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NRA President Lashes Out; Trump Advocates for Guns in Classrooms. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired February 22, 2018 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Communities didn't want to spend the money for them. So, you don't have any intermediate ground.
You can't put him in jail, because he hadn't done anything yet, but you know he's going to do something. So, we're going to be talking seriously about opening mental institutions again, in some cases reopening.
I can tell you, in New York, the governors in New York did a very, very bad thing when they closed our mental institutions, so many of them. You have these people living on the streets.
And I can say that, in many cases throughout the country, they're very dangerous. They shouldn't be there. So, we're going to be talking about mental institutions. And when you have some person like this, you can bring them in to a mental institution and they can see what they can do. But we have got to get them out of our communities.
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BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: So, let's start this hour at the White House with Kaitlan Collins, who is standing by.
We just listened to the briefing, Raj Shah speaking out. It sounded like there was no room as far as any sort of ban on maybe semiautomatic or automatic weapons, but there was some room on changing that age of purchasing certain firearms, which is not where the NRA stands.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right.
The NRA has actually roundly rejected the idea of raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21, something the president tweeted about just today. It's interesting to set up, see what's going to happen between the president and the NRA, because he was touting his relationship with the NRA, saying he has spoken to them often over the past few days.
We know that He spoke to the executive director, Chris Cox, over the weekend, saying that they have a good relationship and he doesn't expect to clash with them over these proposed gun control measures here, Brooke.
But the fact is, the president wants to raise the minimum age to 21 and the NRA doesn't. That's an obvious conflict there between those two stances.
And the other big thing that the president has been pushing for is giving teachers concealed weapons, arming teachers who he says need to be adept at handling weapons like these, these kinds of firearms, giving them weapons in schools.
And then today he touted the idea of giving them a bonus. If you're an armed teacher, you would get a 20 percent bonus or something -- or 20 percent of teachers, he said, could get that, could qualify for that kind of bonus.
And what you didn't hear in that briefing with the deputy press secretary, Raj Shah, was a lot of specifics on how that would be paid for, because, obviously, the federal government doesn't have a ton of money. Some teachers who can't even get school supplies, so the question was raised, how are they going to give them bonuses for that?
And the White House could not answer any specifics on those kinds of policies that the president has been bringing up, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Kaitlan, thank you so much.
Let's have a bigger conversation now.
I have with me two gentlemen. I have CNN political commentator Van Jones, a former Obama White House policy adviser, and CNN political commentator Steve Cortes, former head of Trump's Hispanic Advisory Council.
STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thank you.
Steve Cortes, first to you. We just ran through a couple of things that the president is proposing, especially on potentially raising that age of buying certain weapons, which the NRA vehemently says, no, should not change. The president specifically said he talked to the NRA and that they are willing to -- quote -- "do things."
BALDWIN: Do you know what those specific things are?
CORTES: I think bump stocks for sure.
BALDWIN: The NRA, are they on board with that?
CORTES: Well, I'm saying the president is, regardless of whether or not the NRA is. But I think so, I think as long as it's written correctly, the procedures there. The NRA has long been in favor of tightening background checks,
particularly when it comes to mental illness. As a matter of fact, we wouldn't even have the background checks we have if it weren't for the NRA instituting that years ago, thank goodness.
CORTES: Some people are preventing from getting firearms, thank goodness, because of the NRA. We need to prevent more if they're not mentally well.
The NRA, I think, has been unfairly demonized in this whole debate, in this whole discussion. It's the oldest and largest civil rights organization in America. The Bill of Rights is important, all of the amendments. We wouldn't have a First Amendment if we don't have a Second Amendment.
BALDWIN: But Wayne LaPierre today did keep saying, these folks, meaning gun control activists, want to take away your Second Amendment. They actually don't. They don't want to take away people's guns.
I think they just want to safeguard certain kinds of guns from falling into the hands of --
CORTES: Of people who shouldn't have them.
Right, of course. We're all on the same page here. And I think the president, by the way, has shown real leadership here and real compassion. I was thrilled and admired the way he listened yesterday in that listening session.
Clearly, he takes this very seriously. He takes this to heart. It's a tragedy, what happened in America. By the way, though, I would also point out there are tragedies happening all over this country with crime that don't get enough attention.
For instance, I'm from Chicago. Last year, 762 people were murdered in Chicago, most of them young minority men. That is roughly --
CORTES: -- every week. And we don't have town halls about Chicago, about what's going on there. And, by the way, Chicago has tight gun control. So, gun control --
BALDWIN: Listen, we have done documentaries on Chicago. We have talked a lot about Chicago. I hear you.
But I'm watching you react. Are we all on the same page?
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Not yet.
You know, I think that the NRA, despite your kind words about them, has played a net destructive role for people who are trying to solve this problem. There is a sense of fear and terror among people who are in elective office that if they even entertain certain notions that the NRA is going to drop a ton of bricks on them.
And so we haven't had the kind of innovation, experimentation, trying of things. I don't know of any of the things that are being proposed would make any difference at all yet. But we should know more than we know right now, because we should have been able to try things. We haven't been able to.
Now what's happening is, you have a whole generation of young people who essentially see the NRA as their enemy. To them, the NRA is like the KKK. It's just some hostile force that's against them, that's risking their lives.
And you have young people now who are -- they're not fighting for their future. When I was a kid, my big problems were bullies and homework. Those are my big problems. I'm still traumatized by both.
But these kids, they're not fighting for their future. They're fighting for their right to survive to have a future. They're fighting for their right to stay alive. And they do not see the NRA as a friend in that fight.
BALDWIN: I want to play just a little bit more from what we heard from the president today.
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TRUMP: We have to do something about maybe what they're seeing and how they're seeing it and also video games. I'm hearing more and more people saying the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people's thoughts.
And then you go a further step, and that's the movies. You see these movies, they're so violent. And yet a kid is able to see the movie if sex isn't involved ,but killing is involved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Van, are video games and movies to blame?
JONES: Hey, listen, I am a dad. And I don't like some of the stuff that I see on television for moral reasons.
But they watch the same video -- they played the same video games in South Korea. They watch the same movies all over the world. But there's only one country where kids are shooting up the entire school. It's happening in the United States of America. It has to do with our gun policy and the fact that we are just awash
in guns. Now, look, my dad was a cop in the military. I grew up in a red state. There were guns in my house. I was too scared to touch them, but they were there. My cousins touched them. I was scared. I was reading my books.
But what I know is that this is a delicate and touchy issue. But we shouldn't throw out false nonsense, like video games are doing it, when you have video games all around the world.
BALDWIN: Go ahead, Steve.
CORTES: But, to your point, guns have been accessible, and in fact perhaps more accessible in the past in the United States.
I would also point out that guns have not changed materially in recent years. We have had high-powered rifles for decades in America. So something else has changed. It's a culture. The culture has changed where young men, and it's almost always men, are somehow drawn to this kind of carnage, this kind of violence.
Why? I think there's a lot of reasons. I do think violent entertainment is part of it. I think fatherlessness. I think overuse of psychiatric medications. I think it's an incredibly complex stew that's involved.
But in the meantime, while we're trying to change the culture and heal the culture, and build a culture of life, let's protect our children the way we protect our money and our jewelry, with armed protection.
To me, it's unconscionable that I'm guarded better in my office building as a middle-aged man than my children are in their school. How is possibly that the right priority?
JONES: There are a couple of things about that I think that are interesting.
First of all, I did a lot of work in Oakland schools when I was a younger attorney. You have 32 kids in a classroom, six books and no chalk. So you're talking about schools that are so under-resourced, and everybody cares so much about Chicago, et cetera, when they want to.
CORTES: Well, I care about because I live there.
JONES: Well, wonderful for you. But I hear a lot more Republicans talk about Chicago than going to those funerals and helping those families.
My problem with the situation is, number one, now we're going to spend more money doing stuff that takes us further down the road from every other country. Other countries have safe schools without all that, number two.
CORTES: That's not entirely true. Israel guards the school.
JONES: OK, there's another country that does it, but most countries don't.
But the other thing I have is this. I just don't understand why on this issue we can't come up with anything smart or creative. When Muslims do something and they shoot people, you guys have 1,000 policies. Ban them all, whatever, whatever.
When Mexicans do something, build a wall. Black kids do something, more cops, more prison.
These white kids keep doing the same stuff, and it's thoughts and prayers and nothing else smart.
JONES: I'm going to tell you right -- African-American kids are not spraying up the whole school. There's something that's happening with a particular demographic of kids. And we're not being smart and aggressive and creative about this particularly alienated demographic of kids.
BALDWIN: Steve, I want to hear you respond to that, final point.
CORTES: But that's the point I made earlier.
I think it's every bit as tragic that black kids in Chicago, young black men are dying one and two at a time, and somehow that's not really a news story or doesn't seem to alarm the country.
BALDWIN: No, that's absolutely alarmed the country and it has been a news story.
CORTES: In a place and a city that is as gun-controlled as any place in America.
BALDWIN: How do you respond to his point about Muslims and Hispanics and African-Americans in this country, yet this smaller sliver of white male youth seems to be the perpetrators of this particular crime? What do you do about it?
CORTES: It does seem to be.
Again, I think we have a serious cultural problem that we need to build a culture of life. That's not something that can happen quickly. In the meantime, what can happen quickly is armed guards, because people like this, people like Adam Lanza, they will not attack hard targets. They attack soft targets because they're cowards. So, let's make the schools less soft. Let's make them difficult targets.
BALDWIN: We're going to talk to a couple of ladies who have spent years and years and years at schools and we will hear if they would like to be the ones who would be armed.
Let's just go straight to the source. Gentlemen, thank you so much for the healthy conversation. I appreciate it.
"VAN JONES SHOW," of course, Saturday night 7:00 Eastern. He's actually bringing together two victims of the Las Vegas shooting with one of the men who sold that killer his guns. The organizers of the women's march and NBA star Steph Curry will also be his guests.
Thank you. Thank you very much.
Still ahead here, a former FBI assistant director joins me live to respond to the NRA's attacks on that agency, but first we will talk to a teacher who has spent 25 years in Broward County schools. She's now the president of their union. Let's ask her, how does she feel about the prospect of putting guns in the classroom?
We will be right back.
BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
Like so many schools across this country, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School held mass shooter drills, code red, a reminder of exactly how common this threat has really become. We're talking 4-year-olds trained to know what gunshots sound like, taught to hide in closets or even play dead.
Teachers become bodyguards, creating barricades against classroom doors, carrying out escape plans. And Florida's education commissioner brought up the issue with President Trump today.
I want you to watch that exchange.
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PAM STEWART, COMMISSIONER, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION: We are required to have a fire drill in schools once a month. We are not required to have active shooter drills. And so a practice like that, where you put something like that into place --
TRUMP: But active shooter drills a very negative thing. I will be honest with you.
If I'm a child and I'm 10 years old and they say we're going to have an active shooter drill, I say, what's that? Well, people may come in and shoot you. I think that's a very negative thing to be talking about, to be honest with you. I don't like it.
I would much rather have a hardened school. I don't like it. I don't like -- I wouldn't want to tell my son that you're going to participate in an active shooter drill. And I know some of them actually call it that. I think it's crazy. I think it's very bad for children.
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BALDWIN: So, let's start on that point.
Anna Fusco is with me. She's the president of the Broward Teachers Union.
Anna, thank you so much for being with me.
ANNA FUSCO, PRESIDENT, BROWARD TEACHERS UNION: You're so welcome. Thank you for having me here.
You just heard that exchange with the president. He was saying, when you think of these young people, just talk about how negative these drills are, would you agree with him?
FUSCO: Well, I agree we shouldn't have to have active shooter drills.
But because of the guns that are out there that can take out multiple lives in 30 seconds, 60 seconds, 90 seconds, this is what we have come to, that we have to have drills to prepare our students, our colleagues and everyone in our schools if the unfortunate happens.
And I can tell you right now, Broward County Public Schools, we said we never thought it would be us. And a week ago yesterday, it happened in a community of just wonderful students, incredible teachers, and faculty, administration. And they took -- the gun took 17 lives.
BALDWIN: People always say you never in a million years would think it would happen here. And here it was in Broward County.
The president instead said he would prefer hardened schools and he has this proposal that teachers, certain teachers should be armed and maybe they could receive bonuses for being armed. How would you -- how would your teachers feel about that? Would they feel safer? Would they want to have concealed guns?
And we have 15,000 teachers, over 3,000 teacher assistants, behavior techs, technical support in Broward County Schools, including our custodial, our clerical, our cafeteria. And nobody wants a teacher to be armed in a school, not the teacher themselves, not the colleagues, not the students, not the parents. That's not the answer. BALDWIN: And I want to ask you about this Bloomberg report also that
Apparently, the state pension plan for Florida teachers pulled $528,000 worth of shares in American Outdoor Brands company. And for people who aren't familiar with that company, its former name was Smith & Wesson.
And American Outdoor actually manufacture the AR-15 rifle, a version of which was used to take those 17 lives last week.
Did you even know that Florida teachers' pensions were helping to fund the firearm industry?
FUSCO: No, I didn't know. And I'm a two-and-a-half-year -- decade teacher. We don't have a say where our pension money is invested.
That's the governor and his Cabinet, legislation. I tell you right now, we all want to have a say in where our money is invested, because it's our pensions.
BALDWIN: Can you do something about that?
FUSCO: Well, anything can be done in a democracy. We can vote in the right people that can make different decisions under the governor's authority.
We need to have some conversations with our governor, our lieutenant governor, and everybody that is affiliated with it, makes these decisions, start an open dialogue, get an answer of why, and if it can be changed.
BALDWIN: Anna Fusco, thank you.
FUSCO: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Coming up next, the head of the NRA blames the FBI for a -- quote, unquote -- "unbelievable failure" that led to the school shooting in Parkland. A former assistant director at the agency joins me live to respond.
BALDWIN: The NRA has responded to last week's mass shooting at the Florida high school with a warning.
The head of the National Rifle Association insisting to the group's five million members that this outcry for gun control is a ploy to infringe on their rights.
Wayne LaPierre said, yes, what happened last week was horrible, but that he and his NRA spokeswoman say guns are not to blame, instead launching a full-throated attack on the FBI.
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WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: What they want are more restrictions on the law-abiding. Think about that.
Their solution is to make you, all of you, less free. They want to sweep right under the carpet the failure of school security, the failure of family, the failure of America's mental health system, and even the unbelievable failure of the FBI.
DANA LOESCH, SPOKESWOMAN, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: We will not be gaslighted into thinking that we are responsible for a tragedy that we had nothing to do with. It is not our job to follow up on red flags. It is not our job to make sure that states are reporting to the background check system.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: The acting deputy director of the FBI responded today to the criticism that the tip about the shooter wasn't followed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID BOWDICH, FBI ACTING DEPUTY DIRECTOR: There was a mistake made. We know that. But it is our job to make sure that we do everything in our power to ensure that does not happen again.
What happened was a tragedy, truly a tragedy. And it is job to do everything in our power, number one, to look through the holding of what we currently have to make sure we don't have anything else like that in our holdings, which we're working through, and, number two, to ensure that going forward we put into place a very strong process to ensure that that cannot happen again.
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BALDWIN: Let's talk to Chris Swecker. He's a former FBI assistant director for the Criminal Investigative Division.
Chris Swecker, nice to see you, sir.
First, just responding to the NRA, care to respond to Wayne LaPierre?
CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Sure.
First, let me just say Dave Bowdich is right, the acting deputy director. This is a breakdown in the call center in the FBI's West Virginia Criminal Information System Decision.
These people are human. They don't go to work to make mistakes. They're trying to do the right thing. They're trying to discharge the mission of the FBI the best they can. But this is a breakdown. However, the head of the NRA is trying to deflect the public to a
shiny object. It's not the FBI. It's not one thing. It's a lot of things that need to be fixed here. And I could list a dozen. I could sit here and list a bunch of different things that can be addressed right away as low-hanging fruit.
But if you point the finger in the direction of the FBI, you're totally missing the point here.
I hear you on saying people are human, but, again, I'm channeling those parents I talked to last week in Florida, and I don't know how that would sit with them. I just have to push you a little bit.
BALDWIN: And just to remind everyone, it was January 5 when someone close to the shooter called up this FBI tip line saying the shooter was erratic, right, that the shooter owned guns and had this desire to kill people, and even went as far as saying the shooter would be capable of conducting a school shooting.
Law enforcement -- Chris, you know this, but law enforcement, they were called to the shooter's home 39 times, acknowledging this mistake.
Can you just explain to all of us how a mistake like this could have happened?
SWECKER: Well, you pointed out other chances for intervention, 39 calls, somewhere between 20 and 39 calls at the house. Child services went to visit with him.
But let's talk about the FBI's process. They moved all of their call- in complaints -- or complaint center to West Virginia, where a cadre of about 100-plus analysts field the calls.
This was an effort after 9/11 to consolidate all the information into one place, so that they could have a process to get leads actioned and then out to the field offices. And connections are made, links are made back there, research is done.
Somewhere in there, someone just didn't attach significance or urgency to this phone call. There's no way to excuse it. It should have happened.
Somebody -- either one person or a supervisor -- there should be an agent overseeing the analyst who has some investigative experience. My fear is that it has become an assembly line environment in that call center.