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Anti-Gun Students Head to Tallahassee to Meet Lawmakers; Woman Destroys Own Gun After Parkland School Shooting; Donald Jr's Trip to India Raises Ethical Questions; Family Says Planned to Put Shooting Suspect in Counseling. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired February 20, 2018 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:30:00] DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I've got senior Sammy, who goes to MSD.
Sammy, talk to me a little bit about why you're going to Tallahassee.
SAMMY FREEMAN (ph), MSD STUDENT: For reform, for change. This is not going to happen again. Not at my school, not at any school. I don't want anyone to feel how I feel or how any of my fellow classmates and schoolmates feel. One of my closest friends was a victim but he's going to be OK. But another one of my close friends was a victim and he's not going to be OK. He's going to be looking down on us, but no one should have to go through this. It's tough but don't worry, everyone, it's not going to happen again. It really isn't.
GALLAGHER: What are you going to ask those lawmakers when you get to Tallahassee?
FREEMAN (ph): I'm going to ask those lawmakers to do so much. We're going to have to not only do extensive checks but for these people to get guns but we're going to have to do more than that. I'm not exactly sure -- I don't have a certain plan of attack yet but I'm going to. I have a lot to tell them about that I don't want to disclose right now, but I do.
GALLAGHER: Thank you so much, Sammy.
So, when they started the journey, a moment that kind of gives you an idea of this really unfortunate and sad fraternity that they're a part of now, there were four survivors of the Pulse Nightclub massacre who came on here and told them we are with you, we see you, we love you, we appreciate what you're doing. And they passed around letters from survivors from the Las Vegas shooting last year so they could read them. And they're letters of thanks and love. And telling them also they are with them on this quest to create change and prevent more mass shootings in the future.
Some of the organizers are going to be meeting with the governor. They're going to be meeting with state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. These teenagers here, these students, to let them know their feelings of not just what happened but the ways they would like to see action be taken. They're all individuals, Brooke, of course. Each one of them have different feels on what should be done. They feel like their voice should be heard and they're putting their money where their mouth is, riding these buses seven hours across state to do so.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: They have time to give it a good think of just what they want to ask lawmakers there in Tallahassee who will be making time for them. We'll follow the ride along the way.
Diane Gallagher, thank you so much. I appreciate that.
Do not miss a special town hall tomorrow night. Survivors of the Parkland shooting will be joining us. Jake Tapper will moderate that with discussion with students and Florida lawmakers, tomorrow night, 9:00 eastern, here on CNN.
Coming up next, I'll speak to a woman who destroyed her own gun -- here is video proof -- after this mass shooting, she says, put her over the edge.
Also, President Obama's former adviser joins me live to respond to the president's claim he is tougher on Russia than Obama was. Stand by.
And Don Jr visiting India to sell luxury apartments. But critics say he is dangerously close to violating ethics rules. We'll discuss that.
You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
[14:37:44] BALDWIN: As these busloads of student survivors are en route to Tallahassee to meet with lawmakers, the Parkland shooting is also inspiring some gun owners to seek a solution to gun violence in a small but very personal way. Scott Popalardo (ph) posted this video on Facebook. He is sawing his 30-year-old, legally purchased A.R.-15 rifle in half. It has been watched now 17 million times.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT POPALARDO (ph), SAWED GUN IN HALF: People have always said there's so many of them out there. Now there's one less.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Now there's one less.
How about this, my next guest used an angle grinder to destroy her semi-automatic handgun.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANDA MEYER, DESTROYED HER GUN FOLLOWING SCHOOL SHOOTING: I made holes now all this stuff -- so you can see daylight through there. Now all this stuff is unusable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Amanda Meyer is with me now.
Amanda, we've all seen the video. Why did you choose to destroy your gun?
MEYER: So, over time, I came to the conclusion that people don't really need semi-automatic weapons. And also, I was sort of starting to advocate against other people having them and realized it was hypocritical that I had one as well. I thought the best thing to do would be to get rid of it.
BALDWIN: Before we go further we should also point out you have been personally affected by gun violence. Do you mind sharing that?
MEYER: Yes. Three standout examples for me would be first and foremost my brother committed suicide with a gun and that was a really difficult situation. And then also Sandy Hook occurred about 20 miles from where I was teaching. So it wasn't really close, but it was close enough to scare us all. And then my cousin and his wife were actually at the concert in Vegas. Thankfully, they had a plane to catch so they could get back to work on time, so they left before the shooting occurred. But, you know, they really could have been there. Just like that school could have been our school and they could have been at that concert. Those things are hitting too close to home these days.
[14:39:58] BALDWIN: It is personal for you. It is personal for so many Americans. Something I was thinking about today. There are so many -- can you help people understand how conflicting it must feel to want to own a gun but also destroy it before it falls in the hands of a sick person?
MEYER: Yes. This is where humanity comes in. So, you have to do the cost benefit analysis at some point. So, to me it's totally normal to be around guns. I grew up around guns. We go out shooting guns. Family Christmas, it's not family Christmas until you go out and shoot targets. You have to do the cost benefit analysis and we say that these guns were made for killing people. Semi-automatic weapons were made for killing people. So there's no question about that. Hunt with them. It's their only function. Do we really want to contribute to a culture that is endorsing that? It starts to weigh on you after a time. I think that evolves over time if you spend any amount of effort thinking about it. You eventually reach the conclusion that the benefits do not outweigh the costs and that society is suffering even if you're not personally doing anything, you're still contributing to that culture.
BALDWIN: So many Americans are destroying their guns. I was reading this Facebook post. This man, Ben Dickman, handed over his gun to law enforcement. "I could easily have sold this rifle. But no person needs this. I will be the change I want to see in the world. If our lawmakers will continue to close their eyes and open their wallets I will lead by example."
For people like him, for people like you, for friends of yours who own guns, who are moved by these Parkland students, will they do the same with their guns or are they just not there yet?
MEYER: I think it's clear that there's a lot of people who aren't there yet but at least we're having the conversation and that's so important.
BALDWIN: What do you think got you there that's not getting the others there yet? Does that make sense?
MEYER: Yes. I think that's a great question. I think that it's a complex combination of factors. I think maybe demographics have a lot to do with it. Where you live, the way that you grew up. Do you still live there? I've moved around and seen different things. I've spent a lot of thing reading the news and statistics and I think for people who are just comfortable in their situation, they're probably not out doing that and exploring those things. So, I think it's just becoming more curious about the reasons why you're doing something and trying to figure out why you're living your life in a certain way and starting to question that.
BALDWIN: We should also point out, Amanda, as we're sitting here, talking on national TV, we're not sharing your location, because it's my understanding --
MEYER: I appreciate that.
BALDWIN: Yes, you got it. After posting the video of you destroying your gun, you've been getting all kinds of threats.
MEYER: Yes, so --
BALDWIN: Can you tell me what kind of threats? How bad they are?
MEYER: What's concerning about this actually is that all of the pro- gun people, hard core pro-gun people are saying it's not the gun's fault. It's just because our world is not respectful enough. People don't respect each other anymore. Then they go on social media and bash me and say I hope someone breaks into your House and has a gun and you realize why you need that gun. Or they question my mental fitness because of my brother's suicide or something, you know. So, there's just terrible, terrible things.
BALDWIN: It's awful.
MEYER: Really disconcerting. I don't take it personally because it's social media and it's a really interesting animal. But at the same time it's concerning that that's the mind-set and I think that's something that we need to change on social media.
BALDWIN: I appreciate your voice. Your message is powerful.
Amanda Meyer, thank you so much.
MEYER: Thank you.
[14:44:07] BALDWIN: Moments from now, the White House holding that first briefing against several events, including that mass shooting in Florida, Russia indictments from Friday. We're watching and waiting for that begin.
Also ahead, the family of the shooter in that school massacre, telling CNN they had planned to put him in counseling this week. We'll hear from them ahead.
And is Donald Trump Jr crossing an ethical line with this trip to India? Critics say he is mighty close. See what happened with him involving luxury condos.
You're watching CNN.
BALDWIN: President Trump's all-in-the-family approach is raising more ethical concerns for this current administration. His son, Don Jr, is touring India at the moment, the Trump Organization's biggest international market, to help sell Trump Tower apartments. He told the Press Trust of India that Trump Towers in the country will, quote, "open up the country to much more outside investment from places like the United States." And full-page newspaper ads like these have encouraged buyers to sign up with the promise of, quote, "a conversation" -- sorry -- yes, "a conversation and dinner with Don Jr."
CNN Money correspondent, Cristina Alesci, is with me now.
There are lines, there are business, and there's the ethical lines because there's politics? Is he mixing those and what's the reaction?
[14:49:59] CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: My sources inside and outside of government tell me this crosses an ethical line. The context here is the Trump organization has five projects in India. It's actually their biggest market outside of the U.S. for the family. This is a very important market. The more condos they sell at higher prices, the more that this will help the family's bottom line that. Is what the problem is here. As you mentioned, these ads explicitly say promise to buy a condo and you will have access to the president's son. That says to some people that the president's son is sending a signal to access to the president. That's what's troubling so many ethical experts, even those currently in government who see this as a problem. Making matters worse, to your point, is that he's making geopolitical statements while there, Don Jr. He's essentially saying India is better for business than other countries, like China.
You know, this -- it raises all sorts of questions as to whether or not American politics is up for sell. These really stem from the plan to separate the president from his businesses. Remember, he said the president will have nothing to do with the business. The children are going to run it. The problem is, there are a bunch of holes in that plan that make it very clear that all roads do lead back to the president. He has put his assets in a trust. But, again, that trust is revocable. That means the president can dissolve it at any moment. Just because it's happening doesn't mean it's OK. It's happening. Isn't this fine? It doesn't necessarily mean that.
BALDWIN: Wow! Cristina, thank you very much --
ALESCI: Thanks, Brooke.
BALDWIN: -- for talking to your sources for that on us who say it does look like the line is blurred.
Speaking of the White House, we're awaiting that briefing. Should begin any moment now.
Also, we're hearing from the couple that took in that Florida shooter after his mother passed away. Why they say they were actually planning to take him to see a counselor this week. That's next.
[14:55:22] BALDWIN: As these young victims are being laid to rest, disturbing new details about this confessed killer who shot and killed 17 students, faculty, coaches at his own high school. Yet, the couple who took in this 19-year-old after his adoptive mother's death describe him as quiet, respectful and just trying to fit in.
They are Kim and James Snead. They say they were well aware that he was depressed. Yes, they knew he had guns. But they told Alisyn Camerota they had no idea what he was capable of.
KIMBERLY SNEAD, TOOK IN FLORIDA SHOOTING SUSPECT: The depression was more stemmed from losing his mother, not all the things about they said him being bullied or things that happened in school and all the issues that have now come out. I didn't know any of those issues. I thought it was about his mother. The day I met him, I told him, you need to find somebody to talk to, we need to find you a professional to speak to. The ball was rolling on that days before all this happened.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN CO-HOST, NEW DAY: Tell me about that. You took him to a counselor, yes?
KIMBERLY SNEAD: I did. I have my own, someone I go and talk to. The last time I had gone, I introduced him. They had got his name. The insurance process was started to see what would be covered.
JAMES SNEAD, TOOK IN FLORIDA SHOOTING SUSPECT: Ironically, it probably would have been this week.
KIMBERLY SNEAD: Right. Right.
CAMEROTA: He was open to it? He was open to going to counseling?
KIMBERLY SNEAD: He asked me on more than one occasion.
CAMEROTA: He recognized he needed help?
KIMBERLY SNEAD: He knew it? JAMES SNEAD: He knew.
KIMBERLY SNEAD: Yes.
CAMEROTA: Was he taking any medication?
JAMES SNEAD: Not that I know of.
KIMBERLY SNEAD: Not that we know of.
CAMEROTA: You never saw any pills, any drugs?
JAMES SNEAD: No.
KIMBERLY SNEAD: I offered him Motrin for a headache and he said I don't like taking pills. He took it eventually. I told him I'm a nurse, you should do this, it will help your head. He was thankful later, but he said I don't like taking medications.
CAMEROTA: Tell me about what happened Wednesday morning.
JAMES SNEAD: I didn't talk to him Wednesday morning. I talked to my son. He told me that Nik told him the night before that it was Valentine's Day and he doesn't go to school on Valentine's Day.
CAMEROTA: Was there anything unusual about Wednesday morning?
KIMBERLY SNEAD: No, just the fact that he was home. I said, what are you doing home, you didn't to school? He said the same thing about Valentine's Day. I said what about work? And he said they called and didn't need me. All right. What are you going to do today? Just go fishing. He was getting his fishing stuff out. I had errands to run. I left and that was the last time I saw him.
CAMEROTA: It now has come out that he sent a couple of texts to your son while he was in the Uber car on the way to the high school. Does it ever cross your mind that he -- what might have been looking for your son for some reason?
JAMES SNEAD: Every second of the day.
KIMBERLY SNEAD: Absolutely.
CAMEROTA: What do you think those were about?
JAMES SNEAD: I have no idea. I have no idea. I don't know if he was looking for him or trying to protect him or what. I don't know.
CAMEROTA: Is there any part of you that thinks that your son might have been the target of when he was going over there?
JAMES SNEAD: No. No. Because he had every opportunity to hurt us if he wanted to. And he didn't.
KIMBERLY SNEAD: He told him two weeks prior this was the happiest he had ever been in his life. CAMEROTA: The happiest he has ever been in his life?
KIMBERLY SNEAD: Uh-huh.
CAMEROTA: How do you process this? How do you explain it?
JAMES SNEAD: We can't. We're lost. We have no answers.
CAMEROTA: If you saw Nik right now what would you see him?
JAMES SNEAD: I don't want to see him right now. I would tell him we're disappointed, we're hurt, we're angry. We want to know why.
BALDWIN: Top of the hour. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
The first White House briefing in a week is supposed to start any moment. That was the word, at least, an hour ago. We'll see how this plays out, as officials must now answer for a mountain of issues. Topping all of them, this outcry for gun reform in this country, not just from Democrats or left-wing activists, but from the students themselves who survived this terror at Douglas last week down in Parkland, Florida. Earlier this afternoon, they boarded these buses and are en route to Tallahassee to talk to lawmakers tomorrow.
This is also the first White House briefing since Russians were indicted for election meddling. Since White House security clearance rules came out in the wake of accused spousal abuser, Rob Porter. And the first briefing since a second woman reportedly revealed she had an affair with the president before he took office. And the first briefing since the president's latest round of this tweet storm, which hit on all of the above and even more.
As we wait for that, let's bring in CNN special correspondent, Jamie Gangel.
Jamie, let's these out, these new poll numbers coming in from Quinnipiac on guns. And two numbers I want to highlight, 66 percent of those polls support stricter gun laws in this country. That's actually, I'm told, the highest number --