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Parkland Survivors Rally, Demand Reforms at State Capitol; Interview with Florida State Representative Matt Caldwell and Democratic State Senator Kevin Rader. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired February 21, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:17] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you for being with me.

From making it out alive to making a difference. Students who survive the deadliest school shooting in Sandy Hook are right now right there at the Florida state capitol, demanding gun reform. It has only been one week. But the teenagers are already feeling the resistance to change, as they expressed moments ago.


FLORENCE YARED, SCHOOL MASSACRE SURVIVOR: No longer can I walk the halls without hearing the gunshots. No longer can I walk the halls without imagining bloodstains and dead bodies, all because of the damage that a single AR-15 rifle caused.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And more than anything, we cannot polarize each other anymore, regardless of our political views. If we want to get anything done, we have to come together!

ALFONSO CALDERON, SCHOOL MASSACRE SURVIVOR: I don't think anybody here is ready to go back to class and have an empty seat. You know that empty seat is because, because someone is dead, because somebody lost their lives. What we need is action. And we need it now more than ever.

DELANEY TARR, SCHOOL MASSACRE SURVIVOR: So, this is to every lawmaker out there, no longer can you take money from the NRA. No longer can you fly under the radar doing whatever it is you want to do because we're coming after you. We're coming after every single one of you and demanding that you take action, demanding that you make a change.


BALDWIN: As survivors are standing up, fellow students are walking out in solidarity all across the nation.


STUDENTS: Enough is enough! Enough is enough! Enough is enough! Enough is enough! Enough is enough!


BALDWIN: And their voices will continue to be heard tonight. More than 5,000 people are expected to attend our CNN town hall at 9:00 p.m. this evening, Eastern Time. Including students from Douglas High School.

Our Kaylee Hartung is just outside the site of that town hall there in Florida.

And, Kaylee, before we talk about tonight's event, who will be there, who won't be, talk me through what's exactly happening right now in Tallahassee.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke, so much movement across the state and the country, as you mentioned. But in Tallahassee, those survivors of Stoneman Douglas High School continue to articulate their passion and emotion for such a difficult topic in impressive form. They're now meeting with state lawmakers in their afternoon session and then there will be a meeting for those students with Florida's Governor Rick Scott. No doubt they will bring tough questions to their governor.

And then tonight, the town hall right here in the BB&T Center. I'm told some students leaving Tallahassee early to ensure they're here for the town hall that Jake Tapper will be moderating. More than 5,000 people have already confirmed that they will attend. We're talking about Stoneman Douglas students their parents, teachers, and administrators, even victims' families from last Wednesday's tragedy will be on hand, Brooke. And they will have the opportunity to confront their lawmakers, even a spokesperson from the NRA and share with them what is on their mind and what they've shared with us in the media.

Among those lawmakers who you'll see on stage, the spotlight will be brightest on Florida's Republican senator Marco Rubio. This is a man who teenagers have not been shy of calling out for his relationship in history with the NRA. Of course, as I mentioned, too, an NRA spokeswoman who will be feeling the heat from these children, who have a lot of questions they'll ask directly to her.

Then, also, Florida's Democratic Senator Bill Nelson as well as the Congressman Ted Deutch. The man representing the district of Parkland and a many so many students told me has been a tremendous resource to them in the past week. We should mention that President Trump as well as Governor Rick Scott were invited to attend this event, Brooke. Both of them declined that invitation and declined the opportunity to appear via satellite as well.

If the past week has been any indication, Brooke, that passion, the emotion, and the outrage that we've heard from these students, to this point, tonight will be very moving and unique event, we can imagine.

BALDWIN: Nine o'clock p.m. Eastern Time. We'll talk to Jake for a preview next hour. Kaylee, thank you so much.

Back to the students here. The students survivors facing immediate setback after arriving in Tallahassee. Florida lawmakers voted not to debate a law proposing an assault weapons ban with Republicans winning out by 71 nays to 36 yeas. Almost all the lawmakers who voted against the measure, just to consider this, have an A-rating from the NRA.


[14:05:01] SHERYL ACQUAROLI, SURVIVED SHOOTING AT STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: The next step of someone with an assault rifle here in Florida is going to be on them. It's going to be on them and it's going to be their fault that those people are dead.


BALDWIN: Joining me, one of the Florida state representatives who opposed that measure, Republican Matt Caldwell. Also with us, Democratic State Senator Kevin Rader, who represents Parkland, I really appreciate both of you. Both of you are voices and standing side by side here today in Tallahassee.

Representative Caldwell, though, I want to begin with you. Why did you vote no on this motion to just even consider this ban on semiautomatic weapons and large capacity magazines? Why were you a no?

MATT CALDWELL (R), VOTED NO ON BILL TO DEBATE ASSAULT WEAPONS BILL: Well, absolutely. Thank you, Brooke. And honestly, that bill would have been nearly all guns. Let's be honest about what the proposal was. But the House doesn't --

BALDWIN: I'm sorry, what do you mean by nearly all guns?

CALDWELL: The way you read the definition essentially all guns would be banned by that bill. It's not just talking about high capacity rifles, but, look, what we need to be focused on is solutions to this.

BALDWIN: I'm sorry, just so we can be precise, representative. What was the definition there?

CALDWELL: I would have to go back and you can certainly pull up the bill. It's on the house Website. We have an open government. You can see how it's defined. It would cover more than high capacity rifles.

BALDWIN: This is your interpretation. OK.

CALDWELL: It's not an interpretation. It's very obvious. And I encourage anybody to pull it up. It's an open government. Florida has a record of sunshine. You can see what the definition is in the bill proposed.

But again, we want to get to a real debate on this. We want to have a debate in our committee process. We're committed to do that. We're waiting for the governor to give us his recommendation. He's met with people all day yesterday.

I met personally with Parkland survivors yesterday, talked with them and listened to their suggestions. Some of which I think we can work on. We need to focus on the real problem.

You've got a problem with the lone wolf terrorists. That's what these people are. Whether you're motivated by religion or civic unrest or just maniac fame which is what they really want in this instance, we've got to be focusing on identifying those individuals. We saw a break down between the FBI, between the school district and law enforcement in the Broward County community. If there's any way we can facilitate that, that's what we need to absolutely achieve that.

And we need to make sure that people are empowered to defend themselves. It's no consequences these shootings continue to happen in places we've identified that nobody could defend themselves. Nobody can carry concealed. Even though concealed weapon permit holders are the safest people in our society. There's no one to be feared to have those people.

You look around 20 million people in Florida, 2 million people have that permit. When you walk in the mall, one out of ten people is likely concealed carry. And that's not some problem that's metastasizing. It's actually making our streets safer. People are willing to defend themselves.

That's what the Second Amendment is about and certainly what I'm going to do continue to focus on.

BALDWIN: OK. I want to fully hear you out.

And, Senator Rader, to you, listening to your Republican colleague here with those reasons, how did that sit with you?

KEVIN RADER (D), FLORIDA STATE SENATOR REPRESENTING PARKLAND: Thank you, Brooke. I appreciate this dialogue today and bringing me on.

I completely disagree with Representative Caldwell. He's in the state house. I'm in the state senate. And the Republicans who run the legislature here for 20 years have about a two-thirds, about 80-40 advantage. They can waive any rule at any time. That is their advantage in the rules they've passed every two years.

So, there was a vote on it to bring up the bill. I've never heard of a bill in our legislature in representing here for eight years, I've never heard of a bill banning all firearms. That's absurd. It was banning assault weapons. That's what it is.

And I think it was the right time to have that debate. There are hundreds of students from the Parkland area. There are many parents, people all over the country who are paying attention to this. And we wanted an honest debate.

I would think that the NRA believes we should have the debate. And it could have happened yesterday. It could have been on the floor of the state house.

I completely disagree. I've been part of the state house for six years. I've seen them waive the rules to allow bills to be heard for committees to meet. They could have done it. They could have had it. They could have had the debate yesterday. They chose not to.

BALDWIN: Representative Caldwell, I mean, you have a solid A-rating from the NRA. We have been listening just speaking on the measure that you noted yesterday, just to consider this ban. I know you say it would have been all weapons, from everything I've read, it would be the semiautomatic weapons and high capacity magazines.

The students were standing there. You know, a week ago they lost 17 friends and teachers and coaches. And they were disappointed and visibly emotional. One 16-year-old said it seemed almost heartless how they immediately pushed the button to say no.

I mean, why, Representative, did you feel like you did not owe it to these young people to at least discuss this, to at least consider?

[14:10:06] This wasn't an up-down vote on the ban. It was just to consider a motion on the bill.

CALDWELL: Sure. Listen, and what it turned out to be was a political stunt. And I understand and I appreciate these students are grieving. I shared my experiences personally. I've had friends murdered. I've had friends commit suicide. Gun violence is a real thing.

But you have to figure out what is the thing that is going to prevent it from happening in the future. And the worst outcome, in my mind, we've put forth a proposal. We banned something just at a whim without going through the time or the process, and it doesn't make any difference. And so next time that you have a school shooting, then what do you say?

BALDWIN: Representative Caldwell, I don't want to talk about the next time. When I was young, we had fire drills, we had tornado drills. I mean, these young people today have murder drills. The status quote is unacceptable. Why not at least give it a shot and owe it to these young people. Sir, forgive, just a moment. Give it a shot to at least consider the ban.

CALDWELL: We are going to consider proposals. You do that.

BALDWIN: But you voted no.

CALDWELL: I disagree with Senator Rader. I did because we don't pull bills out of committee. But again, we're getting off the topic.

BALDWIN: We're not getting off the topic, with all due respect.

RADER: I thought the whole reason I was here to debate it. They could have had the debate yesterday. It would have been a long debate and both sides would have had their comments. We had the debates before in the state house when I serve there for six years.

They chose not to hear the motion. They voted it down. Pretty much behind party lines, which means to me, that it was a top-down. It came from leadership.

Representative Caldwell is in leadership. They sit around and make the decisions. You know, the NRA, I think every Republican member, I believe, has an A-rating with the NRA in the Florida house and the Florida senate. And every Democrat has an F-rating. There's very few who don't have A or F.

At the end of the day, they are beholden to this group, and this special interest. They could have heard that bill. They decided not to.

It isn't the first time it happened, Brooke. It's many times. The frustration from minority party is frequent in our state capitol. And that's why in November, we have something very powerful. It's your vote.

And all these kids around the state of Florida, all these parents who aren't being heard, hopefully they'll be heard when it comes to ballot box in November.

CALDWELL: Brooke, listen --


BALDWIN: Representative Caldwell, it's my turn. The bill's sponsor, Representative Carlos Guillermo-Smith, he took to social media and it was voted ultimately no and wrote this: 17 people in Parkland were just murdered with an AR-15 plus the Florida House just passed the House resolution 157 declaring porn as a public health risk. No gun violence is a public health crisis plus HB 219 banning assault weapons in his committee for two years.

Representative Caldwell, why is pornography a bigger health risk than semiautomatic weapons in the hands of a deranged individual?

CALDWELL: Listen, we have got to focus on what is going to make a difference and having a blanket ban --


BALDWIN: Representative Caldwell, why is pornography -- why is pornography a bigger health risk than a semiautomatic weapon in the hands of a deranged individual? Answer my question, please, sir.

CALDWELL: Listen, I believe -- and we shouldn't have weapons in the hands of deranged individuals.

BALDWIN: Why is that worthy of a debate? Why is pornography worthy of a debate and not semiautomatic weapons? Just answer me that.

CALDWELL: Trying to pull a bill, trying to pull a bill out of committee is a political stunt.

BALDWIN: Stop going back to the talking points, sir. Stop!

CALDWELL: We can have that debate. We can have the debate in the committee. As I said, the governor is going to have his proposals. The House is going to release our proposals. We're trying to work in an bipartisan manner in order to have a set of proposals that will actually do something. That will actually protect citizens.

No more going to take away citizens Second Amendment rights than sensor the people who came up here today.

BALDWIN: I don't people are asking for their guns to be taken away. They're asking for you to consider --


BALDWIN: Sir, they're asking for you to consider a conversation, a consideration of a ban of a weapon used in war instead of having it in the hands of a deranged individual. Why won't you have that conversation?

CALDWELL: I had the conversation with the Parkland students today.

[14:15:01] We're going to have the conversation in committee through the process that we use for every bill that ever pass through the house and off the floor. We're not going to circumvent that process for any issue.

The point of it is to be able to hear everybody's voices and make sure we do the right thing, something is going to be effective. Not just pull a political stunt.

And, look, this is a real issue and a real tragedy for these kids. As I said, I met with them and share with them the tragedies that happened in my life. I get it. I understand it. I don't want to make them think we've done something that doesn't make any difference.

These are lone wolf terrorists. These are people that we need to be able to identify. We had failures in law enforcement. That doesn't address the failures in law enforcement.

We don't have an ability for people to defend themselves in our schools. Our schools are targeted because they are gun-free zones, because no one on the campus is able to defend themselves. It's why you don't have this problem any other place. And why it exclusively seems to happen in places where people can't defend themselves.

BALDWIN: OK. Senator Rader, not trying to ignore you.


RADER: You know what, Representative Caldwell has to defend why they didn't want to hear a motion to bring in one of the worst tragedies in Florida history. And might I add, the reason after the Orlando Pulse shooting that killed 49 people in Orlando, and after the Fort Lauderdale Airport shooting, the reason that this legislature right here behind me, why we didn't do anything then and we're talking about it now because this happened during our session.

See, the thoughts and prayers thing it lasted for a short period of time and people forget about it and it becomes old news and becomes stale. We're right now in session. The legislature has to act. The governor

has to act. And the state house could have acted, could have done something yesterday very easily. They could have had the debate.

This is not a new debate. It is something that has been around for many years. And everyone has probably a strong opinion about it.

They did not want it to happen, period. If the presiding officer wanted to hear the debate, he could have waive the rules and done it and have that debate yesterday.

BALDWIN: Senator, let's put it on you, too. You know, to the representative's point. You met with some of the Parkland students. What are their specific demands? Where can they realistically meet eye to eye with you?

RADER: OK. Brooke, thank you for the question. I found out about this tragedy literally a week ago this moment. It happened at about 2:15 or 2:30 in my committee.

I immediately flew home on a 5:30 flight to get into Miami. I took an Uber to Parkland where I had a press conference then I went to the hotel where the families that didn't know the outcome of their loved one what had happened.

And I remember those screams in the middle of night. I mean like after midnight, 1:00 a.m. or 2:00 a.m., the screams from the parents and family members finding out that their loved one had been murdered in this terrible tragedy. And I was there all day on Thursday.

I have four children. I have two kids in high school. The next day one of my kids was in a lockdown at their high school because they thought they heard something. This is real.

Parkland is the sister city, right next door I live in Boca Raton, in Delray Beach. We know people. We break bread with people.

And when you say what are we going to do, the number one thing is we have to have sensible gun laws. I mean, everyone agrees. I don't understand why anyone would want an AR-15.

The reasons I've heard was for collectible reasons. I don't understand. You don't go hunting with them. You don't shoot with them, I don't believe. You don't defend your house with them. I'm not sure why we have AR-15s and why we can't have a ban on the weapon, for the most part, kills so many people in the short period of time.

But you know what? Also, I know there's conversations now in the legislature with the governor's office about all other things, as well, mental health funding. Obviously, we need an enormous amount more.

We -- the majority party has cut mental health for so many years now. It's hard to count. Even in opioid funding, it's woefully under funded.


RADER: So, mental health funding, hardening the schools. Making sure that we have the resources necessary.

You know, we have a Baker Act to make sure that we can hold people for 72 hours to question them. If this were the day before, if there was February 13th, there's no way we can hold this young man Nikolas Cruz on anything, because he was a 19-year-old who had a number of guns. He hadn't done anything at that time. And we need to have something in force.

It's ridiculous we have 19-year-olds and 21-year-olds and 25-year-olds with these type of weapons. And in Las Vegas, I believe the man was 49 years old.

BALDWIN: OK. Senator Rader and Representative Caldwell, I actually, I truly respect both of you standing there side by side and having a healthy conversation and dialogue with me today. I really thank you both.

And also, just to be clear, affected guns in that bill. Here is the precise language. Must fall into the following categories. Fully automatic, semiautomatic, or burst fire.

[14:20:03] It goes into a list of semiautomatic guns by brand name.

So I wanted to clear that up. That is what they were voting on.

It is the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook. The students of Stoneman Douglas speak out to demand action and an end to the violence. Once and for all "Stand Up", a live CNN town hall hosted by Jake Tapper. It is tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Please join us.

Just ahead here, we're watching all these pictures of crowds gathering at the White House. At the Florida state capitol, and outside the high school in Parkland.

Plus, calls for change grow, does Congress have the appetite to take on such a polarizing issue now? We're going to go to Washington next.

And her message for action directed squarely at the White House. One Douglas student read a poem to the president, she will read her words live with me coming up. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching special CNN live coverage.


[14:25:27] BALDWIN: It has been a week since I sat in chair and started walking through what we were learning right there at Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. And now we know 17 people have been killed. More than a dozen others injured, and what you're looking at live pictures outside the high school but people across the country are staging walk-outs of schools in solidarity for what happened there just one week ago.

You know, as far as politics, one of the big questions is this, do lawmakers have an appetite to push for any sort of real gun legislation?

With me now, CNN political commentators S.E. Cupp and Angela Rye.

And, S.E., just first to you, when you look at what Trump is proposing, right, first of all, he directed the DOJ to ban bump stocks. He's calling on both Republicans and Democrats to back the strengthening of gun background checks and raising the age for anyone who can legally purchase an AR-15. Do you think that's smart to raise the age?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. In fact, I just had on my show on HLN last night a friend of mine, a big gun supporter. A big gun-toting Texan, if you will --


CUPP: -- who also thinks it's time we consider raising the age minimum. There are a lot of things that law-abiding gun owners want to consider in a big panoply of different areas from mental health to gun laws --


CUPP: -- to school safety issues. If we can do that in a common, civil way, I think we can maybe get somewhere. But, yes, I think the things that President Trump is considering are reasonable and potentially, you know, passable, with bipartisan support.

BALDWIN: So you think the president will walk the walk and not just talk the talk?

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I have yet to see him walk much in a way that I think is, you know, supportive of policy that helps to shape American lives in any real meaningful positive way. This thing that is --

CUPP: He's just got a big tax cut that they are really happy with.

RYE: Yes, but some folks are happy with, particularly elitist rich folks are happy with.

CUPP: No, no, middle class.

RYE: I just want to talk about gun control right now, S.E. We're talking about how civil we've been for five years. Let's stay there, especially on an issue like this.

CUPP: I'm trying not to let you ahead of yourself here.

RYE: Oh, I don't need you to help me not get ahead of myself. I'm fully grown. I'm 38 years old.


RYE: So, one of the things that is maddening to me, Brooke, I remember when I started working for the CDC, one of the first issues we took on was Gabby Giffords being shot. I remember thinking before that moment, it's going to take it to happen to one of them before they do anything meaningful in this space.

BALDWIN: That's what the students were telling me last week.

RYE: That's amazing and it didn't change it.

So, here you have another mass shooting and you just have to wonder how many people have to die before we truly do something? This isn't the first attempt. I remember Barack Obama wiping tears away from his eyes in Sandy Hook, right?

So, you just have to think, you know, these piecemeal solutions won't work. That means that there are gaping holes in the policy. We have to do something that results in real change. I think about --

BALDWIN: What about this potential real change from the president? It could happen, right? Raise the age of buying an AR-15.

RYE: Why are we selling AR-15s?


RYE: That's exactly right.

CUPP: I think the danger here, and I understand the desire to do something that feels big, significant, impactful. But banning a full category of guns that is responsible for less than 2 percent of gun violence might feel good, but doesn't actually work to solve gun crime.

If you talk to people who have researched this, and from the left, in fact, they actually think the more targeted, discreet, narrow policies that address mental health specifically, domestic violence specifically, suicide specifically actually have the bigger impact. So, we know when we passed an assault weapons ban for 10 years, it did not measurable lower gun crime. And in fact, one of the banned guns was used in Columbine.

We should be talking about laws that can help prevent future mass shootings.

BALDWIN: But AR-15, I know you say 2 percent. But 2 percent --

CUPP: Less than 2 percent.

BALDWIN: Less than 2 percent --

CUPP: Yes.

BALDWIN: -- isn't it too much, when you talk about 6 and 7 years old, and when you talk about 16 and 17-year-olds.

CUPP: When you put it in that context, of course, it's awful. It's awful. But let's talk about the, you know, 80 percent of gun crime that's perpetrated in our cities, suicide deaths equally as awful. And shouldn't we be finding ways passable legislation, by the way, that can actually target gun crime, the scourge of gun crime in meaningful ways. Not just ways that sound impactful but really aren't.

RYE: I'm not pushing anything that just sounds impactful.