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Shooting Survivors Challenge Lawmaker & NRA at CNN Town Hall. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired February 22, 2018 - 08:00   ET


LINDA BEIGEL SCHULMAN, MOTHER OF SCOTT BEIGEL: Scott would do that, and especially for his students, because those are his students, but that's what Scott would do.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: How did you raise him so well?

SCHULMAN: I think we raised each other. I think he raised me and I raised him. I think that's how it went.

CAMEROTA: Let's face it. Before this tragedy, you didn't -- is it fair to say you didn't know that much about Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. You had to really get up to speed on what the students were like here fast?

SCHULMAN: Scott was so humble. Unfortunately the night we drove in, when I looked at the school, I couldn't believe it. I had no idea -- you could have thought Scott was working in some underprivileged school --


SCHULMAN: I had no idea.

CAMEROTA: You had no idea it was so big, 3,300 students. What a wonderful reputation and what a wonderful reputation he had here. He had only been teaching here -- this was his first year.

SCHULMAN: I had no idea. It's amazing. The school is amazing. Everybody, the students, I'm just so happy that this is where he was and this was his family, also.

CAMEROTA: The students are amazing. We are very touched that you two now have a relationship that will go on, a friendship and a familial relationship thanks to your son Scott. Thank you both so much for being here with us and sharing all of this.

SCHULMAN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: We're following a lot of news. Let's get to it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your New Day. It is Thursday, February 22nd, 8:00 in the east. Chris is in New York and I am in Parkland, Florida, this morning. We begin with breaking news. President Trump denies saying he was considering arming teachers to prevent school shootings like the massacre that claimed the lives of 17 people behind me at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school. But of course we all listened to the session yesterday in the White House where he said he was considering arming teachers. He proposed it as a solution to the crisis of mass shootings.

This was a very powerful listening session, Chris. This is right before our town hall meeting. We have heard so many suggestions, so much commentary, so much contentious talk between the town hall and the listening session, it has been a really powerful 24 hours here, Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: What we're seeing here is it gets complicated fast. The emotion is obvious, raw, and real. But figuring out what to do, there's a reason we keep watching shooting after shooting. The president is evidencing that right now. He's struggling to limit what the position is, he's dealing with pushback against the idea.

This is the test of leadership. So we'll go through what the president actually said and what that might mean in policy. And all of this comes as survivors, parents, teachers of that massacre there in Florida and others confronted lawmakers and the NRA at a remarkable CNN town hall on guns and school safety last night.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio, those were his constituents, he had the courage to show up and face critics who are demanding action. I know you can say I didn't like what Rubio said, or so what, that's his job. So many are hiding right now. Governor Scott didn't want to go to that town hall last night. We're waiting on his ideas. Ryan, McConnell, the GOP leadership in Congress, where are they on this? And for Rubio to show up, that mattered.

And he did break with the NRA. He says he now supports raising the age to buy rifles, he says he will consider a ban on high capacity magazines. Let's get to CNN's Abby Phillip live at the White House with breaking details.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. The president tweeting this morning in three different messages, in some ways making a point of emphasis on his comments yesterday at that listening sessions about what he wants when it comes to teachers and guns. Let's just put the tweets up and I'll go through the points he made. He said, I never said give teachers guns like was stated on CNN and NBC. What I said was about the possibility of giving concealed guns to adept teachers with military or special training. He goes on to say, if a savage sicko came to the school with bad intentions, highly trained teachers would serve as a deterrent. And he noted about the cost. He claims that it would cost much less than guards and a gun- free zone is a magnet for bad people. He says attacks would end if he was able to have certain highly trained teachers with guns.

He adds that history shows that school shootings last on average three minutes. It takes police and first responders five to eight minutes to get to the site of the crime. That last point is particularly important because I think in Florida that was the case where this shooting did not last very long. But I want to play exactly what President Trump said in that listening session yesterday so you can hear for yourselves. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This would only be obviously for people that are very adept at handling a gun, and it would be, it's called concealed carry where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them. They'd go for special training, and they would be there and you would no longer have a gun-free zone.


PHILLIP: Those comments are pretty clear, and we played them and reported them as he said it, but I think it's also very clear that there's a lot of pushback to this idea, including from Marco Rubio who was asked about this last night by a teacher. And he said I just don't support this idea. I don't think it's a good idea to have weapons in the school, whether it's in the hands of a teacher or not. I think it's a little bit separate from the idea of having armed guards. It's just a controversial issue. But the president clearly thinks it would be a huge deterrent for attacks like these, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Abby. Joining us now is CNN political analyst Josh Green and Jonathan Martin and CNN political director David Chalian. And of course, Alisyn is in Florida and I'm here in New York. So David, he did say he wanted to arm teachers. Now, to be fair to the president, he's saying I didn't say all teachers. OK. He said all teachers would have the opportunity to be trained to see if they could qualify for concealed carry permits. Maybe you'd have up to 20 percent he said, and that would make a difference because gun-free zones are an invitation to murder.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right. He was saying there's already a population of teachers who could be adept --

CUOMO: He did suggest training as well.

CHALIAN: Without a doubt.

CUOMO: This is not unusual for someone who hasn't owned a position for very long. He's struggling his way through and he's dealing with criticism, too. What's the plus-minus?

CHALIAN: But you have to see what he's doing here. What you just saw in the tweets is that the president is now latching on what he believes is a solution. He said this could instantly fix it. So what I hear, what I'm reading in his tweets is, OK, the president believes that the instant fix, the instant solution that can solve this problem is, a, more guns. He's not talking about restrictions on guns. That's first of all. And second of all, he is taking a position that he knows is controversial. He sort of wants the fight here. That's what the tweets this morning to me suggest is that he understands he's taking a position that is more in line with what the NRA has espoused before on gun-free zones, not a compromise position that he's trying to reach.

CUOMO: You are right, and we're seeing it in real time because, Alisyn, he's tweeting again. If a potential sicko shooter knows that a school has a large number of very weapons-talented teachers and others who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will never attack that school. Cowards won't go there. Problems solved. Must be offensive. Defensive alone won't work.

J. Mart, we have had armed guards in schools before where there were shootings and obviously the shootings still occurred. But there is style here. This is Trump getting criticized and doubling down on a position. But there is a lot to this idea of having better security in schools could make a difference, make the schools hard targets. Where are Democrats with their level of acceptance of that idea?

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the Democrats, if there were some efforts to add funding for additional security folks at school, would probably be all for that. They're not going to be for giving side pieces to teachers teaching algebra. That's beyond the pale.

But we're sitting here responding to a president who is responding to TV coverage, that's quite circular. I guess this is the world that we're in. I think the fact is he is trying to portray the image of responsiveness, of doing something. But his instinct is not thought out based on policy papers, based on conversations with experts at a think tank. He's trying to throw stuff out. And I would remind you guys that he has a track record after all these terrible moments of instinctually turning the idea of more weapons. After the Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016 in Orlando, he floated the idea of adding weapons there to the security guards at such nightclubs. Even the NRA said at that point said, no, that's not really where we're at.

So he's responding to stuff. He's just floating ideas and often it is grounded in a more sort of pro-gun stance. I think we have to be careful in not assuming that this is where he's going to land on the issue. He tweets about all manner of things. He floats changing libel laws probably once a month. It doesn't happen. So I think we have to see what actual bill gets to his desk. And I think that's going to be important is what kind of cover will he give to his party on Capitol Hill in terms of what kind of bill they can move to get to his desk.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Josh, listen, being here at ground zero in Parkland of schools shooting right now, what I hear from the people here and the teachers and the students is they're open. These students are too young to already be indoctrinated with some position. They're open to suggestion if it worked. So prove to them that that's effective. Show them the data that arming teachers would be effective, and I think they might be open to it. But at the moment, it's just sort of this notion that that might help. And what they hear from their teachers is that's not why they got into teaching. The teachers themselves don't feel equipped to take on a crazed armed gunman. Last night at the town hall, one of the teachers from here talked about that. Listen to this.


ASHLEY KURTH, STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER: Am I supposed to get extra training now to serve and protect on top of educate these children? Am I supposed to have a Kevlar vest? Am I supposed to strap it to my leg or put it in my desk?


CAMEROTA: Josh, some teachers might be willing to do that. But obviously we would have to know if that actually works.

JOSH GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we would. One thing I think you have to understand here is that this is pretty clearly the NRA position, more gun, not less guns. And I think Trump pivots instinctively when he's trying to lead. The kind of flailing in his inability to really come up with a policy that works.

I think one of the problems you saw in his little tweet storm this morning is arming guards and having that be a deterrent doesn't quite make sense. When you think about the fact that a lot of these shooters are either mentally ill or suicidal I don't think there's any reason to think they'd be deterred by the fact that some people on campus might have guns. They're there to kill and in some cases wind up being killed themselves. We've seen that happen in numerous school shootings.

I think the more encouraging sign came in the CNN town hall last night in Marco Rubio's willingness to embrace new positions, bans on high capacity magazine clips, raising the age limit to buy rifles. If that signifies a real change in the current of the Republican debate over guns and gun control, I think that could be meaningful and produce something finally that might be a fundamental change. But if that's going to happen, it sure seems like based on the last 48 hours that that leadership is going to have to come from the Congress and not the White House because Trump doesn't seem to know what he's doing.

And the other thing, when you see him attack the news and the media like he is in these tweets, that's usually a sign he's flailing and he doesn't really know what to do. I wouldn't look there for leadership on this issue necessarily.

CUOMO: Let's try to do it a little different. David, there's no question the president is monitoring. And this is a tricky situation, Mr. President. If you can avoid the instinct to double down and get defensive. This is not the time to play to these divisions. You have a chance to make a difference here. You came out and said you want to make a difference. You have lawmakers who have unique emotional momentum around them. This is a chance that something can get done if things are done differently. And David, that's going to mean not resorting to this side is bad, we're good, this is stupid, this is smart, this is right, this is wrong. It has to be done differently if anything is going to change.

CHALIAN: That is certainly true because it has been proven to be an intractable problem in many ways thus far. But what the tweets indicate to me is that what Jonathan was saying is what kind of political cover will the president apply to his party on this issue? This morning it indicates he may not be all that interested in doing that. He retreated to a corner to fortify a position he was in, to sort of, it seems to me, prepare for a battle over this rather than actually reaching across to start finding solutions, and giving political cover to many of his fellow Republicans. This indicates to me the idea that something is going to get done may be not as near as perhaps Marco Rubio's movement last night suggested to some.

CUOMO: As Alisyn says, let's err on the side of optimism. And hopefully a president who says he is a great dealmaker, who says he cares about this, and how can anyone with a heart not, that he will do his best to get his party to work with the Democrats to get something done. Alisyn has the right advice.

David, Josh, J. Mart, thank you very much. Alisyn, to you.

CAMEROTA: Chris, I'm just getting it from the kids. The kids are the ones who feel empowered. The kids are the ones who feel like they are right on the cusp here of change and getting something accomplished. So two of the students who survived the massacre behind me also attended CNN's town hall -- actually many of the students did, hundreds. So how do they feel about what they heard last night and what they think is going to happen next that will allow them to go back into this school on Tuesday? They join us next.


[08:18:23] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Survivors of the Parkland massacre made a powerful case to their lawmakers face-to-face last night at CNN's town hall.


RYAN DEITSCH, FLORIDA SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: We'd like to know why do we have to be the ones to do this? Why do we have to speak out to the capitol? Why do we have to march on Washington just to save innocent lives?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: You're absolutely right. Let me start by saying, and it goes without saying that what you've lived through and what you live through is not supposed to be a part of your high school experience, what you have done cannot end next week or next month or even next year. But I do believe that at the end of the three-week session in Tallahassee, you achieve the restraining order, a few thinks they're taking about doing, I would take that, I would herald it as a victory and continue the momentum going forward until we have made the progress necessary to make sure that no community in America will ever have to have a forum like the one here tonight.


CAMEROTA: All right. That student you just saw right there is Ryan Deitsch. He joins me now, along with Samantha Grady. Samantha was actually shot during this massacre. She was also at the town hall last night.

Guys, thank you very much for being here.

So, let's talk about the town hall and what you got out of it. Tell me about that exchange with Marco Rubio. Were you satisfied with his answer and other answers?

DEITSCH: I mean, overall, I wasn't as satisfied as I was hoping to be. But I didn't expect a little bit that he would just use political double talk to stop us from really answering the hard hitting questions that Cameron Kasky posed last night.

CAMEROTA: What Cameron posed was, are you going to still accept money from the NRA? He did really answer.

[08:20:01] He danced around it, basically suggesting yes, he is. However, he did say that he was making progress in terms of changing his thinking on all sorts of other things like raising the minimum age he talked about and he would rethink the high capacity ammunition? What did you think about all that?

DEITSCH: With all that, still I say the same thing about the president. These are all just words for the moment. He might try to quell the crowd because he was the most hated man in that room, besides the NRA lady that came out later. Overall, he just wanted to make sure it was a comfortable zone for himself. So, he said the words he said just to make sure those people were satisfied.

CAMEROTA: I don't know about that. I don't think he was very comfortable. He was in the hot seat. We don't know if it's lip service.

DEITSCH: We don't know if it's lip service yesterday. We'll see in Washington for the coming weeks. But I hope and pray for the people here and the people all over America, it's true the words that he's putting out.

CAMEROTA: Samantha, you were shot. Can you tell us how you're doing and what your injuries were?

SAMANTHA GRADY, WOUNDED IN FLORIDA SCHOOL MASSACRE: I'm doing well. My injury -- I was shot twice, I was grazed in my back and a bullet ricochets into my chest, and there's fragments and whatnot.

CAMEROTA: And you also lost your best friend.

GRADY: Yes, unfortunately I did lose my best friend.

CAMEROTA: I'm so sorry. So sorry that you all have to endure this.

What was the town hall like for you last night?

GRADY: There was a lot of things that I expected and that came true. As Ryan was saying, the double talking, the not answering questions. I expected that. But we did we make some progress, at least America got to see how much anger we have, how much we want things to change, how much we have this passion. I'm glad that that got across. I mean, the crowd, of course they were

expressing their opinions, but hopefully it reached those at home and someone will do something about the situation.

CAMEROTA: Oh, people feel your intensity. People certainly feel the intensity of the students at Douglas High School. I can assure you of that. But did you feel any common ground or did you leave hopeful that things will change in Washington?

GRADY: I did leave hopeful, but I'm not secure in my beliefs. I believe it was more of a double speaking. People were kind of answering, kind of not. But at least now we know what to expect more than we did before. Now we have the drive. Now we kind of know the situation, what to -- what their counteracts will be.

CAMEROTA: Yes, you have a long road ahead of you.

GRADY: We do.

CAMEROTA: Ryan, you're 18.

DIETSCH: Yes, I am.

CAMEROTA: You are the voter. You're the future voter.

DEITSCH: I'm a voter for the next election. Rubio better watch out. He knows I will not be on there for him.

CAMEROTA: Did this change how you'll vote in the midterms? Did what happened at your school change your thinking?

DEITSCH: It didn't change my thinking. I've always had a certain leaning to where I think things should be. But overall, I just think after this shooting, I have heard from politicians, I've met with politicians. It's just making me frustrated beyond belief, but I know for a fact that we cannot stop and we will not stop.

CAMEROTA: How are you going to sustain this fight, OK? So, one month from now is the march that you're all calling for nationwide about gun violence. That's a long way away. How are you going to keep your foot on the gas until then?

DEITSCH: Until then we're meeting with anybody we can. We're trying to set up meetings at not only the state capitol again, but trying to set up with the national capitol.

CAMEROTA: You're trying to go to Washington, D.C.

DEITSCH: We're trying to go to D.C. We're trying to speak to those people as much as we can because we want to find that common ground. We want to find a place where they can be satisfied with their second amendment rights and we can be satisfied that we don't have to bury our friends.

GRADY: Not only that, but the media is a powerful tool in the country. It influences a lot of people's decisions. Like doing interviews, expressing our opinions, we hope to -- the people are very important. We hope to influence them.

CAMEROTA: You know that some people suggest the media is manipulating you guys.


CAMEROTA: You find that laughable.

DEITSCH: We're all paid actors, brought in from people all over the country.

CAMEROTA: Don't joke about it. People think this.

DEITSCH: It's ridiculous to say the least, like to think I'm a good actor is just -- I mean, if anything, it's a compliment and I hope the academy is watching.

CAMEROTA: I appreciate you're able to find humor. Some of it is so vile and so hateful.

But listen, we're following you guys. We appreciate your spirit, your motivation. You're giving us all inspiration. Thank you very much for last night and for being here.

GRADY: Thank you.

DEITSCH: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So, the White House is insisting it is being tough on Russia over its election interference, and then it's already taking action. What is the evidence?

Republican Congressman Peter King joins us on that, and news of day, next.


[08:28:58] CUOMO: So, a senior official tells CNN that the U.S. has already acted on Russian interference, that this administration has warned Russia and Vladimir Putin not to interfere in the upcoming midterm elections, and it is insisting the U.S. has already taken direct action to address the meddling.

What are the facts to back up those claims?

Let's ask Republican Congressman Peter King of New York.

Always good to see you, sir.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: You got any information for us on this, what the administration has done to tell Putin and Russia not to mess with the '18 elections? I've never heard this before. KING: I know the word has been passed on. I can tell you as far as

within this country, Department of Homeland Security and others are working to build up our cyber defenses against Russia. Also, just one dramatic example, this is about 10 days ago in Syria, we killed hundreds of Russian troops. There was no apologies, no regrets, no expressions of sympathy.

So, there's definitely a turn in attitude toward Russia. And I see it. And I hope the president continues.

I was never of the belief that we could work with Putin and I was extremely critical of Barack Obama.