Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

They Said, "Our Teacher Is Dead"; Back at School after Massacre; "He Had Problems Socially"; Investigating a "Truly Devastating Crime"; More of Police Spokesman Interview

Aired December 18, 2012 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Newtown, Connecticut.

We'd like to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Today, the parents and the children in this shaken community took their first tentative steps back toward some semblance of normality. Most of the town's schools reopened, but not Sandy Hook Elementary School. We learned today that the students of that school, the site of Friday's mass shooting, won't resume classes until January.

Also today, Connecticut's medical examiner revealed the gunman's mother, Nancy Lanza, was shot four times in the head while she was sleeping. He also says Adam Lanza died of a single gunshot wound to the head fired from a handgun. Significantly, the medical examiner also disclosed that he's been told Lanza was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. That's a neurodevelopment disordered characterized by social impairment, communication difficulties and repetitive patterns of behavior. Officials say they're working to determine whether that diagnosis was correct.

Our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti, has spoken with an acquaintance of the Lanzas.

She's joining us now with more -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. You know, tonight is the first time that police have allowed people to be standing in front again of the Lanza home. This is the home where the -- the shooter, Adam Lanza, lived with his mother, and where police have said he shot and killed his mother as she was sleeping in her bedroom. As you indicated, he shot her four times in the head.

And among the many people that are trying to figure out what went wrong, what made this young man do what he did, are people who went to school with him.

I spoke with one of those young men very recently.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDIOTTI: Among the steady stream of people drawn to this memorial honoring victims, a former schoolmate of the alleged killer. (on camera): When you think of this, does your mind also go to your friend?

ALAN DIAZ, ADAM LANZA'S FORMER SCHOOLMATE: Obviously, it does, because, you know, he's a very big part in 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.

DIAZ: Yes.

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Alan Diaz may have been as close as anyone could come to being a friend of Adam Lanza, when he was a sophomore at Newtown High School and Diaz was a freshman, in 2008.

DIAZ: Yes, he was a very intelligent person. He really was. It was just like, you know, the way he acted around other people was just very withdrawn and just really quiet.

CANDIOTTI (on camera): A little different?

DIAZ: Yes.

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): They were in the high school tech club together, spent a lot of time on computers. Adam had his own style of dressing.

DIAZ: And he kind of had like the stereotypical nerd look, like, you know, like khaki pants, belt, tucked in shirt. He even had like a little computer case or like -- kind of like a briefcase instead of like a backpack, like everyone else. He even had like a little pocket protector that he had pens in.

CANDIOTTI: He doesn't know whether Lanza was bullied. He kept to himself.

DIAZ: We all kind of knew that like, you know, 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.

CANDIOTTI: Back then, his schoolmate's mom once invited all his friends to the house to play video games. One was StarCraft, kind of a war games in space. Another was Warcraft III, where, as the ad says, "survival is a matter of strategy."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY BLIZZARD ENTERTAINMENT)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A burning shadow comes to consume us all.

(END VIDEO CLIP) DIAZ: Warcraft III was really fun. So, you know, he wasn't really into games and if I recall, he actually picked up on StarCraft really quickly.

CANDIOTTI: When Lanza left high school and was home schooled, Diaz lost touch. But he ran into Lanza's mother Nancy about two years ago.

DIAZ: I remember her like mentioning that he started going to the shooting range with her. And my initial response to that was I never really imagined Adam one to ever even hold a gun.

CANDIOTTI (on camera): Why do you say that?

DIAZ: I don't know. Maybe because quite in my mind, I don't imagine shy, quiet people, you know, going to a shooting range. I never really can make that association.

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Investigators are tracking how often Lanza had been to gun ranges. They don't yet know how many so far. They've proven he's been to target practice about six months ago, and for several years. Mother and son went at least once together.

Alan's older sister went to school with the shooter's older brother, and she was friends with their mother, who went to her bridal shower last year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why her, you know, because she was just...

(crying)

AMANDA D'AMBROSE, NANCY LANZA'S FORMER SCHOOLMATE: Thank you. Yes, it -- it was a shock. But she was always a happy -- a happy person.

CANDIOTTI (on camera): Do you now think of him as an evil person because of what he did?

DIAZ: At one point, he was a good kid. The events that he did that day may have been evil, but before then, he -- he was just another kid.

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Until something made him snap.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

CANDIOTTI: Now perhaps, Wolf, perhaps we might get some answers from toxicology tests. These are -- this is blood work that the medical examiner's office is doing as part of the autopsy, which might tell us whether he had any drugs or chemicals in his system, Adam Lanza.

However, there is another troubling aspect of this investigation. We are hearing that the computers that are currently being analyzed by the state police, with help from the FBI, that there is great difficulty doing that. They're having a hard time because the computer was so badly smashed, and the hard drive nearly destroyed, that investigators are having a very difficult time trying to retrieve any information from it, information, for example, on what Internet sites he might have visited, any e-mails he might have set, any Web sites he might have visited. And so that, too, might have given them answers. But now we don't know know whether they'll be able to do that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We're learning a little bit more every single day, but there's still so much more to learn.

Susan Candiotti, thank you.

Today's -- today, Connecticut's governor signed a proclamation declaring this coming Friday a day of mourning in the state. He's requesting residents statewide to president; the president in a moment of silence at 9:30 a.m.. That's about the same time that Adam Lanza showed up at the school and started shooting.

Today, I spoke with the man who has become the public face of this investigation, the Connecticut State Police lieutenant, Paul Vance.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Lieutenant Vance, in your 39 year career, how do you prepare for the enormity of a tragedy like this?

LT. PAUL VANCE, CONNECTICUT STATE POLICE: Training. Training. Constant, constant training. Things you hope you never will have to use, just like the sidearm that I wear, you hope you'll never have to use it. You have to train. You have to prepare because when you get to a scene or a situation, even a scene of this magnitude, you have to act. And there's no time.

BLITZER: Because you -- you have emerged as the chief spokesman. You're telling not only people here, but all over the world, what's going on. It must take a toll on you.

VANCE: It does. But our training prepares us to work through those issues. To -- to -- to go through something like this is devastating. It's truly devastating, because we're only human and we think about the families. We think about these children. We think about the people that lost their lives. We think about the teachers that protected their children. And all those things you're processed, but you have to shove it aside and move forward and do what you're trained to do.

BLITZER: And you met with these families of these 26 victims, 20 kids, six educators. That must be one of the most difficult things you've ever done in your life.

VANCE: I was -- I was part of it but, quite frankly, the people that were assigned to work with them and the one-on-ones, if you will, the interviewers that had to interview people, those -- those are very, very hard jobs. They're very hard things to do. There are so many people that played such a -- a major role in this whole situation, that it -- it just -- it really spread amongst many.

BLITZER: Was there -- I know the whole thing has been painful. It's been painful for all of us. I can only imagine what the families are going through.

But was there one moment that stands out in your mind, that you'll never forget the rest of your life?

VANCE: I think the crime scene itself is something that has made an indelible mark in -- in all of our minds. If you were tasked with that responsibility going into that crime scene, it's something that we will never be able to erase.

BLITZER: When -- you mean when you walked into that Sandy Hook Elementary School and you saw bodies of little kids on the floor?

VANCE: That's right. Yes.

BLITZER: How -- how do you -- how can you even -- I mean that must be so shocking. That must be so traumatic.

VANCE: It's an indelible mark that just -- it's never that to go away.

BLITZER: You never saw anything like that before in your life?

VANCE: No.

BLITZER: I mean you've been to a lot of crime scenes.

VANCE: Oh, yes.

BLITZER: This was the most horrific?

VANCE: Definitely.

BLITZER: By far?

VANCE: Definitely.

BLITZER: So let's look ahead now. We want to make sure this doesn't happen again. It will happen again. You know that, I know that.

What -- what can we do to reduce the chances of this happening again?

VANCE: Well, I think everyone's looked at this scene, this situation, we're always prepared, even when we were younger, for fire drills. We prepare for emergencies in the school. I think -- I think that's a constant thing that we're always going to do in our educational system -- and review, re-review, look at it, see how we can make sure we continue to make our most precious children as safe as we can make them.

We -- we -- we have to. We -- we worked through 9/11 and we continued and life went on. We -- I don't want to simplify anything, but we've got to work through this.

BLITZER: Do we need a national commission to take a look at school safety?

VANCE: That's above me. That's above me. I know that on a -- on a local level, I'm sure our town leaders, our state leaders are all going to continuously look at school safety to ensure that our children are safe.

BLITZER: Lieutenant Vance, let me thank you for what you and all the men and women of the Connecticut State Police have done. You've been a real source of strength to all of us. And as journalists, as Americans, as citizens, in learning what's going on, you've done an outstanding job.

VANCE: Thank you very much.

I appreciate that.

BLITZER: Thank you.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: Across Newtown, this was a back to school day unlike any these parents or students have faced before.

And listening to a neighbor who has a truly amazing story to tell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then they said, we can't go back to that school. We can't...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can't go back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our teacher -- our teacher is dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: With a deep breath and prayers for safety, most of Newtown's parents sent their children back to school today. CNN's Kyung Lah watched the family resumed some sort of normal routine that has obviously utterly changed. Kyung, how did it go?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It changed forever for anyone, not just in this immediate area, but all through the entire Connecticut region, because if you're a parent and you have a child heading to school, you certainly felt what happened at this elementary school, especially for one family, you know, who is trying to resume normal life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LAH (voice-over): Nothing new at the Gouveia house, just another morning, brushing teeth, readying the baby, except everything has changed.

DYLAN GOUVEIA, AGE 10: How can't you think about it? Like it's so close to you.

LAH: What is it like to send your child off into the world?

MEGAN GOUVEIA, PARENT: You know, I -- after Friday, I -- I wanted to just put them in a bubble and home school and not ever send them off.

LAH: But sending their children off to school is exactly what parent in this area are doing. Here in Newtown, the first day back in class has meant the children are walking by satellite trucks and the funerals of fellow children. They're trying to return to a routine when nothing here is ordinary.

MEGAN GOUVEIA: This is my town going through this. It's tough, and I want to be there for them.

LAH: Megan Gouveia lives a town away in New Milford now, but she grew up in Newtown. That's why she brought her children to the town center. She married here, baptized here. Her parents were both teachers. Her father taught at Sandy Hook when Megan was a child.

MEGAN GOUVEIA: I just naturally would love to keep my kids in a bubble, but I know you can't live that way. They need to socialize. They need to experience school. They need everything that helps them grow and mature and, you know, it's important.

LAH: So, they keep going. Police officers are at both these boys' schools like they are across the region. The news continues to play out, but in the background, not this family's focus.

MEGAN GOUVEIA: Have a good day.

UNIDENTIFIED KID: Bye, mom.

KEVIN GOUVEIA, PARENT: In a way, it's kind of showing them that, you know what, you didn't win. We're going to win this, you know, by continuing doing things as normal as possible.

MEGAN GOUVEIA: Have the best day ever. I love you.

KEVIN GOUVEIA: Kind of showing your kids that, you know what, it's OK. You know, we're going to go on with life.

MEGAN GOUVEIA: See you, Brent.

KEVIN GOUVEIA: We're going to keep doing things the way we did it last week, you know? We're going to win.

LAH: Just by living.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAH (on-camera): I mentioned the police presence. It has varied at -- from different schools, from the elementary school to the high school. We were at the high school here in Newtown earlier in the day, and I actually counted three patrol cars. So, parents are saying they are glad to return to school. Their glad for their kids to go back, but it's certainly a very difficult day, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very difficult, indeed. I hope that everyone is just trying to get back to normal, though, it's not going to be easy. Kyung Lah, thanks very much.

Whether or not they admit it, there are many heroes here in Newtown, the teachers at the school, the first responders, of course, but also the people who happened to be in the right place at the right time.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, Wolf. Gene Rosen lives down the road from Sandy Hook Elementary School. Friday morning, he discovered six terrified children on his front lawn who told him their teacher had just been killed. Rosen talked with CNN's Erin Burnett.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: When you saw those children on your yard, did you have any idea that something was wrong?

GENE ROSEN, NEIGHBOR OF SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY: I had no idea. I thought they were doing a skit or maybe they were cub scouts and girl scouts or they were just practicing because they were sitting so nicely.

But then I saw a man in a very agitated way saying, it's going to be all right and he kept raising his voice and I thought that was so strange and I came to the children, and they were crying and waling and mortified and there was a school bus driver with them and I invited them into the house. And she said that an incident at the school. I had no idea what it was.

BURNETT: And the children, how did they find the words to tell you, because they told you, right, that their teacher had died?

ROSEN: They told me. They just started talking. The two boys mostly talked, and they said, we can't go back to that can school. We can't --

BURNETT: We can't go back?

ROSEN: Our teacher -- our teacher is dead. What are we going to do? We don't have a teacher? And I was -- I could not take that in. I could not -- I could not accept that. And I just kept listening to them, and then, they talked more and the boy said, oh, no. It was a big gun and a small gun and then I knew -- and then they said there was blood.

There was blood. And then, they said her name and I prayed that it wasn't that teacher and it was. It was that --

BURNETT: Vicky Soto?

ROSEN: It was that very pretty 27-year-old teacher. I don't know how they fled. I think she must have protected them. She saved their lives. I don't know if they ran all the way down the boulevard, the street next to the firehouse. I don't know how they got to my house. They were so brave and they were so good and they -- I brought down some toys from my grandson's toy chest.

And I gave them some juice and we called their parents. They were very brave and very good and I was amazed. I was -- I was astounded at what they were telling me.

BURNETT: How they noticed everything. And I know you're a psychologist by training, but you talk about being a grandfather. Just the grandfather, that was you at that moment.

ROSEN: That's what trained me, being a grandfather. I felt like I was with my grandchildren and I felt perfectly happy with them. That's what trained me. My granddaughter and my grandson and they were with me and I felt comfortable.

They were very sweet and they calmed down a little, but they were so -- they kept repeating that they can't go back to the school because they don't have a teacher.

BURNETT: And their grieving is going to be hard for the adults to understand. It will be different. It may be more intense. It just will be different. What message do you have for those children that came on to your yard?

ROSEN: I want to see -- I want to be reunited with them. I want to see those children and I want to tell them how good and brave and strong they are. I want to tell their parents that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: It's such a sad story.

BOLDUAN: So sad.

BLITZER: Heart wrenching story about these amazing kids who witnessed something so horrible.

When we come back, the search for answers, the clues, medical investigators are looking for. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here in Newtown, Connecticut, the community is still searching, searching for answers as police pour over evidence. CNNs chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, reports there's one place medical investigators will start. The past.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First thing you notice when you look around Newtown, everyone has that questioning look, why, what did we miss, if anything? No answers yet, just hindsight.

(on-camera) To try and make some sense of the tragedy here in Newtown, Connecticut, medical investigators will often look for evidences of patterns, not talking about looking at clothing styles or musical preferences or even lifestyle, but rather looking for evidence of specific plans, could give some clues to what was happening in a person's mind and in their brain.

(voice-over) It's hard to know, because thankfully, there are relatively few tragedies like this one. But a close look at ten of the most analyzed mass murder cases in history provide some remarkable insight. According to this research published in the journal "Aggression and Violent Behavior," doctors typically start by placing these killers into three categories, traumatized, psychotic, psychopathic.

In 2005, a 16-year-old killed nine people at a school in Minnesota. A look into his past revealed an abused boy with an awful family history. The shooter had been previously traumatized. The Virginia Tech shooter killed 32 people. Six were murdered in Arizona and 12 lives were taken in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater.

In each case, the killers showed signs of psychotic behavior, severe delusions and paranoia. Thirteen people were shot and killed in Columbine, Colorado. One of the murders was later discovered to be a textbook psychopath. And we now know he even laughed while gunning down his victims. Looking back, none of them had snapped. They had all left clues, pieced together after it was too late. Hindsight.

(on-camera) We still don't know much about the shooter who lived in this home, but there is something else to consider. What medications, if any, he was on. I'm specifically talking about anti- depressants. If you look at the studies on other shootings like this that have happened, medications like this were a common factor.

Now, I want to be clear, not saying that anti-depressants can't be effective, but people seem to agree that there is a vulnerable time when someone starts these medications and when someone stops could lead to increased impulsivity, decreased judgment and making someone out of touch.

(voice-over) None of this is an excuse and it's never just one thing. None of these behaviors will fully predict or explain why. But soon again, there will be hindsight that might just help prevent another tragedy.

(on-camera) (INAUDIBLE) seven-year period, there were 11,000 episodes of violence related to drug side effects. If there was a death involved, often, it was the individual himself or herself suicide. It is very difficult for many of these people to get treatment in the first place. Back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Sanjay Gupta reporting for us. Thank you, Sanjay.

Sandy Hook students won't go back to school until next month. We have a guest who knows what they will be feeling as she and other survivors of the massacre at Columbine High School. They are now reaching out to folks here in Newtown.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Today marked another terrible moment for the parents of two students killed in their classrooms Friday morning. Two more funerals, two more beautiful children laid to rest.

BOLDUAN: You're right, Wolf. James Mattioli was fondly known as Jay. He was a fan of arm wrestling, math, hair gel, and his big sister Anna. James would often sing at the top of his lungs and asked how old he'd have to be to perform on stage. He also loved the outdoors, diving into the pool, and riding his bike. Proud that he didn't need training wheels anymore.

And Jessica Rekos was known as the CEO of her family, the boss. She was a ball of fire, creative, and a planner. Her parents had promised she'd get the gift she wanted most, a horse, when she turned 10.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KRISTA REKOS, MOTHER OF JESSICA REKOS: It's still not real that my little girl who's so full of life and who wants a horse so badly and who's going to get cowgirl boots for Christmas isn't coming home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary School face daunting, daunting challenges, hoping what they have seen, heard, and felt, then moving on, trying to rebuild a sense of normality in their lives. But they aren't alone.

Crystal Miller hid from the killer's at the Columbine High School back in 1999 and she escaped to safety.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRYSTAL WOODMAN MILLER, SURVIVOR OF 1999 MASSACRE AT COLUMBINE HIGH SCHOOL: I was in the library when they came in and just started shooting and setting off bombs. They were just saying that they have wanted to do this their whole lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Crystal Miller is now part of a support group of Columbine survivors. She's joining us from Denver.

Crystal, thank you very much for sharing some thoughts with us. Do you remember what it was like four days after the Columbine massacre, how you felt then?

MILLER: You know, Wolf, it's hard to remember the specific days. I feel like in the immediate days following the shootings at Columbine just blurred together. It was still that feeling of disbelief and shock, complete and utter shock. You know, and at some point along the way it turned into experiencing just a wide range of emotions, with such intensity from fear to anger to sadness to guilt.

Just trying to wade through those as a 16-year-old girl who had faced reality of death underneath the table at Columbine. It's just -- it was so hard to do even at 16. I cannot even begin to imagine what it looks like for these kids who are 6 and 7, just mere babies.

BLITZER: So how did you learn to cope with the tragedy that you eyewitnessed?

MILLER: For me, I really had an amazing support system. My family, the community of Littleton, my school friends, of course the administrators, teachers at Columbine. I had an amazing church community. I had -- personally I had faith that I was able to stand on and none of it was easy. It was the darkest days of my life as I was scared to close my eyes because I would relive the events, I would hear the sounds of the guns. I would hear the killers' voices.

I could smell the smells of the library. But yet it was a journey. It was a process. I can't remember one day where things suddenly got better but it was -- it was really a progression. It was time that it took to heal. It was coming together and really supporting one another.

Just as I see the people of Sandy Hook doing, you know, the people of Newtown, Connecticut, look so close-knit and they really seem as though they're coming around supporting one another. And I think that's so crucial in this time.

BOLDUAN: And one thing that many are -- you know, so concerned about the children who survived this tragedy here is how they're going to cope when they realize and they probably have at this point that they have lost their friends. Thirteen people were killed at Columbine. Did you lose any friends?

MILLER: I did. I knew several of the students, the teacher, Mr. Sanders, he was my coach for softball, basketball, track.

What's so hard is going back and you have an empty chair next to you or we go to graduation and you know that you have classmates that are supposed to be graduating with you. It's -- it just -- it leaves a void that cannot be filled.

And for these young kids, I think what breaks my heart the most is these young kids can't understand that that happened at their school and the bad guy is gone. They are going home and they think that the bad guy is in their room or in their house and it's hard for them to contextualize that, you know. And so that's just -- but I want the people of Sandy Hook to know, you know, that even after the cameras are gone and the people disappear that they are still not alone.

That there's a nation still grieving. That unfortunately there's other survivors out there who can relate, who love them, who are not going anywhere. And I think that's what we need to remember. That we have to be there in the long term when these kids do begin to realize the reality of what is happening and that we cannot forget this community.

We have to continue to stand behind them, support them, do whatever we can to lend a hand because that's when things get real is when you feel isolated and alone and the reality sinks in.

BOLDUAN: And we hear that you're planning to come to Newtown. What do you want to do when you hear -- what do you want to say, how do you want to help?

MILLER: I do. I want to come not because I feel like I have anything that I can say that -- there's no -- there's no five-step plan to walk through tragedy and through trauma. I want to wrap my arms around people, cry with them, hear their stories, just grieve with this community. But we hope to come again when all the cameras are gone and the world kind of goes back to the day to day.

We want to come, we want to bring teddy bears and just love on the community there. Just as we were loved on at Columbine and in the Littleton community.

BLITZER: And everybody wants to know why, why something like this could happen, why something like Columbine could happen. If we find out -- if the survivors here, the families find out why, will that make a difference? Will that help? Did it help you?

MILLER: You know, I'm not sure that we still know why the two killers that Columbine did what they did. I'm not sure we ever have answers to some of these questions. Because I think if we really knew that we would see these things come to an end and, unfortunately, even as you said before, Wolf, they continue to happen.

I'm not sure if -- I mean, answering a question isn't going to bring back these 26 amazing lives that we've lost. Some it may bring some consolation, it may bring some understanding. But the fact is, is that there's 20 beautiful children who were taken all too soon and six adults who as well were taken all too soon from this earth.

BLITZER: Crystal, thanks so much for sharing your story. I'm sure you will be a source of comfort for a lot of the folks here in Newtown. We appreciate you joining us.

Crystal Woodman Miller joining us from Denver.

MILLER: Thank you. Thanks so much for having me.

BOLDUAN: Thanks.

BLITZER: Thank you. There's a growing debate over violent video games at the same time. What you need to know, what you can do to protect your kids. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Police say Adam Lanza brought four weapons, four weapons to the Sandy Hook Elementary School here in Newtown, and now calls for changes to gun control laws are growing louder and louder.

After days of silence, one voice finally joining the conversation, the National Rifle Association, or better known as the NRA.

CNN's Emily Schmidt is joining us now with more of this part of the story.

What's going on here, Emily?

EMILY SCHMIDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you know, the biggest gun rights lobbying group, the NRA has said almost nothing since last week's shooting. Late this afternoon, that all changed with this statement saying, "Out of respect for the families and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer, and a full investigation of the facts before commenting."

Now the NRA says it plans to hold a news conference on Friday. That will be one full week after the shooting. It could be a test of the NRA's clout in a political landscape potentially altered by this tragedy in Newtown. Until today I had to search for the NRA-sponsored Web cast to hear anything the group.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From all of us here at nranews.com, our hearts go out to the people of Newtown, Connecticut, and the folks who are grieving tonight after the horrendous murders at the Sandy Hook Elementary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHMIDT: Today's statement is a departure from how the NRA has handled previous gun-related tragedies. In fact the NRA's initial statement following Newtown said, "Until the facts are thoroughly known, NRA will not have any comment." That was almost identical to the comments following other high-profile shootings in Aurora, Colorado and Virginia Tech.

The NRA says today it is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to make sure this never happens again but, Wolf, it did not go into details about what those contributions may prove to be.

BLITZER: I'm sure there's going to be a quick, quick lively debate coming up. We'll see what happens at the news conference that the NRA is holding this Friday in Washington.

Emily, thanks very much.

Questions are being raised over the role that violent video games might have played in this tragedy as well. People who knew the gunman say he enjoyed playing those violent video games, like one called StarCraft.

Is there any link between the games and real-life violence?

Our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is joining us now with more on this.

Elizabeth, what's going on here? Because this debate over violent video games is also intensifying.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is intensifying and if you look at the literature at the studies, there's a real conflict over whether or not these games can actually make someone violent. Are they associated with violence? So some of the studies say, no, they are not. They did a study, they looked at people playing them, and they said they get the difference between reality and fantasy. They get that these are just games.

But then there are other studies that show there is an association. For example, Wolf, there was one study who was really interesting, they took two groups of people, one group played violent video games and another group played nonviolent video games, and then the researcher staged a fight. They staged a confrontation. And they found that the folks who'd been watching the violent video games were less likely to help out.

They were slower to try to -- to try to help the people who were fighting and stop the fight and their conclusion was that perhaps in some way they'd been desensitized because they felt that the fighting really wasn't that bad. After watching the games, the real-life fight didn't seem that bad -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, Elizabeth, a lot of parents are watching their -- maybe their kids play a lot of these games all the time. So what can they do if they begin to get worried about their kids spending an awful lot of time with these violent games?

COHEN: You know, I think if parents are worried, then they should -- I'm going to go out on a limb here as an empowered parent. Just say no. Just say to your kids, I don't like these games. There's a million other things you can do. Stop playing them. Now if you feel that your kids are playing them and they're OK and there's nothing wrong with it, then I would urge to you do these three things.

First of all, know the rating of the game that you're playing and know what that rating means and then watch it online. If your child is playing this game, watch it yourself. They may be playing it for hours on end. Also, have them play the game in a common family space. They shouldn't be in their bedroom doing it. You don't know how long they're going to go on and play this game and what else they are playing. Do it where they can -- where you can watch them. Also, monitor your child. If your child is having fights at school, if your child is not doing well at school, if the teacher is telling you that your child is having behavioral issues, then you should pay attention to that and remember there might be a link to these games.

And, Wolf, a psychologist gave us a really great piece of advice. They said, parents don't always notice these behavioral changes but say grandma comes to visit and says, you know, something is off here. Listen to the people who see your child on occasions, they may notice the changes better than you.

BLITZER: That's a good point. Grandparents can be very, very important in a situation like this.

Thanks very much, Elizabeth, for that.

At the top of the hour, we're going to have the very latest on the investigation here in Connecticut. What exactly is going on? Later, a boyfriend remembers a teacher-turned-hero who lost her life trying to stay her students.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: While much of President Obama's attention certainly has been focused on his administration's response to gun violence, what has happened here in Connecticut and understandably so, he's also been talking with the House Speaker John Boehner about a deal to try to avoid the huge tax increases, the massive spending cuts scheduled to hit in just 14 days.

CNN's senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is outside a meeting of House Republicans right now. There had been ups and downs. What's going on? What are they discussing, Dana? What's the very latest?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, House Republicans are meeting right down the hall from where I am right now. And they're talking about whether or not they have the votes for a doomsday kind of proposal that the speaker first proposed this morning.

This has been something that Republicans have been mulling for weeks. But because right now we are one week away from Christmas and it was now or never.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): House Speaker John Boehner negotiating by phone with the president Monday afternoon. The speaker's office released this photo to show he is trying to cut a broad deal to reduce the deficit and avert the fiscal cliff, even though he's also now pursuing what he calls plan B.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Our plan B would protect American taxpayers, who make $1 million or less, and have all of their current rates extended.

BASH: According to sources in the room, the speaker described this backup plan to House Republicans as a way to try to inoculate the GOP from political blame if fiscal cliff compromise talks fail.

REP. STEVE LATOURETTE (R), OHIO: His point was, we have to face reality. And the reality is that the president was re-elected, that taxes, if we do nothing, on every American are going up on January 1st.

BASH: Another goal of this new plan B tactic, try to force the president to agree that any package to reduce the deficit be equal parts tax increases and spending cuts.

BOEHNER: That, at this point, would be my version of a balanced approach.

BASH: Part of the Republican strategy is also to call the Democrats' bluff. Just two years ago, high profile Democrats came up with the idea of extending tax cuts for incomes up to $1 million. Now Democrats think they hold the cards and say, no way.

SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: Everyone should understand, Boehner's proposal will not pass the Senate.

BASH: The White House argues the president gave a lot of ground in a proposal leaked to reporters Monday night, making concessions to the GOP position on tax rate increases and spending cuts.

In fact, a Democratic source in the room tells CNN the president's congressional liaison got an earful at a meeting of House Democrats for agreeing to a change that would effectively make Social Security checks smaller.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has always said, as part of this process, when we're talking about the spending cut side of this, that it would require tough choices by both sides. And that is certainly the case, if you want to reach an agreement.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, as far as this Republican plan B proposal, which again, they're discussing the down the hall as we speak, a Republican senator I talked to said that he believes that this is important to do to sort of get the tax rate issue, the very divisive tax rate issue, off the table, in the hopes that when the votes are taken and you see that probably none of this can actually pass, it will clear the way, finally, for the president and the speaker to get that broad $2 trillion deal to reduce the deficit and avert the fiscal cliff -- Wolf.

BLITZER: They still have plenty of work to do, the president and the speaker. Not only bridging their gaps, but making sure they've got their own people on board to support whatever compromises they achieve. Dana, thank you.

CNN's Anderson Cooper has spoken with the parents of one of the victims. They told them how they intend to live their lives to honor their little girl's memory. Anderson will join us with their story. That's coming up in our next hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're here in Newtown, Connecticut. It's a small New England town. Many people say they moved here because of the fabulous schools and because it's a safe, intimate community. In the face of the horrible reason we're here, though, the town is showing remarkable, remarkable strength right now. All of us are so impressed.

Don lemon is here in Newtown as well. He's at one of these many memorials that have sprung up throughout the town.

It's pouring rain outside, now, Don, but tell our viewers what's going on.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT: Well, the people are dropping off things and there's hardly any room here. And before we -- I show you around a little bit, Wolf, I want to talk to you about two of the youngest victims, two of the victims who were laid to rest today. Little James Mattioli and also little Jessica Rekos, both of them 6 years old.

I want to tell you about James first. Fondly known as Jay in his family, and they said he was such a fireball. He liked wrestling, he liked math, he loved to fix his hair, he liked hair gel, and -- but more in love with his bigger sister, whose name was Ana. They said that what they're going to remember about him most is that he often sang at the top of his lungs, Wolf, and he couldn't wait until he was old enough to be able to sing on stage.

He kept saying, when am I going to be old enough to sing on stage? Said he loved the outdoors, diving into pools, riding on his bike, and he was so happy that recently he was -- didn't need his training wheels to ride his bicycle.

And then there is 6-year-old Jessica Rekos, who's known as the CEO of her family and they said they called her the boss because she was in control of everything, she liked to plan everything. And her mom also spoke about her. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REKOS: It's still not real that my little girl, who's so full of life, and who wants a horse so badly, and who's going to get cowgirl boots for Christmas, isn't coming home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: My god, the strength of that mother. She wanted a horse by the time she was 10. Sadly, Wolf, she didn't make it. But they said she was going to get cowgirl boots this Christmas, and that's what she wanted more than anything, besides that horse. But sadly, that's not going to happen.

So many stories, so many stories like that. Two of the people who are young victims, who were laid to rest today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Don Lemon, watching this story, doing a very, very excellent job for us.

Don, thank you, thank you so much.