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The Loughner Family Statement; Update on Congresswoman Giffords; Tucson Tragedy

Aired January 11, 2011 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks Wolf and good evening everyone. Let's begin with a new development. The first statement tonight from the parents of the alleged assassin Jared Lee Loughner. Drew Griffin is with us today. He's been tracking this story. We've been waiting for a public statement from the family. Crews have been staked outside behind their House, finally a paper statement today in which they essentially say this.

This is their statement to the media. "This is a very difficult time for us. We ask the media to respect our privacy. There are no words that can possibly express how we feel. We wish that there were so we could make you feel better. We don't understand why this happened. It may not make any difference, but we wish that we could change the heinous events of Saturday. We care very deeply about the victims and their families. We are so very sorry for their loss. Thank you" -- the Loughner family.

Now people of course have been waiting, Drew, because they want to ask some questions of these parents who obviously are having a very troubled time about their son, the alleged assassin, and about whether they had any clues of his mental illness, obviously a very difficult time for the family, not much from an investigative standpoint there, but important that we have heard from them for the first time.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Important that we have heard from them, but as you said, the questions remain, and it's not whether or not they knew he had a mental illness. They certainly did from our own reporting, told by the Pima County Community College that your son needs help. The big question we want to ask, did he get the help? And that could only come apparently from the family.

KING: And as we wait to learn more, Drew stay with me, I want to go down to the scene of the Loughner household. Our Susan Candiotti has been there all day long waiting for the statement. Susan, describe how this unfolded and the scene where you are, of course as Drew just noted, everyone hoping to talk to the parents understandably. They don't want to talk to us right now, but describe where you are and what happened today.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well throughout the day there have been reporters walking up and down the street and stationed outside the house in case the family decided to come out and speak with us. What we observed through the day for the most part was a man going in and out spending several hours with the family, and he would not identify himself.

But he did indicate at some point that when it was appropriate they would -- someone would come out and speak with us in some fashion. And eventually that happened at day's end. The only activity we've seen at the house was from a young man probably Jared Loughner's age who came inside, spent some time, and when he left, left a note, left behind a note and a single rose on the windshield of Jared Loughner's car.

Now, we understand from the neighborhood that they're surprised about what happened here as anyone else is. They described someone that they didn't have much interaction with, Jared Loughner, a young man that they saw growing up and would come and go as he got older. In terms of the family, they didn't mingle much with the other neighbors, and so if you asked them did you see any indications of any difficulties with Jared, no.

With the family, I don't know, they said, because we didn't talk much to them, and sometimes when we interacted with the parents in particular Jared's father, it was at times hostile. Some of them had angry words. Some of them were given the silent treatment and could not explain why. So it's a quiet family. The neighbors are in shock, but they also said they feel very badly for this family that has now issued clearly a very emotional statement in light of what happened -- John.

KING: Susan Candiotti at the Loughner residence. Susan, thank you. Let's continue the conversation with Drew Griffin. We're piecing together sort of this pattern of what seems to be a slide. I want you to listen to this. We'll talk to the other side.

I spoke today to a gentleman who worked with Jared Lee Loughner at a Quizno's. This is going back about a year and a half ago and he says that when he first came to work there, he seemed like a normal college kid. He had his curly hair. But he said he noticed sometime after he moved out of his parents' house he said his behavior started to change. Let's listen for a little bit.


KING: Did he explain -- was he upset about moving out? Did he talk at all about what's going on in his life --

JOSE LANDEROS, FORMER LOUGHNER CO-WORKER: He seemed kind of bummed out after that happened. Seemed that it got a little bit harder for him or something, and it was just bad from there.

KING: Nothing in your interactions with him at all would lead you to believe that he was unstable or violent or fixating on a congresswoman?

LANDEROS: No. Not towards -- the only thing that would -- that sparked any interest from that is towards the end. Like I said, after he moved out, that's when he like stopped having good customer service skills, didn't really care about work or anything. The reason he got fired is because he wasn't -- there was a customer that had come in when it was close to closing, and she wanted a bunch of sandwiches and like I guess all the bread was frozen and stuff and what it came to (INAUDIBLE) what are you going to do about it? He just pretty much shrugged his shoulders and did nothing about it. And so maybe like a week later or so the manager had to fire him and let him go.

KING: So you had no indication of any kind of more profound mental health issues?

LANDEROS: Like, he might have gotten -- like he seemed a little bit depressed, I guess, after that.

KING: And you had no reason to believe then that he was somebody who --

LANDEROS: No, not at all.

KING: -- would be prone to violence?

LANDEROS: I can't -- I can't even imagine him doing that now. Like I mean (INAUDIBLE) of course like when I had seen the picture of him -- like because it was such a drastic change. Like right now he's bald and everything, and back then he had short, curly hair just like I couldn't tell anything different. He just looked like a regular college student.

KING: And you don't recall any conversations about guns?

LANDEROS: No, not at all. Like I didn't even think he would know how to shoot a gun, how to even handle and get one anywhere like I don't even know.

KING: The name Gabby Giffords ever come up?

LANDEROS: Nope, not at all.


KING: And so Drew this interaction ended in 2009. You're reporting about him being in the classroom and people feeling threatening, the professor actually afraid to turn his back to go to the chalkboard and then you hear more about paranoia and disconnect and then to the events of Saturday, this alleged assassin carrying a backpack with these clips in it, the multiple-ammunition clips in it, a slide.

GRIFFIN: It was definitely a mental deterioration that was taking place. Two classes that he was having trouble in, first a poetry class and then the math class of the summer where he would become very, very odd. Outlandish behavior that everybody felt was creepy, scary and threatening, John, but there was no threats made. There was no violence.

So where did the -- the tipping point out where if, you know, what's alleged is true, that he became violent? But we do know from new reporting that he was apparently on Giffords' trail since 2007. He had a letter from her that he kept in his safe at home along with an envelope on which he had written the words you know my -- "I am assassin or my assassination" and the word Giffords on that and that he planned ahead. So somewhere along the way there was this connection being made, and somewhere along this path it apparently turned violent.

KING: And there's been some controversy in the community about whether the sheriff's office ignored some clues. There have been some reporting that he had made some public death threats against others. And I want to read the statement from the Pima County Sheriff's Office tonight.

"He has not made any death threats to the Pima County Sheriff's Office, not to us or to anybody else." They're saying they're aware of the reporting about this but they have no knowledge of it. That has been one of the questions in the community. You mentioned you know you knew he could not come back to school unless he got mental health, a certification from a counselor, so we do know his parents knew that. The question is did any law enforcement officials because obviously he bought a gun in the middle of having these issues --

GRIFFIN: Well certainly the law enforcement at the school knew it. They are police officers, and they were involved in the mental behavior assessment that was going on. But again, they didn't think he was a threat. There was an issue that we're still trying to track down whether or not he actually did go to an apartment or a home of a former student. The former student no longer lived at that address, but we still haven't found the nature of that.

KING: Drew Griffin, fabulous reporting on who is -- just who is Jared Lee Loughner. As we told you at the top of the program, the first statement from his parents tonight, it says little about their son. It says little about the investigation or any investigative value, but it does say to the victims that they are very sorry.

And as we are at the scene here, you can see around me at the hospital Congresswoman Gabby Giffords among the victims of the shooting still clinging to life in this hospital. Others receiving treatment as well. A short time ago the governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer came here and visited to the scene. She was in the hospital.

She told us she talked to some of the victims and their families in there. She did not see Congresswoman Giffords she told us. Then she came out and walked along this makeshift memorial, there are hundreds of cards, dozens of candles, school children from the community coming by to leave notes or to say a prayer or to reflect. And as Governor Brewer finished her tour, I asked her if she agreed with the Pima County sheriff who just after the shooting at his first news conference said that he believed -- he believed that a contributing factor in the violence here was a toxic political environment in which politicians engage in vitriolic statements. Here's what the governor had to say.


GOV. JAN BREWER (R), ARIZONA: You know and I've heard that on many different stations and have read it in many different articles. I believe that everyone is accountable for their own actions, and I think the madman that did this will be held accountable for his actions. I'm not going to stand here today and put blame on anybody. You know this investigation isn't finished, and I think that we need time to mourn and to grieve. So I'm here today to show my respect for the victims that died and to show my encouragement for the victims that are alive and that are fighting for their lives in this hospital --


BREWER: -- and to say my prayers.


KING: A number of other big developments tonight. We'll have them in the hour ahead. We'll have more of that conversation with Governor Brewer. When we come back, one of Giffords' doctors joins us to talk about his efforts to keep the congresswoman and the other victims of this tragic shooting alive. Stay with us.


KING: Tonight we're again outside the University Medical Center in Tucson, and again there are crowds and candles and tokens of appreciation here for those killed and wounded in the weekend shooting rampage, lifting the spirits of those who come by to reflect encouraging word tonight about the assassin's prime target, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. She remains in critical condition, but doctors say she can breathe on her own and that they are easing her off the sedation required to help her with brain and head injuries.


DR. MICHAEL LEMOLE, CHIEF NEUROSURGEON, UNIV. MED. CTR.: As long as they black slide and as long as she holds her own, that's good. That keeps us hopeful. But we have to play this really according to her time line, not ours.


KING: So let's discuss her condition and the other victims of the shooting. Joining me CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and here with me in Tucson trauma surgeon Dr. Randall Friese -- he was the first doctor to treat Gabby Giffords. And Doctor, I want to turn to you first because when you hear encouraging words like that, that she can breathe on her own, what does that tell you about the prognosis longer term? Can -- will she speak again? Can she return to service in the Congress? When would you know the answer to those questions?

DR. RANDALL FRIESE, TRAUMA SURGEON: Well those are all very important questions, and they remain to be answered. This is so very early after a traumatic brain injury to even begin thinking about addressing those questions. It is a minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day time scale at this point.

KING: And help someone out there who hears she responds to questions. What is your -- what is your best medical assessment of her comprehension level, I guess is the question.

FRIESE: Well when we are assessing a sedated, critically injured patient we do so with very simple commands. We want to ask the patient to show us two fingers, to squeeze our hand, to lift up your thumb, to wiggle your toes. These are very simple commands. All we're testing is receiving information, processing information, carrying out the command. It's not any deeper than that.

KING: I want to bring Dr. Gupta into the situation. Sanjay, you're a neurosurgeon yourself. When you hear this update, breathing on her own, they're able to ease the sedation some. You hear the doctor's assessment of her ability to respond to still relatively simple commands, but still it is remarkable she can respond at all, what goes through your mind in sense of your own prognosis?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: She's improving. I think that's the biggest thing. And you know breathing on your own is a significant development. She may still have the breathing tube in. A breathing tube does lots of things besides actually providing breaths from a ventilator. It also helps protect her airway and helps prevent from aspirating and possibly causing pneumonia.

So despite the fact that the breathing tube is in, that's a significant improvement. And while it may seem a little counterintuitive when you have a brain injury from traumatic or otherwise, you can still have problems in other organs in your body including the lungs in the days afterwards. So the fact that she's making steps forward certainly is an improvement. But one of the things I wanted to ask as well, John and Dr. Friese, you know the idea of being heavily sedated versus a medically induced coma, Dr. Rhee I know said that she was in a medically induced coma, which is typically done if someone has developed signs of brain swelling versus just sedation, which is pretty routine after any brain surgery. Dr. Friese, can you clarify was she in a medically induced coma at any point?

FRIESE: Well, when we use -- as you know, there are certain levels of sedation, and one of the highest levels is a so-called medically induced coma. You would use very, very significant medications, particularly barbiturates when you do something like that, so she was not on barbiturates.

KING: Sanjay, you want to follow on that?

GUPTA: So that probably -- that probably -- you know that's another good sign in terms of brain swelling. You know, not being a significant factor. You know typically, Dr. Friese, what happens after someone starts to improve in the Intensive Care Unit no longer needs to be on the ventilator, is they go to the -- to a general care floor not an ICU floor and then subsequently the rehab -- are the rehab centers in the area where she would go, or is that something that's typically done at the hospital where she is now? What does that look like for her over the next several weeks?

FRIESE: You're absolutely right. Addressing rehab is something we like to do very early, but certainly that situation is something that the family is heavily involved in. We certainly will present options to them. And that is a very, very specific decision for family members, but rehab is an exceptionally important part of this process. We're probably many weeks away from that, but it is something that we like to discuss early.

KING: Early on we were hearing that the bullet was from the back to the front and there was word today that the bullet perhaps was from the front to the back. Why was there confusion there?

FRIESE: I can't speak to that. I can only say what I saw. And when we do trauma evaluations we typically will number wounds. Wound number one, wound number two. I'm not a ballistic expert. I cannot say whether it was an entry wound or an exit wound. I can simply say she had a wound to the back of her head and then one in the front of her head.

KING: We're talking about Congresswoman Giffords here who was the assassin's target. But you're treating some of the other patients as well. You were the first doctor to treat the 9-year-old girl who sadly passed away. And in the hospital today Bill Hileman, he is the husband of Suzy who brought Christina to the event. And he spoke today about his wife right now who is still in some pretty rough shape. And I want you to listen to what he said, and we'll talk about it on the other side.


BILL HILEMAN, WOUNDED VICTIM'S HUSBAND: I hear her in her semi- conscious ramblings screaming out Christina, Christina, let's get out of here. Let's get out of here. And she keeps talking about the holding of hands and then the realization that she is on the ground and the bleeding was profuse. Her memory seems to end there.


KING: How is Mrs. Hileman doing and the other patients? And is that consistent with her recovery?

FRIESE: Well, it's difficult for me to comment directly on patients. It's hard for me to comment on patients. I don't know what information they want conveyed.

KING: Right.

FRIESE: I can certainly talk about Christina, and it certainly makes sense that she's talking about severe hemorrhage in the field because unfortunately the young girl arrived in extremist with CPR in progress and obviously traumatic cardiac arrest and that is certainly consistent with a large amount of blood loss in the field.

KING: We were talking a bit before we went on the air about how you have dealt with this before, never the high profile of this because there's a congresswoman involved and a federal judge killed here and the like. But what is it like inside that hospital?

FRIESE: It's my job. It's where I come to work. It's a place where we have friends and colleagues and co-workers. And we like what we do. We're fulfilled by it. It's something we do every day. We take care of people every day no matter what they do, no matter who they are. We provide them the best care that we can, and it's just interesting and different to have this level of attention to what we do because we do it every day.

KING: Dr. Friese, appreciate your time tonight and appreciate your service and your work. Dr. Gupta, thanks for joining us and helping us as well. I want to note for our viewers that Sanjay will be here reporting live from the hospital throughout the day on Thursday retracing the medical care done here. You'll want to stay with us for that.

And when we come back, we're going to discuss what many are debating now. Is the toxic rhetoric of our politics somehow, somehow to blame, or at least in the wake of this incident should we rethink how we talk about things in American politics today? Stay with us.


KING: President Obama will be here tomorrow for a memorial service for the victims of Saturday's rampage. Those killed include a federal judge, a congressional aide and a 9-year-old girl who was there simply because she wanted to see what a political event looked like. White House officials say the president will memorialize the victims and urge all Americans to reflect on the tragedy.

He will be speaking at a time some here and across the country are suggesting the toxic political tone of recent years might contribute to the behavior of a mentally unstable person as the shooting suspect here is described. Listen to former President Clinton in an interview with the BBC today.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We cannot be unaware of the fact that particularly with the Internet there's this huge echo chamber out there, and everything any of us say -- says falls on the unhinged and the hinged alike. And we just have to be sensitive to it.


KING: Our CNN contributor Erick Erickson says it's ludicrous to try to connect the political debate to the assassin's actions -- also with us Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher. Erick, you wrote a very strongly worded posting today on and you said "all of the media hand-wringing over the tone in the country and the extremist rhetoric distracts from and implies that the tone and the rhetoric had something to do with Jared Loughner's rampage. It did not. By continuing to discuss this topic, the media continues to imply that it did." I don't imply that it did. I want you to explain what you mean, but I don't imply that it did, but I do wonder if at any moment of crisis in the country it is not best for all of us to second -- to think again about how we say things.

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know it's always good to rethink how you say things, John. Except that this particular time the way the conversation got started was blaming Sarah Palin and blaming the Tea Party activists for having something to do with this, which we know wasn't the case. We weren't willing to have this conversation back when George Bush was president and had people marching down the street with Bush equals Hitler posters.

We're weren't willing to have this conversation back during August of 2009, during the health care debates when SCIU members and Tea Party activists were fighting each other in town halls across the nation, yelling at members of Congress. But we're going to have it now when a crazy person kills a judge and attempts to kill a member of Congress when it's not even related? There's great disconnect in that to me. And frankly, we're not going to change the tone as long as we have the Internet and 24-hour news networks.

KING: Cornell, does Erick have a point?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: No, I have got to disagree with my friend Erick on this one. I think there is clearly a tone and a level of sort of nastiness and mean-spiritedness and demonization in our politics now that if it doesn't encourage it certainly gives comfort to some of the craziness out there. I think we'd all be wise to say tone it down.

I will agree with Erick though that part of the problem is there is no consequences for this sort of language and this sort of action, and we're in an age right now where too many people earn a really, really good living off of pushing this sort of language and pushing this sort of hate. And unless we can hold those people responsible, I don't think the tone is going to change very much at all, although it should change because you know what, we're all going to be reap what's being sewed politically right now.

ERICKSON: But you know I guess, Cornell, the issue there is you used the word responsibility and holding people responsible. Who exactly are we holding responsible and for what that they caused Jared Loughner to do this because we know that no one did. He's nuts.

BELCHER: This is what we should hold responsible. We should say to people and it should be Republican, Democrat, Independent alike, you know what? You shouldn't be using terms like lock and load. You shouldn't be saying, you know I -- you know lock and load and armed and dangerous and Second Amendment solutions to issues. You shouldn't be using that sort of language given the history that this country has.

So those people should be held responsible, and those in the media should go after people who both -- on both the left and right when they use language like that. They should be called out on it. Unless we start calling them out --


ERICKSON: Go ahead, John.

KING: Let me jump into the conversation. Then so in 2006 when was saying those things, Cornell, is that a bad thing? And before you answer I just want to make the point that you notice in 2006 the Democrats were the opposition party. The party in opposition tends to use more language of protest. The Republicans in 2000 -- in fighting the Obama agenda have been the opposition party. They use language of protest. The question is do all of us including us in the media who say battleground state, targeted race, do we go too far in doing it? So --


KING: If you're going to condemn it now, Cornell --

BELCHER: No, no --

KING: -- shouldn't it have been condemned then?

BELCHER: This is why and by the way, I say it happens on either side. However, I'm not going to allow people to get away with this crap about it is equal on both sides because it's not and we all know it's not. The language that's on the right particularly around the Tea Party is a lot tougher than anything --


ERICKSON: Cornell, I would fundamentally disagree with you on that --

BELCHER: -- has done. And by the way, no, you know when this went down no one sort of gasped and said oh no, and then thought in the back of their mind that this was someone who was a strong supporter did this. We all knew that this was someone from the right. I'm not saying that -- I'm not saying that's the blame for it, but we all did know --

ERICKSON: Wait, wait, wait, wait. This guy is described by his friends as a leftist and loved Karl Marx. He was neither left nor right though, Cornell. He was nuts. You know when the Discovery Channel shooter went into the Discovery Channel and had left notes behind that he was led to do what he did because of Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth", you didn't see Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh pile on the left like you've seen the left pile on the right.

To try to make there's a connection between political rhetoric and this is wrong because number one, we know it didn't happen. And number two, to then try to say the right is worse than the left. Let's go back 30 years to Ronald Reagan when you had left wing professors at Berkeley publicly calling for his assassination unless we have a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. We didn't have this conversation when John Hinckley then attempted to assassinate him.

We're just having this now. We didn't have it back in 2006 when Dick Cheney was put in the heart -- hospital with heart problems and people on the left were online cheering. We certainly didn't have it in 2003 when the initial people who went into -- or in Iraq were hung, and you had Markos Moulitsas on "The DailyKos" saying screw them.

We're only having this conversation now by people on the left against people on the right. And we shouldn't be having it at all. A judge is dead. A congresswoman is in the hospital. The conversation we should be having is about mental health in this country, not about political rhetoric because it had nothing to do with it and mental health did.

BELCHER: Well I will agree with you on the mental health aspect of it because truth of the matter is (INAUDIBLE) because of the power of the NRA we're not going to have a reasonable conversation about sort of gun restrictions, so the only place for is -- and we're not going to pull back on the political rhetoric. We can't even get both sides to agree that there is sort of you know (INAUDIBLE) to this political rhetoric going on here. So the real issue is sort of how do we deal with those mentally ill and those mentally stable in our country.

KING: All right, Cornell and Erick, appreciate your thoughts tonight. As you can see, this is a feisty debate. I do want to note for the record that we don't know much about Jared Lee Loughner's politics. We do know the last time he registered to vote he wrote IND for Independent on the form. That's as much as we know. That is one of our big questions, what motivated this shooter.

When we come back, Cornell just mentioned will there be a debate as there inevitably is after any major shooting about changing gun laws in this state or in the country -- that just ahead.


KING: One of the discussions flowing from the tragedy here is a familiar one. We heard it after Columbine and after Virginia Tech.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: This is not an overly burdensome requirement in the face of Columbine High School tragedy, rather, it is responsible means of lessening the likelihood of unlawful gun purchases.

SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: Until we get more controls in a sensible way on the easy availability of guns in our society to children, to criminals, to those who are mentally disturbed, then these tragedies will continue.

BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There ought to be some serious attempt to see whether there was some breakdown in the way the law works, and the way the mental health system works, to see if we can make some positive changes to avert this in the future. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: After the Tucson rampage, it is a little different. There are few calls for sweeping new gun controls, but in Congress two ideas. Republican Congressman Peter King today proposed legislation making it a crime to carry a gun within 1,000 feet of a top federal official, including members of Congress.


REP. PETER KING, (R) NEW YORK: This was a blow against democracy. It was a bitter attack against democracy. Not just against Congresswoman Giffords, herself, but against the whole system and her constituents.


KING: New York Democrat Carolyn McCarthy, whose husband was killed in a shooting rampage, proposed outlawing the giant munitions magazine that were used in the shooting here. They once were illegal, but that law expired.

Congresswoman McCarthy said, "But the clips he had went up to at least 30, if not over 30, 31, 33. Imagine if he had gotten them. Putting a clip in is very easy. How many more people would he have taken down? So just to say the law as it was in the assault weapons ban had 10 bullets to a clip, and he had only one clip, maybe he was able to get another clip. Right there with the math you're saving lives."

Is there any chance these proposals can pass in the Congress? And will Arizona consider any steps to tighten its liberal gun laws? Let's ask former Congressman Jim Kolbe, a moderate Republican who represented this district until he retired in 2006. And Gabby Giffords then won the seat. Also with us, our Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash.

Congressman Kolbe, I want to start with you first. Congressman King, I think, his heart is in the right place. How can you enforce the law? I was once in your state on vacation, and I was walking in the supermarket in the produce section and I ran into Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. If I had a permit to carry a concealed weapon, would I be in violation of Peter King's law?

JIM KOLBE, (R) FMR. U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: That's a good question. Would you be? I presume under the way he's talking about writing it, you would be. How are you to know where an official is within 1,000 feet of you? It strikes me as being an almost unenforceable provision. I just don't see how that kind of thing can be enforced. And I don't think that's the answer to the problem we've got.

We do -- we need to lower the rhetoric. We need to lower the tone. But I think it's separate from this particular incident. I just think talking about changing gun laws, we've been through this. We know what the debate is like. And I don't think it's very productive. I don't think we're going to go there. I don't think Congress is going to do that.

KING: And Dana, you've been reporting all day long. We have a Republican House, we have a more Republican Senate and we have a Democratic leader of the United States Senate, who himself is a gun owner. The congresswoman right here, who is in this hospital behind me, Gabby Giffords, she is a strong proponent of the Second Amendment. And in fact, she was one of those who fought to overturn, argued to the Supreme Court, that D.C. handgun ban should be resisted. Any chance any of these things will pass?

DANA BASH, CNN SR. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And that Republican source, the top Republican source in the House said to me, zero, zero. It was a one-word answer. That is the chance. Look, I think it's important to also note that it's not just because of the new Congress. This has been a pro-gun Congress as one Democratic source told me today for a long time. It struck me watching those clips of Al Gore with Chuck Schumer talking about the need for more gun control.

Things changed so much in our politics after the 2000 election after Al Gore lost. You remember, John. A lot of people saying that he talked about that too much. He lost his home state of Tennessee and he lost West Virginia. And people saying, look, Democrats said our conclusion is that gun control is bad politics for us because we loosing rural America. That is one of the reasons why you have seen that build, that crescendo, against gun control in Congress for a decade.

KING: I should note for any viewers that hear, the bagpipes music. There are bagpipers behind me in the makeshift memorial here, who are here to pay tribute to the victims. Those who were killed in the shooting and those who are still hospitalized. That is the music you hear behind me. Amen to them for coming here to do that.

Congressman Kolbe, I want to ask you about your state. Because I visited your district and your state many times, but there are people that live in New York, who might live Washington, who might live in Los Angeles, who look at the Arizona gun laws and think how can that possibly be? Here in the state of Arizona, for example, you can have a conceal and carry. You can carry a firearm without a permit as long as you have a -- a law-abiding resident 18 or over may buy or possess a firearm. They are guns permitted almost everywhere. Except officials businesses and doctors offices. You can even bring a gun into an establishment that serves alcohol, as long as you are not drinking alcohol yourself. You have can a concealed, unloaded gun permitted on school grounds, as long as the driver with that weapon remains in the vehicle.

There are some who would say those laws are too liberal. Help people in urban America, maybe who don't understand the gun culture here in your home state of Arizona.

KOLBE: Let's face it, a lot more of murders and killings that take place with guns happen in urban areas where there are a lot tighter laws. Just having the laws, I don't think, is the answer to the problem. Dana is right. Congress isn't going to pass this. I think this debate is an unproductive debate. What we need to talking about is how we are going to get a civil discourse going again, to talk about how to solve some of the problems the country faces.

We need to do that, but it's separate from this issue of who committed this crime and how it was committed. It doesn't seem to me from everything we've seen about this guy that there's any connection. He was a seriously deranged young man. And I don't know what the connection that we're having this discussion is to having the kind of discussion we need to have about the problems we face in this country and having a civil discourse to fix those problems.

KING: All right. Congressman Kolbe, I take the point and I appreciate your time tonight to discuss these new proposals. I take your point about having other conversations as well. We'll have them in recent days. And we will have them as we continue. Congressman Kolbe, thanks so much for coming in tonight. Dana Bash as well.

You see the bagpipers as we go off to break. When we come back, today's top headlines, including Vice President Biden in Afghanistan. And one thing this community is united about is resisting some protestors coming here for some of the funerals. We'll tell you about that controversy and this community's overwhelming response when we come back.




KING: A Mariachi band now behind me. There were bagpipers earlier, part of the remarkable outpouring in this community for the victims of Saturday's tragic shooting.

Yes, there are plenty of debates here in this community that divide people; immigration and border security, the most prominent perhaps. And after Saturday's shooting there is a divide here, too, over whether the toxic political environment of recent months might, might, have been a factor.

There is unity on this point, and out rage. The controversial Westboro Baptist Church, known for its protests outside military funerals says it will be here. It also suggests what happened Saturday was God's will. Tonight there are efforts to make sure decency prevails. Acting with unusual speed, Arizona's legislature today unanimously approved a new law creating funeral protection zones, barring them within 300 feet of services. The Governor Jan Brewer's office says she will sign it. We spoke today with organizers of an Angel's Effort to block Westboro Baptist demonstrators. And the local leaders of the Democratic, Republican and Tea Party organizations also are working closely together to build a counterdemonstration.


JEFF ROGERS, CHAIRMAN, PIMA CO. DEMOCRATIC PARTY: I would just advise any organization who is going to come to protest to be an obstacle to letting these families and our community grieve, don't bother. Because we will stand together to ensure that you're not heard.

BRIAN MILLER, CHAIRMAN, PIMA CO. REPUBLICAN PARTY: We need to let these people grieve in dignity and have orderly funeral processions and we'll work to make sure it happens and do everything we can together to make it happen, I think.

TRENT HUMPHRIES, ORGANIZER, TUCSON TEA PARTY: We can get the people together to do something like that to help out. That's something we can all do.


KING: Our National Political Correspondence Jessica Yellin is here with me.

And we try to be objective in this business, but this is just- it's hate speech. And it's horrible. And it's remarkable to see the legislature moved so quickly. There are some who question the constitutionality of that, but they moved very quickly. To have the Democrats, the Republicans and the Tea Party say we might disagree about a lot, but we'll stop this.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is one thing every one is against, which is the way the Westboro Baptist Church makes it so hard for mourners to really mourn in silence and peace.

They said it is unprecedented, the speed with which they moved this through the legislature. They said it was a unanimous vote in both houses. I spoke with the speaker of the House who introduced it, in the House. He said, that it's time for Arizona to lead the way in some of this coming together, and he had very interesting things to say about that.

KING: I was just emailing with a young student I met today, who is working on these Angels Demonstrations. They'll have these big wings, so they can-if the protestors are in the way, they can move in and block them out.

YELLIN: Lovely.

KING: It's great. It is great to see the community come together.

Let's pivot a bit. The president will be here tomorrow. And our Dana Bash is now reporting that the former speaker, now the Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi will travel with him here. We expect other political figures as well. A short time ago the governor was here. And she made her way through the memorial. And after, she stopped and talked to us. And one of the questions I asked her is what is it that you want the president to say when he comes to Tucson? I believe we can listen to that. We don't have that sound from the governor, but she was saying she sparred with the president from time to time particularly over immigration. She said she was grateful he was coming. And she thought he could help the community heal.

What's the challenge for the president?

YELLIN: Well, the challenge for the president is to strike a tone that is above politics but addresses the substance of what he'd like to say, which is first recognize and honor the victims, and recognize the huge tragedy this is. Also somehow address this question of civility in public discourse. I spoke do Democrats and Republicans all day today. There is some division. Some-especially Republicans think that even bringing that up at all politicizes this. But it's something that's a theme for the president. You expect he'll want to address that and that will upset some people.

KING: You've been here a few days now. It's a sad town. The town is in shock. Forget the titles of the people who were killed. This happened in their backyard where they go buy groceries. When you come here, it's pretty remarkable.

YELLIN: It is-you know, it doesn't have that ghoulish grim feeling you often get at these horrible tragedies that we have to sometimes cover. Obviously people are deeply touched and moved but the community really has been so tight and connected through this, that you feel this lovely spirit wherever you go in town. And so many people you go in to get a sandwich or soda, people know Gabby Giffords and knew the victims.

KING: I was talking to a sixth grader up there who, with her class made a whole bundle of cards, mostly just saying, we're sorry, on the front, and putting them down. It is a remarkable scene.

When we come back, I sat down with three members of this community. They'll talk about what this shooting means and what they hope will come next.


KING: One of our stops today, in our reporting, was one of the city's landmarks, the historic Hotel Congress. On the wall there, a framed magazine article in which Gabby Giffords, the congresswoman is talking about how it was at that hotel where she had her first kiss with her now husband. You see a black ribbon attached to that there.

Out in the front desk, candles burning for each of the six victims who were killed in the tragic shooting here. That's quite a memorial at the front desk of the hotel. In the cafe I sat down with three local residents who are still stunned this could have happened in their backyard.


TOM PREZELSKI, TUCSON RESIDENT: This isn't really what Tucson is about. This is -- we don't -- we like to pride ourselves that we're not like Phoenix, we are not like these other communities in Arizona, where people are mean to each other. This is a town where people know each other, and we're friendly with each other, and this isn't supposed to happen here.

ARMAND SALESE, TUCSON RESIDENT: I agree with the Sheriff Dupnik, that although Tucson likes to think of itself as less mean, if you will, there's too much meanness. There's too much-you hear it on the radio, the talk radio, you see it in the cable TV. Everybody has an opinion and it's always right. Everybody is right. Everybody who disagrees is wrong. There's a meanness to it that just is really discouraging.

KING: Having that conversation now, and it is perhaps inevitable, and the sheriff aired his views. And then the sheriff himself became controversial. People saying, well, wait a minute, there's no evidence to connect anything said on the radio, or posted on the Internet, to what this specific assassin did.

SALESE: Well, no, a congresswoman was shot. She's a politician. He shot her. He intended to shoot her. It's all about politics. You know, whether he's crazy or not, the level of discourse and mean discourse we have in this country these days, you know, is unnecessary. And I believe contributes to this kind of behavior in unstable people. You know, we just don't need it.

KING: You mentioned getting more information about this on Facebook. That's a relatively new phenomenon in our politics and in our communication. As the younger person at the table, that's how you communicate. You communicate more online and older people tend to either watch television or read the newspaper. Do you find it there as well? Do you agree with the sheriff about the tone? And do you see it on-

MOLLY MOORE, TUCSON RESIDENT: Oh, yeah. I feel that news people and radio hosts, they just can use anything to get something across. And I think people need to take responsibility for what they say. Most of the nation is probably not crazy, but there is a percentage that is, and they will take what people say very seriously. And I think people need to take responsibility for what they say because it does have effects like this.

KING: What about your political conversations online? Do you see it? Do you sometimes get excited about things? Do you see rhetoric where you think whoa, whoa, whoa?

MOORE: I try not to get excited. Because I know that this kid who shot these people was a kid and he needed help. He's not -- maybe he is a bad guy, but I think there's probably a point where somebody could have helped him. The administration or therapist, or something could have made a difference. I try to keep as calm and cool as possible because I don't want -- no one else should be hurt and I do see a lot of things -- people are angry. This is a terrible thing to happen. I mean, a nine-year-old girl is never going to grow up. Never drive or date. And it's understandable that people would be angry, but at one point you have to stop being angry, and just start being-trying to look forward again. KING: What do you think the conversation will be if we sit down at this table in six months or a year? Will it be different? Whether any political rhetoric is directly responsible, or even indirectly responsible, I think it is a good thing for all of us when something big happens to reflect. And think, OK, how can I be different? How can I be better? If I'm back here in six months or a year and we're sitting down, do you think that--whether it's the politicians, whether it is talk radio, whether it is guys like me on cable television, whether it is you, as individual citizens, will it be different?

PREZELSKI: Our officials have always been our friends and neighbors and now suddenly both our congressmen in Tucson had these horrible vitriolic campaigns directed at them. And it seems to have changed the whole mood of how we do politics in Tucson. And I hope we can work to get that back because I kind of feel like my community has been taken from me, in some ways.

KING: Are you convinced it will get different, or will people just forget and move on?

SALESE: Will it change? I doubt it. It will get worse in my opinion, unfortunately. Because people don't take responsibility and there's no accountability for it. Nobody is censured. Nobody is penalized in any way. It's just a free-for-all. So, I don't expect it will get better, I expect it will get worse.

KING: What do you think?

MOORE: I hope it gets better. I feel that people put a lot of faith in government, or organizations, and I feel that for real change to happen people have to focus on their own communities. What defines Tucson to me as a community is thousands of people who are lighting candles and putting up signs, and going to vigils, because that's what I wake up to every morning. A community that loves each other, and wants what's best. I don't see any riots or hateful people when I go out. I see the candles.


KING: Our thanks for the participants in that conversation today. We'll see you here at our regular time tomorrow night with the latest on the investigation and the president's visit. Here for the memorial service. And then along with Wolf Blitzer we'll bring you special coverage tomorrow night of the president's participation in that memorial service here in Tucson.

You see these images from behind me at the makeshift memorial.

Have a great night. We'll see you tomorrow. PARKER SPITZER starts right now.