your nephew, Dave. The president of the United States said last night that there are four outrages now on his watch involving mass shootings. He's got to do something.
I know that you met with the president after what happened in Aurora. What did he say to you then, Dave, and what happened?
DAVE HOOVER, UNCLE OF AURORA VICTIM AJ BOIK: We were all gathered in Aurora, and we were sitting in the room, waiting for the president to arrive. And he walked in gracious. It was a very positive meeting. But he started it out with I'm not here as the president. I'm here as a father. I'm here as a parent. My children go to the movies. We need to make a change. We need to be holding our elected officials accountable. We need to make positive change because it's too late for AJ, but there are other children out there that are going to be affected if we don't do something about it. And to throw our hands up and walk away from this issue is like saying it's OK that this happened. We aren't going to do anything else about it. We can't change it.
Well, that's garbage. And what we need to do now is remember that we have to take our community back. We have to take our world back. And we have to say this is unacceptable. We have laws on the books that say it's illegal to steal. But guess what? Those laws are still there because it's unacceptable behavior. And that's what we have to do with guns.
We have to say this is unacceptable. We don't need this individual to have a gun. We don't need -- we need to have background checks done on everybody that purchases a firearm so that we can stop these individuals from getting the guns and make it difficult for them to get these weapons, because it's just a matter of time before this wreaks havoc again.
MORGAN: And, Theresa, this was your boy. He was 18.
THERESA HOOVER, MOTHER OF AURORA VICTIM AJ BOIK: Yes.
MORGAN: What do you say to the parents in Sandy Hook now who are trying to somehow deal with this?
T. HOOVER: We are behind them 100 percent. Unfortunately, we know exactly what they're going through. It's a terrible club. But it's the hardest thing you're ever going to go through. And you have to -- you have to have faith and push your -- push your -- push this legislation through.
You got to call your Congress. You got to let everyone know. Scream it from the hills. It's unacceptable. Columbine shouldn't have happened. Aurora shouldn't have happened. Virginia Tech shouldn't have happened. And God forbid, this shouldn't have happened either at Sandy Hook. It should not.
MORGAN: Caren, your son Alex, he was 24. He flung himself on his girlfriend and saved her, but he lost his life. A hero. When you see what has happened so soon afterwards, another outrage, more families decimated, and you see the gun rights guy tonight, he doesn't want to do anything. He thinks guns are fun. You can't prohibit people's rights under the Second Amendment. What do you say to that?
CAREN TEVES, MOTHER OF AURORA VICTIM ALEX TEVES: I say to them it's not about their Second Amendment rights. It's not about our Second Amendment rights. It's about our rights, our children's rights to be able to just go to a movie, to just go to church, to go to school. They have a right to do that in a safe environment.
And I think we as Americans just need to rise together and say, we've had enough of this. We're better than this. We -- we need to really raise our voices and band together and let our leaders hear us. We can't just turn off the TV and walk away. We have to be strong together like we are together. And the Sandy Hook families, I'm sure they're together, holding each other up, because it's the most horrible nightmare you can ever imagine. And we just have to have our voices heard.
MORGAN: Let's take a break. We'll come back with much more, and more powerful stories from people. These are the people who really should be doing the talking. They've had to live through this. They've lost their loved ones to guns, to massacres. And they want action. I'll talk to more of them after the break.
MORGAN: Back with me now are family members of victims of the tragic mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, five months ago. Sandy and Lonnie, you lost Jessica, your little daughter. She was 24 years old. She was at that movie theater, had gone to see a movie, and she never came home. You were telling me a touching story about your son. Tell me about that, Sandy.
SANDY PHILIPS, MOTHER OF AURORA VICTIM JESSICA GHAWI: After he went to Aurora and met with all the press and took care of the arrangements to have Jessie cremated and bring her home, once he got home, he very quietly, without telling us, sold his rifle.
MORGAN: It was an AR-15?
PHILIPS: It was an AR-15. When he got home, he just started thinking about it and went this is the right thing to do, and sold it.
MORGAN: Lonnie, when you came on my show last week, after another shooting in the shopping mall in Oregon -- you both are supporters of guns. And you it's not about being anti-gun, which I think is one of the myths of this debate. It's always about, well, just you want to get rid of all guns. That's not the correct debate, it is?
LONNIE PHILIPS, FATHER OF AURORA VICTIM JESSICA GHAWI: No, actually, it's not. In this case, the shootings had just happened. This woman whose son murdered her and murdered the children, if she had bought maybe a gun safe instead of the AR-15, she would still be alive, and so would all those children.
We do need to change the laws. If we could start with baby steps even -- we don't have to absolutely demand that the AR-15 would be banned, but it is a great idea, and I'm sure a lot of people would agree with that. But to use common sense, gun owners -- I'm a gun owner. I'm going to continue to be a gun owner. I'm going to protect my house. I don't think anyone in Texas -- the burglars in Texas, they wait until you're gone before they break into your house, because it's a final judgment when you get blown away with a shotgun.
But the gun laws in our country need to be enforced, what we have. We need to improve them. We need -- like Dave said, we need to have a sensible registration. We also need to look at the people that get ahold of these guns. The last four killings have been by unstable mental people.
MORGAN: Dan, let me bring you in here. You run the Brady Campaign. But you have a connection. Your own brother was shot at a shooting at the Empire State Building in the late '90s. We've debated this a lot this week with lots of people. It's a very emotive debate. Do you feel that we have got to a tipping point here, that the mood has changed? Because I feel it has.
DAN GROSS, PRESIDENT, BRADY CAMPAIGN AGAINST GUN VIOLENCE: Undoubtedly. And the big reason is because these voices that you hear -- have here on your show tonight are being heard. These are the voices that need to be heard. One in three Americans know somebody who has been shot. We're not as unique as it might seem. I mean, 32 people in our country are murdered with guns every single day.
And the reality is the only place where this is a partisan political debate is in the halls of Congress. And what this tragedy is doing is it's exposing that disconnect between what the American people want and the conversation we want to have and what our elected officials are doing about it. And tomorrow we're all going to Washington, D.C. to deliver that message to Congress and the president.
MORGAN: It shouldn't be a political issue.
MORGAN: In Australia and in Britain when they had similar outrages, it wasn't about politics. It wasn't left or right.
MORGAN: It was about people power getting action. Jessica, let me come to you because you have a quite extraordinary story. Tell me quickly the connections you have to various mass shootings.
JESSICA WATTS, COUSIN OF AURORA VICTIM JONATHAN BLUNK: My husband was a student at Columbine. He was uninjured, but emotionally scarred.
MORGAN: He saw two students killed?
WATTS: Correct. And then the little girl I babysat was killed in Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colorado in 2006.
MORGAN: She was shot dead?
WATTS: She was shot dead. And -- by a deranged gunman who randomly entered that school. And then my cousin was killed at the Aurora theater. And sitting next to him was my middle school and high school classmate. And he was shot three times, but survived.
MORGAN: And just pure chance. They did not know each other.
WATTS: They did not know each other.
MORGAN: So you have an astonishing connection to so many of these mass shootings.
MORGAN: So throughout your life, you've been tainted by what is going on.
Why are the Americans so reluctant to collectively rise up and demand action, do you think?
WATTS: Because I think it really takes somebody in our position, once we've lost somebody, once we've known somebody who is injured and are -- they've got lasting post traumatic stress syndrome, to really see the effects and damages it causes, because it's unfortunately a very unique club.
MORGAN: Jerri, let me bring you in here. Your son Matt, he was 27. He also died shielding his girlfriend, another hero in Aurora in that movie theater. You were telling me that his grandfather was in the police. And he was brought up in a family that respected guns.
JERRI JACKSON, MOTHER OF AURORA VICTIM MATT MCQUINN: Yes. He probably started learning the respect of guns -- like you said, my father was a police officer for 23 years. And when my boys were little, he would take them to his shooting range on his property. But he also taught them not only how to shoot a gun, but how to respect it.
And so we're not -- as far as our family is concerned, my husband and I were not against guns. It's just that nobody needs these AR- 15s. If you're going to hunt, you're not going to shoot.
MORGAN: These are military weapons.
MORGAN: To fire off 100-magazine-powered guns in the way that happened in Aurora, no American civilian needs that outside of the military and the police force. That is what angers me. That's what the debate should be focused on.
Anita and Amanda, let me come to you. Amanda was your sister, Micayla, a medic, who died at 23 in Aurora. And Anita, you're her cousin. I know Anita, you feel strongly about the fundraising that went on after this. Because millions of dollars pours in. You're concerned about what happens to it and what may happen with people trying to help with what has happened to the families at Sandy Hook.
ANITA BUSCH, COUSIN OF AURORA VICTIM MICAYLA MEDEK: Right. We learned a lot in Aurora with people. After one of these national tragedies happens, there is all these funds starting up that people want to help. And the American people are very generous and very gracious. And they do want to help.
And they give money. And they give money to nonprofits. And what we found in Aurora is that they were giving money to a nonprofit that then gives it to other nonprofits. We've started as a group, everyone here, a organization called Victims First, VictimsFirst.org. And we are going to make sure that the Sandy Hook victims do not get victimized like we did.
This happened to the victims of 9/11, where a handful of families had to stand up and stop the money from going elsewhere. It happened just recently with Hurricane Sandy. You had the Staten Island bureau president come out and say stop giving money. We're not seeing any of it. And it's just got to stop.
MORGAN: Well, it's a great point. And I wish you every success with that, Amanda. I can see that you're very distraught about this. If there is one thing you could say to people about guns, what would you say?
AMANDA MEDEK, SISTER OF AURORA VICTIM MICAYLA MEDEK: God, Piers, put me on the spot here. I'm absolutely against guns in any fashion. Hunt me some deer, but God, we don't need them on the streets in any fashion.
MORGAN: I think the words everyone should take extremely seriously, especially coming from families such as yours. Thank you all very much for joining me. Stay where you are. We're going to take a break. President Obama says he will use the power of his office to ensure there are no more tragedies like the one in now. Is this the moment when the politics of gun control will change?
We'll talk about that when we come back.
MORGAN: President Obama said last night in the vigil in Newtown that he was going to do something. The question is what will he do? Joining me now is Charles Blow, op ed columnist for "the New York Times."
Charles, we've debated this a lot over the last year. The president seemed pretty fired up and he seemed pretty determined. Is he going to do anything? And if he is, what will he do?
CHARLES BLOW, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": That's the question, right? Because what .We've had for the last -- at least the last five years if not for the last 10, is a dampening down of kind of discussion of people who want to see some sort of sensible gun control restrictions. And in that void, the NRA and gun -- pro-gun advocates have actually grown stronger. You would have thought maybe they saw that there wasn't as much opposition, they didn't have to spend as much money. In fact, their spending has increased.
So now you have the biggest gun control lobby is probably one people know. But most is the Brady Campaign. The NRA spends about 66 times as much on lobbying as the Brady Campaign. And they spent, during the campaign contributing to candidates, 4,100 times as much as the Brady Campaign. This has now become a one-sided discussion. And America deserves a discussion.
MORGAN: This has been a tipping point. I think it was so grotesque, coming on the back of Aurora, which in itself was horrifying beyond belief, a movie theater, now elementary school children. Barack Obama doesn't have to be reelected. He has to think of a legacy now. Does he want his legacy to be a series of further mass shootings in which he did nothing. Because there are going to be more mass shootings.
There have been four on his watch already in the last four years of increasing appalling detail. There is going to be worse.
BLOW: I think that you're right in the sense that every cause has an inflection point. And this may be the inflection point for the cause of people who want to at least see a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban. But I think that what we have to do as a society, and what I hope the president will be prepared to do, is to say we have to start on -- start stopping the proliferation of guns within the society.
What we're fast approaching is the moment where we will have more guns in this country than we have human beings.
MORGAN: Actually, you have about 300 million guns in circulation. The population is --
BLOW: -- 311, right.
MORGAN: How many are children?
MORGAN: So you already have more guns than there are adults in America.
BLOW: According to Gallup, 45 percent of people in America say that they have a gun in their home. That means many that most or more people have more than one gun in their homes. Seven out of 10 people say that they have actually fired a gun this their lifetimes. That means that we as a culture are getting to a saturation point from which we may not be able to pull back.
And what is happening after these shootings, unlike what we want to have happen, where people say we need to do something about this, we need to stop buying guns -- after -- in Colorado, after that shooting, FBI background checks for guns went up by more than 40 percent.
So more people -- they don't feel like we need to stop. They feel less safe and they rush out to buy more guns. And what we are -- because we don't have the advocates on the other side of that spectrum, for the people that say I -- you have a right to bear arms. I also have a right to not bear arms. And I should be able to feel safe.
And who is my advocate who says that, for this person who decides that I don't want to own a gun -- how do we make that person feel safe? Or does that person then get to a point where they say, because, you know, 50, 60, whatever it gets to be, percent of the population has a gun, I actually need to get one to protect myself.
MORGAN: And the point that keeps being missed is there is already extensive gun control in this country. The gun lobby make out this some hideous new thing designed to shackle them. There are many, many gun controls in America already. But this particular type of rifle is now the preferred mass shooter's instrument of devastating murder. And that is why it has to be targeted.
The last three shootings, the AR-15 was used because it looks, as the gun rights guy told me, like the Ferrari of weapons. They've got to take the Ferrari of weapons out of circulation.
BLOW: Right. You don't see a lot of people committing these kind of mass shootings with regular hunting rifles. You don't see them committing these mass shootings with regular revolvers that people might have in their homes. These are semiautomatic weapons.
And there is a lot of confusion, particularly you have a guest on earlier who was talking about, well, this is not an automatic weapon. But you have to understand what a semiautomatic does. It doesn't require that the trigger go -- that the hammer go all the way back and you have squeeze again really hard. The triggers are very sensitive. You just pulse the finger. You can get off five -- three to five rounds in one second.
MORGAN: There isn't a difference between the power of a banned automatic rifle and one of these AR-15s if they have the right equipment.
MORGAN: That's the reality. Charles, thank you. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBBIE PARKER, FATHER OF EMILIE PARKER: She was the type of person that could light up a room. She always had something kind to say about anybody. And her love and the strength that she gave us and the example that she showed us is remarkable. She is an incredible person. I am so blessed to be her dad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Robbie Parker speaking over the weekend. I want to thank all of my guests for being here tonight. And we leave you with some more powerful words from Mr. Parker.
His daughter, Emilie, was killed at the Sandy Hook school disaster. And he gave us a statement, thanking those who had reached out to help the families.
He went on to say this, "remember the beautiful children and keep them close to our hearts. Do not let their bright shining faces become extinguished. Let us do everything in our power to ensure their light continues to shine brighter and brighter in all that we do to remember them."
That's all for us tonight.