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March for Our Lives; Brexit Campaign Claims; A Look inside U.S. STRATCOM; Dreamcatcher Traces Long Trail of Gun Violence. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired March 25, 2018 - 05:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): In a march for their lives, hundreds of thousands of people, rallied around the world in solidarity, to protect children, not guns.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Plus, the Vote Leave Brexit campaign is accused of cheating as a whistleblower alleges the group broke campaign rules.

ALLEN (voice-over): The U.S. commander who has access to nuclear codes warns North Korea, the U.S. is ready for any missile strike. We have an exclusive look inside U.S. Strategic Command.

HOWELL (voice-over): It is 5:00 am here on the U.S. East Coast and live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world, I'm George Howell.

ALLEN (voice-over): I'm Natalie Allen. NEWSROOM starts right now.


ALLEN: A thunderous, standing-room-only rally led by teenagers who have a clear message on gun violence, enough is enough. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators marched for their lives in Washington Saturday, a show of force, standing with the Stoneman Douglas High School students from Florida who survived a mass shooting on Valentine's Day.

That's when a gunman, a former student, opened fire at their school, killing 17 students and teachers.

HOWELL: Take a look from up above here, this satellite image, Digital Globe captured the march. It's not just that moment that's making up this big movement around the world, in California, in Florida, every state in between, people heard students' rallying cries. They participated in their own marches.

Portland, Oregon, there, just look at the streets filled with people. Boston, look at these big crowds that showed up. People gathered in hopes that they, too, can finally say never again. CNN's Ryan Nobles highlights some of the most powerful moments of these marches around the United States.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On a day filled with loud cries...

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: We want change. We want change. We want change.

NOBLES: Powerful songs. And energizing speeches.

DELANEY TARR, STONEMAN DOUGLAS STUDENT: We are not hear for bread crumbs, we are here for real change.

NOBLES: -- it may have been the sound of silence that best captured the moment.

Emma Gonzalez, a young woman who has become one of the most recognized faces of the movement borne out of the massacre that took place in the halls of her school, stood stone-faced and silent.

EMMA GONZALEZ, STONEMAN DOUGLAS STUDENT: Six minutes and about 20 seconds and a little over six minutes, 17 of our friends were taken from us.

NOBLES: Gonzalez and a cadre of her fellow Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students took their pain and turned it into action that culminated in marches and rallies all over the world. From Boston. To Chicago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The violence that they experience every day.

NOBLES: Denver. To Los Angeles. And back to Parkland, Florida, where the shooting took place. While they may have only had each other when those shots rang out, they had the support of hundreds of thousands. Including celebrities.

PAUL MCCARTNEY, MUSICIAN: One of my best friends was killed in gun violence right around here. So it's important to me.

NOBLES: Pop stars. And even the granddaughter of a civil rights icon.

YOLANDA RENEE KING, MARTIN LUTHER KING JUNIOR'S GRANDDAUGHTER: I have a dream that enough is enough. And that this should be a gun-free world. Period.

NOBLES: Their hope is to do much more than march. They want action. Specifically stricter gun laws. Something the federal government has been reluctant to do.

KASKY: Stand for us, or beware, the voters are coming.

NOBLES: And the debate over guns remains divisive. Counter rallies were held in cities like Boston and Salt Lake City, but these students are hoping this movement is different, that common ground will be reached and they are warning their leaders they won't be giving up until they get the change they are looking for -- Ryan Nobles, CNN, Washington.


HOWELL: Ryan, thank you.

And Ryan just mentioned in his piece Emma Gonzalez --


HOWELL: -- the power of her silence. We want to bring you that moment one more time.

ALLEN: Before her four minutes of silence, she described the effects of gun violence and recited the names of her classmates who had been killed. Here's part of what she said.


EMMA GONZALES, STONEMAN DOUGLAS STUDENT: Everyone who has been touched by the cold grip of gun violence understands.

For us, long, tearful, chaotic hours in the scorching afternoon sun were spent not knowing. No one understood the extent of what had happened. No one could believe that there were bodies in that building, waiting to be identified for over a day.

No one knew that the people who were missing had stopped breathing long before any of us had even known that a code red had been called. No one could comprehend the devastating aftermath or how far this would reach or where this would go.

For those who still can't comprehend because they refuse to, I'll tell you where it went: right into the ground, six feet deep. Fight for your lives before it's someone else's job.


ALLEN: Emma Gonzalez has certainly been a beacon to this movement. Gun violence in the U.S. isn't exclusive to mass school shootings or mass shootings, which is an epidemic here but those tragedies are giving students perspective on how much violence other people their age face across the country.

HOWELL: That's what happened to a student who survived last month's shooting in Florida, the school attack, when he visited Chicago and met with other young people to deal with gun violence on a daily basis. Here's what he had to say to CNN's Van Jones.


SAM ZEIF, SDHS STUDENT: When I went to Chicago, what kind of hit me was -- the feeling I was getting, from our perspective, it broke our hearts because this was something that none of us had ever imagined possible to happen to us. And it's been happening to them every single day for their whole lives.

And everyone in that city, all over the world. And for them, it was kind of like, it -- for them, it was kind of like, oh, my God, this happens other places, too, it's not just us. So we kind of got to relate on a certain level. And it really brought us together. I look at these guys as my friends now, you know, not just people.



HOWELL: I have to tell you, having been a correspondent for CNN in Chicago, we talk about these school shootings when they happen. But to cover these stories day after day after day after day after day, to see the families, the pain, yes, it is fair to say that, you know, it is something that Chicago has been dealing with, fighting for a long time.

ALLEN: A lot of cities have, for certain.

HOWELL: People all around the world marched in solidarity with gun violence victims in the United States. Rallies were held on every continent expect Antarctica. In London, people lay down in a moment of silence, honoring the Florida school shooting victims.

ALLEN: Protesters in Paris gathered near the Eiffel Tower to show their support.

And Hong Kong held a march Sunday, where people held signs reading, "Fear has no place in school" and "And protect kids, not guns."

HOWELL: The U.S. president was not in Washington, D.C. In fact, he was at his resort in Florida. As the thousands of demonstrators filled the streets just steps from the White House, he has been silent about the event.

ALLEN: The White House did release a short statement citing the president's support for stronger gun background checks. Part of the statement read, "Keeping our children safe is a top priority of the president's, which is why he urged Congress to pass the Fix NICS and Stop School Violence Acts and signed them into law."

HOWELL: The powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, seized on March for Our Lives as a fundraising opportunity. It posted a promotional video Saturday that slammed that event.

ALLEN: Here's part of that message. The NRA said this.

"Gun hating billionaires and Hollywood elites are manipulating and exploiting children as part of their plan to destroy the Second Amendment and strip us of our right to defend ourselves and our loved ones."

Despite that harsh rhetoric, some NRA supporters in Congress say curbing gun violence in the U.S. is possible. One of them is Brian Mast, a Republican congressman from Florida. HOWELL: Our Erin Burnett asked him if he would support changes to current gun laws as a member of the NRA. Here's his response.


REP. BRIAN MAST (R), FLORIDA: If you say anything about what goes on with the possession of a firearm, you're absolutely against the Second Amendment and that's not true. We've been on a line since the days of Al Capone, where the National Firearms Act has gone out there and regulated.

You can't purchase off the shelf a fully automatic firearm. You can't buy a sawed-off shotgun. You can't buy a rifle under 26 inches or a silencer, a suppresser, whatever somebody wants to call it. That's --


MAST: -- been regulated for a long time and then you see the governor of Florida, saying, hey, we're going to change the age. You've seen different people debating what's the age you should purchase a pistol at or a rifle at.

Most people acknowledge that there is a line somewhere. And that's where we have to debate, is where does that line belong?

What should you be able to purchase off the rack?

What should you not be able to purchase off the rack?

And having that debate doesn't mean that you're against the Second Amendment.


HOWELL: Let's bring in Leslie Vinjamuri. Leslie teaches international relations at SOAS University of London, live in our London bureau this hour.

Always a pleasure to have here on the show, Leslie.

One major issue that's been brought to light, raising the minimum age to buy firearms. In Florida, the Republican governor of that state actually followed through on the promise, going against the NRA. And it's something that the U.S. president has also tweeted about and talked about as well. Let's listen.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to work on getting the age up to 21 instead of 18. You can't buy a handgun at 18, 19 or 20. You have to wait until you're 21. But you can buy the gun, the weapon used in this horrible shooting at 18. It doesn't make sense to have -- I have to wait until I'm 21 to get a handgun but I can get this weapon at 18.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: So those were his words there, Leslie. But we have seen him back away from those comments, citing a lack of political support.

Is the president caving to the NRA?

LESLIE VINJAMURI, SOAS UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Well, I think there is a broader question of we've seen the president at different points and times, indicating that he would support a range of gun control measures and then back off because of the pressure that's coming from the NRA, from the feeling that he won't get this through Congress.

And he's vacillated in the way that he has on number of dimensions. But this movement is really quite remarkable. The protests across the United States, across the world, remember, that's really remarkable, given that the rest of the world, certainly the rest of the democratic world, does not experience gun violence in the way that the United States does.

Nonetheless, on every single continent, people took to the streets in response to a mobilization that's been very much student led. So the president backing off these initiatives will become increasingly difficult, not only for the president but for members of Congress as we approach the midterm elections.

I think the goal of these student-led mobilization and these protests is to really sustain the passion around this issue of gun violence. Remember that a majority of Americans want more gun control. They just don't tend to vote on this issue.

The people who vote on this issue are the people who don't want to see increased restrictions. Others care but it tends not to be the number one issue. So the passion, the mobilization, I think, is really the mechanism that could change things if this kind of mobilization is sustained.

And it's really been very extraordinary to watch. Again, as I said, not just in the United States but across the world. And when the rest of the world looks back at America, they're just genuinely puzzled. It's very difficult to understand why there aren't greater restrictions on the access to guns.

HOWELL: It is important to note there is some progress to report about on the federal level, if we could take a look here. We have a breakdown of what's happened at the Justice Department, establishing rules regarding bump stocks.

The Trump administration establishing a school safety commission, Congress passing a spending package to strengthen background checks and the House passing a bill to fund more security at schools.

But Leslie, given what we have seen on the streets in Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; Boston; Portland; around the world, is this going to be enough for people demanding more?

VINJAMURI: I think what the, what people are looking for now, what students are looking for, what the people who are protesting on the streets are looking for is a ban on assault weapons, to close the loopholes on -- and to have universal background checks.

So it's the beginning but it's not enough. They're looking for a great deal more. And so the question is whether, you know, some of those things, bump stocks are really obvious and much easier to achieve.

So the question now is whether there will be the sustained pressure. And when people go to the polls at the midterm elections, whether this will become an issue that leads to Congress men thinking very differently about the measures that they're willing to support.

And remember that there were changes, not only federal changes but in the state of Florida there were changes. But nonetheless, there was not a vote to ban assault weapons.

This is just in the weeks after the shootings in Parkland. So very supporting for the students but they haven't let it deflate their energy. They've continued to mobilize. And I think we will see another school walkout on April 20th. And this movement, I think, is very much likely to continue. Remember --


VINJAMURI: that youth voters, those youth under 18, who are not yet eligible to vote, 53 percent of them would like to see more gun control, as they get to the age where they become voters, if they sustain that passion, this movement will again have a lot of energy behind it. So the youth that are in this country, I think, in the United States, are really critical to this movement.

HOWELL: Leslie Vinjamuri, thank you so much, live in London.

VINJAMURI: Thank you.

ALLEN: Even the term "bump stocks" has a heinous ring to it.

Coming up here, we'll show you more of the rallies around the world.




HOWELL: Breaking news in the ball tampering scandal rocking Australian cricket. The captain and vice captain of the country's national team have agreed to step down for the remainder, the third test against South Africa. Captain Steve Smith has admitted to knowing about the plan to alter the ball.

ALLEN: This comes after fielder Cameron Bancroft was caught on camera with yellow tape. Both Bancroft and Smith have apologized. Here's Bancroft explaining how it all went down.

Oops, sorry. We don't have that sound bite right now. But we'll continue to follow that breaking news story from the sports world. A former volunteer is accusing the official Brexit campaign Vote Leave of breaking campaign finance rules ahead of the referendum. The whistleblower tells Britain's Channel 4 that Vote Leave used a separate campaign group called BeLeave to deliberately spend more than the authorized campaign limit.


SHAHMIR SANNI, FORMER BREXIT CAMPAIGNER: In effect, they used BeLeave to overspend and not just by a small amount, by two-thirds of a million pounds they overspent.

And the impact of that, the difference between people -- the difference between Leave winning over Remain was just a few percentage points, you know. And that almost a two-thirds of a million pounds makes all the difference. And it wasn't legal.


HOWELL: Following the money, the majority of that money allegedly went to the Canadian data firm, Aggregate IQ, AIQ. that firm has been linked to Cambridge Analytica. You'll remember that group is accused of misusing Facebook user data to target voters.


SANNI: I know that Vote Leave cheated, that people have been lied to and that the referendum wasn't legitimate. Now we're going --


SANNI: -- on a path to Brexit, based on lies, based on what is essentially a scam.

And what does that mean for our democratic process?

The decision I agree with. Leaving the European Union I agree with. But I don't agree with losing what it means to be British in that process.


ALLEN: A lawyer with Vote Leave said it has twice been cleared on this matter by Britain's electoral commission but the group will investigate the new allegations. And the Canadian data firm that George just mentioned, Aggregate IQ, denies any wrongdoing. It also says it has never entered into a contract with Cambridge Analytica.

HOWELL: In the meantime, Stephen Parkinson, who was the then national organizer for Vote Leave, Stephen Parkinson denying all the allegations. Parkinson is now the political secretary, though, for the prime minister, Theresa May. He told Channel 4 this.

"I had no responsibility for digital campaign or donations on the Vote Leave campaign and am confident that I stayed within the law and strict spending rules at all times." Parkinson is also being criticized for revealing in his statement that he had a relationship with the whistleblower.

ALLEN: Earlier, our colleague, Cyril Vanier, spoke with about that with a reporter who brought this story to light, Channel 4's political correspondent, Michael Crick.


MICHAEL CRICK, CHANNEL 4 NEWS: He is in a very senior position in Downing Street, working under Theresa May, one of her longest standing advisers. And he said he could only defend himself on this issue by pointing out that Shahmir Sanni, who you saw just there, and he were in a gay relationship for about 18 months during and after the referendum campaign.

Mr. Sanni says that it's terrible that Mr. Parkinson has outed him in this way, that his family didn't know about him being gay, that it's endangered some of his family in Pakistan, where he originates from. So you have got that argument going on at the same time that this whole argument about --


CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you feel Mr. Parkinson did that on purpose?

CRICK: Well, Mr. Parkinson says he can only defend himself by explaining this relationship. But it certainly muddies the water here. It raises the question as to whether Mr. Sanni was motivated by feelings other than his professed horror at what the Vote Leave campaign in his opinion did.

I mean, it is interesting that Mr. Sanni and two other whistleblowers, who have also come forward last week and given evidence to the electoral commission, are all still supporters of Britain leaving the European Union.

VANIER: Yes, but he explains that in the interview that we did, the part of the interview that we just showed. He says he doesn't -- he still thinks the rules need to be followed and they weren't in this particular instance.

Can any of this have an impact on the actual result of the referendum?

CRICK: I don't think so. There's no way in which the electoral commission, which governs elections in this country, can overturn the results on the basis of this. All they can do, really, is fine Vote Leave, which --


VANIER: Are they going to investigate this?

CRICK: Well, they have been investigating it for more than a year now. They've now got a whole pile more evidence, lots and lots of documents, the testimony of these whistleblowers. They could refer matters to the police. There could be a prosecution.

But it's not going to overturn the referendum result. But what it does do is helps the other side say, well, Vote Leave cheated. The result was close. It was a fraud.

And so it gives, it helps the other side claim the moral high ground in the arguments, which, of course, are continuing over quite how Britain should leave the European Union or, indeed, whether there should be a second referendum.

VANIER: Yes, that's interesting, because those voices, there are voices that want a second referendum on leaving the E.U. or that would even want to cancel the first referendum. And so you're telling us, you feel this would embolden those voices.

CRICK: It will. It will help them say, well, that the other side cheated and here you have people who worked for the other side who still support the principle on the other side, who are coming forward to say that there was cheating. I don't think, actually, this is going to stop Brexit going ahead in a year's time.




HOWELL: Still ahead, coming, we will have more from the students, these students who are not staying silent about gun violence and they are not mincing words.


CAMERON KASKY, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: To leaders, skeptics and cynics who told us to sit down and stay silent, wait your turn, welcome to the revolution.






HOWELL (voice-over): Well, coast to coast, across the United States and live around the world this hour, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN (voice-over): I'm Natalie Allen with our top stories this hour.

ALLEN: Across the U.S. and in cities around the world, the scene on Saturday looked like this.


ALLEN (voice-over): Hundreds of thousands of people marching for their lives, demanding stricter gun laws in the U.S. and vowing to hold lawmakers accountable at the ballot box. Survivors of the mass shooting at a Florida high school last month are now activists, saying, never again.


KASKY: Today we take to the streets in over 800 marches across the globe and demand common sense gun laws. Today is the beginning of a bright new future for this country.

JACLYN CORIN, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: We cannot keep America great if we cannot keep America safe.


CORIN: And 96 deaths by firearms every day is not what I would call great.

RYAN DEITSCH, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: It is time to fight for our lives. And I say there's only one way to do that. We need to rev up society. We need to rev up the engines. We need to rev up America.


HOWELL: Celebrities also participated in the marches, including singer Jennifer Hudson. She knows firsthand about gun violence. Her mother, brother and nephew were killed in a shooting. She delivered a powerful performance.



HOWELL (voice-over): And then there's the Florida school shooting survivor, Emma Gonzalez, she closed the rally out. She was at the podium for some six minutes, six minutes, 20 seconds.

For just over four of them, stood there completely silent, measuring the length of time that it took for the gunman to kill 17 people at her school. Here's part of the impassioned speech that she had.


EMMA GONZALES, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: Everyone who has been touched by the cold grip of gun violence understands.

For us, long tearful chaotic hours in the scorching afternoon sun were spent not knowing. No one understood the extent of what had happened. No one could believe there were bodies in that building waiting to be identified for over a day. No one knew that the people who were missing had stopped breathing long before any of us had even known that a code red had been called. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: Students from other schools also took to the stage, including 11-year-old Naomi Wadler.

ALLEN: Wadler had a particular message for the crowd in Washington, that black women are part of the gun violence conversation.


NAOMI WADLER, ALEXANDRIA FIFTH GRADER: I am here today to represent Courtlin Arrington. I am here today to represent Hadiya Pendleton. I am here today to represent Taiyania Thompson, who, at just 16, was shot dead in her home here in Washington, D.C.

I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African American girls, whose stories don't make the front page of every national newspaper.


HOWELL: For many of the people, too many of the people, who spent Saturday --


HOWELL: -- marching in the streets, this is very personal, it is a fight against gun dangers.

ALLEN: You just heard from that little girl, certainly personal. But those people are coming to together to offer each other comfort and support. CNN's Ed Lavandera met with a group of people in Washington whose friendship is carved in shared tragedy.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Moments known by a single headline brought them together. Aurora, Tucson, Orlando, Las Vegas, Clackamas, Virginia Tech.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not going to cry no more.

LAVANDERA: This group of about 15 people marched in Washington, survivors and victims' relatives of the most horrific mass shootings in U.S. history. They came to embrace the students of Parkland.

PAT MAISCH, TUCSON SHOOTING: I hope that the signs that we're carrying, saying we support them, that we're survivors, that they know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

LAVANDERA: Pat may survived the shooting that almost killed Congressman Gabby Giffords seven years ago. Six died that day, 13 wounded. Maisch wrestled away a magazine of bullets as the gunman tried to reload. The moment inspired her to become a gun control advocate.

As she listens to the Parkland students on stage...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I will fight for all of us.

LAVANDERA: -- she's emboldened to pass the torch to the next generation.

MAISCH: The kids have done more than we have in years and years, so let's let them take the lead. Let's stand back and catch them when they fall, ask them what they need and give them what they need.

LAVANDERA: Each year, this group grows. The tragedies haven't stopped.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wanted to be with you guys.

LAVANDERA: Heather Gooze is new. She survived the Las Vegas ambush. Here she's in a crowd bonded by tragedy.

HEATHER GOOZE, LAS VEGAS SHOOTING SURVIVOR: It's kind of sad, because you don't even like you introduce yourself by name. You just say like, "Oh, you're Columbine. I'm Vegas. Oh, you're Orlando? You're Sandy Hook?" It's nice to meet you. Like -- nobody understands what we understand.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wish I had never met any of these people. Now I'm so glad that they're a part of my lives and a part of my family.

LAVANDERA: Jeremy Smith and Sam Felber are the current body president and vice president at Virginia Tech. They noticed this group and met Uma Loganathan.


LAVANDERA: Her father was an engineering professor killed in the Virginia Tech massacre. They had no idea this moment would touch their lives so closely.

LAVANDERA: Did you guys expect to meet someone like her today?

SAM FELBER, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: Since our shooting, it's been 11 years now. And we walk by the memorial on our way to class every day of 32 Oakies had died. And it's just insane that nothing's been done.

LAVANDERA: Tragedy turned this group into activists. They couldn't sit at home. They mourn by pushing for gun control legislation. But they've experienced disappointment after disappointment.

PAUL KEMP, SHOOTING VICTIM RELATIVE: When I got the call from my sister and we had to tell their son, you cannot do anything.

LAVANDERA: Paul Kemp's brother-in-law was killed in the Clackamas mall shooting, just days before Sandy Hook. He's a gun owner who advocates for responsible state gun laws. He spent years lobbying lawmakers and he's inspired by the Parkland students who haven't shied away from the public stage. KEMP: They have the benefit of youth and being invincible and not listening to people that tell them that you can't do that. And they've been doing it. And I love it.

LAVANDERA: It's the children, they say, who are supposed to learn and find inspiration from their elders.

GOOZE: The students have gotten the world to kind of stand up and take notice.

LAVANDERA: But here, it's the wise and the experienced, leaning on the young.

GOOZE: When is this going to stop? This, I'm hoping, is the beginning. This is going to be the beginning of the end.

LAVANDERA: Ed Lavandera, CNN, Washington.


HOWELL: All right, Ed, thank you very much.

ALLEN: And gun deaths are on the rise. The CDC says in 2016, more than 38,000 U.S. citizens died from guns. That's a lot.

HOWELL: Still ahead here on NEWSROOM, if North Korea launches a nuclear missile, these U.S. troops may be the first to know. An exclusive look inside U.S. Strategic Command -- ahead.

ALLEN: Plus for survivors of school violence, the memories can seem like nightmares, as you can imagine. How one object has become a talisman of the pain they face and a symbol of hope for the future. That's coming up.





ALLEN: Conflicts in the Middle East are among the many threats being assessed by the U.S. military. There are also dangers posed by countries like Iran, Russia and North Korea.

HOWELL: CNN recently got rare access to U.S. Strategic Command. Its mission isn't just to track threats but also to respond to a nuclear attack. Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, has more in this CNN exclusive.


BARBARA STARR, CNN, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: If a nuclear-tipped missile is launched anywhere around the world, the U.S. military instantly responds. Four-Star General John Hyten is alerted as soon as any missile threat is detected. He comes out of his office, heads down these stairs to his bunker deep underground in Omaha, Nebraska.


STARR: General Hyten in-charge of the U.S. nuclear arsenal watches along with his highly disciplined staff 24/7 for all incoming ballistic missiles.

HYTEN: I have six (inaudible) in office, they all go off. There's a verbal alarm that goes off. Those people are telling me, exec is telling me, there's about ten different ways to make sure that the commander know it's time to move.

STARR: Ready to advise President Trump on how to deter enemies and if needed, launch a U.S. attack.

CNN was given exclusive access to the general. We were there when an actual missile alert sounded.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sorry. We have to ask you to leave for a moment.

STARR: The ops center had just picked up signals of likely Russian missiles fired in Syria. Every time the alarm sounds, highly classified data detailing the threat is sent instantly to General Hyten. In this case, the launch was quickly assessed as not a threat to the U.S.

HYTEN: Our strategic forces are already ready to respond and everybody should know, that they're ready this minute, under the ground, under the sea, in the air, we are ready to respond any threat. And the advisories, the world including Kim Jong-un have to know that.

STARR: Hyten watches diplomatic action carefully but worries about missiles and bombs North Korea's Kim Jong-un still may have hidden away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your gut tells you he's kept building?


HYTEN: Well, I'm confident that he didn't stop building things when he stopped launching things. Now, I can't go into intelligence but I've worked with rockets a long time. I know how long they take to build.

STARR: Strategic command is also keeping a close eye on Vladimir Putin's claim of new high-speed Russian intercontinental attack weapons.

HYTEN: We have very good intelligence capabilities and we watch very closely. So nothing he said surprised me.

STARR: In a new world emergency, there is an urgent scramble.

COLONEL CAROLYN BIRD, U.S. STRATEGIC COMMAND: Secretary of Defense. STARR: Secretary of Defense System.

BIRD: Secretary of State.

STARR: Yes, ma'am.

BIRD: CIA Director.

STARR: CIA Director.

BIRD: There's nobody you can get --

STARR: No, ma'am, there's nobody we can get on.

General Hyten can rapidly reach the president.

HYTEN: Picture that we'll see on the screen will tell me exactly where the missile is, how high it is, how fast it is going, where the pretty good impact point is. All those kind of issues happen in a matter, a small number of minutes.

STARR: And if a missile is headed for the U.S., that's when this safe, which sits underneath a desk, gets opened. Inside an exact copy of President Trump's nuclear launch checklists.

BIRD: In this room, there are only two people have an access to that safe. That's me as the Beta Watch Commander and my strike adviser. Nobody else can touch it. One of us has to be in this room at all times.

STARR: General Hyten would be one of the first to know if President Trump orders a nuclear launch.

HYTEN: He asked me very hard questions. He wants to know exactly how it would work.

STARR: But for the general and his team, success is never taking the nuclear code out of the safe because that means deterrence has worked.

HYTEN: Somebody launches nuclear that comes to us, we launch one back. They launch another. We launch another. They launch two. We launch. You know, in this escalation letter that ends up nowhere. The key is to stop that behavior before it gets bad.


ALLEN: We would agree with that.

Thank you, Barbara Starr, for that report.

A grieving father has a message for America.


TOM MAUSER, COLUMBINE VICTIM'S FATHER: We have to deal with this, this terrible illness that we have. And guns are a part of that. ALLEN (voice-over): He's among the thousands who want to stop massacres like the one that killed his son nearly 20 years ago. His words -- next.







HOWELL: Protests around the world, demonstrators coming together, demanding gun reforms with the laws in the United States. Also to tell you about an ornament that's traveled around the United States for two decades now. It's a dreamcatcher, a traditional Native American object meant to ward off evil and bad dreams.

ALLEN: It has been passed from school to school all across the country but only among those with the dubious distinction of enjoying a uniquely American tragedy. CNN's Scott McLean tracks the path of this dreamcatcher and, with it, the story of school shootings in the United States.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nineteen years ago, 12 students and a teacher were killed inside of Columbine High School, gunned down by two of their peers in a place they were supposed to be safe.

Tom Mauser lost his 15-year-old son, Daniel, that day.

MAUSER: I don't know how -- frankly, I don't know how I got through those first few days and even weeks.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Since then, police protocols have changed. So have state gun laws. Thanks in part to Mauser's work to close the loopholes his son had ironically pointed out just weeks earlier.

MAUSER: And then he was killed with a gun that was purchased through one of those loopholes.

MCLEAN (voice-over): In Colorado, background checks are now nearly universal and there's a limit on magazine size.

But still no one has found the cure to America's school shooting plague.

MAUSER: We have to deal with this, this terrible illness that we have. And guns are a part of that.

MCLEAN (on camera): Even if you fixed all of the gun loopholes, you might not solve the school shooting problem.

MAUSER: No, we have to do a number of things to deal with the gun violence problem. And we're going to have to compromise. We're going to have to sit down and talk this out and not scream at each other the way we are right now.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Mauser's work continues to this day, still wearing his son's sneakers.

MAUSER: I'd like to think that by, you know, stepping in to his shoes that I am doing what he would want me to do.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Columbine never asked for its newfound notoriety nor did it seek out this dreamcatcher, a gift from students in Michigan meant to ward off bad dreams after a collective nightmare.

In March 2005, Columbine passed it on to Red Lake High School in Minnesota after a student killed seven people there using stolen police-issued weapons.


MCLEAN (voice-over): Missy Dodds was teaching when her former student started shot through a floor-length window to get inside her class.

DODDS: He just started shooting and just went down the line. And when he got to me, there was nothing left in his gun.

MCLEAN (voice-over): But in a culture where hunting is common, the shooting didn't spark much of a discussion about guns.

MCLEAN (on camera): This was about mental health. This was about school safety.

DODDS: It was shut down and forget it ever happened.

MCLEAN (voice-over): But Dodds couldn't forget. She tried and failed to convince lawmakers in the state capitol to use shatterproof glass in schools, which she thinks would have saved lives.

DODDS: I went with a principal from another school district where a shooting had happened and was literally blown off.

MCLEAN (voice-over): It seemed the country was content to move on without doing much at all until seven years later when Red Lake passed the dreamcatcher to Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just hope it doesn't travel anymore.

MCLEAN (voice-over): A lone gunman had used an AR-15 to kill 26, 20 of them young children. Michele Gay's seven-year-old daughter, Joey, was among them.

MICHELE GAY, MOTHER OF SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL SHOOTING: My oldest daughter just couldn't accept it. It just couldn't be. You know, she was sure that it was a misunderstanding.


MCLEAN (voice-over): For months afterwards, a group of Sandy Hook parents unsuccessfully pushed for sweeping gun control legislation. Gay now pushes schools to be safer but doesn't push gun control.

GAY: If we go in and we start mentioning hot button issues or you know -- or political arguments, we suddenly divide the room in half.

MCLEAN (on camera): When the president says that arming teachers is something that we should look at, you don't dismiss him?

GAY: I don't. We should look at everything. We should put everything on the table. We can't ever count on any one thing.

MCLEAN (on camera): There's no one single magic wand that will solve school shootings.

GAY: I believe if there was, we would have found it and waved it by now.

MCLEAN: And after the Sandy Hook shooting, that dreamcatcher went to Marysville, Washington and then on to Townville, South Carolina. Last week, it was presented to students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

But the students there kept it for just 17 seconds in honor of the 17 victims and then they gave it back. Instead, opting to retire the dreamcatcher with the hope that no other school has to relive their experience -- Scott McLean, CNN, Denver.


ALLEN: Thank you for watching. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. The news continues here on CNN.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --- affected by gun violence to honor the ones who are lost today.