Survivors of the massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, took center stage at a CNN town hall Wednesday in Sunrise, Florida. The students, their parents and teachers asked frank questions of Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, Rep. Ted Deutch, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel and National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch.
Listen to the town hall in its entirety:
Or read the transcript:
JAKE TAPPER, CNN: Good evening and welcome to Broward County, Florida, I’m Jake Tapper.
You’re about to witness an historic exchange between survivors of a horrific school shooting and their elected leaders.
In this arena are thousands of people whose lives were changed forever, one week ago today, when a gunman opened fire inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and killed 17 students and teachers. Four victims remain hospitalized.
But since that horrible day, we have seen this community come together and we have seen an amazing and eloquent group of students with various opinions talk about what they feel needs to change.
We’re here tonight to facilitate your desire to speak directly to your leaders, students, and family members, and faculty will get to ask questions to Florida’s two US senators, Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson, as well as their Congressman, Democrat Ted Deutch.
#StudentsStandUp town hall
And later tonight these students and their families will get to ask questions of the road County Sheriff, Scott Israel, and a national spokesperson for the NRA.
We should note that President Trump declined an invitation to be here tonight, either in person or from the White House, as did the governor of Florida, Rick Scott who declined to be here in person or from Tallahassee.
Before we begin — before we begin tonight, we want to take some time to remember the 17 beloved members of the community who were murdered one week ago today.
TAPPER: May their memory be a blessing.
Students, parents, and teachers, the lawmakers are ready to answer your questions.
But first they each wanted a minute to address you, specifically.
I’m going to start with Congressman Deutsch.
REP. TED DEUTCH, D-FLORIDA: Thanks Jake.
And thank you to CNN for being here in South Florida for a very important and yet incredibly difficult evening.
A lot of people have told this community, people from all around the world, that it’s too soon – it’s too soon to get together to have this kind of forum; it’s too soon to talk about preventing another tragedy like the one that struck our community from happening anywhere again; it’s too soon to talk about getting weapons of war out of our communities.
It is —
DEUTCH: — it is not — it is not too soon; it is too late for the 17 lives that are lost.
DEUTCH: It is too late for the grieving families, too late for the injured, too late for the 3,300 survivors of what happened.
Senator Rubio and Senator Nelson, we represent these fine people; we will not be judged by what we say here tonight, by the quality of our answers or by any back-and-forth in words.
DEUTCH: And Senator Nelson, we represent these fine people. We will not be judged by what we say here tonight by the quality of our answers or by any back and forth in words. The folks in our community don’t want words, they don’t want thoughts and prayers, they don’t want discussions, they want action and we owe it to them (inaudible)
TAPPER: Senator Nelson. Senator Nelson
SEN. BILL NELSON, D-FLORIDA: We’re all grieving. Your hope gives me hope. Your determination gives me more determination, and what we’re facing is what’s going to be done. Now there ought to be some common sense solutions like getting the assault rifles off the streets.
Another common sense solution – having criminal backgrounds on every acquiring of a gun.
So, you have been so strong. Keep it up and keep hope alive.
TAPPER: Senator Rubio.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLORIDA: The – there’s no words that could describe the pain that a parent feels at the loss of a child or when you lose someone that – it’s not natural to lose a child. And I am a U.S. Senator, and I’m also a member of this community, and I’m also a father, and I’m also a husband, and I’m also someone who loves but I don’t know what the pain is like to lose a child.
I did not grow up in a school or in an era in which children were shot in classrooms, and even as we watch this pain and the nation suffers with you our – we can never know the feeling. I can tell you this. There is a message that’s come through loud and clear, and that is that beyond simply the pain – mixed with that pain is a demand for action and…
– while in that realm, I want to be honest with you. I think all of us would like to see action, but I want to tell you what we’re going to struggle with. We are a nation of people that no longer speak to each other. We are a nation of people who have stopped being friends with people because who they voted for in the last election.
We are a nation of people who have isolated ourselves to only watch channels that tell us that we’re right. We’re a nation of people that have isolated ourselves politically and to a point where discussions like this have become very difficult. I’m here tonight, and I’m here tonight to answer any question anyone has, explain anything you want to know about what I stand for, what I’ve done and what I plan to do. And to the students that are here tonight, the ones on the stage, the ones in the audience, I want you to know that I’m actually extremely excited about your engagement, and ill tell you why. I’ll tell you why, because I think you have a chance to do a lot more then change gun laws.
You should push for that. You have a chance to do a lot more than that. You have a chance to change the way we talk about politics in this country, and the reason why this event here is so important tonight – the reason why this event is so important – none of us wish we were here.
Eight days ago none of you thought you’d be here, but we are here and it’s important that we are because tonight people who have different points of view are going to talk about an issue that I think we all believe and that is that this should never of happened and it can never again.
And if we want to truly ensure that it doesn’t – if we want to ensure that it doesn’t then we are going to have to find the way of the nation – as a nation to work with people that may not agree with us on certain things, without accusing one another of being evil people and my side is as guilty is that of any.
And, here’s what I hope for the students, do not make the mistakes that my generation is making. It may not be - - I hope it’s not too late for my generation, but it most certainly is not for yours. Understand that people - - and I think on a regular basis, we do it in the Senate, between Senator Nelson and I.
I think people that disagree on issues can agree on what they want to achieve and can find a way forward, and that’s what I hope tonight is beyond anything else. Because, sadly, we cannot reverse what happened seven days ago today, but we can make sure that one of these events never happens again in any community in this country.
And, if tonight is the beginning of that, then we will have said that this was meaningful, and that’s what I’m here to do. And, that’s what I hope we can achieve together and that’s why I’m here tonight.
You might not like everything I say, or everything I stand for, but I want to find a way forward to solve this problem. So that never again will any community have to face this, any parent have to face this, or any child, yours or mine, have to face this in what I believe is the greatest nation on earth.
TAPPER: Thank you.
I want to bring in Ryan Schacter. Ryan Schacter’s younger brother, Alex, was killed in the shooting. Alex was 14, he played in the school band and the school orchestra. Ryan has a question for Congressman Deutch.
SCHACTER: Congressman Deutch, my name is Ryan Schacter, I’m a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. My brother, Alex, was killed in the shooting last Wednesday. I’m supposed to go back to school in the upcoming week.
My friends and I are worried that we are going to be murdered in our classrooms. What reassurances can you give me and what specifically are you going to do to make sure that we can’t have this fear?
DEUTCH: Well, first of all, I offer my heartfelt condolences. I’m sorry for your loss. And, I understand why you feel that way, because in our country today what happened at Stoneman Douglas has happened too many times.
What am I going to do? Well, as a starter, next week when we go back to Washington, we’re going to introduce legislation to make sure that assault weapons are illegal in every part of this country.
But, that’s not going to help you when you go back to school and all I can tell you is that we stand with law enforcement in Broward County. We stand with the administration and the teachers in your school to provide as much security, as much comfort, as much as can make you feel that you’re in a safe place.
But, beyond that, the best way for us to show that is to take action in Washington, in Tallahassee, to get these weapons of war off of our streets.
TAPPER: Thank you, Congressman.
I want to bring in Fred Guttenberg. Fred’s 14 year-old daughter, Jaime, was lost last week and he has a question for Senator Rubio.
GUTTENBERG: Senator Rubio, I just listened to your opening and thank you. I want to like you. Here’s the problem. And, I’m a brutally honest person, so I’m just going to say it up front.
When I like you, you know it and when I’m pissed at you, you know it. Your comments this week, and those of our president, have been pathetically weak.
So, you and I are now eye to eye. Because I want to like you. Look at me and tell me guns were the factor in the hunting of our kids in this school this week. And, look at me and tell me you accept it, and you will work with us to do something about guns.
RUBIO: Fred, first of all, let me explain what I said this week and I’ll repeat it. I’ll repeat what I said. And, then I’m going to tell you what we’re going to do.
RUBIO: We’re going to talk about guns and we’re going to talk about what I said this (inaudible). This is what I said. I said that the problems that we are facing –
GUTTENBURG: Let - - let him speak. I think we need to hear it.
RUBIO: I’m saying that the problems that we’re facing here today cannot be solved by gun laws alone. And I’m going to tell you what we’ve done already and what I hope we’ll do moving forward.
GUTTENBURG: Were guns the factor in the hunting of our kids?
RUBIO: Of course they were. And here’s what - -
GUTTENBURG: It’s the weapons of choice. Can you say that?
RUBIO: Number one Fred, I absolutely believe that in this country if you are 18 years of age you should not be able to buy a rifle and I will support a law that takes that right away.
RUBIO: I will support - -
RUBIO: I will support the banning of bump stocks and I know that the President has ordered the Attorney General to do it and if he doesn’t, we should do it by law. I will support changing our background system so that it includes more information than it includes now and that all states across the country are required or incentivized to report all the information into it.
And let me tell you what I’ve done already. In - - last year when we came up with our budget in the Senate, I pushed for and got approved $50 million a year through the Sandy Hook Initiative to provide a threat assessment fund for - - for all states to be able to stand up in each of the school districts a way to identify people who could potentially do this, and get ahead of it before it happens.
I - - I support - - I support moving forward on that initiative and making it widely available for everyone around the country. Now I think what you’re asking about is the assault weapons ban.
GUTTENBURG: Yes sir.
RUBIO: So let me be honest with you about that one. If I believe that that law would have prevented this from happening I would support it. But I want to explain to you why it would not.
GUTTENBURG: Senator Rubio, my daughter running down the hallway at Marjory Stoneman Douglas was shot in the back.
RUBIO: Yes, sir.
GUTTENBURG: With an assault weapon, the weapon of choice.
RUBIO: Yes, sir.
GUTTENBURG: OK. It is too easy to get. It is a weapon of war. The fact that you can’t stand with everybody in this building and say that, I’m sorry.
RUBIO: Sir, I do believe what you’re saying is - -
RUBIO: I do believe - - I do believe what you’re saying is true. I do believe what you’re saying - -
TAPPER: Everyone - - everyone. The Senator has the right to be heard. He’s answering Mr. Guttenburg’s question.
RUBIO: I do believe what you’re saying is true. I believe that someone like this individual and anyone like him shouldn’t have any gun. Not this gun, any gun. But I want to explain to you for a moment the problem with the law that they call the Assault Weapon’s Ban. And if you’ll give me – and indulge me for a minute to explain to you the problem. First you have to define what it is. If you look at the law and it’s definition, it basically bans 200 models of gun - - about 220 specific models of gun.
GUTTENBURG: Good. Good.
RUBIO: But it makes - - but it - - but it - - it allows legal 2,000 other types of gun that are identical. Identical, in the way that they function and how fast they fire and the type of caliber that they fire and the way they perform. They’re indistinguishable from the ones that become illegal. And the only thing that separates the two types - - the only thing that separates the two types is, if you put a plastic handle grip on one it becomes banned, if it doesn’t have a plastic handle it does not become banned.
So let me explain if I may, just for a moment more.
GUTTENBURG: Are you saying - -
RUBIO: What the problem has been with the law - -
GUTTENBURG: Are you saying you will start with the 200 and work your way up?
RUBIO: I would explain what has happened - -
GUTTENBURG: I’ll - - It’s a place to start. We can do that.
RUBIO: Well - - let me - - let me explain to you what’s happened. So in New York they have passed that ban. And you know what they’ve done to get right around it? It took them 15 seconds to do it. They simply take the plastic tip off of it. They just take the plastic grip off of the front or the back - -
GUTTENBURG: So we don’t (inaudible)?
RUBIO: The same gun and it becomes legal, performs the exact same way. So what my belief is - - my belief remains that rather than continue to try to chase every loop hole that’s created. That’s why it failed in ’94. It’s why they’re getting around it now in California, it’s how they get around it in New York – is we instead should make sure that dangerous criminals, people that are deranged cannot buy any gun of any kind. That’s what I believe a better answer will be.
GUTTENBURG: Your answer speaks for itself.
TAPPER: Thank you Mr. Guttenburg. I appreciate your time. The only thing I’m - - I’m not going to tell anybody in this room.
I’m not going to tell anybody in this room not to feel strongly and - - and not to feel emotional. The only thing I will tell you is, when you do this, you’re eating up into the time that other people in the audience, other people who want to ask questions are asking questions. OK? So you behave how you want to behave but I want to make sure that as many people in this community - -
DEUTCH: And – and I – and I know – Jake, I know this – I know this is not a debate, but I don’t know if we’re going to get back to it. And since – and I just want to respond to something Senator Rubio said because – because he told us a lot about – about his views on the assault weapons ban.
And I would just simply say this, if there is a problem with the assault weapons ban – which, by the way, when it expired let’s be clear, mass shootings went up 200 percent in the decade after the assault weapons ban expired. But if there was a problem with the way that was written, if there were too many loopholes for – for people trying to get around it to utilize, then let’s bring up the assault weapons ban and close all those loopholes so that we have bill that keeps people safe.
RUBIO: And Gabe (ph) rose (ph) actually (ph) that is an excellent question. And I want to answer that one, if I may. I know it’s not a debate but this is an important point, it really is because it – it is an issue that I want people to understand more about. First of all, it didn’t take – I appreciate your words. It didn’t – being here tonight is not courage. Courage is what you did, and what you guys are doing, and what those teachers and administrators that – that’s courage.
And, Ted (ph), you talked to your story a moment ago. You know, I – I will tell you that what you’ve done in this effort, irrespective of we may have a different view on something, that’s courage. That’s real courage. Now on the issue that you’ve raised about the background checks, relate directly to what you said about the – about the assault weapons ban. It’s not the loopholes. It’s the problem that once you start looking at how easy it is to get around it, you would literally have to ban every semi-automatic rifle that’s sold in the U.S.
RUBIO: Fair enough. Fair enough, that – that is a valid position to hold, but my colleagues do not support banning every semi-automatic rifle sold in America.
DEUTCH: I – I believe – I believe that the idea that a gunman like this could march down the halls of Stoneman Douglas High School and fire off 150 rounds in six or seven minutes, that gun should be banned. There is no reason why anybody should own one of those.
RUBIO: And that is a very valid point. But my point is that under the law that you support, there would still be 2,000 guns that were legal that could do the exact same thing.
DEUTCH: Well then let’s sit down and figure out what they are so that we can ensure people (ph) –
RUBIO: I know, but what I – look, this is an important discussion because now you’re seeing what the debate is about the assault weapons ban. And I just ask, will you ban – are you in favor of banning any gun that can do what the AR-15 can do?
DEUTCH: – I –
RUBIO: Yes or no?
DEUTCH: – I – I am in favor, Senator Rubio. If you have a concern about – let me just answer this question because it’s important.
RUBIO: It is, that’s the whole debate.
DEUTCH: Yes, and the – and the answer to the question is, do I support weapons that fire-off 150 rounds in seven or eight minutes, weapons that are weapons of war that serve no purpose other than killing the maximum number of people they can, you bet I am.
RUBIO: That’s important to know. And I want – that is a very fair position to hold, the – so you – and I just want you to understand, that goes well beyond the bill that’s before us now.
DEUTCH: Well then sit with me and let’s come up with something that you support.
RUBIO: OK. I would – I would – I’d like to let Senator Nelson into this conversation as well. Yes, I – I only raised that, not to get into a debate – and I – and I want Senator Nelson to speak, of course. I just want to say that I – the reason why I raised that point is so you understand, that is what the debate is about. It is about the fact that there are over – virtually every rifle sold in America today, can do what that gun does. We – and – and –
DEUTCH: That’s not true.
RUBIO: – it is true. It’s absolutely –
DEUTCH: Senator Nelson.
RUBIO: – I’m sorry, go ahead.
NELSON: Let me tell you about the bill that I have co-sponsored. It defines very specifically assault rifle, it lists 200 different assault rifles. It lists, for example, the Kalashnikov AK-47 that – did you know is manufactured in this state. Did you know that the state of Florida, the governor’s office gave financial incentives for them to come into the state and manufacture? Tell you another one, that it is listed in that list of over 200 rifles. It’s the Sig Sauer MCX. That was the one that Omar Mateen, despite the fact that he had been on the terrorist watch list and was off, went into a gun shop and purchased that high-powered assault rifle.
And on that list, it also includes the AR-15. And did you know that the state of Florida, the governor’s office, gave financial incentives for the Colt corporation to come to Kissimmee to manufacture AR-15s, the same one that wreaked such havoc here at and that you all are suffering so terribly from.
TAPPER: Thank you, thank you…
NELSON: And so it can in fact be defined if you’re very specific, and that’s the bill that I’m a co-sponsor of.
TAPPER: Thank you, Senator.
I want to bring in senior Ryan Deitsch. He has a question for Senator Rubio.
DEITSCH: First, I’d just like to say to Senator Rubio: Thank you so much for coming out here. I know, especially everybody that I’ve been working with over the past week, we’ve just really wanted to reach out and speak face to face to anybody who has a say in this debate.
And I know this is not a debate. This is a discussion. But I’m just thankful to have you here, to be looking at you today. Thank you so much, sir, for coming.
Now – now I’d like to say, Senator, these drills, code reds, active shooters, they’ve been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.
When I was in fifth grade, I had to hide in the – in a – in a bathroom for three – for three hours, and just waiting with my teacher and nearly 20 other kids, to see that – just because a shooter has come to our town. Not even in the school itself.
Now, seven years later, I’m in a closet with 19 other kids, waiting, fearing for my own life. Now I’d like to ask you that, after me and several others have been going out of their way, going to the state capital, speaking out, we – 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 capital.
Why do we have to march on Washington, just to save innocent lives?
RUBIO: I agree.
RUBIO: You’re right. You’re – you’re absolutely right. And 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. It’s just not supposed to happen.
The second thing I would say is that it is unfortunate that, in this country, we haven’t been able to make progress on any major issue for a lot of different reasons, and this being one of them.
But you have do – you do have a chance to change it. I really believe it. But the change that we are going to have to figure out, how people that have strong feelings on both sides can agree on things. And I think you are making progress. I can tell you what’s already happening, as a result of your advocacy.
For example, I’ve already announced – and I hope they will pass it. I really think they will, and they should – a concept called the Gun Violence Restraining Order, that allows authorities – and it has to be someone in your immediate family.
It has to be somebody you live with, it has to be your parent, it has to be an administrator – can go to authorities and allow someone to not just be prevented from purchasing any firearm, OK? Not just the rifle. Any firearm. And allow those to be taken from them, and that person will have due process.
Because I believe that if that were in place in Florida, and it – I – about three states already have it – it could have prevented this from happening. And I support that, and I hope they will pass that. And I think that is a result of your advocacy.
DEITSCH: If I may, I – I do appreciate your words there. But that feels like the first step of a 5K run.
RUBIO: It most certainly is.
I would say it’s more than a 5K run…
… this issue – this issue will take more than a 5K run because there’s so much to do. But that is an important step. And if that happens in the next three weeks, it’ll be because of what you guys have done.
And it won’t end there. On Monday of this week, I believe we’re going to try, Senator Nelson and I, to pass the FixNICS Act, which is fixing the background check system. Because the background check is only as good as the information that’s on it.
And one of the problems we have – and this is going to be an uncomfortable discussion for our country – we’re going to have to look at HIPAA laws, when it comes to certain things. Because right now, they can’t – these people can’t even talk to each other if someone is under psychiatric care or something’s going on in their lives. That’s going to have to be fixed.
And what I’m saying is – what you’re doing now is making a difference, it is making a difference. It’s already started to make a difference. I believe it can and will make a difference if this doesn’t end here, because the way we were in this country today, and I don’t mean that as a criticism of you, Jake, but the cameras will leave, and the issues move on, but the heartbreak will remain.
And so if we truly want this to be the last time, then what you have done cannot end next week or next month or even next year, but I do believe at the end of the three-week session in Tallahassee, you’ve achieved that restraining order and a few other important things that I believe they’re thinking about doing, I would take that, I would herald it as a victory, and I would continue the momentum moving forward until we make sure no community in America will ever have to have a forum like the one here tonight.
TAPPER: Thank you, Ryan. President Trump said today that we should consider arming teachers. We’ll hear what a Stoneman Douglas teacher things about that, next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN’s Town Hall with the students and faculty and family members of Stoneman Douglas High School. I want to bring in right now Ashley Kirth. She’s a culinary arts teacher at Stoneman Douglas.
TAPPER: For those of you at home who don’t know, because I think Everybody in this room knows, she sheltered 65 students in her Classroom during the shoot out.
TAPPER: Ashley, thank you so much. She has a question for Senator Rubio.
ASHLEY KURTH: Senator Rubio, I’m a registered Republican. I voted for Mr. Trump. I still, you know, support the 2nd Amendment. However, with that being said and with all these talks of gun control laws and everything that you guys have been up there saying to us about what you’re going to do about it, a lot of the flack that I’ve been getting back from my friends and from a lot of other people that are around the world is, the answer to the gun problem is to arm teachers.
And when I had those hundreds of terrified children that were running at me, my question to that is, am I supposed to get extra training now to serve and protect on top of educate these children? On - - on how to be these eloquent speakers that are coming up and presenting issues to you? I - - I mean, am I supposed to have a kevlar vest? Am I supposed to strap it to my leg or put it in my desk? How am I supposed to go (audio gap) that way?
RUBIO: Well first, I don’t support that.
I - - I think I join everyone here in saying what you’ve done is incredible heroism. It reminds us that teachers are heroes everyday. Not just on these days investing in the lives of all of our students. And I think that bears thanks.
I - - I don’t and I don’t support that and I - - I would admit you right now I answer that as much as a father as I do as a Senator. The notion that my kids are going to school with teachers that are armed with a weapon is not something, quite frankly, I’m comfortable with. Beyond it, I think it has practical problems, and I’ll share what they are. And this is really about the safety of the teachers as much as anything else.
Imagine in the middle of this crisis and the SWAT team comes into the building and there’s an adult with a weapon in their hands and the SWAT team doesn’t know who is who and we have an additional tragedy that was unnecessary. And so, I - - I understand how some people are saying that and I’m not belittling them. But as a father and as someone who has talked to plenty of teachers including the three in my family and the assistant principal in my family. I - - I don’t think that would be a good idea in my view.
KURTH: The first thing that happened when the SWAT team came in, the first question they asked is anybody injured, and the following question is does anybody have a gun. And I wouldn’t want to be the person saying, yes, I do.
RUBIO: I agree with you. Yes ma’am.
TAPPER: Senator Nelson, President Trump suggested earlier today that - - that he thought arming teachers might be an idea worth considering. Do you think it is?
NELSON: I think it is a terrible idea.
You know, I was so impressed on the TV of the students, what they were saying to the President, and then the President comes out with suggestions like that.
You heard what the superintendent said. He doesn’t want to have to arm teachers. Now - - now the sheriff came up with a suggestion that he’s going to have a deputy that will be armed, but that deputy can’t be in all of your buildings in a school of 3,000 students.
It will help if it’s a deterrent. It is good. But, if the weapon is a high caliber, rapid fire assault weapon, it is hard to go into a fight against that if you’ve got just a handgun. That’s not a fair fight. So get the assault weapons out.
TAPPER: I want to bring in –
I want to bring in Robert Schentrup. Robert lost his sister Carmen in the shooting last week. She was 16. She was a National Merit Semi-finalist. Robert’s question is for Congressman Deutch. Robert.
ROBERT SCHENTRUP: Congressman Deutch, today would have been Carmen’s 17th birthday. But sadly, we are having to celebrate her life instead of celebrating what a new year might bring. My question is, if a majority of Americans has long supported stricter gun control regulations, but our elected officials who are supposed to represent the people have done nothing, does this mean that our democracy is broken?
DEUTCH: First of all, I’m so sorry - - I’m so sorry for your loss.
What you’re doing here is celebrating her life. What you’re doing in asking that question is honoring her memory. And let me answer – let me be pretty straightforward about that. Is our democracy broken? A little bit. A little bit, it is. And I’m going to tell you why. First of all, when it comes – you said it’s widely supported.
There is a poll that came out yesterday that showed that 97%, which when you add in the margin of error, is everyone in America, supports universal background checks. Now – so there – look. I don’t have a good answer for why something that’s supported by 100% of the American people hasn’t been passed. Instead, look, there is a bill, there is a bill, Senator Rubio talked about the bill, the president talked about this bill that’s going to make sure that they’re talking about expanding background checks, making sure that everyone complies with what needs to be in the background check. Great. Let’s do that.
But you know what else we need to do? Make sure that every single person in America who buys a gun has a background check. And secondly, look, and this is a bigger issue, is our democracy broken? When any organization spends tens of millions of dollars promoting the interests of gun corporations to influence what happens in our elections, then yes, our democracy is a little broken.
DEUTCH: – but the way – but here’s – here’s the beauty, here’s the beauty of our democracy. No matter how much money the NRA spends on political campaigns, millions and millions of dollars spent trying to convince people that representing the interests of gun companies is more important than standing up for the safety of the people of America, no matter how much they spend, here’s why our democracy is great, because everything we’ve seen, from the 3,300 survivors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the leadership that has been shown is leading a movement that is so much stronger than money spent in political campaigns. That’s why the democracy can be fixed and will be fixed.
TAPPER: I want to bring in Cameron Kasky, he’s a junior, and he has a question for Senator Rubio. Cameron?
KASKY: I’m sorry, I know I’m not supposed to do this, but I’m not going to listen to that. Senator Rubio, it’s hard to look at you and not look down a barrel of an AR-15 and not look at Nicholas Cruz, but the point is you’re here and there some people who are not.
And I need to ask two things of you. Number one, Chris Grady, can you stand up? This is my friend who is going to the military. I need you to tell him that he’s going to live to make it to serve our country. And then we’ll get to the other one.
RUBIO: Not only are you going to live to serve our country, you and you and all of you have a chance to change our country. Change not just our laws but the way we talk about our laws. So absolutely.
KASKY: Thank you. And guys, look, this isn’t about red and blue. We can’t boo people because they’re democrats and boo people because they’re republicans. Anyone who is willing to show change, no matter where they’re from, anyone who is willing to start to make a difference is somebody we need on our side here. And this is about people who are for making a difference to save us and people who are against it and prefer money. So Senator Rubio, can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA in the future?
KASKY: I wish I could have – I wish I could have spoken – I wished I could have asked the NRA lady a question. I would ask her, how she can look in the mirror, considering the fact she has children, but maybe she avoids those.
RUBIO: I’m sorry, what was that?
KASKY: I don’t freaking know.
RUBIO: That’s okay –
TAPPER: The question is about NRA money.
RUBIO: – so number one, the positions I hold on these issues of the second amendment – I’ve held since the day entered office in the city of West Miami as an elected official.
Number two – no. The answer to the question is that people buy into my agenda. And I do support the Second Amendment. And I also support the right of you and everyone here to be able to go to school and be safe.
And I do support any law that would keep guns out of the hands of a deranged killer. And that’s why I support the things that I have stood for and fought for –
KASKY: No more – no more NRA money?
RUBIO: – during my time here.
KASKY: More NRA money?
RUBIO: I – there – that is the wrong way to look – first of all, the answer is, people buy into my agenda.
KASKY: You can say no.
RUBIO: Well – I – I – the influence of any group –
KASKY: Guys, come on , be quiet. We’re gonna be here all night.
RUBIO: The influence of these groups comes not from money. The influence comes from the millions of people that agree with the agenda. The millions…
KASKY: See, I see…
RUBIO: – of Americans that support the NRA, and who…
TAPPER: All right.
RUBIO: – support gun rights…
TAPPER: Sorry, Senator.
KASKY: Guys, guys, if you…
TAPPER: Cameron is having a conversation with Senator Rubio. Let’s let them talk.
RUBIO: But I – I – listen. I respect – you can ask that question, and I can tell you that I – people buy into my agenda. I will answer any questions you guys have about any policy issue…
KASKY: Right – right – right now –
Guys, be quiet, be quiet. You know we’re gonna be here all night.
RUBIO: And I – and I just think that, ultimately, that is not our goal here. Our goal here is to move forward…
KASKY: Wait, so, hold on. So – so right now…
RUBIO: … and prevent – and prevent this from ever happening again.
KASKY: … in the name – in the name of 17 people, you cannot ask the NRA to keep their money out of your campaign?
RUBIO: I think in the name of 17 people, I can pledge to you that I will support any law that will prevent a killer like this from getting a gun.
KASKY: No, but I’m talking about NRA money.
RUBIO: No, no. Because I – matter of fact, I bet we can get people in here to give you exactly as much money as the NRA would have…
RUBIO: But it’s not – I understand. And you’re right.
KASKY: Can you stand up and put your name to that real quick? OK. Not a lot. But we’ll get it.
KASKY: I’ll do it…
RUBIO: You’re – you’re right about that.
KASKY: … you know, we’ve raised quite a bit of money so far.
RUBIO: Well, you’re right about that. There is money on both sides of every issue in America. And where that leaves us in policymaking, is to look at the issues and make a decision based on what we think is right.
But ultimately, look. The First Amendment is as – is as important as the Second. And therefore, you have every right to ask that question of me, and I…
KASKY: Are you gonna be accepting money from the NRA in the future?
RUBIO: I – I’ve always supported…
RUBIO: – I will always accept the help of anyone who agrees with my agenda. But my agenda is – I’ll give you a perfect example…
KASKY: Your agenda is protecting us, right?
RUBIO: Well, I’ll give you an example, this very evening. I have told you that I support lifting the age from 18 to 21 of buying a rifle. My understanding, before I walked out here, is that that organization is not in favor of that. But I think that’s the right thing to do.
I don’t know what their position is, on teachers being armed. But I don’t think they should be. Because that’s what I think the right thing to do is.
When I offered my bill to restrict people on the terrorist watch list, or that have been on the list for the last 10 years from purchasing a weapon, they didn’t take a stand. I don’t think they – they certainly didn’t support my – but I offered it.
I will do what I think is right. And if people want to support my agenda, they’re welcome to do so. But they buy into my ideas. I don’t buy into theirs.
KASKY: OK. So I knew that was gonna happen. NRA, please just keep the money out of Rubio, OK? If he wants to run again, you guys can…
TAPPER: Thank you, Cameron. Appreciate it.
TAPPER: Stay with us. More survivors of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School stand up, next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to the BB&T Center in Florida and CNN’s town hall with the students and families and faculty of Stoneman Douglas High School. Next week students are going to return to campus for the first time since the shooting. Our next question comes from first year student Michelle Lapido (ph). She has a question for Senator Nelson. Michelle.
LAPIDO (ph): I just want to start with my school is not going to be another statistic in the 18 shootings that happened this year. My school’s going to be the last and the beginning of gun control. Stoneman Douglas is strong and will be heard because our kids and our staff did not die for nothing. They died for change and they died for each other. Their deaths will not be taken in vain but as a calling for the change, gun control and safety in America. They’re watching us from heaven and we are going to save what they died to protect.
So, I had a question for Ms. Loesch but she’s not here yet. So for her and the NRA – she’s probably watching – and all of you puppet politicians that they are backing. Was the blood of my classmates and my teachers worth your blood money?
TAPPER: Senator Nelson, you don’t have to answer that question. Let’s move on to the - - to the next question.
LAPIDO (ph): Excuse me? I’m a student. I should have the - -
TAPPER: I understand that but your question - - I thought you were going to ask Senator Nelson a question. You’re question sounds like you wanted to ask Dana Loesch a question in the next segment and I’m happy to do that if you want.
LAPIDO (ph): It’s actually fine. I had another question for you Senator Nelson.
TAPPER: OK. Let’s do that then.
LAPIDO (ph): So, I’m going to have to go back to school. On to the same campus, the same building to pick up my stuff, to resume my classes, to keep studying and I’m never going to feel safe on another public school campus ever again. I never want to have to go through and feel like I’m putting myself in such a vulnerable situation ever because that was one of the worst moments of my life.
So why don’t we consider the worst possible scenarios? Because these things have been happening all around the country and it’s more common than winning any lottery. Why don’t we assume the worst situation like we do on planes, where we have life vests in case we land in the ocean or slides in case we need to an emergency crash. Why don’t we have Kevlar vests in classrooms for our students? Why don’t we build our walls with Kevlar so that kids aren’t being shot through their own walls because they’re so cheaply built? Why don’t we have more funding to protect ourselves? Why do you guys protect yourselves with guns, protect yourselves with vests and you protect America’s children with nothing but drywall?
NELSON: And my answer is, why don’t we get the assault rifles off the street. Why don’t we do the criminal background checks so that you have much more of a measure of security when you go to school? No, you shouldn’t have to have Kevlar vests. That’s part of being in America and that’s what your school board, your teachers, your principal, they have done so effectively is, they try to protect you and even stand in the way of bullets to protect you. That is not a fear that you should have.
And although we are all grieving right now – this is a very tough time – there is a great strength that’s coming out in the voices that are being spoken here and you’ve got to let that strength overrule the fears.
But at the same time, you’ve got to continue to be strong and speak out.
I said earlier your hope gives me hope; your determination gives me more determination to see this through and get some common-sense laws with regards to guns in America.
TAPPER: Thank you, Senator.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: — lives, so many teachers lives — all of this, for it to change, why does it have to take so many, by the first time it should’ve been changed but it’s —
NELSON: Less —
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: — gone this far —
NELSON: — let me just say —
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: –inaudible died —
NELSON: — inaudible —
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: — you lost a future Olympic medalist, whose funeral I was supposed to be attending but you know change is more important because that’s what they would’ve wanted.
Why does it have to take so much blood to be spilled, so much money for you guys to gain from not answering the questions, Mr. Rubio?
Why — why is this happening?
Why are we – why hasn’t this changed already, why do we have to be the last school, why wasn’t the first school the last school?
NELSON: And you could ask, the same question, why two years ago when 49 lives were taken in the Pulse nightclub, and nothing was done; not in Washington, not in Tallahassee, not one thing offered by the administration in Tallahassee.
And here we are, going through this again.
And it’s going to unfortunately very possibly continue unless we get some common-sense laws on the book.
TAPPER: Thank you Senator Nelson.
I want to bring Chris Grady back, Cameron introduced us all to him, he’s a senior and he recently enlisted in the Army, and thank you for that.
And he has a question for Senator Rubio.
GRADY: I would just like to thank you again for coming out and listening to us because that’s a lot more than what can be said for our so-called president and governor.
GRADY: I believe I speak for myself and my colleagues in the “Never Again Movement” when I say, though we might not see eye-to-eye on a lot of these issues, we need you and your colleagues on both sides to come together with us and find compromise, if we are ever to solve this epidemic that is — I’m sorry — this epidemic that has plaguing our country.
Senator Rubio, I believe a big issue, when it comes to the debate about semiautomatic weapons and automatic weapons is large capacity magazines.
Would you agree that there is no place in our society for large capacity magazines capable of firing off – over — from 15 to 30 rounds and if not more?
RUBIO: First let me thank you for your willingness to serve our country, you’re doing it tonight and you’re going to be do it in uniform and we’re very grateful to you.
And I’m glad you asked that question because I traditionally have not supported looking at magazine clip size, and after this and some of the details I learned about it, I’m reconsidering that position and I tell you why.
RUBIO: I’ll tell you why.
Because while it may not prevent an attack, it may save lives in an attack. And I’ll let – I’ll let the authorities discuss at the appropriate time why I say that.
But suffice it to say that I believe that there will be evidence that at a key moment in this incident, three or four people — three or four people might be alive today because of something that this deranged killer date, had to do, and obviously it’s not for me to make law enforcement announcements.
I don’t know what the right number is. I don’t know what — I know that there are for example handguns that has 17 and so we’ll have to get into that debate. But that is something I believe we can reach a compromise in this country and that I am willing to reconsider because I do believe that in this instance, it didn’t prevent — it wouldn’t have prevented the attack but it made it less lethal.
And that’s the kind of thing that I hope my colleagues – and that’s why these discussions are important because they do lead you to rethink positions after you’ve taken new information and new input from people.
By the way American politics is the only part of our lives where changing your mind based on new information is a – is a bad thing.
We do it in every other aspect of our lives. And we’ve got to — and we have to stop doing that as well.
So that is an issue I’ll look into absolutely.
TAPPER: Thank you Senator.
There’s no question that the Republican Party is more allied with the NRA than the Democratic Party. But it also is worth pointing out that the Democrats controlled the House, the Senate, and the White House in 2009 and 2010 and gun control was not a priority. That’s just a fact. Senator Nelson, was that a mistake by your party?
NELSON: Yes. When the Senate had 60 votes, as we did until Ted Kennedy died, that’s how we got the Affordable Care Act passed. And, yes, gun legislation under those circumstances should have been considered because there’d been a lot of massacres up to that point. It was Sandy Hook that occurred later in the Obama administration that a lot of people thought would be the turning point because of these little first, second, and third graders gunned down.
And yet, nothing was done. And then you go through all the other shootings. And so, I can tell you that in the meantime, until we do get 60 votes again in the U.S. Senate, when we could guarantee that we would get the legislation through, I’m going to continue to work with my colleagues and specifically Senator Rubio to see whatever we can get.
The hard reality is that there are not a majority of senators, primarily the ones that have been supported financially by the NRA. There’s not a majority of senators that are going to be willing to do a lot. I’m glad what Senator Rubio has said here tonight, that he is willing to rethink his positions. And so, I’m looking forward to doing everything we can, and accomplish as much as we can given the circumstances, politically, that we’re in.
TAPPER: Thank you, Senator Nelson.
RUBIO: Can I – can I (ph)? I think it’s important.
TAPPER: Sure, Senator.
RUBIO: And you – and Senator Nelson said in the meantime, in the meantime doesn’t mean in the next 5 years, or 7 years, or 10 years, it means in the next few weeks. On Monday, when we return to Washington, D.C. we’re going to try to do this thing called unanimous consent, where basically you don’t even really have a vote. It’s just, unless any senator objects, it passes a law to fix the background check.
I believe there are 60 votes to ban bump stocks. I believe that we could potentially have 60 votes at the federal level to change the age from 18 to 21 on the purchase of any rifles. I believe – and I know you’re a co-sponsor of the safe school act, prevent – it’s the safe school act that’s been followed by a member of Congress from Florida, that is going to be filed on Monday by Senator Hatch of Utah, that I believe we can also pass in the Senate. So there are things that we can begin to do on issues that there is consensus on.
My biggest fear remains, that our attention span in this country on virtually every issue is 7 to 10 days and then we pivot. You know, we’re one tweet away or one story away from focusing on something else, and we cannot continue on an issue of this important to make that – to allow that to happen. And so, I do think we can make progress.
TAPPER: Congressman, next question’s for you.
TAPPER: So I’ll let you stand up.
TAPPER: Next (ph), I want to bring in Annabel Quinn Claprood. She was in the building while the shooting occurred and she has a question for you.
ANNABEL QUINN CLAPROOD, STONEMAN DOUGLAS STUDENT: Hi. When it comes to the safety and security of our students in our schools, how come there aren’t equal methods of protection deployed to all schools, despite their social, infrastructure, crime rates and median income?
DEUTCH: I – I – actually – this is – this is a pretty straightforward question. Every school, every school, should have the security that’s necessary to keep the students safe, every school in every part of the community. So that’s pretty straightforward. But there’s a lot more that we have to do and I just want to – I want to talk about – as part of this, just for a second, the debate that we’ve heard.
Because, I’ve got to tell you, it sounds – and you can correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s starting to sound like what we’ve always heard before. And – and here’s the thing, this – this isn’t – it’s not a 5k. It’s a sprint right now for the people in this community. The fact is – the fact is, banning bump stocks, something that converts a semi-automatic weapon into a killing machine, that’s – we don’t need to think about that.
We need to do it next week! Next week!
CLAPROOD: Thank you.
DEUTCH: And putting – and fixing the background checks, again, Senator Rubio, I appreciate the effort to pass legislation that the NRA can live with – that doesn’t – that fixes, that helps with the background check. But it doesn’t require everyone to get one. That’s not complicated. Yes, ma’am?
CLAPROOD: I just want to know, will my school campus be safe when I return? Because I plan to not return until I know that something is going to change. And I’m not the only one.
DEUTCH: I can – I can tell you – I can tell you that the commitment from Superintendent Runcie and from Sheriff Israel and from law enforcement and from your teachers and from everyone who is focused on school security is going to do everything you can to make sure that it is safe when you go back. Because the real issue is that you’re – you have to ask that question.
CLAPROOD: How can you say that (INAUDIBLE) –
DEUTCH: Well, then, if there were – if there were issues that happened yesterday, then those issues need to get fixed before Marjory Stoneman Douglas gets reopened. That’s absolutely right. Look, I can’t – I can tell you that we need to have the community come together. Everyone who’s involved in security needs to be involved to make sure that your school is safe.
And everyone who cares about the safety of the schools, who represents you either in Tallahassee or in Washington, also has to do everything they can to make sure that you’re safe. And when Congress goes back next week, we need to move forward, we need to take care of the bump stock ban. We need to have universal background checks. We have to have pass the bill that says, if you’re too dangerous to fly, you shouldn’t be able to buy a gun.
All of those things should be done next week. And here’s the last thing, here’s the last thing. The discussion that’s taking place here tonight is important. It’s really important for everyone here to hear it. But the reason things are going to be different this time is because the people in this room and the people around the country who are inspired by the people in this room. And that’s high school students and college students and adults in every part of the country, they’re not going to let this debate just go back.
They’re not going to simply go back and let us go to Washington and have panels and discussions and hearings. That’s why – I said it in the beginning. Jake, I’ve just got to say it again. The time for talking about how we fix things in Washington when it comes to guns is over. It’s over.
We know what we have to do. This is not – and I want to just finish with this. This is not a partisan issue. I’ve spoken to so many republicans, so many in this room, who have said, look, at this point, there is one issue and one issue only that I am focused on. And that is making sure that we take action to keep our kids and our schools safe and to get dangerous weapons of war off of our streets. That has to be our priority and we’ve got to do it now.
TAPPER: Thank you, Congressman. I want to thank Senator Rubio, Senator Nelson, and Congressman Deutch. Your presence here tonight has made an tremendous impression on all of us. And as Senator Rubio said, minds have been opened for tonight. When we come back, a national spokesman for the NRA will be here and the Broward County Sheriff will be here to answer the students’ questions face to face. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN’s town hall with the students and families and faculty of Stoneman Douglas High School in the days following the shooting. Many students express their frustration about one group, the NRA. Dana Loesch is the National Spokesperson for the NRA. She is here with us along with Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. We’re going to be asking them questions in this segment. Sheriff Israel, I - - I do want to start with you about a question that was asked earlier.
You ordered today that - - that a deputy or deputies in Broward County will be present at Douglas School but also at schools throughout Broward County carrying rifles, armed. This afternoon President Trump suggested that - - that teachers - - we should think about arming them as well. We discussed that a little bit here earlier. I’m wondering what you as a law enforcement officer what you think?
ISRAEL: I don’t believe teachers should be armed. I believe teachers should teach.
ISRAEL: But that’s exactly what’s wrong with this country. We have people in Washington, D.C., Representatives, Senators and legislators telling teachers what they should do without asking teachers what do you want to do.
TAPPER: OK. I want to bring in right now Senior Emma Gonzalez. She has a question.
TAPPER: She has a question for Dana.
GONZALEZ: First of all, I want to thank Mr. Foster for teaching us everything we learned. I could not have written that speech without you. Half of you was like directly from notes and I want to thank you for that. Second of all, oh, I had a thing I was going to say. Happens to the best of us. All right. Dana Loesch, I want you to know that we will support your two children in the way that we will not - - you will not. The shooter at our school obtained weapons that he used on us legally. Do you believe that it should be harder to obtain the semi-automatic and - - weapons and the modifications for these weapons to make them fully automatic like bump stocks?
LOESCH: Well first off Emma, I want to applaud you for standing up and speaking out. And for anyone who has ever criticized you or any of these students up here, including people who have been on my side of this issue, I don’t think that anyone should deny you your voice or deny you your position because you are young.
GONZALEZ: I want to thank you for that.
LOESCH: I was a very politically active teenager and I’m on this stage as a result of that. Think of how far you all could go, as a result of voicing your beliefs.
Now, I want to answer your question. And, I want to be allowed the opportunity, which is why I am here. To talk and have this discussion with you all and answer these questions. This is why I came down here.
I don’t believe that this insane monster should have ever been able to obtain a firearm, ever. I do not think that he should have gotten his hands on any kind of weapon. That’s number one.
This individual was nuts and I, nor the millions of people that I represent as a part of this organization, that I’m here speaking for, none of us support people who are crazy, who are a danger to themselves, who are a danger to others, getting their hands on a firearm.
And, we have been, for over 20 years, and I have been screaming about this, which is why I’m here, because I have kids and I’m not just fighting for my kids, I’m fighting for you, I’m fighting for you, I’m fighting for all of you.
Because I don’t want anyone to ever be in this position again. I want everyone to think about this for one second, this goes right into your question. Do you know that it is not federally required for states to actually report people who are prohibited possessors, crazy people, people who are murderers?
No, we’ve been actually talking about that for a long time. Let me answer the question. Let me answer the question. You can shout me down when I’m finished, but let me answer Emma’s question.
It is not federal law for states to report convictions to the NICS system. It’s not federally mandated. That’s the big question and I wish that this network had also covered this more, as other media networks would have covered it.
That’s a huge - - wait a second, wait a second …
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You guys, if I can’t hear her statement, I can’t come up with a rebuttal. Please.
LOESCH: Do you guys want to stop mentally insane individuals from getting firearms. Yes? They have to be in this system. If they are convicted. You can convict them, you can adjudicate the mentally unfit, if a state does not report it to the National Crime Information Center, when you run that form, this individual - - this madman passed a background check.
How was he able to pass a background check? He was able to pass a background check because we have a system that’s flawed. The Southerland Springs murderer was able to pass a background check because the Air Force did not report that record.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I’m gonna interrupt you real quick and remind you that the question is actually, do you believe it should be harder to obtain these semi-automatic weapons and modifications to make them fully automatic, such as bump stocks?
LOESCH: Well, I think the ATF is deciding about bump stocks right now. The president ordered the DOJ to look into it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I’m asking your opinion, as a representative of the NRA.
LOESCH: What the NRA’s position has been. The NRA came …
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What’s yours?
LOESCH: I’m talking for them. These are the 5 million members that I’m here representing. That is what that group’s position has been on that. So, that answers your question, and they spoke about that before the president made a move and they spoke about that before Attorney General Jeff Sessions made an announcement about that, too.
So, that answers your question with that.
ISRAEL: Let me interject for a second, though. And I understand your standing