Return to Transcripts main page


Shooting Rampage Reignites Gun Control Debate; 14 Killed, 17 Wounded in California Massacre

Aired December 3, 2016 - 07:30   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, NEW DAY HOST: We are in San Bernardino, California. There's a lot of information flying around, so let me take you through what we do and do not know. Right now we can say this. Fourteen people have been murdered here. Seventeen more are in the hospital with varied degrees of injuries. That makes this the second deadliest mass shooting since what happened in Newtown, Connecticut.

The fact that there were two perpetrators here makes it the first time we've seen that since Columbine. What else do we know? There was a man and a woman involved here, said to be married, that they were both killed in a shootout with police.

Where did it start? Right behind us up the street in this regional health center. There was a conference center there as well, and what was going on in there was a holiday party for the county mental health agency.

The male suspect involved worked at that agency. He was at that party and supposedly left after some type of altercation. Well, was what happened thereafter an angry reaction? It doesn't seem that way, but it's not being completely ruled out by investigators. Because when that man came back, he was with his wife and supposedly had tactical gear, long weapons, handguns and a potential explosive device.

We also have new details emerging overnight about these explosives. They were found at the scene and wound up delaying, which was agonizing for the families, the actual vetting and processing of the crime scenes so they could find out if loved one were inside.

They found part of it in the SUV, part of the explosive device in the SUV that the officers eventually intercepted. It was certainly explosive device. They don't know whether it was effective or not. Then the semiautomatic handguns they were carrying, as well as assault type rifles that they were carrying and certainly used on people inside that conference center.

These are all facts that the investigators have been able to confirm for us. And now it comes to what do you do about this. This was the second mass shooting just yesterday, the 355th of the year in 2015. You're going to hear it from lawmakers now. They're going to say we have to do something about it. For some, that means more laws.

Now look at the cover of the "New York Daily News" today. They're calling out lawmakers who expressed sympathy. That's what we do in situations like this is let those victimized know that we care. But the question is, well what is caring going to mean. Should it mean tougher gun control.

It's very divided in this country. People look at a situation like this, Alyson and Mich, and say what law would've changed this. The handguns that they bought were bought legally. The two long guns that they bought were bought legally, but not by them. And that is often overlooked aspect of these investigations. Who bought those guns, and how did they wind up in the wrong hands?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, NEW DAY HOST: Chris, you've given us a lot to debate, so let's talk about that. Because in what is, as Chris was saying, has become it feels like this futile ritual, President Obama reiterated his call for stricter gun control after that mass shootings in San Bernardino. So are stricter laws the answer, or is there another solution?

Here to debate this morning are CNN political commentator and op-ed columnist for the "New York Times," Charles Blow, and CNN political commentator and host of the Ben Ferguson show, Ben Ferguson. Gentlemen, thanks so much for being here.

Charles, California has the strictest gun laws in the country. We've learned all too often crazed madman and shooters don't abide by gun control laws. Why call for more?

CHARLES BLOW: Well, I mean, first, I think you have to get a scope of the problem, right? So you have upwards of 300 million weapons in this country, right. You have -- in any given year, you have roughly 33,000 people who lose their lives to gun violence. About one-third of those are a homicide. The other two-thirds are suicides, which is its own issue.

But if you just take those numbers, you realize that a fraction of one percent of the guns, even if every gun, every kind of death was a separate gun, which it's not because we have so many mass shootings, it's a fraction of one percent of the people -- of those guns that are being used in a bad way. So we see -- you know, most people -- not most, just like overwhelming majorities of these guns are not being used in any bad way.

So we want to encourage people to continue to do right by the guns that they have.

CAMEROTA: Right, so then why more -- why would the President call for more law then?

BLOW: Because this is thing. What we realize is that it only takes a tiny fraction. Because we have so many, it only takes a tiny fraction of them to be used in a wrong way in order for them to wreak havoc on a community.


So we have to then decide, how do we get those few guns that are being used in a bad way to be out of those hands.

CAMEROTA: Of course.

BLOW: And I think that there are things that are happening there. There are there proposals on the table that could help in that regard.

CAMEROTA: OK, hold those thoughts.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, NEW DAY HOST: So Ben, we want to get your take. Because the fact is, clearly something is not working here. As Chris was saying, this is the 355th mass shooting, and that means four people or more shot in an incident this year. Something's not working. We have to fix it.

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I agree. But when the President comes out yesterday before there had even been one single press conference and pushes a false narrative that if you would just do gun control laws, somehow this would have not happened, that is about as unrealistic as him coming out claiming that this was probably going to be Muslim terrorists that accomplished this.

We didn't know anything when he was pushing for gun control. We had no idea who the people were.


FERGUSON: We had no idea what guns were being used.


FERGUSON: We had no idea how many guns were used, and we didn't know if there bought legally or illegally. We didn't know if we were dealing with convicted felons. So for him to come out and push gun control before he knew anything, before any of us knew anything about the guns even used --


FERGUSON: -- I'm sorry, it's irresponsible.

Now here's the other thing. We want to think that if we pass a law that somehow this would've stopped what happened in California. Let's look at what happened in Paris. Paris has some of the most strict gun control laws in the world, and yet the people there were able to get these AK-47s in a place where they're illegal and you cannot buy them. And they were able to use them. So I would say this to the President.

CAMEROTA: Right. You both spelled out the problem, I mean, perfectly.

FERGUSON: But let me say this.

CAMEROTA: Go quickly.

FERGUSON: What law would the President of the United States of America pass? And I'll say this to Charles. What law would you have passed yesterday to somehow stop this shooting? If we're going to blame for this instead of looking at the facts of the person and where they were and where they were traveling and where they got married and where they came back and all the other flags around them, tell me what law you would have passed that would've made this not happen. I don't think there is a law.

CAMEROTA: OK, Charles, so you were saying that you do think that there are some solutions. Go ahead.

BLOW: Right. Right. So I think that is always the wrong question, and it's always the question that people ask who are advocating for no laws at all. Right? Which is to say what would you do in this particular case that would have stopped this particular crime. There's often not an answer to that question directly.

What I think you have to --

FERGUSON: Then why did the President push for it?


BLOW: Excuse me. I'm sorry. I didn't interrupt you. Don't do that.

So what you have to say is this is unacceptable. Right?

CAMEROTA: Right. Everybody says that. Everybody agrees.

BLOW: The level we have is unacceptable.


BLOW: How do we start to whittle away at the numbers? You're not going to solve them all.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Right, of course.

BLOW: You're not going to solve them all. You just want to start inching down.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but how do you?

BLOW: So you start with the idea that number one, most Americans, an overwhelming majority of Americans agree that we should have universal background checks. Forty percent of all weapons are acquired without a background check in this country. There's a lot of different ways, right? So some of it's off-market sales, but also it's like intergenerational transfers, just transfers where, you know, your uncle gives you your first gun when you're 12.


BLOW: Right, so there are a lot of ways.

CAMEROTA: Let me get Ben in. Go ahead, Ben.

FERGUSON: Again, would background checks have had any impact on this attack in California? The answer is no. You had two individuals that apparently were not convicted felons who bought a gun legally. Two of the guns were bought legally.

The other two guns that he did not purchase or they did not purchase came from somebody else. How would you stopped that whether they were -- we don't even know if they're stolen at this point. We don't know if he let them borrow them. We have no idea around that.

So if you want to push gun control, then push it but at least be honest, saying I don't like these guns, I don't want anybody to have them, I don't want them out there on the streets.

BLOW: You're talking to the wrong person about who doesn't like guns.

FERGUSON: Let's not act is if --


BLOW: You're talking to the wrong dude. You're talking to the wrong dude.

FERGUSON: -- this would have stopped what happened yesterday.

CAMEROTA: No one's saying that, Ben.

BLOW: I grew up with guns. We slept under our gun racks over our beds.


BLOW: I grew up in a rural part of American.

CAMEROTA: You're saying there's a responsible way to do it.

BLOW: Let me just make sure you understand.


BLOW: Don't ever do that. Don't ever just try to assume that people who want some level of gun control don't have any idea of what guns are, never owned a gun. That is not me.

FERGUSON: President Obama yesterday --


BLOW: Let me finish this.

FERGUSON: Hold on. No, you interrupted me.

BLOW: I'm going to say this. I am going to finish.

FERGUSON: President Obama --

BLOW: I am going to finish. No, you're not going to finish.

CAMEROTA: Hold on. Give him one more second, Ben. Hold on, Ben. Go ahead. BLOW: I am going to finish. My brother is also -- he sells guns. He's

a gun collector. He does the vintage guns, but he goes to gun shows. He sees this up close, this idea of like people who can buy and sell without any sort of background check. That's actually not what we want.

And I think what we have to do is in the long view say, most people are really responsible gun owners. We want to make sure that we keep all of the guns or more of the guns in the hands of the responsible people and not in the hands of the people who are not.


And don't try to pitch people who want some level of gun control as being, oh, I hate guns. That's crazy.


CAMEROTA: Ben, you just have a few seconds. Quickly, Ben.

FERGUSON: What I'm saying is this. President Obama yesterday does not -- it's very obvious. When you come out and push that gun control somehow would have made us safe yesterday when the reality was we have no idea how gun control being passed would affect any of this. The same way in Paris. They have extreme gun control, and it did not save those people's lives.

If you're a terrorist, domestic or connected to ISIS or al Qaeda, to imply that if we pass this law somehow this is going to change is incredibly unrealistic looking at the situation. Here's the other thing. If you're a law-abiding citizen, up to the point of yesterday, which it appears this guy was like, why would a gun law have stopped him from doing this when we know he could buy guns legally?

CAMEROTA: All right, we hear your point. Charles, Ben --

BLOW: NRA status quo talking points.

CAMEROTA: -- thank you so much. We will obviously be debating this and dealing with this throughout the program and for days to come, sadly.

PEREIRA: Indicative of the passion on all sides of this.

We want to turn back to our top story in a moment, but obviously we need to look at some other headline.

Russian President Vladimir Putin outlining Russia's future in the state of the nation speech. He also lashed out at Turkey saying its leaders will regret shooting down a Russian warplane last month.

Putin's address happening on the heels of a newly released ISIS video threatening Russia, showing the gruesome beheading of a man allegedly admitted to being a Russian spy.

CAMERTORA: Military investigators trying to determine what caused an army apache helicopter to crash in Tennessee during routine training Wednesday night. Officials at Fort Campbell say the two pilots were killed. At least three Army helicopters have crashed during training in the past month.

PEREIRA: The trial of one of the officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray, it's going to resume in some to hours' time. Prosecutors on Wednesday argued that Officer William Porter ignored Gray's calls for help when he said he couldn't breathe and said he didn't buckle Gray into the police transport van.

Porter's attorneys dispute those claims saying the officer thought Gray may have been faking it so that he wouldn't have to go to jail. You'll recall Gray died of a spinal injury while in police custody in April.

CAMEROTA: A week after that dash cam video surfaced of the Chicago officer gunning down a teenager, city officials might lose their fight to keep another video private showing a fatal police shooting. A judge expected to rule next week whether footage should be released showing officer George Hernandez killing Ronald Johnson last year. Johnson's family has accused the city of a cover-up and has filed a wrongful death suit.

PEREIRA: We are obviously followed every new development in the rampage in San Bernardino, California. That community reeling. That area reeling. Where do we go from here? What happens next?


CAMEROTA: In the wake of the country's worst mass shooting since the assault in Newtown, Connecticut three years ago, investigators today digging for answers attempting to figure out what motivated these two people, a husband and wife, to open fire at this social services center during a holiday party in San Bernardino, California.

Congressman Adam Schiff represents a district that is not far from San Bernardino. He is also the ranking member of the House intelligence committee.

Congressman, thank you for joining us on NEW DAY. What have you learned, if anything, in the past 12 hours about what was behind this mass shooting?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I had a preliminary briefing from the FBI this morning and expect to be briefed in more detail later in the day as we learn more. At this point, we can't rule anything out. We don't know yet what the motivation of the shooters may have been. Certainly, were going to be devoting all of our investigative resources to determining exactly why they embarked on this horrendous attack. But at this point, I think it's too early to rule any possibility out.

CAMEROTA: So you're not leaning in a domestic terrorism or workplace violence direction?

SCHIFF: You know, it's, I think, certainly possible that you could have elements of all of the above or some combination of motivations. The reality is we simply don't know at this early stage of the investigation.

We're exploring to determine if there are any links to international terror or terror organizations. We have seen ISIS applaud the attack. They haven't taken credit for the attack, and that's quite a bit different. But we are exploring any possibility that it was related to international terror or whether it was workplace violence or you had some combination of motivations.

CAMEROTA: Congressman, you're a member of the congressional gun violence prevention task force. You study mass shootings and gun violence. These guns were purchased legally. What would have made a difference here?

SCHIFF: I don't know. And, you know, looking at some of the initial public reports of what the main shooter or the male shooter was like in the workplace, some of the employees that have been interviewed say there was nothing that would've given them any suspicion of any kind of violent motivation against his coworkers or any kind of radicalism. And so I don't know that this a situation where people would've seen things that they could have or should have reported.

I think important point here, though, vis-a-vis the gun issue, is that there isn't a single solution to all of these mass shootings. They have different motivations. There are different weapons used. Some get the weapons legally. Some get them illegally. Some have very serious mental health problems. Others don't.

That doesn't mean, though, that you don't embark on doing what you can. And we do know that if we made it more difficult in particular for people who are mentally ill to get access to firearms or if we made it difficult for people to get access to extended ammunition clips so that they couldn't kill as many people when they embark on a shooting spree, that would help. So there are things that we can do even if in a particular case those measures might not have been sufficient.


CAMEROTA: Congressman, how about if we made it more difficult for suspected terrorists and people on the no-fly terror watch list? But on Tuesday, your colleagues in Congress for some reason declined to even vote on this act that would have kept people who are on the terror watch list from buying a firearm in this country. How is that possible?

SCHIFF: You know, it's a good question. It's a complete no-brainer. I can't imagine why anyone would oppose this except for the fact that the NRA is against this. They're a very powerful organization, and a lot of the members of Congress live in fear of the NRA's lobbying power.

CAMEROTA: But how could the NRA even be against this? I mean, what's their logic? What's their argument?

SCHIFF: I don't understand it. And frankly, if you look at some of the very common sense gun measures that we've been talking about for years, like a ban on extended ammunition clips, these things, the universal background checks, are supported by the majority of NRA members of their own membership. So I don't understand it. It doesn't make any sense. It's a terrible indictment, I think, of the of our political system that something that the country wants, that even the case of this very powerful organization around members want, we simply can't get accomplished. And we cannot accept this.

You know, I was part of a moment of silence in the House floor just a couple days ago because of the Colorado Springs shooting. This has become a ritual in the House. I would much rather have moments of action than moments of silence on the House floor.

CAMEROTA: Congressman Adam Schiff, we're sorry to talk to you in these circumstances but great to get your perspective. Thanks so much for being on NEW DAY.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Let's get back out to Chris. He's in San Bernardino at the scene. Chris?

CUOMO: You know, Alisyn, you've got to talk to your lawmakers in Washington. They make the federal policies. But, you know, there's another reality here on the ground in San Bernardino.

You know, this community is living with this horror of what just happened here. There was literally gunfire in their streets, and now there's a lot of fear. And the question becomes, well, what do they do as a community here. How do they see what happened here? And how do they deal with? What does this mean about gun violence for them? We're going to talk with the city leader about what they believe needs to be done after living through it.


CUOMO: All right, we are here in San Bernardino, California, the site of the deadliest mass shooting we've had since Newtown, Connecticut. Fourteen people murdered, 17 others in various states of injury in local hospitals. What does this mean for this community?

You're looking at right now cell phone video of what these people had to endure on their streets. They're also living with the knowledge of what was done here at this inland regional developmental center at a holiday party, a Christmas party. Now 14 dead, 17 more hurt.

So we have Judi Penman. She's president and CEO of the San Bernardino Chamber of Commerce. It's good to have you hear. I'm sorry to meet you under these circumstances, but it's an important conversation. How is the community doing? What have you been hearing?

JUDI PENMAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, SAN BERNARDINO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: Actually, Chris, the community is very brave, and we've handled tragedy before with major fires in our area. They come together in the time of tragedy. People are blowing up buildings all over the country, including Paris. So San Bernardino is a strong community. They've been calling the chamber wanting to help, wanting to bring food if they can. They're not out there scared to death, flailing their arms and saying, oh, my god, our community is being shot up. They're wanting to help, and they're doing business as usual.

A reported called --

CUOMO: Which is remarkable, given, you know, the conditions that they went through. They also got an amazing demonstration of their policing, how fast these men and women worked on the scene and how quickly they were able to get to the suspect.

PENMAN: I am very glad that you said that, because Chief Jared is an amazing leader, along with Sheriff John and our fire chief. And they were. They were Johnny on the spot along with their team. We absolutely have a strong law enforcement team, fire people. They are amazing along with the people in the community. They should be commended, and I'm glad that you said that.

We are not a weak community. We are a strong community. And the Chamber received numerous calls yesterday, as I said, wanting to help. And businesses were open. Of course, around here in this area they were closed.

CUOMO: Right. Have to lock it down. The investigation's still very raw on many levels. They're trying to figure out who knew, and it leads to relevant question for you. When we use the word community, you're now going to go through some thought about, well, what is the community. What is the relevance of who did this and what they represent in terms of religion and where they are the community? How are you dealing with that aspect of it?

PENMAN: That's what I want know. I want to know who, why. Why would somebody go out and take people's lives? I don't understand that. There's a lot of wacko people out there that obviously want to kill, and if they want to kill, they'll do it regardless of how, what the means are.

CUOMO: Do you care whether these suspects were Muslim or not? Is that relevant to you?

PENMAN: No. No, if somebody wants to kill somebody, they will do it. And speaking of religious, we do have a lot of wonderful churches in our area, pastoral groups, that come together of all different faiths. And we have a strong Muslim group at our Cal State University San Bernardino.

But it's why. And people think that they can do things and get away with it. That's my opinion. My opinion.

CUOMO: Well, that's why I have you here. But you know what the reaction is in the country right now. There's a whole dialogue going on. And when these suspects names came out and they were identified as Muslims, it means something to people right now. There's frustration that the investigators won't call it terrorism by people who are watching this situation. What do you make of it as a local leader?

PENMAN: As above the leader, it doesn't matter to me what faith they are. I would like to know, again, why they did it, whether they were upset because they didn't get attention at a holiday party or whether or not they were terrorists or what the reason was. Nobody has the right to take another person's life in my opinion.

But whatever the reason, we need to find out and set people's mind at ease. And I think that if people want to take another person's life, they're going to do it, whether they have guns or bombs or a knife or their hands.

CUOMO: You don't think you're a law away from making something like this not happen?

PENMAN: No, I think people will do it regardless.

CUOMO: There's a part of this we never discuss enough. People always go to the means, as you're saying. They use guns; how we stop them from getting guns? We don't discuss, well, how do we deal with what's in some people's hearts and why they want to kill other people and how we treat each other. That's just as important, right? Because that's the motivation behind all of this.

PENMAN: I spent 10 years on the school board. I found out a lot about bullying. Bullying starts as a very young child. We need to nurture our children to be careful what they say.


Look at what's happening on cyber space or whatever they're doing with their telephones. It's early in the morning and I haven't had any coffee.

But also I found out the principals were bullying their teacher. I mean, that was horrific. I'm not a person that stays quiet. I was one of the older members of the school board, and I let it out loud and clear.

CUOMO: So you're speaking to a culture of how we treat one another.

PENMAN: Absolutely.

CUOMO: Now as you're processing this situation, that's can be a big part of it. And as you say, this community's strong, so hopefully it holds together and moves through this.

Ms. Penman, I'm sorry to meet you under these circumstances, but thank you for the perspective. Sorry for the cold hands.

PENMAN: Thank you for the opportunity.

CUOMO: Thank you very much.

There is a lot of news this morning. We're processing what's happening in San Bernardino. Let's get right to it.