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Seventeen People Died in a School Shooting; Just Another Sad Day in America; Ignored Warnings Killed 17 People; Loose Regulations on Gun Control a New Norm in U.S. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired February 14, 2018 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
[22:00:00] JULIETTE KAYYEM, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, CNN: We are exceptional in very bad ways, in the way that our children are dying from gun violence.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN: Julia and everybody, thank for your expertise. Don Lemon takes up our coverage from here. CNN Tonight starts right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. Thanks for joining us.
I want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. A very troubled world tonight. Our breaking news, 17 people shot to death today at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Five people hospitalized, life-threatening condition. Ten more in non-life-threatening condition.
The suspect, a 19-year-old -- 19 years old, a former student -- in custody. And sources say he is talking to investigators. He had been expelled. Law enforcement sources say the weapon used to kill those 17 people was an AR-15 style firearm.
He had a gas mask and smoke grenades and pulled the fire alarm, just to lure out more victims. Sources also saying that he tried to mix into the crowd, the crowd of students, to try to escape. Those are the facts right there.
But they don't even begin to tell the full story here, the entire story. The story is this. This is a sickness that has infected the country. Unchecked and unfettered gun violence.
Today, 17 lives are over. Seventeen families are torn apart. Parents who sent their kids to school this morning, imagine that, many people send their kids to school. Just like they've done every other day for years. They trusted their kids would be safe. Teachers went to work this morning, trusted that they would be safe in their space, in their work environment.
The way we all should be safe in our work environments, every day, everywhere in our schools. Our churches, our offices at concerts, at nightclubs. Do you feel safe tonight?
There's another fact that we need to face. Every single one of us is just playing the odds at this point. The odds that in a country of 325 million souls that we won't be the ones who get hit by the next bullets that start flying. We won't be the one that gets that phone call about someone you love who did.
Your son, your daughter, your brother, your sister, your spouse, or your parent, even a friend. Anyone you know. The phone call that changes your life. But with every deadly shooting in this country, the odds get worse and worse and worse.
Are you really willing to keep playing those odds? Your life is too precious for that. The lives of our loved ones are too precious. The lives of the people in our cities and towns are too precious. Have we forgotten that life is a gift?
It's a disgrace that this is still happening after Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia tech, Emanuel AME Church, Pulse nightclub shooting, Las Vegas, the list goes on and on and on.
This is who we are right now. But is this really who we want to be? A country where anybody, at any time, could be shot to death. And then when a bunch of people are killed and lives are shattered, we are sad and maybe angry, and then we forget, and we move on, until the next time. With the tragedy remaining in the headlines for even a shorter time than it did before.
So just forget politics here. This is about lives. The lives of all Americans. We need to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. Everyone agrees with that. People who oppose gun control will say, today is not the day to talk about it. And you know what, they are absolutely right. Because the day to talk about it was weeks, months, years, or decades ago.
And yes, of course, we also need to make mental health a priority in this country. But guess what, we can do both. We can do both of those things at the same time. If we don't, we have no one to blame but ourselves. This is America, people. Don't forget that. I know that we are better than this.
So let's discuss all of it. The facts and the story behind all of it. And I want to bring in CNN's Martin Savidge. He's at the scene of the shooting at the high school for us in Florida. Kyung Lah is at Broward Health North Hospital.
Thank you so much for joining us. Let's get -- let's talk about the news now in all of this. Martin, 17 confirmed dead. What more do we know?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, we know that Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is something that no one ever expected in this country. Tonight it is one massive crime scene. Authorities held a briefing just a few minutes ago and the sheriff said that 12 of the victims inside of the school have now been identified. [22:04:57] Of course, that means that there are five other people that
have yet to be identified. They are not releasing any names, because, of course, notification to families is first and foremost in their minds.
The sheriff did say among the dead, a football coach. Among the wounded, a child of one of the sheriff's deputies in this community here.
The impact is so far reaching. The superintendent says that all of the students have now been accounted for. In other words, there are no students that are missing here. They may not have identified, but they say they do know and have accounted for all students.
And then on top of that, the grief process begins. The superintendent says tremendous grief and sorrow. Governor Rick Scott, he spoke out. He said that this was an -- and here's a quote here, "This was an absolute pure act of evil." That's how he classified it.
There were questions, of course, just kind of like the issues you were raising, Don, there are about the whole issue of gun control and what has and has not been done and security in the schools. He was not going to address that. Didn't even go there.
And then I should also point out that what also is being reported here now is that this investigation is only getting underway. And it is quite clear, even though authorities say that they did not have any heads up or any warning, they do believe that there were students or there were people who knew the gunman, who had some indication that he was going to carry out this act.
The sheriff didn't say how he knew that. He only said, believe me, come tomorrow, he expects five, ten, maybe a dozen people come forward and say that they had heard something about this.
Meanwhile, inside of the school, the terror, very clear, coming from the students as they lived it, as they recorded it on their cell phones. And here's just a sample.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy (muted).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My God, my God!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy (muted)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: You understand how that sounds and the imagery is just terrifying to listen to. The power of the gunfire that's coming there.
The state attorney general was also speaking to us tonight. She says that all funerals are going to be covered, the cost, that is, by the state of Florida and all counseling for the survivors is also going to be covered by the state of Florida. But it is quite clear, they're just barely coming to grips with what
has happened. So far, something this state has scene already too much of, Don.
LEMON: You know what's interesting to me, Martin? You know, it's not that you had anything to do with this. But we bleeped out the expletives instead of the gunfire. I think the gunfire is much more offensive than someone saying bad words.
Those bad words don't cause lives to be lost and people to mourn in the morning. They just cause this fake outrage about, my gosh, I can't believe they said that.
But moving forward, that's where we are right now. This shooter pulled a fire alarm to draw people out of the classroom to get a higher death toll. What more about this are you finding out about this suspect?
SAVIDGE: Well, we know that the suspect is a 19-year-old, that he is a former student. And yes, as you've already described, it's reported he had a gas mask, he was throwing smoke grenades and pulled a fire alarm.
It's not the first time something like this has been done. I've tragically covered a lot of these kinds of shootings. Jonesboro, Arkansas, I can remember same exact thing. The fire alarm was triggered that pulled, these were young students out of the classroom so they could be shot and killed by an 11 and 13-year-old at that time.
So that tactic has been used before. The gunman did attempt, apparently, to mix in with the students as they fled the school and he was apprehended, though, a short time later. So that ruse did not work for any great length of time. And it's -- he was alive.
And I say that because, most of these mass shootings that we have seen, especially mass school shootings, usually the gunperson kills themselves. That was not the case today. Taken into custody. So, a time of reckoning is yet to come. Don?
LEMON: Martin, thank you so much. I appreciate that. I want to get to Kyung Lah now. Kyung, you're at the hospitals that have been treating these victims. What are you learning?
KYUNG LAH, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, it's the Broward Health system that we're getting the latest information from right now, Don. There are two primary hospitals. I'm standing at the hospital that's closest to the school.
A total of 17 patients were transported from this high school to these two primary hospitals. And what we're learning from the hospital this evening is that there is some good news. We don't know how many of them were students, how many of them were teachers, of those 17.
But we are now learning that ten of them are non-life-threatening injuries. They are still wounded, but they're non-life-threatening injuries. Five of them, though, are considered life-threatening injuries. There are five patients that are still fighting for their lives tonight.
[22:09:56] The bad news is that two of the patients that were transported to this hospital behind me, they did not survive their injuries. The hospital said that they will refrain from explaining exactly what they suffered from. They didn't want to get into details, trying to protect these children as much as they could.
And their parents, who are trying to come to grips with all of this.
Woven into all of this, the complexity here for this hospital this evening was when the shooting happened, because this hospital is so close, one of the patients they received was the gunman himself. The suspected gunman.
He was brought here via ambulance. He was surrounded, that ambulance surrounded by police cars, treated here by the doctors, the doctors said they simply had to strip away the idea of who all of these people were. That they had to treat them as humans.
And then this suspect was put back into an ambulance and taken away. That ambulance driving down the highway, surrounded by police vehicles. They certainly want to make sure that they question this suspect thoroughly. But that was some of the struggle here this evening, Don. But, again, five patients here that they have in a condition that they called life-threatening. Don?
LEMON: We have to remember, I mean, these are children in the high school. They're kids, Kyung. Parents and family have to be terribly scared about their loved ones. Are folks getting the answer at the scene that they need? Is the scene chaotic? What's going on?
LAH: It's quelled a little bit here, but it's -- having covered so many of these, it's in the hours after a shooting that there is the most terror, because you just don't know as a parent.
We've seen it time and time again. The school itself is chaotic. The police, the law enforcement have got to figure out what's happening. And then parents are left in the tertiary, trying to connect with their children, trying to figure out what's going on. If they don't get the answers at the school, then they start going to their community hospitals.
What we saw here were vehicles that are symbols of American family life. Minivans, SUVs tearing into these parking lots at a controlled rate of speed, but then you would see mothers and fathers getting out and rushing to the emergency room entrance, being directed by law enforcement to go to a different part of the hospital, to try to figure out where their children are. To try to get some answers.
And it's really what you remind you of. When you watch this scene over and over again, these family vehicles pulling in here, and the parents simply trying to figure out what's happened to their children. A scene, an American culture that keeps happening, that they continually don't understand.
LEMON: Kyung, thank you. Kyung at the hospital. Martin Savidge at the scene. And we're going to get back to them. Please stand by.
I want to bring in now two students at the high school. Brandon Minoff is a senior who knows the suspect and Brandon's brother, Aidan, is a freshman at the high school.
Listen, I appreciate you joining us so much. I can't imagine that you have the courage to do this, but we're so glad that you do. So thank you. Aidan, first of all, we're so glad that both of you are safe. You were in lockdown in your classroom. You took pictures. So tell us about what was happening and what you were thinking when you took these photos?
AIDAN MINOFF, FRESHMAN, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: Really the first thing that popped into my mind is where's the shooter and where is he going next? As you know, we've all -- the entire school probably heard the pops and really nobody knew where it came from.
As you know, there can be echoes left and right. And it was really hard to identify it. So everyone just wanted to know where he was, were you safe, is your friend safe, and it was chaos out there.
LEMON: How long, Aidan, were you on lockdown, and what were you seeing and hearing?
MINOFF: I was probably on lockdown for about an hour, maybe ten minutes. It started with a few pops in the beginning, maybe about two, and I didn't really think much of it, as we normally have, you know, pops of chick bags opening at lunch or someone throwing something on the floor.
And I actually had one of my friends, Xavier, run into the classroom from using the bathroom in our fourth period. And he was frantically screaming that there was a shooter and that he could be close.
And we all were just kind of startled. And then once the fire drill alarm was pulled, we knew this wasn't a joke anymore, as we had previously had a fire drill the same day, a few hours earlier, and we knew this wasn't normal and there was something definitely sinister going on.
LEMON: So from the beginning, you didn't believe it, you thought maybe it was fireworks or something. Nobody believed it.
MINOFF: Yes, maybe firecrackers, pulling a prank.
[22:14:58] LEMON: So how did people react? I mean, did you learn anything from the fire drill or from the drills that you have that helped you in this particular situation? Or is there nothing you can do in a situation like this that can prepare you?
MINOFF: Yes, we learned, you know, that we need to be silent, phones need to be off, we need to be on the same side as the door, not in sight of the window. We did do that, but, of course, there were tears, there was crying, some of my classmates did not know if they were leaving the school alive.
LEMON: And sadly, honestly, some of them didn't, Aidan. Brandon, I want to bring you in here.
BRANDON MINOFF, FRESHMAN, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: Yes.
LEMON: Because you're a senior, I understand. You knew the shooter.
B. MINOFF: Yes, sir.
LEMON: Tell us about it.
B. MINOFF: I had class with him sophomore year. I got assigned to a group project with him. He started talking to him. He told me how he got kicked out of two private schools, he was held back twice, he had aspirations to join the military, he enjoyed hunting. He always just seemed very quiet and strange.
LEMON: What do you mean, strange, Brandon?
B. MINOFF: Just always to himself, never really tried to associate with anybody, but once given the opportunity, he liked to talk.
LEMON: Was there anything besides him being sort of a loner, right, you're saying pretty much he was a loner, right? He was shy, right? Is that what you're saying?
B. MINOFF: Yes.
LEMON: Is there anything besides that that would make you think that he might go to, you know, to extremes? Certainly not to this, but is there anything that raised any alarms?
B. MINOFF: Other than today's stereotypes, not really.
LEMON: Not really. Did he have -- you said he was a loner, but did he have any friends? I mean, he spoke to you. Did you consider yourself a friend or just someone who knew him?
B. MINOFF: As far as I know, he didn't have any friends. I wasn't really friends with him. I tried to avoid him for the most part. But when I got assigned to work with him, he started talking to me.
LEMON: How long had he been at the school? Because you said he got kicked out of two other schools, that he had aspirations to be in the military. Do you know how long he had been at this particular school?
B. MINOFF: From what I believe, that was his first year.
LEMON: And how long ago was that?
B. MINOFF: He was there last year -- that was two years ago.
LEMON: Two years ago. And so he was there -- you met him two years ago and he was there last year, so he was there for a total of two years, that you know?
B. MINOFF: Yes, and he was expelled last year for possession of weapons. LEMON: For possession of weapons.
B. MINOFF: That's what I was hearing all over local news today.
LEMON: So you've heard that?
B. MINOFF: I knew he went there in the beginning, I didn't see him after.
LEMON: Were you surprised to see him then again -- did you see -- did you have any interaction with him before this started? Did you see him or did you just figure out afterwards that it was him, Brandon?
A. MINOFF: No.
B. MINOFF: I was hearing it after the fact. Sitting outside the school waiting for my brother, hearing parents, listening to the news, hearing my friends texting me, just getting information and trying to figure out what's going on.
LEMON: So because of the rules, and listen, we don't know what the reality is, and certainly we're going to check on the information that you said, because I don't know that to be true, and maybe it is, but did anyone at the school know about the weapons part of it, the alleged weapons part of it?
B. MINOFF: I'm not really sure.
LEMON: You're not sure. You say today was surreal for you. Tell me about what you experienced, Brandon.
B. MINOFF: I was just sitting in class, getting ready to leave. There was about five minutes left in class. All of a sudden the second fire -- the second fire alarm of the day went off, which was a little alarming with the fact that there was two in one day.
Got outside, stood there for two minutes with my friends. All of a sudden we heard gunshots. No one really knew what to do. I didn't know if it was real. I didn't know if it was even a gun. People just started running.
LEMON: Did you know any of the people who didn't make it?
B. MINOFF: I haven't really heard any names.
LEMON: You don't know. And what about you, Aidan?
A. MINOFF: This wasn't fully confirmed. I heard some people talking about it, I think maybe an officer, my world geography teacher...
LEMON: Don't give any names.
A. MINOFF: ... may have -- his name is Mr. Beegel (Ph).
LEMON: Thank you. But say again?
A. MINOFF: All right. They don't know if one of my world geography teachers did not make it or not. He was on -- he's the first classroom to the right from the stairs where the shooter has entered. And a lot of people suspect that he is gone. There has been no word about him.
LEMON: So Aidan, how long were you in the classroom? How long did this go on before you guys left the classroom?
A. MINOFF: About an hour, yes.
LEMON: So you stayed in the classroom for an hour, not knowing what was happening?
B. MINOFF: No, not really. You know, we were watching the news inside, but, I mean, we weren't really learning information that could help us in that situation immediately. We didn't know if there were multiple shooters, where he was.
[22:19:59] LEMON: So the actual shooting, Aidan, how long did that go on again?
A. MINOFF: Well, it probably lasted maybe 10, 15 minutes. But we were trapped inside the classroom for almost an hour, because they just didn't know whether this guy had multiple people with him or where he was before they eventually found him.
LEMON: So then after that period of time, did people start to come in? Take me through, when did you realize that it was safe for you to go out? Take me through that, if you will.
A. MINOFF: So, it was probably 45 minutes in and we had an admin in the room that was spectating and she was telling us that police would be arriving shortly. And we did start hearing police opening the door -- busting through the doors, actually, and starting to evacuate kids.
And we kept hearing it coming closer and closer to our door until they eventually made it to us and we all evacuated.
LEMON: So once you were outside, what was that situation like? Was it chaotic? Were authorities and school officials, what were they telling you?
B. MINOFF: They weren't really telling us anything else besides, keep moving. Make sure your hands are on the shoulders of the person in front of you. You know, no hands in your pockets. Just keep moving. Just keep walking until we made it out of the school property and we dispersed from there.
LEMON: So we understand that Nikolas Cruz, according to authorities, Aidan, tried to blend in with the students. So that was the reason, probably, they said, keep your hands above your head, because they weren't sure who was necessarily involved in that situation, correct?
B. MINOFF: Yes.
LEMON: Did you guys see him at all, trying to blend in with students, either of you guys?
B. MINOFF: No.
A. MINOFF: No.
LEMON: Anyone at the school? Did they recall that?
B. MINOFF: Not that I've spoken to.
LEMON: Could you guys been talking...
A. MINOFF: Most of the people that...
LEMON: Go ahead, Aidan. Sorry.
A. MINOFF: Go ahead. Most of the people that were presumably running with him, I believe, made it too far away to see anybody. Some people went to Wal-Mart, Starbucks.
LEMON: Did you guys -- have you spoken to anyone who was anywhere near him or any of the people who were either injured or sadly killed?
B. MINOFF: Nobody I've spoken to personally was injured, no.
A. MINOFF: Yes.
LEMON: Yes. So, Aidan, you are a freshman, as I mentioned. Brandon, you're a senior, correct? Brandon's a senior, you're a freshman.
But Aidan, your tweets drew a lot of attention from the country. How does it feel that people were following along with you as this situation was unfolding? Because no one knew anything.
You were, you know, you were sort of the vessel that was giving information to the rest of the country and the world. I mean, that's a huge responsibility.
A. MINOFF: I first started posting on Twitter after I notified my family members. I tagged the high school. I was nervous and I just wanted it to be known, it was out there. And I started getting notifications on my phone that people were engaging with the tweet and people really found it useful information.
As I probably tweeted maybe five minutes after we started settling down and hiding and, you know, there was no major news source at the time. There was barely any police there at the time. So I feel like a lot of people found it useful and I'm glad that I could do that.
LEMON: I sort of touched on this a little bit earlier, but Brandon, did you take -- did you guys take the active shooter training seriously before? Because I know you've had it. But did you take it seriously. No one thinks it's going to happen.
B. MINOFF: No one expected it to happen, but I don't know, we had protocol put in place. We learned about it. We talked about it. But never really know what to do until the real thing happens.
LEMON: Yes. It's hard to talk about, I'm sure, and for people to understand, but if you can help the rest of the country and the world understand what you guys are going through and the people there, what do you say, Aidan?
A. MINOFF: I'd say that we have to move forward, you know, arm in arm. We need to unite together. This is obviously a time of tragedy and especially since it happened so close to us, I feel like our entire nation needs to bond together and come together.
[22:25:00] I feel like there shouldn't be a divide. I mean, this is murder of children and staff and people that help children. And I feel like we need to come together as a country and a society.
LEMON: Aidan and Brandon, thank you so much. Those words really mean a lot.
A. MINOFF: Thank you.
LEMON: You are two very brave young men. I would spend more time with you, but unfortunately, I have to get to a press conference from the Governor of Florida, Rick Scott. Thank you so much, we appreciate it.
More on our breaking news. We need to get to Governor Rick Scott in the middle of a press conference. Let's listen in.
RICK SCOTT, GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: Thanks, everybody. Thanks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So that was governor of Florida, again, answering questions there. I guess it was a Spanish language newsperson, speaking in Spanish. Rick Scott, the governor of Florida, finishing up what appears to be an impromptu press conference down in Florida about the shooting in Florida.
Seventeen people lost their lives. A number of people who were injured in that mass shooting.
The students we just spoke to just a moment ago, unbelievable young men. And you heard what Aidan said there, that we need to come together, we need to talk about this, and figure out how to prevent this from happening.
Taking the politics out of it and examining what we really mean in this society about who should be able to have a weapon that can kill multiple people in an instant. Is this what our forefathers wanted? Is this what you want as parents, as friends, aunts, uncles, cousins, loved ones? Is this what you really, really want?
For someone who is 19 years old, barely a teenager, to have the authority to be able to take those lives in an instant. Someone who is obviously dealing with some things, going through some things. Is this what we want as Americans? Is this who we are? Think about that.
When we come back, much more on this breaking news. What we're learning about the gunman's background, his background check at a gun store.
[22:30:00] DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: Here's our breaking news at this hour. Seventeen people killed in a mass shooting at a Florida high school. I say people, most of them kids, high school kids. We're learning more tonight about the 19-year-old suspect's weapons and about clues from his social media.
CNN crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz joins me now with more. Hey, Shimon, thank you so much for joining.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Sure.
LEMON: Breaking news tonight is about what happened. I understand you have some new news tonight on the shooter's background check. What can you tell us?
PROKUPECZ: That's right. A lot of questions throughout the day about this weapon. The AR-15 style rifle that he used in the shooting. We're now learning from U.S. officials who have been briefed on this investigation that the shooter purchased the firearm. They now have information, the ATF has been tracing this firearm.
And what we're being told by U.S. officials is that he purchased this himself. He went into a gun store and was able to purchase this AR-15 on his own. We believe that it's been done -- it was done in the past year. And key here is that he passed the background check.
Now, don, what's interesting here is because he's 19, so if he purchased this a year ago, let's say he's 18, that's perfectly legal. You can purchase this style of weapon at a firearm store at his age. What you can't purchase is a handgun. Because you have to be 21 to purchase a handgun. So it's kind of an interesting piece of detail here that there is nothing essentially preventing him from purchasing this weapon.
LEMON: So you have to be 21 to purchase a handgun, but only 18 for an assault-style weapon?
PROKUPECZ: That's the federal law. Essentially, there was nothing preventing him, not his age, nothing in his background, from purchasing this.
LEMON: That is -- that makes absolutely no sense. Do we know anything about search warrants?
LEMON: Shimon, I'm hearing there's new information about them?
PROKUPECZ: Yes, so the local police there along with the FBI and the ATF all working together here. We know of at least two search warrants that are being executed, there are the police and FBI and ATF are in the process.
One of them, we believe, is his home. And then there's another location, we're not sure what the other location is, but at this point, you know, it's usually expected in these types of situations. They go to the home, they grab the computers, whatever else, to look -- to sort of get a sense of what he was doing at home, his computers, go through his computers.
So what you would normally see in these types of situations is going on right now. And this is going to be work that's going to go on throughout the night. And then tomorrow morning, he's supposed to be in court. So police will certainly learn a lot about him through the night.
LEMON: OK. So he's supposed to be in court in the morning. And then talk to me more about some information on his social media posts again, Shimon.
PROKUPECZ: Yes. So these are some of his Instagram posts. And we heard the sheriff there all day in his press conference raise issues with the social media, his background, the -- their background check of him, and what they were able to find was really disturbing items on his social media pages.
Items about guns, different things he talked about, killing law enforcement, really concerning to them. And wondering, the police there wondering why is it that when he expressed the words that he used about killing, the pictures that he used, of the weapons, why is it that no one went to police to report this.
He certainly, right now, is not only police, on the radar of the police, but certainly, when you look at the type of items he was posting, open for anyone to see on Istagram, it raises a lot of questions for police as to why no one reported him.
And the sheriff sort of stressed this tonight. In his last press conference of the evening, he said, you know, this whole idea, if you see something, say something. And he kept talking about that. Because time and time again, in these types of situations we do hear this, when someone does see something, they just say, hey, you know what, I'm going to ignore it, it doesn't seem like a big deal, but in the end it does turn out to be a big deal.
[22:35:05] And you know, if you listen to the sheriff tonight it just seem that he was concerned that there were some missed opportunities here in trying to prevent this because no one, no one alerted the police about him.
LEMON: Shimon, thank you very much. If you get any more information, please come back and report it to us.
I want to bring in CNN contributor, Wesley Lowery. He's the national reporter for the Washington Post, Chris Swecker is a former FBI assistant director of the criminal investigative division. Chris, you just heard the news. It floors me. And listen, I don't know
everything -- I don't know everything about gun laws. I don't know everything about weapons. But what I do have is common sense. So you can get a handgun at 21 years old, right? But at 18 you can buy an assault-style weapon, but you can't buy a handgun when you're 18.
What is the sense -- can you please -- I really want to know this. And I don't mean to be facetious about this. What is the logic behind that? How does that make sense?
CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: I don't know the logic behind it. But actually in Florida, if you're 18, you can get either. So Florida has one of the most liberal gun laws in the country. If you look at the...
LEMON: So that's not a federal regulation, that's by state?
SWECKER: Right. Correct. Now, if you look at the web site of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the largest police organization in the country, the major city chiefs association, all the major law enforcement associations, they've come out against these assault weapons, especially these AR-15s for years and years.
And during the time that they were controlled or banned, violent gun crime went down 66 percent. So the assault weapons are the -- they're not the only issue here. There are many other issues involved. But they are one of the issues here.
LEMON: So, Chris, once again, we see these images of young children running out of their school, hands above their heads, law enforcement they swamps a mass shooting scene. You can see them all there standing. Look at that, look at this scene. We have seen scenes, these images before. What will investigators be looking for at a crime scene here?
SWECKER: Well, there are a lot of things going on right now. The FBI's evidence response team is looking very hard at the crime scene, his movements, tracking his movements from start to finish. What's more important, though, is, you talked about the -- sort of the early warning system that -- see something, say something.
This kid was flashing red. There were neon signs over his left shoulder from his social media posts, he was about to go off. And I've seen his social media posts from two years ago. And he's posing with weapons, he's posing with knives. He's making threats.
Two hundred nineteen followers. That's 219 chances that someone could have picked up the phone and made a phone call. This is the most egregious example of nobody pick up the phone and making that call. Whether it's a teacher, a parent, or somebody that saw his posts on the internet. But this kid was flashing red.
LEMON: Yes. We keep asking, you know, were signs missed or, you know, if there's anything you can do. I mean, we've done this with every single shooting that I've been here, and I've been sitting on this anchor desk for CNN for 12 years now, almost 13 years. Do we ever really find -- does it ever make sense? Do we ever find out what the issue is beyond the one common denominator here? Which is you know what. You won't comment...
SWECKER: Is that for me, Don?
LEMON: Yes, that's for you.
SWECKER: Yes, there are always lessons learned. There have been many, many things that have changed over the years, but mainly in the area of trying to prevent this incident from a school security standpoint, from law enforcement response aspects, I do school security assessments.
I'm a -- you know, I'm up on the most recent security techniques, the things that will work or have the best chance of working. You know, it's a combination of things, Don. But I still go back to that first line of defense, which is the people that are -- can observe the behavior of this person and know, you know in your heart that something bad is about to happen.
But you're reluctant to pick up the phone and stigmatize that person and draw -- draw law enforcement attention to them, because you're afraid that maybe you're wrong.
LEMON: Well, the stigma is not whether someone has a mental issue. A mental health issue. That's not the stigma. I think the issue is, is allowing those people, that kind of person to have access to a weapon, especially an assault-style weapon.
Wesley Lowery, you've been sitting by patiently here. You heard the new information. He was able to legally buy an assault-style weapon at 18. Perhaps at -- he wouldn't have been able to do that with a handgun, but I'm hearing from Chris Swecker, at 18, you can do both in the state of Florida, legally.
[22:40:02] WESLEY LOWERY, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: Sure. And I think that that -- you know, each of these shootings, and Don, you've been talking about the years you've been here at CNN covering these, my entire career has been going from one of these shootings to the next of these shootings.
It feels like it's one of the only constant things each year that we're going to find ourselves here having this conversation. We were here in Vegas, in Sutherland Springs and Charleston, right? And the list goes on and that it seems almost endless going back to Columbine.
And the details are different in each of these cases, right. So in this specific case, it does seem based on what will we know so far that there were some clear and obvious warning signs of who this person was and perhaps that he might have been someone who was a risk.
You think of other cases, Stephen Paddock in Vegas, who we still don't realy have any explanation of why he had done this. And it seems base on what we know that it might have been difficult for someone to spot him beforehand.
You know, you've been getting at it through this conversation, that there are clear, a clear common denominator here of certainly some element of mental illness, but also the access to these weapons, right. That we are the only country where this is routinely happening this way, where our children are being slaughtered as they sit in their high schools and their elementary schools.
Where we know that our Valentine's Day might be interrupted in the middle of the afternoon as cell phone video burst into our phones of children and their hands trembling as they hear gunshots in their hall hallways, right?
This is something that, you know, we run the risk of becoming desensitized to, but frankly we're all traumatized by. That we've been going through decades of this. That every few months, we know we're going to be confronted with this trauma and with this terror, that frankly a lot of our brothers and sisters across the world do not have to worry about walking into a church, walking into a synagogue, or a mosque, or a high school or an elementary school and being gunned down this way.
LEMON: Well, if you look at any of -- if you look at any of the information, any of the studies anything that's been done about this, the only common denominator that separates us from the rest of the world. I mean, we are, the rest of the world is here and we are here off the charts when it comes to this type of violence.
And only common link is the number of guns that Americans are allowed to have. And listen, I don't -- you can save it -- people who are saying, you know, it's not the time to talk about guns or whatever. Yes, it is. Shut up. I don't want to hear it. It absolutely is.
Again, anyone with any sense knows that this is the one common denominator that America has, the sickness that we have, that we have these sorts of things, is having this much access to guns from people -- especially for people who should not have access.
So don't tell me that it's not time to talk about it. You talk to those people down in Florida who lost their loved ones. They'll tell you, it's time to talk about it. My loved one would be here if this shooter did not have access to an assault-style rifle.
And then also, Wesley, for people who are saying, well, done, it's a rifle. Of course, it's different than a handgun. Because it's a rifle. We should be able to buy a rifle at any age. That makes absolutely no sense. What is the logic behind that?
LOWERY: Of course, I mean, I do think that we feel -- and we can feel this frustration even with how you're talking and the conversations you have. We fall into the cycle. When these shootings happen, people immediately jump out and say, well, don't talk about guns, don't talk about mental, don't talk about any of these things yet. And I think that there's a real -- you know, I think for many of us
who cover these stories who speak and interview these families, and even just as reporters and journalists, not as advocates not as activists, you know, as folks who generally want to better understand the world we're in or understand what's happening, right.
It is clear that guns are the primary factor in this conversation. And that we can't get to that point and can't have that conversation, that we're seeing dozens of children being killed.
I had a colleague, John Cox, who did an amazing project this last year, where he was looking a the hundreds of children who have been present for a school shooting inside one of their schools. I think the number was 1,500 students since Columbine.
There have been a whole generation of students who have grown up with lockdown drills. Who have grown up knowing that there might be a mass shooter who comes in to their school. A generation of teachers who have 2been taught this way.
And there's this fear, I think, from some folks. And this isn't really about the politics or certainly not partisan politics, but there's a fear that having the reasonable conversation that the reality is guns are factor here, will lead to policy changes that those folks maybe do not want.
It was alluded too earlier, when you talk to policing groups, you know, a lot of my job is to talk to police and police chiefs, they are often the most vocal advocates for stricter gun laws. They often talk about how, if you want to support the police, if you want to cut down on things like crime or officers being killed, things that we've talked a lot about over the last few years, right?
And things that frankly a lot of folks who support gun right also talk about supporting, that if you want to support the police, very often the police are the first to say there should be tighter restrictions on who can have these firearms.
[22:45:04] LEMON: Yes.
LOWERY: There should be tighter restrictions on how widely available they are. And yet for whatever reason, our kind of political conversation goes to thoughts and prayers and it moves beyond...
LOWERY: ... or it moves right past a conversation of...
LEMON: It becomes a political argument about whether people want to take your guns away and this is the second amendment and whatever, and it just becomes -- it becomes so silly.
And any thinking person knows, listen, I want to be able to protect my family. I have loved ones who live alone. I certainly want them to be able to protect themselves. I want them to be able to have the right to have a gun.
But who needs an AR-15? Who really needs an AR-15, besides law enforcement? Or someone who is responsible enough to be able to have that type of gun. A member of the military. A member of law enforcement. Someone who has had responsible gun training.
A 19-year-old who walks into a gun store? I mean, come on, really? Are we giving that sort of responsibility to that person?
And I've got to ask you here, Chris. This is the facts. The shooter used an AR-15. This type of gun has been used in Aurora -- look at your screen, everybody. Aurora, Newtown, San Bernardino, Las Vegas, and on and on. All the other shootings you see there and more. AR-15 style weapons. So frequently used in all of these mass shootings. Chris?
SWECKER: The AR-15 type rifle is ubiquitous throughout the United States right now. And if you drain the politics out of it, and you listen to the professionals, which, again, is the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the largest police organization in the world, and they say, assault weapons should only be in the hands of police and law enforcement -- excuse me, military.
They kill too many people too fast. That's what they're built for. In the urban setting, and particularly in the hands of young people, people who are under 18 -- or excuse me, under 21 in this case, it's even -- it's even more exaggerated.
They are going through problems and all kinds of issues. It doesn't belong in their hands. It's just a -- it's a weapon that can kill too many people, too fast. And law enforcement doesn't want to go up against those kind of weapons.
They're the weapon of choice for gangs and the weapon of choice for terrorist organizations. They're not built for hunting. They're built for killing people and a lot of people in a short period of time.
LEMON: Well, nothing is going to get done -- thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it. Nothing is going to get done unless we, as Americans stand up and realize that something is wrong and try to make changes. And guess what? Nothing is going to get done unless our lawmakers have the backbone to stand up and make changes. And if they don't, the shooting, is blood on their hands? We'll be right back.
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: We're back now with our breaking news. A mass shooting at a high school in Florida. At least 17 people are dead. Seventeen people killed. The 19-year-old suspect had been expelled from the school.
I want to bring in now CNN contributor Frank Bruni, the columnist for the New York Times. I wish we could talk under better circumstances.
FRANK BRUNI, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Yes.
LEMON: But here we go again, another shooting, another angry young man. We have seen too many tragedies like this. What's your reaction to this?
BRUNI: Well, my reaction is how many more of these do we see before we take it seriously? We just, you know, you've talked about this. We're not taking this seriously when it comes to, you know, Congress when it comes to gun control. We've done nothing.
I mean, we have, we've had Sandy Hook, we've had the Pulse night club, you know, we have the Las Vegas strip, go on and on. What has changed since then? Can you point to a meaningful new regulation or law? We have some of the most relaxed, lax gun laws in this country.
We are a country that is swimming in guns like no other developed country. And what do you know we're a country drowning in gun deaths like no other developed country. That tells us something and we're not heeding that message or at least our lawmakers aren't.
LEMON: Can I tell you something because I think that whole that the, you know, whole moniker gun control has become sort of a negative thing. You want gun control which means you want to take guns from everyone. Is this so much gun control, it's just gun licenses. Because we don't say car control.
LEMON: Or driver's license control, or car insurance control, or house insurance control. Because in order to get a driver's license -- a driver's license you've got to pass tests. You've got to be a certain age. But no one says we want car control.
BRUNI: Right. Right.
LEMON: So what about just gun licenses, gun laws.
BRUNI: Or gun safety. And it's my bad for saying gun control.
LEMON: No, but I'm not.
BRUNI: No, no, it is.
BRUNI: Because I think if we're serious about getting somewhere, we have to be very, very careful in our tactics. And that includes language. And that includes when an incident like this happens talking about all aspects of it.
So this is absolutely a story of guns. And it's absolutely compelling us to look at gun laws to look at gun safety. But we also have to look at the rest of it. I mean, this seemed to be a troubled young man who was giving off all sorts of warning signs.
And if we're going to be serious about solving these things as we talk with great vigor about our gun laws and about gun safety we also need to talk about whether we are looking at each other with enough alertness and concern, whether we are sounding warnings about the people around us when those warnings deserve to be sounded.
Now it's a really tough thing because none of us wants to rat out people. None of us wants to be an alarmist. Civil liberties are important. But I think over the coming days as we hear more and more about this particular story we're going to find out that a lot of people failed in noticing what this young man was sending out and what he was going through and then maybe intervening before we had all this death.
LEMON: And just a little bit more on this before I move on. Just the absurdity in all of this. So when this -- I had really bad allergies this winter and whatever. And when I went to the pharmacy I had to show my driver's license to get Sudafed.
LEMON: When I want to buy a house. My gosh, I had to jump through hoops everything but my first born, right, when I bought a car in order to, you know, if you want to finance you have to do all of the things.
[22:55:06] When I move to New York City you get a driver's license. Where is your social security card, where is your passport, where all this information? How do we know this is you?
But when I was in -- when I covered Aurora for this network and I went into a gun shop in Aurora, Colorado to buy an AR-15 it took me 20 minutes.
LEMON: To get that gun.
LEMON: And to bring it back from Aurora, Colorado on an airplane, no problem.
BRUNI: Right. And that's -- that's wrong. And that's not what the second amendment was supposed to be about. And let us also remind ourselves the second amendment was written 200 years ago before we have the kind of weapon that was used in this massacre.
There is something wrong with our culture. And I -- and we refuse to address it. And that's on all of us. I mean, you mentioned lawmakers not having enough back bone. A hundred percent true. We are not putting adequate pressure on them. Not enough voters are prioritizing this is as an issue to make sure those lawmakers snap to.
Because ultimately, if they feel the wrath of voters the way they feel the fear of the NRA they may change and they may vote for some of the stuff that they are now running as fast way they can. LEMON: Listen, people are probably surprised I'm going on about this.
But as you know I lost a loved one recently.
LEMON: And -- shockingly because it wasn't expected. So what I'm saying is that I can't imagine what the folks there are going through. I only know what I went through. I can't imagine sending my kid off to school, going about my business, and thinking my kid is safe because the teachers are there. The security people are there, maybe even police officers.
My kid is fine, they're with, you know, students and their peers and they're going to get a higher education and you know, for the American dream.
LEMON: And then getting that phone call.
LEMON: I just -- my heart breaks for people. And the reason I say that is because here is what the president says. He is right. "My prayers and condolences to the families and the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher, or anyone else should feel unsafe in an American school."
We know he is a big advocate of gun rights. He talks about the second amendment saying everyone is trying to take your guns away. He is opposing gun measures.
BRUNI: Right. So that expression of sympathy is lovely. But whether it's gun measures or something else, what are you doing, Mr. President. In your state of the union I heard you go on and on about the supposed danger of undocumented immigrants. I didn't -- I didn't hear you talk about gun safety.
I heard you praise rightly the heroism and actions of law enforcement officials and rescue workers in Las Vegas. What about talking about how we make sure the law enforcement officials and rescue workers don't have to wade among those corpses in the first place. He is not having a complete conversation and on this issue he's not showing any leadership.
LEMON: Well, if you don't have a life you can't have a job. But he keeps saying well, these undocumented immigrants are taking jobs away from whatever. However you feel about that. But if you don't have a life, nothing else really matters. If your loved one is not here, nothing else matters. So he wants to spend $25 billion on a wall.
LEMON: That every thinking, smart expert will tell you does not make a difference. It has nothing to do with border security. Everybody wants border security. BRUNI: Right.
LEMON: There are better ways to do it. So why not take as the $25 billion and spend it on keeping lives -- keeping people alive.
LEMON: Rather than some talking points for the base.
BRUNI: Just a fraction of that money could fund a really comprehensive investigation into why this country has a rate of gun death unlike any other which we know includes...
LEMON: We know why.
BRUNI: Well, we know it include -- we know it very much starts with the availability of guns and there're other stuff too. And let's be comprehensive. But that wall does nothing for all the parents who are going bed tonight -- to bed tonight sending their kids off to school tomorrow with a pang of fear in their hearts, sending kids to schools that have active shooter drills because this has been happening for so long.
It's crazy that this very school where the bloodshed happened, they were accustomed to active shooter drills because every school prepares for this moment. We live in a country where this moment is so envisioned by people that it's part of a school's you know, procedure to prepare for it. That's nuts.
LEMON: Thank you, Frank. Seventeen lives lost. And for the people still alive mourning them, I'm sorry that I, as an American and we, as Americans did not take better care of the students of the people who were there.
We'll be right back.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)