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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
More Evidence Removed From Lanza Home; New Details In Newtown Investigation; Burying The Victims Of Sandy Hook
Aired December 19, 2012 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, investigators today did a new sweep of the house where Adam Lanza and his mother lived. We asked the police chief what he found.
And what was his mental state at the time of the shooting? We look at autism and killer's brains as we focus on mental health.
And tonight, no deal in Washington. Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, desperate for answers. Investigators spent the day at the home of 20- year-old Adam Lanza, sweeping the entire house for any evidence of a motive behind the rampage in which 20 children were killed and seven adults including his own mother.
There are also new details tonight about Nancy Lanza's whereabouts in the days right before the shooting. Deborah Feyerick is outside Lanza's home tonight. Deborah, what has happened there tonight and today?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, we want to tell you. It's rather remarkable, Erin, because the major crime squad has been here all day and we can take a look as we push into the house. You can see lights are on in the top floor and also bottom floor.
Now, they brought back the mobile crime lab and they're processing this crime scene. Investigators have not retrieved any information from the damaged computer, the one that gunman is alleged to have smashed into pieces. The hard drive so badly damaged that the FBI is having a difficult time getting any sort of information, any data.
So what investigators are doing now, about half a dozen of them in the house, you know, they're going through all documents, all files, all medicine cabinet cabinets, they are trying to get whatever kind of information they can.
Earlier today, we did see them, Erin, bring out a very large box and they brought it into that mobile crime lab. You know, that's an area that they use for processing. They can do instant analysis on various things. So they're aggressively working inside the home trying to get additional information -- Erin. BURNETT: And what, Deb, have you been able to ascertain about what they've been able to bring out? I know you said a very big box and trying to process it quickly, but do you have any sense of sort of what was in the box, other materials they've gotten?
FEYERICK: No, we haven't, but what's also so fascinating about this, they pulled the mobile crime lab out. They sort of took it of the premises over the weekend and then they brought it back. So clearly, they're aggressively checking -- what we are learning now, Erin, is that in days before the massacre, the mother, Nancy Lanza was not at home with her son.
My colleague, Rita Cosby, has confirmed and in fact, the mom was at a resort in New Hampshire. She left early Tuesday morning and she didn't get back until after dark on Thursday, so that means that the gunman would have been in this home by himself or with somebody checking in.
It's not clear, but her friend does tell CNN that in fact, the mother was one to do that. She would leave them on occasion, preparing a couple of meals so that he would be taken care of. So she was not there.
When she returned on Thursday, the next morning, Erin, Friday morning that is when police believe that the gunman went into her bedroom while she slept in her pajamas and shot four times at her head before going on this terrible, terrible rampage -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Deb Feyerick, thank you very much. And obviously as Deb and Rita are reporting, they are pretty significant development in terms of the fact that Nancy Lanza had been away for two and a half days.
Rita Cosby has been able to confirm in fact that she stayed at the hotel in New Hampshire for two days. And that she checked out around 12 noon on Thursday. It was a four and a half hour drive, so she would have gotten home when it was dark the evening before she died.
I want to bring in Lt. Paul Vance with the Connecticut State Police. He is the lead spokesman. You've seen him many times speaking. It's been a very difficult job to have to update the world on what he knows. He joins me on the phone now from Newtown with the latest.
Lt. Vance, I appreciate it. We all do because everyone wants to understand what happened here. We have confirmed as you just heard, that Nancy Lanza was away in the days before the shooting. What can you tell us about her relationship with her son?
LT. PAUL VANCE, CONNECTICUT STATE POLICE (via telephone): I think what's important is to make sure that everyone understands that our investigators, our state police detectives have to take every piece of information and confirm it and sure that it's totally accurate and totally pristine and without error before we can come out publicly and state it. Therefore, we haven't really come out and stated anything too much relative to the relationship with the shooter, prior to the catastrophe that happened at the school.
BURNETT: All right and I understand that. We don't want you to rush it, then have to change what you say, so I do understand that, but you know, there have been reports that a possible motive, I'm sure you've seen these. It's been written, reported elsewhere, that Adam Lanza was concerned his mother would have him committed to an institution or sent away to school and that's what prompted this horrific rampage. Have you found any evidence to support that?
VANCE: We've been gathering a tremendous amount of evidence and quite frankly our major crime detectives have been at the residents for many days, many hours. They're there today. They have the processing van at the residence as we speak and they're meticulously going through every square inch of that residence.
Touching every paper and every document and everything contained in that house seeking what's necessary to attempt to establish any information, any motive, any timeline, anything that can support the investigatory efforts of the detectives on this case.
BURNETT: So, too early to say whether his fear of being committed or anything like that could have been involved.
VANCE: Yes, ma'am. You're absolutely correct.
BURNETT: All right, so, on Saturday, you said the investigation, I'll quote, you said it did produce some very good evidence on motive. I know now, you obviously have a lot more evidence. So, what is causing the hesitation? Is the motive very complicated? So many people obviously around the world, everyone wants to understand that, to try to get some sort of closure here.
VANCE: We understand that and we certainly want to do that. We want to answer every single question surrounding how and why this catastrophic tragedy took place, but we don't traditionally attempt to piecemeal an investigation.
We could uncover a piece of evidence that could send us in an entirely different direction, therefore, it's prudent for us to examine everything and then come out with a final determination exactly what we know from factual information that we gather.
BURNETT: As one thing I want to try to understand and hopefully this is just sort of a factual thing that we could get to the bottom of. A lot has been made of the guns. That Nancy Lanza had these guns and how Adam Lanza could have gotten access. You know, as we just reported. She would have gotten home somewhere between 5 and 6, you know, likely the night before. Do you know where the guns locked up?
VANCE: Yes, we do have a great deal of information relative to the guns. We've actually got a team, we're being assisted with that, with the ATF and we're literally investigating those guns, the day, the minute they left the manufacturer to the day we see them. There were capacities to lock those up, we know that. And certainly, we're going to check the place of guns every single time they were touched or handled. BURNETT: So do you know if the lock was broken or removed -- can you tell us that?
VANCE: I'm sorry. I do not know that information.
BURNETT: All right, you don't know that information yet. OK, yesterday, we also had reports that the computer had been smashed to pieces, sort of implying that Adam Lanza had tried to destroy the evidence. Obviously giving people the perception that he would have known right from wrong, didn't you to ever get any useful data. Is there any hope you're going to get anything off those hard drives?
VANCE: Yes, it's important to note that electronic evidence was ceased. There's no question about that. That's not secretive. You know we have a very, very good competent electronic evidence computer crimes unit and we'll work with any other agencies supporting our efforts to ensure if there's something there our people would definitely find it.
BURNETT: And one final question, have you interviewed other members of the family, Adam's father or his brother?
VANCE: I know that we've had some conversations. I don't know that we've completed those interviews. We have had some conversations with a family with assistance from other agencies outside the state of Connecticut.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Lt. Vance. We appreciate your time.
Up next, the controversy of reporting the mental health of the shooter. What Asperger's syndrome and autism has to do with the story.
And in a story with so much horror, we're going to introduce you to man who has to go to work each day and relive it over and over again to do something that gives some closure perhaps. A start of closure to the families.
And breaking today, three State Department officials resign following the investigation into the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi.
BURNETT: Diagnosing Adam Lanza. Connecticut chief medical examiner H. Wayne Carver said he was told the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter had Asperger's syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder.
Now, people who knew the Lanza family also say that he had Aspergers, but autism advocacy group say that there is no link between Asperger's Syndrome and violent behavior.
Bob and Susan Wright, grandparents of a child with autism and the founders of "Autism Speaks" say this. I'll quote Bob and Susan, "Autism did not cause this horror, the profound tragedy of these senseless murdered will be compounded if it results in unwarranted discrimination against people with autism."
But according to a leading medical encyclopedia cited on the National Institute of Health web site, here are some of the possible behaviors for a person with autism. One, it shows a lack of empathy. Two, acts up with intense tantrums and three, shows aggression to others or to self.
I spoke with Bob Wright earlier and I asked him how he is so sure that autism wasn't a part of why this tragedy happened.
BOB WRIGHT, FOUNDER, "AUTISM SPEAKS": Well, there's been, there have been a number of studies, very large studies done with autistic children. As a matter of fact, Dr. Catherine Lord spoke with one this morning in "The New York Times" and she went through the whole thing thoroughly because she was asked to.
The result of it is that there is less likelihood of a child with autism to have an aggression against other people than there is for typical children, so not only is there no evidence that supports the fact that they are violent to other people, but they are actually less violent towards other people than typical people.
And when you really get into these stories about violence and you see children or young adults, what you're going to see generally is people with alcohol or drug problems or some other situation. They're seven to ten times more likely to be violent than typical children and autistic children are less so.
Sometimes, they are self injurious, but rarely to other people. These kinds of generalizations are killing us. These parents of children with autism, they're frightened, angry. People are talking about you know, autism as though they're acquainted with it.
They're using it as a generalization and it's really very sad. This, there's no evidence so far, we haven't seen any evidence of this poor boy was even diagnosed. We haven't heard the school records, haven't seen an individual education plan.
We haven't heard any therapist. You haven't any health care providers, Erin, coming forward saying I diagnosed this child 20 years ago or 15 years ago. I treated him when he was 10. I helped this boy with therapies. This is really disturbing to me. If this child has had treatment, why haven't people surfaced?
BURNETT: Bob, what about the issue of empathy. When I hear about this, it's what I always come back to. That if someone has trouble with empathy, the man in Norway who killed all of these people on that island, a psychiatrist said he had autism.
And he was sort of striking for his lack of empathy or understanding or connection to what he did and when people hear if you're autistic, you might lack that human connection. It may make them say well, I could see how this could be linked to a horrific act. Do you see that as all or do you think that's the wrong link to make? WRIGHT: It's a very long putt given the fact we have so little day the on Adam. Children with Asperger's, which is a very high functioning child generally, tend to have social communication issues. But none of those issues fall into the categories that we're talking about here with the kind of violence and murder and so.
They may have a narrow social focus or they may be very lonely or appear to be lonely. Some are very talkative and informed and very knowledgeable, so you just can't generalize about that and this empathy issue, the fact they said well, he doesn't feel pain and so forth.
I kind of write that off as another gross generalization. I haven't met children that don't feel pain and have no ability to deal with pain.
BURNETT: Obviously, your grandchild has autism and since he's been born, you founded "Autism Speaks" and you have dedicated yourself, you and your wife to fight this condition. Is this in a sense whatever happens with Adam Lanza, perhaps something that can bring some good to this country for children that have autism?
WRIGHT: We are desperate to have an opportunity to have some real focus on mental health. The brain is the largest organ in your body and gets less attention in terms of health care than the spleen does. And before everything is lost in the avalanche of media for guns and the fiscal cliff, I hope we are able to bring forward a real agenda here for mental health.
BURNETT: All right, thanks so much, Bob. We appreciate your time.
WRIGHT: Thank you very much, Erin. It's lovely to be on.
BURNETT: And we're going continue to focus on mental health as our program continues tonight. Next, we're going to meet a man with one of the hardest jobs in Newtown. And later, communities coming together tonight to say goodbye.
BURNETT: It's been another day of heartbreaking good-byes in Newtown. Family and friends attended the funerals today for Victoria Soto. She is the first grade teacher who died while protecting her students.
Services were also held for three more children, 7-year-old Daniel Barden and two more 6-year-olds, Caroline Pravidi and Charlotte Bacon. The overwhelming task of burying the victims has fallen largely on the shoulders of Dan Honen.
He is the only funeral director in Newtown and in the coming days, he will be burying 11 of the 26 victims who were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. CNN's Poppy Harlow sat down with him today and is in Newtown tonight.
POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first call came in at 7:00 Saturday morning.
DANIEL HONAN, OWNER, HONAN FUNERAL HOME: Once the magnitude came, I said well, we've got the get things planned out so we can do what we have to do.
HARLOW: The pain in his eyes concealed by his glasses. He's exhaustion of parent. Daniel Honen runs the only funeral home in Newtown.
HONAN: One girl, the funeral we had yesterday, she loved Orca whales.
HARLOW: Eleven of the children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary are being remembered here, long lines outside, now a painful sight, all too common in this picturesque town.
HONAN: Tragedy has fallen here and it's our job to take care of what has to be done. That's what we do.
HARLOW: The calls with the families --
HONAN: It's very sad.
HARLOW: Difficult beyond words.
HONAN: Many of the children had favorite hobbies. One girl loved horses and animals and wanted to be a vet. One boy was the Giants fan.
HARLOW: Started by his grandfather more than 100 years ago, this funeral home is where he grew up, but he has never seen anything as tragic as this.
(on camera): I've read that you called this the week from hell.
HONAN: Well, yes, it is the week from hell, but we'll get through it.
PASQUALE FOLINO, PRESIDENT, CI FUNERAL DIRECTORS ASSOCIATION: Their innocence was taken away from them and that makes it very, very difficult for us to deal with.
HARLOW (voice-over): Pasquale Folino runs the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association and has gathered more than 100 volunteers to help with the Newtown funerals.
(on camera): Mentally, how do you prepare to talk to these families?
FOLINO: You prepare yourself knowing that you have a role to play and that is to assist them in helping say goodbye to their little girl. It's very, very difficult. In the evening when you go home, you deal with it. You talk to your family. You try to collect your thoughts and cry.
HARLOW (voice-over): For Honan, the coping will come in the weeks ahead. For now, he tries to tune it out.
HONAN: When I go home at night, I don't, when I turn the TV on, I've been watching Christmas movies. It's an escape and you know, I find great comfort in my wife. My wife is my rock.
HARLOW: A rock, something everyone in this town needs right now.
BURNETT: And Poppy is in Newtown tonight. Poppy, you talk about volunteers. That's been one of the small sorts of rays of hope in this, just the generosity of people helping with these funerals, right?
HARLOW: That's exactly right. That's something I learned today that I was surprised about. It's one little bit of help for the families of these 11 children, Erin. All the cost for their funerals will be covered because of the donations of time by all those funeral directors, volunteers, people who have donated caskets, everything, the cost of the funeral.
At least that's being covered and the funeral director told me that he has gotten over 2,000 e-mails from other funeral directors across the country, around the world, asking how they can possibly help.
BURNETT: It's hard, Poppy, to imagine if any, that anyone else would have ever had to deal with such a horrible thing so many young children coming to a funeral home. Did you talk to him about how he's dealing with that, emotionally? Someone who deals with death has never dealt with death like this.
HARLOW: I did. You're right. This is his job. This is what he has to do every day. But putting this many kids to rest is something he never imagined he'd have to do and I really got a sense from him, he had to sort of put a wall up to deal with it, to cope and he told me that's right, I do.
I have to put a wall up of sorts just to get through the day and in the weeks to come, when this is over, he's going to lay the last child to rest on Friday. He'll deal. He'll grieve. This is the town where he grew up.
It's been in his family for so long and he hopes a tragedy like this never happens, but I could feel it from him and from Pasquale. They have to put up their guard just to get through the day.
BURNETT: Thank you very much, Poppy Harlow.
And next, will Adam Lanza's brain give any clues as to how a person could have committed this horrible crime? Dr. Drew is next to look at the brain.
And later, the president steps into the gun control debate, but what he said has our John Avlon asking questions.
BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT.
We start the second half of our show with some of the other top stories that we're focusing on, on this Wednesday.
Three State Department officials have resigned following an independent review of the attack in the American consulate in Benghazi. The report found systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at the department, placing blame on those at the assistant secretary level who ultimately make most decisions.
Officials tell CNN, two of the resigning officials were at that assistant secretary level and also tonight, our Dana Bash has learned Secretary Hillary Clinton will be testifying next month about the attacks in Benghazi. She could not testify this week due to illness.
Well, the war of words over the fiscal cliff continues. Today, the president and John Boehner spoke of their efforts to make a deal. The president says he's meeting Republicans half way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not a situation where I'm, you know, unwilling to compromise. This is not a situation where I'm trying to, you know, rub their face in anything. I think anybody who looks at this objectively would say that coming off my election, I have met them at least halfway.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Speaker Boehner disagrees.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: The president's offer of $1.3 trillion in revenues and $850 billion in spending reductions fails to meet the test that the president promised the American people a balanced approach. And I hope the president would get serious soon about providing and working with us on a balance d approach.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Boehner went on to say the House will pass his fallback plan in a vote tomorrow.
The Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, the soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers in a shooting spree, could face the death penalty if found guilty. Today, the military referred Bales hearing to a court martial authorized to consider capital punishment.
In a statement to OUTFRONT, Bales' wife Kari says she hopes her husband gets a fair trial, but now, no longer knows if it's possible.
And now, an OUTFRONT exclusive, we have learned that 10 NGOs are cautioning the United Nations Security Council as it reconsiders a resolution for international military intervention in Mali. Without peaceful political solution, the groups say a military offensive could have serious humanitarian consequences.
They're asking the council to implement five recommendations, including training of force and calling for more humanitarian assistance which they say is needed to help the more than 412,000 Malians forced to flee their homes as al Qaeda linked and inspired groups have taken over the north of the country.
It has been 503 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?
Ratings agency Fitch warns it may take a page from Standard & Poor's and downgrade this country's credit rating. If leaders can't make a deal on the fiscal cliff, the agency says failure could, quote, "tip the U.S. into an avoidable and unnecessary recession." Of course, the irony remains, that apparently what is needed is an increase in revenue and a cut in spending, which is exactly what a fiscal cliff does.
Tonight, Connecticut is remembering the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School and residents of neighboring towns are gathering to pay tribute to the murdered children and adults.
Gary Tuchman is in Danbury, which is about a 20-minute drive from Newtown.
And I know, Gary, you are at a vigil tonight.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Erin.
All over the world, we feel anguish about what happened here in Connecticut, but nowhere is it more acute than in this small state. And tonight, here in Danbury, about 15 miles away, this is called "A Tribute to Newtown." And there are hundreds of people throughout the state of Connecticut who are here to pay support to the victims, the family members, to the survivors.
We know from covering disasters and covering tragedies for many years that the key, the key to coping with it is for people to get together. So we have middle school bands who are here. We have an ensemble from the university here, which is Western Connecticut State University. Right now, there's a pastor who's speaking. There will be a video tribute shortly to the victims, to the children and to the adults who were killed.
Everyone who's come in here is getting some gifts. The Red Cross is supplying Mickey Mouse dolls to the children. Disney supplied them to the Red Cross. The Red Cross is giving them to the kids. Everyone is getting a candle. And the adults are all gets roses.
So it's a very poignant, very sad.
We should point out one thing. That this university happens to be coincidentally, we should note, where the killer went to college for a short time. But no one's discus discussing him. This night is all for the victims -- Erin.
BURNETT: And, Gary, let me ask you -- the vigil being held at Western Connecticut State University, of course, the shooter had attended there, taken some classes at least one point. Have you met anyone there who has any memory of that person?
TUCHMAN: Yes, no, we've talked to people. Like I'm telling you, people don't want to talk about Adam Lanza today. But we did talk to some before this began and no one remembers the guy. I mean, that's what's so notable about the situation is no one remembers him from grade school. No one remembers him from high school. No one remembers him from college.
People just don't have memory of this guy. We'll obviously learn more in the days, weeks, months to come, but he was basically an invisible person it seems.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Gary Tuchman.
Well, a big question a lot of people are continuing to ask is how this happened, why it happened and is there something when you're born, that can make you the kind of person who kills? Can you be born a killer?
Connecticut chief medical examiner H. Wayne Carver has asked a geneticist to join his investigation into what drove Adam Lanza to murder his mother and then 26 others.
Dr. Wayne Carver says a geneticist might be able to help him identify whether a disease caused Lanza's behavior or not.
OUTFRONT tonight, Dr. Drew Pinsky, host of "Dr. Drew" on HLN, and a practicing physician and psychiatrist.
And, Dr. Drew, thanks for taking the time.
People have been asking this question because of the horror of what happened and the impossibility of anyone to imagine such a horrific act as to whether genetics could be a part of this, that whether you can be born a killer.
DR. DREW PINSKY, HLN: OK, Erin, before I answer a question, I've got to remind people, that although I work in the world of neurobiology, I'm an assistant professor of -- clinical professor of psychiatry, I'm an internist/addictionologist, but I work in the world of neurobiology all the time.
And yes, you can be born a psychopathic killer, that is absolutely been well-established. That people with psychopathy have a certain pattern in their brain, where the prefrontal cortex, particularly the right side of the brain, which we have empathy, as well as ancillary cingulate region under-functioned. Now, they're not anatomically different necessarily, they're just functionally different.
However, I don't think, that's not a specific genetic problem per se. People are born with this disorder. There are familiar links, but we have no genetic marker for it.
What I believe the medical examiner is looking for is some sort of inborn error of metabolism or some sort of chronic neurological condition that has a genetic basis to it that could lead to such disturbed behavior.
BURNETT: And are we able when you say -- I mean, I know it's more complicated than yes, there are some born that way, and it gets more complicated, but is there any way to tell that in advanced? Whether you're predisposed, or is this something where a whole lot of people might screen for some sort of, you know, similarity here, but only you know, some very, very small fraction of them actually would ever do anything wrong?
PINSKY: Right. Well, if you really have psychopathy, it's not actually a small fraction.
PINSKY: People who operate in the world in a very disturbed way.
I will answer the question this way. One is that there is a doctor here in town in southern California who's doing studies on these brains. You can show functional MRI evidence of the psychopathic brain. What is fascinating about his studies, though, is he was trying to get some controls. He had a psychopathic brain, he has some control brains, and he used his own brain as one of the controls.
And he was going through the scans one day, here's another psychopathic brain, turned out it was his scan. And he was able to identify that he has some of the deficiencies of empathy and emotional connection that psychopaths have, yet he had compensated in some way, so he was not inclined to harm other people. He could sort of appreciate that other people had feelings.
So there may be a day when we can one day do scans on these people and intervene in such ways that they will not become somebody that destroys people. In terms of the risk factors, what to look for -- I think everyone knows about the classic factors, such as harming animals, torturing, violence, a real manipulative sense of goal- directed, uncaring towards other people and aggression.
BURNETT: It's interesting, the doctor you mentioned, Dr. James Fallon is going to be on this show tomorrow night.
BURNETT: Because that story was just incredible that, you know, you would look and see that. So, I spoke to a woman on Monday, you know, the woman who wrote the blog entitled "I am Adam Lanza's Mother" and she talked about the struggle of raising a child. In his case, sort of undiagnosed thing. He'd been diagnosed with ADHD. Some people would say it's autism spectrum. She's not sure what the child --
BURNETT: -- might be dealing with.
And I spoke also with Dr. Oz about what people in their situation might do. And here's what they both said. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIZA LONG, BLOGGER, "THE ANARCHIST SOCCER MOM": The advice that I got was that I needed to press charges, so that we could create a paper trail again and he did get excellent follow through care when he had to do juvenile detention as a younger boy. But I just don't feel like jail is the right place for my son and I'm just really hoping that we can find another solution for him.
DR. MEHMET OZ, THE DR. OZ SHOW: She's absolutely correct in calling us all out on the reality. The only way she can get help is to file police charges.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And, Dr. Drew, now, we're just talking about children that may have some sort of issue, you don't know whether it is a disorder, a mental illness, or what it might be.
PINSKY: We have a massive problem in this country and the fact is that the law enforcement system has become the mental health delivery service of fault. There's nothing else but that.
And real problem here is a fact, that's just the way it is and to get parents, you heard that parent even resisting intervening with the law enforcement. You have to let law enforcement in or you end up with disasters in like this.
The real problem is -- we're going to get into in great detail on my show -- is since we have dismantled the state hospitals, we have no way to contain and to help these people that so desperately need our help. There are tens of thousands of people like that woman's son out there who have undifferentiated problems but they are aggressive and violent, and need containment in certain situations.
Insurances don't cover it. There's inadequate resources. They end up in law enforcement. Parents in families are reluctant to bring law enforcement in. And these people become dangerous.
We have got to do something about that problem and certainly, we should have a system in place that doesn't allow guns to get into the hands of someone like that.
BURNETT: So, Dr. Drew, what do you tell parents to do? You said there's tens of thousands of children out there.
PINSKY: Erin --
BURNETT: So, what do you do?
PINSKY: I'll tell you.
PINSKY: Call the cops. Call the police.
I can't tell you, I give parents three or four interventions. The other thing is conservatorship. It's very cumbersome, expensive, difficult -- that is to say you gain control of that person's rights and freedoms through a conservatorship.
And you can get conservatorship. Nobody does it. Nobody calls -- people resist calling the police until it's too late. And conservatorships are never acquired. And so, we have these people falling through the cracks out there and then there's no encatchment system from the mental health side to really help these folks.
I hope, I pray, that the Newtown slaughter brings this to forefront before something else happens because we have a problem. Doctors need to be able to do their jobs. People need to be able to ask questions and these privacy rights of the individuals cannot supersede the safety and the rights of the community because they are right now.
BURNETT: Right. Thanks very much, Dr. Drew.
Well, ahead, President Obama today pledged to use all the powers of his office to prevent another tragedy like Newtown, but why hasn't he done that before? Piers Morgan joins us next.
And later, the healing power of love. Just a special moment that we saw of incredible generosity in Newtown.
We'll be back.
BURNETT: President Obama today pledged to use all the powers of his office to prevent another tragedy like Newtown. Those are his words.
And today, he appointed Vice President Biden to lead a multiagency task force on gun control and report recommendations by the end of January.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not some Washington commission. This is not something where folks are going to be studying the issue for six months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside.
This is a team that has a very specific task: to pull together real reforms right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: The president said he would push Congress to act on those recommendation recommendations, but why call for a task force? Are there things the president can do right now?
Well, you know what? The answer to that is yes.
John Avlon has been reporting on that today and he's OUTFRONT tonight.
All right. So, you're saying task force -- OK, sure, go ahead and have one of those. He can do something right now.
JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He can. There are executive actions he can take outside of legislative recommendations.
And here are just three of them, Erin.
First of all, recess appointment of an ATF director. It's outstanding. The head of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has not had a steady director in six years. The current acting director commutes from Minnesota. He's the U.S. attorney from Minnesota as well as acting director of the ATF. A recess appointment could block that logjam. Significant first step.
AVLON: Second, also under the no-brainer, the Justice Department can prosecute criminals who lie on their background checks. In 2009, most recent year we have statistics, 71,000 criminals, people with criminal records, were found to have lied on their background checks. The FBI reported to the feds, the feds only prosecuted 77. That's 1/10 of 1 percent.
BURNETT: One-tenth of 1 percent.
AVLON: That's right.
BURNETT: The criminals are getting guns, passing background checks, or not, no one cares.
AVLON: Just enforce the existing law.
Final thing --
AVLON: Reinstate the ban on imparts of automatic weapons. This goes back to the first President Bush. In 1989, after a school shooting in 1989, the first President Bush signed a ban on importing automatic weapons in the country, using powers in the 1968 gun control act. It was double down by President Clinton.
But that hasn't been enforced since the second President Bush. President Obama, not enforcing it either.
So, here again, you can strengthen an existing ban on the importation of assault weapons.
BURNETT: All right. So, there's things he can do right now, so why is he announcing them today and say I'm going to do these three things. You can find them. I'm sure he could.
BURNETT: Why do we have a task force? I mean, a task force is helpful in addition, too.
AVLON: All politics is local and timing is everything. We're in the 11th hour of the fiscal cliff negotiations and announcing these executive actions would alienate conservative Republicans even more, make it more difficult to make a deal. So there's a rationale behind waiting.
BURNETT: Why he would wait.
All right. And what about America's response? It has always surprised me on the heels of these shooting, this summer with Colorado, that there wasn't more of a backlash with the American people saying the American people want more gun control. Are we seeing anything different this time?
AVLON: We are seeing something different.
The new CNN poll showing 43 percent of Americans saying they are more likely to support gun actions. The question is, is this time it's different? And can the pressure on Congress continue?
It's important to remember, Erin, in the past, this wasn't such a polarized issue. Ronald Reagan supported an assault weapons ban. That's the reality check we can reflect on in the coming weeks.
BURNETT: The person that they all admire greatly.
BURNETT: Thank you very much, John Avlon.
And now, let's bring in Piers Morgan.
Attention has been fixed on Newtown, Connecticut, for five days, but people across the country are now demanding and having a national conversation about guns. Piers Morgan will hold a live town hall with shooting victims, family members and elected officials to get answers tonight and he joins me OUTFRONT. Piers, you just heard John reporting on three things the president could do now. John has a reason why he's not doing it now. Why he's waiting.
He announced this commission today. Is the commission enough for you?
PIERS MORGAN, HOST, CNN'S "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": Well, a lot of the time scale of being just a month to come back with initial findings. I mean, the reality is this commission should have been ordered years ago.
I mean, I have been on CNN yearly two years now in January. And in that time, there's been a series of appalling mass shootings which seem to be escalating in scale and depravity. We've been -- in the last four months alone, we've seen the Aurora massacre which was the biggest single shooting in America's history. We've now had the biggest school shooting in America's history.
We can't keep breaking terrible records like this without somebody saying enough.
BURNETT: You have been very vocal, Piers, in recent days. I have heard many people talking about it and challenging gun advocates. And you are saying the United States should follow the lead of other countries.
What do you mean by that? Because you're bringing unique perspective here. Obviously, you know, you come from Britain. There are different laws there, right?
MORGAN: Well, look, we don't have a Second Amendment. We don't have a right to bear arms enshrined into our psyche, if you like.
And this debate, as far as I'm concerned, is not about an American's right to have a firearm at home to protect their family. I respect that an American -- the average American would like to preserve that right.
What this is about is the very type of assault weapons that we saw in Sandy Hook, in Aurora and in the shopping mall shooting in Oregon. And you can go further back.
But those are the three last mass shootings in America, they all have the AR-15 assault rifle. Let's give it a new name. These are military machine guns. These are weapons you can buy in Wal-Mart and they can fire four to six bullets a second, a hundred bullets in a minute.
The killer that went up to Sandy Hook school had enough guns and enough magazines and enough bullets to murder the entire school and his intention was possibly to do that very thing. If that had happened, you would have had 600 deaths of children in one incident. And I'm sure nobody would be arguing about this.
But, I cannot understand coming from Britain where in 1996, we had the massacre in Dunblane in Scotland. Sixteen 5-year-old children were killed. And as a result, there was a complete ban on buying guns all over the country, which have proved to be very successful. We've had no mass shootings of that nature since and no attacks on schools at all.
At the same time, in the same year, in Australia, they had a similar incident. Thirty-five people killed in Tasmania. They brought in big bans on these very type of assault weapons. And guess what? They had no mass shootings either since then.
This is a proven track record. If politicians -- and in Britain, it was a labor politician Tony Blair; in Australia, a conservative politician John Howard. It was never a partisan political debate in either country. It was a moral, a humane debate to get these terrible weapons off the streets.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Piers Morgan, thank you very much.
Be sure to join Piers because he has a very special program later tonight.
And now, let's check in with Anderson Cooper with a look at what's coming up on "A.C. 360" -- Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, we are in Newtown again tonight. Once again, remembering and honoring loved ones. There were four more funerals today. We're going to share their stories and the moments with you ahead.
Scenes like this today in Newtown -- more than 100 firefighters paying tribute at services for 7-year-old Daniel Barden. Daniel said he dreamed of being a firefighter when he grew up. And that's why the firefighters came out today in such force.
Also, other funerals today. We'll tell you all about them. A woman living out her dream as a teacher. Friday, she was filling in for a teacher on maternity leave. The shooting ended what her mom said it was the best year of her life. She shared that with her boyfriend Tony. We'll hear from him ahead.
And CNN's Drew Griffin has done a lot of reporting on charity scams. If you can believe this, he's looking to an e-mail that was circulating, asking for donations for Noah Posner. Only it wasn't from Noah at all. Noah's family alerted us to this email scam. Drew tracked down the person who was allegedly behind it. You're going to hear from this person on "360" tonight.
We are live from Newtown at the top of the hour -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Anderson, looking forward to hearing that for sure.
And next, something I talk in Newtown that was pretty inspiring. People coming from across the country to help.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: Since we've been covering the tragic shooting in Newtown, we have seen a community that was already incredible tight and intimate. You can just tell by the small streets there. They've grown even closer. Yesterday, we spoke with Newtown native, J.R. Shine. You may remember him. He and his childhood friends and college, they all came back, rushed home after hearing the news and have been holding fundraising drives in the center of town ever since.
But it's not just in Newtown. People across the country and around the world have come to Newtown. Yesterday, we saw it firsthand. It was about more than money. These dogs, Chewy on the left, Ruthie in the middle, Luther on the right and their handlers, are comfort dogs. Their handlers drove 14 hours from Chicago after the shooting -- to get there on Saturday and to try to help people, specifically the kids in Newtown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM KURTH, LUTHERAN CHURCH CHARITIES: Walking into the school when they started classes and into the gym with our dogs and having all of the kids start cheering was just -- I mean, amazing when that happened for us and for the dogs to be there and have joy erupt from the kids who have not known joy for the last few days. It was -- that really touched my heart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And the dogs touched the hearts of some of the children, too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: You had a story about a boy in high school who was talking to the dog and was able to express himself and wished that that dog can help his dad and his precious mother.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that was Tim.
TIM HETZNER, PRESIDENT, LUTHERAN CHURCH CHARITIES: He was going to the dogs and said his dad came home every night and said I wish my dad was here to be with the dogs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: It was remarkable how much the gift of love can help the healing process, how much an animal can bring some healing and joy. But, really, what was amazing is just how generous to get in a car and drive 14 hours just to try to help. We have been talking about a horrible act to see that the generosity of human kindness was something that was a small and wonderful thing.
Thanks so much for watching.
Anderson Cooper starts now.