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THE SITUATION ROOM
Remembering Newtown Victims; Interview with Connecticut State Police Spokesman; Autopsies Complete on Gunman and Mother; NRA Issues Statement On Massacre; Four Dead in Colorado "Murder Suicide"; NBC Crew Free After Syria Kidnapping; U.S. Gas Prices Nearing Two-Year Low; Two More Small Coffins in Newtown; Will Congress Tackle Gun Control?; Disagreement Over Second Amendment; Reopening Schools After Massacre
Aired December 18, 2012 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A small step back to normal today in this Connecticut town that is scarred forever.
Most Newtown students went back to school for the first time since the massacre with police standing guard. Two more young victims are buried, remembered for their joyful spirits and mourned for their violent end. And the man who has become the face of the investigation tells me about the horrors he saw inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. J. PAUL VANCE, CONNECTICUT STATE POLICE: The crime scene itself is something that has made an indelible mark in all of our minds. The task of that responsibility going into that crime scene is something that we will never be able to erase.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: There will never be a good enough explanation as to why 20 innocent children and six heroic educators were gunned down with a semiautomatic weapon.
But we all want and we all need answers. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting today from Newtown, Connecticut. Right now, state and local police they are working around the clock. Their investigation of the school massacre is very methodical and very, very painful.
BLITZER: And joining us now, Lieutenant Paul Vance. He's become the face, the spokesman of this investigation, the Connecticut State Police.
Lieutenant Vance, we're here in your office, Connecticut State Police headquarters in Middletown, Connecticut. I know it has been hard on a lot of the journalists, but it must be so much more difficult on you and your men and women who work at the Connecticut State Police. What has it been like? VANCE: It's been a very tragic, horrific scene, as everyone has been reporting. The initial response was just horrific. The men and women that risked their lives going in there trying to stop the aggression, trying to stop the shooting and stop the carnage and rescue and save as many people as they could truly, truly their lives on the line, but even more so, the faculty, the staff, the teachers that tried to protect and did protect many of those children.
There's good and bad, but our hearts are just simply broken just due to the fact that 26 people died in that building.
BLITZER: How are the men and women of the Connecticut State Police, the first-responders, how are they doing?
VANCE: They are working through this. We provide counseling and employee assistance to them. They are human beings also, but we have to work through these types of things. The day will come where we will sit down and truly hit a wall and have to really talk it out.
But it's what they are trained to do and the men and women have risen to the occasion and they are working 24 hours a day and will continue working until we rectify and answer all of the questions around what happened.
BLITZER: Which raises the question, what happened? Why? How could this happen in the middle of Connecticut in a beautiful little town? I guess the key question is, why? Do we have an answer?
VANCE: We don't have an answer yet. We have got a number -- a number of major crime detectives, our forensic people, we have all our experts, all of our expertise, we have our toolbox wide open and we have got everyone involved. And it's not just us.
We're being assisted by the Newtown police, the local police. Federal agencies are helping us. We have got to answer those questions. We have got to determine how and why this happened. We have got to put this puzzle together and paint a crystal-clear picture to try to answer all the questions surrounding this case.
BLITZER: In your mind -- and you know a lot more than the rest of us, in your mind -- do you have a pretty good idea why this shooter went into the school and killed those kids and teachers?
VANCE: Not at all. Not at all. We're way too early and I know that sounds -- we're almost four days after the fact, but we're way too early. We have got so much work to do, so much evidence to examine, so much additional interviews to conduct.
It's going to be time consuming, but we have got to do all that work. Leave no stone unturned.
BLITZER: When you say more interviews, I assume you're talking to his family members? Are they cooperating?
BLITZER: And they have their ideas?
BLITZER: Do we know if he was under medication, if he had a mental illness, do we know issues like that?
VANCE: I don't personally. I do know that the best way I can explain it is, we have teams and detectives that will look at that facet. We will have teams and detectives that will look at the weapons, and trace them from the minute they came off the assembly line until the time we seized them, where those weapons went, who used them, whose hands they were in, all the ancillary stuff, all the ammunition, where it was purchased, by whom, all of that stuff.
And we truly have boots on the ground, good old-fashioned shoe leather police work, where men and women are going to go out there and get these answers.
BLITZER: Is there, as best as you know, a suicide note?
VANCE: I do not know. I do know that we have executed search warrants at the secondary crime scene which was a private residence. We did extract a great deal of evidence. That, I do know.
BLITZER: From the home?
VANCE: From the resident.
BLITZER: Where the shooter lived?
VANCE: That's correct.
BLITZER: With his mother?
VANCE: That's correct.
But I don't have a detailed knowledge of what that evidence is. I just know that it's extremely helpful.
BLITZER: Because the reports are that his computer had been damaged, the hard drive had been damaged and you're trying to come up with some sophisticated way to retrieve some of the information on that hard drive?
VANCE: It's interesting that that information is out there.
The way we do these types of cases is, I am the only spokesman relative to this investigation, the only person that has personal knowledge of what we can and can can't say. I don't even know what was seized in that house. The investigators have not provided me with that information because we don't detail the evidence. But suffice it to say, if there was a computer there, or any electronic evidence there, it was seized. We have a forensic laboratory that can analyze that evidence. Any forensic evidence that was seized at that scene can go to our scientific lab. And certainly we will seize it all, we will examine it all and hopefully it is going to help us to a conclusion.
BLITZER: In your mind, do you have any idea why he killed his mother?
VANCE: I don't.
BLITZER: Is his father helping you?
VANCE: I'm sure we will talk to family members as this case evolves. There's certain steps and strategies that we have in this case. Certainly the first was right in Newtown itself, getting as much -- many answers as we can for the families of these deceased victims.
One thing that we did do is we provided a trooper with each family. That he was like an umbilical cord to afford these victims' families direct contact to this investigation, so that any questions or any issues that they might have, we would certainly be able to instantaneously give them answers and help.
We didn't want them to see, for example, something on the news about this case without them knowing firsthand. We're going to continue to do that.
BLITZER: And 26 troopers dealing with 26 families?
VANCE: That's correct, sir.
BLITZER: So there's a trooper assigned to each family. His older brother, I assume you're talking to him, he's cooperating?
VANCE: Yes. We have reached out over state lines and had assistance from outside state police agencies..
BLITZER: Because he was living in Hoboken, New Jersey?
VANCE: Correct. And certainly those agencies are assisting us in this investigation wherever we require.
BLITZER: It's a tough one. Have you ever had anything as tough as this in your life, in your career? How long have you been with the Connecticut State Police?
VANCE: I just started my 39th year and this is the most horrific incident that I have ever been involved in.
BLITZER: I was over at the firehouse yesterday. I walked around. You had just left. I was hoping to meet you there, but you had just left.
You know, when you think about what was going on inside that firehouse, as the families were getting there down the street from the elementary school and word was beginning to reach everyone that there were dead kids inside.
BLITZER: What was that like?
VANCE: It was very, very difficult, if you can understand that the people responded once they heard about the scene and about the situation. They responded to come and retrieve their children. And when they couldn't find their children, fear set in, panic set in, pain set in.
It was fear of the unknown. And when the notification finally had to be made, it was absolutely heartbreaking.
BLITZER: You were there at the time?
BLITZER: And the governor notified the families that their little 6- year-old or their little 7-year-old was dead?
VANCE: That's correct.
BLITZER: What was it like there?
VANCE: It's something no one wants to experience. It was just heartbreaking. It's terrible.
BLITZER: A lot more kids and teachers could have been killed.
VANCE: No question.
BLITZER: There was still ammunition he had available, is that right?
VANCE: There was an immense amount of ammunition that was available, yes.
BLITZER: Potentially, he could have killed, what --
BLITZER: Really? When you think about that -- and then all of a sudden -- I guess one of the most difficult things, you want to talk to eyewitnesses, but a lot of the eyewitnesses were little kids.
VANCE: That's true.
BLITZER: Can you talk to little kids? And how does law enforcement ask a 6-, or 7-, or 8-, or 9-year-old what happened, Billy, or Bobby, or Suzie, or Carol?
VANCE: You look at the whole big picture.
Our investigators will make a determination as to who needs to be interviewed. Certainly, there were two people that were wounded that survived.
BLITZER: Both educators? VANCE: Both educators.
BLITZER: How are they doing, by the way?
VANCE: They will survive. We are told they will survive.
And they will be huge. They will be huge in helping us reconstruct this entire event. And we will talk to the educators in the facility. We will talk to all of the appropriate witnesses that can cast information on to this case. We may or may not talk to children. That's to be determined as to --
BLITZER: Because you don't want to aggravate -- they have gone through hell to begin with.
VANCE: Absolutely. You just hit the nail on the end. We cannot and will not damage these children any further. They have lived through hell and we're not going to add to that. If we can get around it, we can get around that, we will.
BLITZER: Usually when you have a mass shooting like this, there are a lot more injured than killed. In this case, there were 26 killed, two injured. Isn't that -- that's pretty extraordinary. I mean, I can only assume he was deliberately, not wanting to hurt, he wanted to kill.
VANCE: That would be -- that is what it appears. That's exactly what it appears. And --
BLITZER: Because each one of these kids was shot multiple times.
VANCE: That's the medical examiner's report, yes. And as I said, the rounds and the high-capacity clips that were with him, it could have been much worse.
BLITZER: Stand by for more of my interview with Lieutenant Paul Vance. That's coming up in the next hour.
We talk about the emotional toll that the massacre investigation has had on him and all of the other men and women in the Connecticut State Police.
Also, more information coming up about the investigation -- much, much more of the interview in the next hour.
We also have gruesome new details about the way the gunman's mother, Nancy Lanza, was killed. The state medical examiner reveals autopsy results.
And a former classmate talks about Adam Lanza and how his mother taught him to use guns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALAN DIAZ, FORMER CLASSMATE OF ADAM LANZA: He started going to the shooting range with her. And my initial response to that was, I never really imagined Adam wanting to ever even hold a gun.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Bit by bit, we're learning more about the Sandy Hook Elementary gunman, the 20-year-old Adam Lanza. One of his former classmates says Lanza was once, was once, a good kid. He was supposedly quiet, shy, not the type you would ever expect to commit a massacre.
Alan Diaz spoke exclusively to CNN's Susan Candiotti.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DIAZ: He kind of had like the stereotypical nerd look, the khaki pants, belt, tucked-in shirt. He even had like a little computer case, like kind of a briefcase, instead of like a backpack like everyone else.
He even like had a little pocket protector that he had pens in. We all kind of knew that like he had problems socially. And we kind of had a feeling that there might have been something wrong with him but, obviously, we never asked. We never thought it was our place to do so.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: When you think of this, (INAUDIBLE) also go to your friend?
DIAZ: Obviously it does because, you know, he's a very big part of this event. I'm not really sure what to think of it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
CANDIOTTI: Sadly, he's the reason for it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We're going to have more of that interview and a report from Susan Candiotti. That's coming up in our next hour.
The autopsy reports on Adam Lanza and his mother Nancy are providing some gruesome new details about their deaths.
We're joined by our national correspondent Deborah Feyerick. She's working this part of the story for us.
Deb, what are you learning? DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it really goes to the heart of the investigation, Wolf. And we can tell you that investigators were here at the house earlier today. They stayed for about an hour, an hour and a half. They continue to gather evidence and to follow leads.
The medical examiner today told us that, in fact, Nancy Lanza was shot in her bed as she slept four times in the head by her son. The computer that was recovered by investigators, it was completely smashed. The hard drive shattered. And therefore, investigators are having a hard time retrieving information from that computer.
And so the investigator, the only person who could have potentially testified what was going on in her son's mind, Nancy Lanza, was shot and killed. You lost a key piece of evidence, you've lost a key witness as to what may have been going on.
You know, the bodies of the alleged gunman and his mom, they are not being released just yet. They have not been picked up and the family says that they are not going to be picked up until they are actually -- they are not going to be informed about that until the bodies are actually buried. They just don't want to run into any kinds of problem.
We took a close look earlier today. Take a listen, Wolf.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Police investigators returned to the home of the gunman Tuesday. Investigators are having a hard time retrieving data from a badly damaged computer found inside the house, according to a law enforcement source, because the hard drive was shattered.
Not only does it appear Adam Lanza tried to erase his digital foot steps, he shot the only witness who could have fully explained what was going on inside him. His mother Nancy shot four times in the head as she slept in her bed, likely early Friday, the autopsy shows.
Under the terms of her 2009 divorce agreement, she was the one responsible for paying her son's psychiatric or psychological expenses, plus costs of any prescription medications not covered by insurance. The medical examiner is waiting for results of toxicology tests performed on Adam Lanza to see whether he was on any medications or drugs that may have potentially added to the rampage.
The medical examiner also working with investigators to determine if Lanza was correctly diagnosed with Asperger's or whether anything else.
FEYERICK: Now, we are told that by a friend who we spoke with last night and who had done work inside the home that, in fact, Nancy Lanza had a lock box, a gun lock box. That was kept in the basement of her home. She told a friend that she initially took Adam to the gun range because she didn't want to leave him alone and therefore they would go together because she was worried about him.
What's so interesting, Wolf, is about three years ago, back in 2009, that's really the last time we have any hard record of any classes he took, any courses he was enrolled in. After that, right at the time that the divorce was finalized, it seems as if Adam Lanza simply fell off the face of the earth. There's no record of anything that he did, what he may have accomplished, who he met with.
We've had a very difficult time even finding friends who knew him from the period 2009 on. So he existed but he existed in a world that really nobody knows about, Wolf.
BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick, thanks very much for that report.
Let's dig a little deeper. Kate Bolduan is joining us now here in Newtown, as we've put the latest information of Adam Lanza's mentality health into some sort of proper perspective. Let's bring in Dr. Drew Pinsky, the host of our sister network HLN's "Dr. Drew on Call".
Dr. Drew, the medical examiner says he was told that Adam Lanza had been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. What if anything does that have to do with violence? Because, normally, as far as I know, Asperger's syndrome has nothing to do with violent behavior. But you're a psychiatrist.
DR. DREW PINSKY, HLN HOST: Actually, although I'm in department of psychiatry, I'm an internist, addictionologist. But I do deal with this stuff a lot. And the fact is Asperger's is a neurobiological, neurodevelopmental disorder. It's really not thought of as a mental illness per se.
One of the characteristics is not picking up on social cues, sometimes so severely that they have difficulty empathizing with other people. But it categorically is not associated with violence unless there are other things going on. You have to wonder what the second hit was here that caused him to retreat so severely to the point that he was in the home, isolated, and a young adult unable to be left alone by his mother to the point that she takes him to the shooting range, that's bizarre and that needs to be explained.
And, by the way, mom is going to play a big role here. There is not a confident mental health professional on earth who would advocate taking somebody with neurodevelopmental disorder and a psychiatric history to a shooting range to enhance his self-esteem. So, there's something going on here with mom as well we're going to find out.
BLITZER: Yes, I think you're absolutely right. But medication -- what kind of medication normally would be associated with Asperger's syndrome, for example? Because yesterday we heard Dr. Sanjay Gupta, sensitive medication, when you start it, when you go off of it, that could cause some problems.
PINSKY: It can cause trouble, but it doesn't cause premeditated violence. It can cause agitation. It can cause extreme fluctuations of mood. But this is unlikely to be something specifically related to medication. Asperger's medication -- no, not typically. Not unless there are behavioral disturbances. Sometimes there's something called chemical containment to help people contain focus, being able to manage better. Yes, the severely autistic spectrum sometimes gets into those medications and you have to wonder if this is going to be somewhere further down the autistic spectrum.
And, by the way, these nomenclatures all being completely change in the current diagnostic manuals for psychiatry. So, these words like Asperger's are almost going to have no meaning going forward.
But, Wolf, there is something I've got to bring up that's really troubling me, is that we are being held hostage by privacy issues here. If you read the papers this morning, so much of what people are talking about is the inability to enroll national gun laws because of fear of suits by the legal system for, God forbid, anybody asking questions about somebody's previous history if they want to have a weapon.
And I think this is ridiculous. This is at the core issue here. It's why we have problems like this. It's why doctors can't do their jobs. It's why parent are stuck with kids like this at home and it's why we can't get action on gun laws.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Dr. Drew, when you're looking at Adam Lanza, what in his medical history do you think investigators should be focusing more on? Or what are they looking into to paint a more complete picture of the person that we are talking about?
And when you talk about -- and what about the toxicology report? What should they be looking at when that comes in?
PINSKY: Right. That is absolutely correct. I think the two areas that are going to give us the most information is his life online because very often people that have are difficulty with intimate connection with others, they have quite a rich life out there in the cyberspace and it can be bizarre and they can fuel some of these horrible sorts of preoccupations and violent tendencies. It doesn't cause them but it can certainly build a fantasy if somebody flips into a circumstance where there's trouble. So, the online life is going to be very revealing and for sure, as you say, the toxicologists are going to be critical.
There's two big questions here. Did somehow the medication either coming on or going off, maybe he was prescribed medication and didn't take it? We're going to find a lack of medication in his system. Or, God forbid, he got on to some illicit substances, like a methamphetamine and that would easily explain how somebody could flip into this kind of an agitated state.
BOLDUAN: And looking forward for the community here, we know some students are heading back to school. We heard from some parents how difficult it is for the kids to be heading back to school. We also know the young children at Sandy Hook, they're not going to be starting back to class until after the holiday break in January. From your perspective, when do you think it is the right time for children to be going back to class after they've experienced such trauma at school?
PINSKY: Yes. To some extent, we have to kind of leave it up to the kids a little bit. If they really feel uncomfortable leaving the home and want to stay safe with their family, that's what they should be allowed to do. I definitely think holidays at home, stability, safety, normalcy, try to get a structure back into their life. There is question whether they should go back into that particular environment where this all happened.
Some kids may want to do that to help them regain a sense of mastery over what happened to them. Others may be mortified and triggered by it and should certainly not be forced to do so. But ultimately, each child is going to deal with it differently.
Here's the bottom line: trauma and grief are chaotic experiences. Our fear that each of us out there, I challenge any one of you who has been watching this story not to agree with me that the feelings that wash over us are chaotic and unpredictable and they run from rage to misery to sadness to disgust -- and that's normal. These things are going to continue to rush over us for weeks to come and it's incumbent upon us to take action, service will help us, create some concept of faith, whatever that concept is for you. And then, finally, connect with people that love you and know you. Stay with them and stay close to them.
BLITZER: Dr. Drew, what should parents be looking for right now? Because sometimes trauma -- posttraumatic stress disorder, that could -- it takes a while to go into effect. What are the signs that parents should be looking at with their kids right now?
PINSKY: Yes. Listen, all of us -- and particularly those in proximity to the trauma -- are going to have an acute stress reaction and that is normal. I don't know how many of your viewers notice that you're not sleeping right, you're preoccupied thinking about this thing. You may have, as I said, chaotic feelings that come over you.
You may actually feel jittery. You may have panic if you're predisposed to that. That is the acute stress reaction. This is the time to intervene, right now, so this acute stress reaction does not progress to a posttraumatic stress disorder, which is an ongoing persistent disorder that has a whole other set of symptomatology and treatment associated with it.
In terms of what parents can expect now -- kids may regress, the younger kids may return to things like wetting their bed, they may withdraw, they may be agitated, they may have changes in their sleep patterns, in their appetite and eating habits, and mostly if they're going to be asking questions. The one caveat I give parents out there is do not expect your kids to talk about this and we use -- I hear this word "process" being tossed around by adults.
That's not what kids do. Kids try to make sense of things in their own way. Let them ask the questions. Keep things open-ended. I heard a beautiful sort of way of conceptualizing this to one mother at the event, who is close proximity, told her kid, which was that God needed some wonderful angels and he called for them and he has this lovely group of angels now with them. He needed them, he asked for them, and he got them.
And that child was given a gift, a way to conceptualize and understand something that is frankly not able to be understood in any rational way because this was a completely irrational act.
BLITZER: Dr. Drew, excellent, excellent advice. We really appreciate it very much.
BLITZER: Thank you very much for joining us.
PINSKY: Thank you, guys. Appreciate it. My pleasure.
BLITZER: And please be sure to watch "Dr. Drew on Call," weeknights at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on our sister network, HLN.
There's other big news we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM as well, including Newtown beginning the grim business of burying the dead and saying goodbye to the children whose lives ended far too soon.
BLITZER: The National Rifle Association has just released its first public statement since the killing here in Newtown on Friday morning. I'll read it to our viewers from the NRA.
The National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters, and we were shocked, saddened, and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown.
Out of respect for the families and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for a mourning, prayer and full investigation of the facts before commenting. The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure that this never happens again.
That statement is from the NRA, its first official statement, public statement since the killings here in Newtown Friday morning. The NRA also says it will hold a major news conference this coming Friday, December 21st, in Washington, D.C. Of course, we'll cover that as well.
There has been another deadly shooting in Colorado. Police say four people are dead in a murder-suicide. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What do you have, Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's a disturbing story of a woman's 911 call that ended in a tragedy while police were on the line. It happened in Longmont, Colorado.
Authorities say as the call for help came in, a dispatcher heard gunshots, a man saying he was going to kill himself, and then another gunshot. A SWAT team later found two men and two women dead at the scene.
An NBC news team kidnapped in Syria for five days is free, unharmed and expressing relief today. Correspondent Richard Engel says a group of masked armed men ceased him and his crew last week as they crossed into Syria from Turkey.
He described being bound blindfolded and repeatedly threatened with death. Engel says he believes his kidnappers were militia loyal to the Syrian government.
And there is some good news at the gas pump and it may be getting even better. The average price of regular self-serve gasoline in the U.S. is now $3.24. The price has fallen every day for almost a month.
And experts say it could soon fall even further to levels not seen in two years. Analysts credit in part the better economy and continued high unemployment -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Lisa, thank you.
Two more small coffins, very small coffins, two more families here in Newtown, Connecticut burying their children. Their funerals and their stories that's ahead.
BLITZER: A girl who loved horses and a boy who loved to swim, they were buried here in Newtown today. Jessica Rekos and James Matiolli were both only 6 years old. It's hard to believe. It's the second day of funerals for the victims of the school shooting.
Every funeral is heart breaking. It won't get any easier anytime soon. CNN's Don Lemon is joining us here in Newtown. How sad is this, Don, because you were speaking to a lot of people in this wonderful community.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: It's really sad. The one good thing that is coming out of this is that people are coming together and people are showing us their support. Wolf, we've been here at the memorial and you can see just how high the stuffed animals and the flowers. It's all packed in here.
And even people if you look -- they put up a cross and Christmas trees and even a rocking horse. Wolf, let's learn a little bit more about those 6-year-olds that you were talking about who loved life so much.
The first one is James Mattioli. He was 6 years old. He was fondly known to everyone, his family as Jay and they said he was a fan of wrestling, that he liked math. That he loved his hair gel and of course, he was in love with his big sister Anna. He would often sing at the top of his lungs and people would say he wondered just how old he had to be to perform on stage and he loved the outdoors. He loved diving into pools. He loved riding his bicycle and he was proud that he didn't need training wheels.
And we can all remember when we were that age and once you didn't need training wheels, we were all little tykes them. Of course, there is 6-year-old Jessica Rekos as well. She was known as the CEO of her family. Her family called her the boss.
She ruled the roost. She was a ball of fire. She is very creative and that she was a planner and her parents had promised her that they would get a horse, something she really wanted by the time she turned 10
But this Christmas, according to her mother, she was looking forward to getting a pair of cowgirl boots. This is how her mother talked about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KRISTA REKOS, MOTHER OF JESSICA REKOS: It's still not real that my little girl who was so full of life and who wants a horse so badly and who was going to get cowgirl boots for Christmas isn't coming home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And of course, that's the mom. The mom's name is Kristina. I can't imagine how she was even able to garner the strength to do that interview. But, again, there are people now you see here who are paying their tributes in their own way.
People who may not have been able to go to the funeral today, they are dropping off flowers and coming here just to console each other and this memorial, this is just one of them, Wolf, that you and I have seen.
One of them that is just growing. You can feel the love out here and you can feel that people want to come here just to show their support and to really hug each other. Every single person who has been coming up to us has been wanting to hug us saying that, you know, we're glad you guys are here.
Usually when the media comes to town we're not so happy to see the media but we're glad that you're here and showing the world that this community is not going to be remembered for a tragic event, but remembered for the love that they showed each other and are especially showing each other in this memorial that they've erected in the middle of Newtown.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Don, you've definitely been speaking to a lot of people from the town and many people coming in from out of town to show their support. What are you hearing from folks about where things go from here, or even in the short term being what the next two weeks looks like? LEMON: You know what, Kate, they don't know. I mean, at this point, when the funerals started yesterday and of course, two more today and they say right now it's day by day by day.
And as we have been out here talking to people and they have been coming here, some of the processions -- one of the processions came by today and you could see the people in that procession.
You could see the hearses and inside the hearse, quite frankly, a very small white little casket. As they were coming by, the moving trucks, you and I saw that, the moving trucks that are taking their things from this school to the other school where it's going to be temporarily.
They passed each other and it was quite a thing to see one thing moving on and the other thing, the parents and family members and loved ones going to lay their little loved ones to rest. It was -- it was just unbelievable to see. I don't even have the words for it, Kate.
BLITZER: So heartbreaking for all of us. Don is going to be back in the next hour. We're going to continue this conversation.
So here's the question. Is the White House ready to get serious about gun control? If so, the White House press secretary today gave us a little bit of an idea about how the president is going to respond. Stand by.
BLITZER: Before Friday's appalling violence here in Newtown, Connecticut, gun control was almost on no one's major agenda in Washington, but now it sounds like it has become a priority for many lawmakers.
Talk though is chief especially on Capitol Hill. Our White House correspondent Brianna Keilar is joining us with more on this debate. Where is it heading, Brianna?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's heating up. You just reported that the NRA is having a press conference tomorrow. That's also a sign that this debate is heating up and it's no coincidence that that comes on the heels of the White House starting to detail some of the steps it wants to take on gun violence.
KEILAR (voice-over): Today, for the first time, the White House got specific on how the president will tackle gun violence.
(on camera): Is he right now actively considering measures, be it gun laws or mental health measures right now?
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, he is actively supportive of, for example, Senator Feinstein's stated intent to revive a piece of legislation that would reinstate the assault weapons ban.
KEILAR (voice-over): The White House says the president would like to close the gun show loophole, ban high capacity ammunition clips and look at measures that address mental health. Critics have charged the president with failing to lead on gun violence even as Republican supporters of gun rights like Ohio Congressman Steve Latourette say it's time to find a bipartisan solution.
REPRESENTATIVE STEVE LATOURETTE (R), OHIO: I think most Republicans are willing to have a very serious conversation about what this means and taking a second look at what the second amendment means in the 21st Century.
KEILAR (on camera): Did the president feel like he was behind?
CARNEY: I think you're trying to turn this into a political theatre thing. It's not how the president views it.
KEILAR (voice-over): But the president is appearing to act more aggressively on the issue. He called West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a pro-gun rights Democrat who once started his own campaign ad shooting the cap and trade bill pushed by Obama.
He now says it's time to act on gun violence. The president met with members of his cabinet, Monday afternoon, Vice President Joe Biden, Education Secretary Arnie Duncan, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and Attorney General Eric Holder.
A demonstration of the comprehensive approach the president wants to take in combating the problem.
KEILAR: Observers of this debate also say President Obama could exert his executive authority to bypass Congress and do some things on his own. That could include sharing information, a better sharing of information between federal, state, and local law enforcements about potential illegal gun purchases.
And also restricting certain military style weapons, Wolf and I should mention, Wolf, we talked about that NRA press conference that was just announced that is on Friday, not tomorrow. I misspoke.
BLITZER: Yes, they just issued a statement. Brianna, thank you very much. That gun control debate is about to intensify big time in Washington.
The founding fathers had no idea that they were kicking a hornet's nest when they wrote the second amendment to the constitution by guaranteeing Americans the right to bear arms. They started a fierce debate that goes on today. We're going to talk about the legal ramifications coming up with Jeffrey Toobin.
Also, Newtown shooter Adam Lanza has been described as a loner, but at least one young man knew him and is talking about the man who carried out this horrific rampage. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: There may be no more controversial constitutional amendment in the second amendment. The right to bear arms is in question, but the devil is in the details and for decades Americans have argued which arms we should be allowed to bear.
Jeffrey Toobin is author of "The Oath, The Obama White House and The Supreme Court." He is also a CNN senior legal analyst, writes for the "New Yorker" magazine. He's joining us from New York.
Here's what the constitution, the second amendment says, you know this well. A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
Over the years, as you well know, Jeffrey, this has gone through a lot of various interpretations most recently in 2008.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Very dramatically different interpretations. Before 2008, for 100 years, that first clause, the so-called militia clause, was read by the Supreme Court and other courts to trump the right to keep and bear arms.
That amendment was interpreted for decades as giving individuals no right to keep and bear arms. In 2008, that changed on a dime. The United States Supreme Court in a decision called "Hellar" written by Justice Antonin Scalia.
It said that the second amendment does give individuals the right to keep and bear arms but what arms, where you get to keep them, that's still very much up for grabs.
BLITZER: So what restrictions are legal?
TOOBIN: Well, let's start with what restricts we know are illegal. It is illegal now for a government, a local government or the federal government to ban the possession of handguns within the home.
That is what the Hellar case was about. The government can't do that. But it starts to get murkier when it's about other weapons than handguns and outside the home. It seems pretty clear that automatic weapons, semiautomatic weapons, assault rifles, those can be regulated.
The issue of whether they can be regulated in terms of can you have concealed, carry them in a concealed way or carry them openly is also an open question. But this is an area of where the law is changing a lot and it tends to be moving in the direction of less regulation of firearms.
So that's something Congress is going to have to think about if and when it decides to pass any law.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, listen to what Dr. Drew Pinsky just told me this hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll play the clip and then we'll discuss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST, HLN'S "DR. DREW": So much of what people are talking about is the inability to enrol rational gun laws because of fear of suits by the legal system for God forbid anybody asking questions about somebody's previous history if they want to have a weapon. And I think this is ridiculous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So are privacy law parts of the problem here as he's suggesting?
TOOBIN: Well, I think what Drew is saying is that the NRA and other groups that oppose regulation and registration of guns, they are saying, you know, you can't invade people's privacy by asking them questions about, do they have a mental health history, do they have a criminal record?
And, you know, that is an objection that has been raised. I don't think it's constitutionally significant. But it might be politically significant. You know, gun owners are a very powerful group in this country.
And they don't want to have their privacy infringed on so that's one argument used against any sort of gun control. I don't think it's a constitutional argument, but it's a political argument that a lot of people -- it carries a lot of weight.
BLITZER: Here's something that Justice Scalia said shortly after the Aurora, Colorado, mass killings. I'm going to play the clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA, SUPREME COURT: Yes, there are some limitations that can be imposed. What they are will depend on what society understood were reasonable limitations. The amendment does not apply to arms that cannot be carried. It doesn't apply to canons. I suppose there are handheld rocket launches that can bring down airplanes. It will have to be decided.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Did you get a clue there from what kind of gun restricts Justice Scalia might be open to?
TOOBIN: Not many, it sounds like. Remember, he said hand held like stinger missiles. He said, well, we have to decide that, maybe yes, maybe no. I mean, that's a pretty amazing thing to say. He was obviously just talking off the cuff, but I think it's indicative of how up in the air the rules are here.
I mean, I think most of us assume that the government can ban stinger missiles. If you're standing by an airport with a missile that can shoot down a plane, I think most of us are recognized that that's something that the government can regulate.
But Justice Scalia seems up in the air about it. I think that is just an indication of how much the Hellar can case has thrown all of these rules up in the air and I wouldn't want to be in a position of guaranteeing one way or another how the Supreme Court is going to vote on gun control at this point.
BLITZER: And neither would I. All right, Jeffrey, thanks very much. Jeff Toobin is our senior legal analyst.
Sandy Hook students may dread the day they must return to school, at least some of them. Now officials are trying to give them a little bit more time to cope with this tragedy.
BLITZER: School officials are planning for Sandy Hook students to go back to class in January. You're getting some more information as well.
BOLDUAN: That's right, Wolf. We have obtained a letter detailing plans to resume classes at Chalk Hill. It's a middle school in a neighboring town. It notes that police will be on hand both inside and out when they do resume school.
Students at the other schools went back to class today within the Newtown public school system. Mary Snow has been following that. Mary, what are you learning?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, as you know, as this community mourns and the outpouring of support continues to grow, as you can see here, that Newtown School District reopened its doors for the first time since the tragedy on Friday.
This is a community though that is still on edge and police say at one elementary school this morning a call was made, they didn't talk about the nature of that call, but it was enough for school officials to tell students to stay home at that one school. But elsewhere, school did resume two hours later than normal.
SNOW (voice-over): School buses rolling once again as Newtown struggles to resume a sense of normalcy, but it is anything but normal. Funerals were held nearby. Police presence were stepped up. Cameras fixed on this grease stricken town. In the midst of it, some parents welcomed getting back to a routine in the classroom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's exactly what the kids need after such a, you know, terrible tragedy. A lot of them do know what's going on and they need somewhere, you know, to get their thoughts back to the fun stuff.
SNOW: But it also meant that kids from other schools who had been shielded from what happened would now return and potentially hear about the grim events that had transpired at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
AARON COX, FATHER: When I picked my daughter up from school on Friday, that the first words out of her mouth were, "Pa, why are you picking me up, we're having such a great day." And I need to thank the teachers and the staff for doing their best to shield my child from what happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SNOW: Before returning to class, schools encouraged parents to talk with their kids about Friday's horrific shootings, saying the staff can't control what children hear from others.
WENDY DAVENSON, GRIEF COUNSELOR: When a crisis likes this happens --
SNOW: Wendy Davenson is a grief counselor in Newtown, who's been advising parents on how to talk to their kids.
DAVENSON: -- children don't need details. All they need to know is a fact, that a bad thing happened, people were killed and we are making our schools very safe and this doesn't happen very, very often and we are working that it never will happen again.
SNOW: And to prepare for students returning, the district met with school staff, from bus drivers to teachers, on Monday. A crisis intervention expert spoke to them. Among the things he cautioned about, the dangers of getting too emotional in front of children, something Davenson says can be overwhelming for the kids.
DAVENSON: That's terrifying for children, because we are supposed to be the strength for them. We provide security and safety and predictability. And if the teachers fall apart, that's going to scare them.
(END VIDEO TAPE)