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Shooter's Actions Inside the Church; Starting to Forgive; Possible Breakthrough in New York Escapees Manhunt; Vigils Planned Around Country This Weekend; State Department Reports ISIS Now Worse than Al Qaeda. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired June 20, 2015 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:00] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: New details this morning about the Charleston Church shooter. His actions inside the church before that massacre and what Dylann Roof have been telling investigators now.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every fiber in my body hurts.


BLACKWELL: Families are dealing with this pain after the shooting and some of them have already forgiven the shooter before their loved ones have even been buried.

PAUL: Also breaking this morning also, a possible sighting of these two escaped New York convicts. Where they could be headed now?

Always so grateful for your company. Thanks for being with us. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Always a pleasure.

And we're starting this morning in South Carolina with new information on the shooter and a lot of questions about how this could have actually been much worse.

PAUL: I mean, nine people were killed. Bad enough, right? Revelations that the death toll, though, could have been even higher, or just as shocking, the bloodshed was almost avoided altogether. The confusing contrast we have for you this morning and the reason why the confessed killer targeted this church in particular. Those are among this morning's many developments.

BLACKWELL: There have been vigils in Charleston, you see here and some around the country. This one held last night. But there are more planned today and tomorrow.

PAUL: And defending the indefensible. Investigators say Roof has freely admitted to the killings. So, what are the legal options for the public defenders handling this case? BLACKWELL: Let's go first to Nick Valencia. He's in Charleston, South Carolina, with new information this morning.

Nick, what have you learned?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Victor. We are learning from our local affiliate WBTV in Charlotte, North Carolina, near the area where the 21-year-old Dylann Roof was eventually captured.

According to conversations that he had with investigators, he eventually showed up at the scene with seven ammunition magazines, ready to carry out this mass shooting. Also, he reportedly had second thoughts about carrying out this killing spree, telling investigators that the individuals in that church were so nice to him, that it led him to have some second thoughts. He was also told he killed nine people. A fact he evidently did not know and was caught off-guard by.

Yesterday, he made his first court appearance here in the state of South Carolina and some of those victims' family members in the courtroom and, as you can imagine, it was a very emotional scene.


VALENCIA (voice-over): In shackles and wearing prison stripes, gunman Dylann Roof walked into his first court appearance with little fanfare or emotion. His image broadcast via video link from the detention center into a North Charleston courtroom. On the other side of the screen off camera, relatives of the innocent victims.

JUDGE JAMES B. GOSNELL, CHARLESTON COUNTY MAGISTRATE: Before we go into the bond process, I would like to ask are there any members, or is there a representative of any of the family that would be here that wish to make a statement before this court, before I post or set the bond?

VALENCIA: Through tears, some of them spoke.


You took something very precious away from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you, and have mercy on your soul.

GOSNELL: Your name, ma'am?


VALENCIA: One of them, Felecia Sanders, a survivor of the slaughter who lost her son in the attack, seems to speak for them all.

SANDERS: We welcomed you Wednesday night in our bible study with open arms. You have killed some of the most beautifulest people that I know. Every fiber in my body hurts! And I'll never be the same.

VALENCIA: Roof listens, expressionless. Staring down, he says nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your Honor, I've met with Mr. Roof. I think he understands the proceedings.

VALENCIA: Law enforcement sources say he confessed to killing nine people, all shot multiple times. In a bizarre twist, the chief magistrate asked the court to give sympathy to Roof's family.

GOSNELL: We must find it in our heart that, at some point in time, not only to help those who are victims, but also to help his family as well.

VALENCIA: In their first statement since the massacre, Roof's family says they are devastated and saddened. "Words cannot express our shock, grief, and disbelief as to what happened that night." They go on to say the Roof family extends their deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims.

[07:05:01] Forgiveness also a vocal point at a prayer vigil on Friday, quite a remarkable response from a city still healing.


VALENCIA: It may have been Roof's only family members that led to his capture. His father and sister saw that image of him being broadcast all over the news and calling police and identifying Dylann Roof as the gunman. He was eventually captured four hours north of here in Shelby, North Carolina -- Victor, Christi.

BLACKWELL: Just heartbreaking to listen to those family members there in court yesterday.

Nick Valencia, thank you so much.

PAUL: Let's bring in CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI assistant director Tom Fuentes now.

Tom, one of the big revelations this morning is that Dylann Roof had seven magazines on him when he entered this church. This was a Glock .45 model, 41, seven magazines. Is that easy to conceal?

TOM FUENTES, CNN ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You know, normally, no. But if he had a backpack, it would be very easy to conceal that. If you're trying to wear that on a belt or something, that would be extremely heavy that many bullets and magazines and plus the gun itself.

But if he was, you know, with a backpack, he could easily have that many and even more with him.

PAUL: One of the other things we are learning is that, you know, of course, he said that he shot a few people. This is in an interview with investigators.

When he was told that he killed nine people, they say he appeared remorseful. Do you see that as an act? Do you believe it? How do you believe anything from this guy at this point? FUENTES: First of all, Chris, I tend to not believe -- so many times

we have people in custody and the leaks come out. The investigators say the individual said this or said that. We had this with Joyce Mitchell when she was being interviewed or interrogated up in New York, now, we have this guy. I don't necessarily believe that is what he said. If he did say it, I don't believe he is remorseful.

So, that's my opinion on people like that and these kind of leaks that come out about what people -- you know, we not only talk about what he said, but now what he felt? I don't buy it.

PAUL: Is there anything about him that is believable, Tom? If you're sitting there investigate are or if you're interrogating somebody or interviewing somebody, how much of what they say in a situation like this is believable to you?

FUENTES: To me? Only what you can prove by other means, by the forensic, the crime scene investigation, reliable witness accounts, but they might be that reliable with this horrific of an act taking place right in front of their face.

So, witness accounts can also be difficult to verify the accuracy of, but you would certainly have the number of bullets fired, the number of bullets that he possibly was carrying, and then, you know, how much of that was in the car when they arrested him. We know that they found a .45 caliber pistol in his car. Was that the one that was used? The autopsies will verify -- if that is the gun I should say that fired the bullet that killed those people and we will know more at that time.

But I wait for the science before I go by what these guys say.

PAUL: There is somebody who is talking as well, Dylann Roof's former roommate. Here is what he had to say.


JOEY MEEK, FRIEND OF DYLANN ROOF: I took his gun and I hid it. And the next morning, I didn't want to get in trouble saying I took his gun so I put his gun back in his trunk.

REPORTER: How do you feel about that now?

MEEK: Terrible. But then again, I can't go back because I was looking out for myself really because I didn't want to get in trouble for stealing a gun.


PAUL: So, he went on, tom, to say that it could have been prevented if people would have taken him seriously but Dylann wasn't a serious person. Is there anything you look at and say could have been done differently?

FUENTES: Well, I don't know, listening to that kid, I don't know about the statements he is making. And hearing the interview in greater amount yesterday, before he says he took the gun away, he also says Dylann had been drinking and drank a liter of vodka, so you could also say he took the gun away because if Dylann was drunk, he was afraid he might kill him or who knows who. So, it didn't sound -- you know, when you heard that part of the interview, it didn't sound like he took the gun away because he thought he was going to go out and kill somebody else. Just that he didn't take him serious but he didn't want to leave a drunk guy with an armed .45 or a loaded .45.

PAUL: All right. Tom Fuentes, always appreciate your voice. Thank you.

FUENTES: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: This weekend, there are people not only in Charleston who are getting together to pray for healing and pray for these families, but it's happening across the country. There's a rally and a march and a vigil planned in New York this morning at 11:00 a.m., thousands expected to gather at an AME church there in Queens.

I want to listen to how mourners remembered the victims last night.




[07:10:19] BLACKWELL: We talked a moment ago about the search for answers in this ongoing investigation, but let's take a look at how some are trying to reconcile what happened with their faith, with Reverend Randolph Miller, the pastors of an Nichols Chapel AME church.

Reverend Miller, it's good to have you this morning.

REV. RANDOLPH MILLER, PASTOR, NICHOLS CHAPEL AME CHURCH: We are happy to be with you here this morning.

BLACKWELL: Reverend, how do -- and you're going to stand in front of people today, I assume, at vigils that are planned, and tomorrow in front of the weekly worship. How do you explain this to people who are possibly questioning their faith? How could God let this happen in a house of God?

MILLER: We are going to have to continue to teaching them to keep their faith and not to let their faith go. Believe it or not, a tragedy will happen, situations will come, suffering will happen, but we must learn to teach them how to move on and move forward.

A lot of things happen in the bible. There were tragedies. And as pastors, we teach that every Sunday. In the bible, there's a man named Job. Job lost everything he had, family, everything. But it was motivated through Job to keep his faith.

And that's what we are going to have to teach this community, that in the midst of what has happened here in Charleston, we must teach our people, our members. We've got to move forward and keep our faith, even though it was horrific, but we are going to get through this.

BLACKWELL: Do you see that this has changed? You're there in Charleston. That this has changed Charleston beyond the days and weeks after this tragedy, that it has changed it permanently, or at least in some way that will last beyond the time that the investigation and the news coverage lasts?

MILLER: Well, you know what? This situation has not only just touched Charleston, but it has touched people around the world. Because as you watch television, as you come out here in front of the church, people have been coming from everywhere just to be a part, just to encourage the citizens here that you're not standing alone, we are in this with you.

And believe it or not, that is one of the positive things that has come out of this situation is that now we are beginning to hold hand and walk together and to encourage one another.

BLACKWELL: All right. Reverend Randolph Miller, I thank you for being with us.

Later this morning, I want to ask you and we will ask you to stick around. I want to ask you how this logistically changes your church and the congregation if you're going to change the security around your church and who you let in and possibly who you will not let in. We'll talk about that later. That's coming later this morning.


PAUL: All right. Dylann Roof meanwhile facing nine murder counts. He's already reportedly has confessed. So, how do you defend him? We're going to give our legal analyst Joey Jackson that case and see what he has to say.

Also, new details this morning in the manhunt for two escaped convicts. Could a possible sighting help crack this case open?


[07:16:55] BLACKWELL: All right. Breaking this morning in the search for those two killers who escaped from New York prison more than two weeks ago now. Late last night, a corrections officer was placed on administrative leave from the Clinton correctional facility. This was part of the ongoing investigation. We'll have more on that in a second.

PAUL: First, though, New York state police are investigating two new possible sightings of the convicts. These two men here, Richard Matt and David Sweat, apparently sighting near the New York/Pennsylvania border.

CNN law enforcement Tom Fuentes in Washington, and CNN's Sara Ganim is in Dannemora, New York, with the very latest.

Sara, I want to go to you first. What have you learned this morning?

SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christi and Victor.

Yes, these are two pretty major developments happening overnight. This -- I want to start with the sighting because this is interesting. These sightings were actually a week ago, about 350 miles away from the prison where we are near the border with Pennsylvania. The New York state border with Pennsylvania in Steuben County, two sighting on two different days, two consecutive days.

Witnesses told police they saw two men walking along a Gang Mills rail yard on Rita's Way in a town called Erwin. And then the next day, two men of the similar description going along Route 115 in a town just south of there called Lindley. Now, these are very close to the border, about 350 miles away. If you were driving, it would take you about five and a half hours to get there. This is last week, though, June 13th.

So, over the course of the week, investigators went down there. They interviewed people. They even found surveillance video showing these two men but it was inconclusive. And so, now, state police are sending that video to a state crime lab in Albany hoping for more clues.

But as of now, right now, the search is obtained to this immediate area. Police telling us over the last couple of days that they have searched more than 600 miles of trails and more than 200 abandoned homes and camps, still in this immediate area, looking for these two men. There have been other sightings, but these are new sightings that we are learning of this morning.

Also last night, Victor and Christi, we learned about this corrections officer who has now been placed on administrative leave. Note a whole lot of detail about this. We don't know if it's paid or unpaid leave.

All we know is that it's a male corrections officer and we know from talking to the district attorney the last couple of weeks that they always left open the possibility that there were other people who may have aided these two in their escape, that if one person could be manipulated into aiding them, that there was always the possibility there were more. And this is part of ongoing investigation -- Victor and Christi.

PAUL: All right. Hey, Sara, thank you.

Tom, one of the other developments is Matt and Sweat are now on the FBI's most wanted list. Being elevated to that list, how does that really help or impact the investigation?

FUENTES: Well, they are actually on the marshal's top 15 list, Christi, and what that does is cause the agency to have, I believe, an automatic, I believe, $50,000 award in this case. The FBI top ten if they are put on that, requires somebody else to be captured or killed and taken off the list to put them on.

[07:20:06] That would bring about a $100,000 automatic reward for capture in this case. But putting them on the list show the marshals and the authorities want to dedicate maximum effort to the investigation and that this investigation is ongoing throughout the country and would be conducted on a worldwide basis by the marshals and by the FBI, you know, contacting other countries, using Interpol, using any means of communication among all of the various law enforcement agencies of the world technically to put the word out about these two and about the need to arrest them.

PAUL: Real quickly, Tom. Since there was that sighting, that new sighting we are learning about, do you believe they are still traveling together?

FUENTES: I think there's a good chance that they would be, still traveling -- as long as they need each other or think that they are going to have trouble getting food or they might be in danger or if they are lying in a location that one person keeps watching and the other person takes a nap. I think while they are in that mode, they may stand a good chance of being together. I think when they are confident they don't need each other any further in their escape or taking up their new life, wherever that maybe, maybe they might split up.

But again, they have been partners in crime now in the planning of this for well over a year.

PAUL: All right. Hey, Tom Fuentes, Sra Gamin, we appreciate it. Thank you so much.

FUENTES: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: The shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, has reunited the debate over gun control. The president is weighing in. The men and women who want to take over the White House are weighing in as well. How could this shape the election? That's ahead.

Also, a public defender now handling Dylann Roof's case. Nine murder counts, nine murder charges. We ask our legal experts, how does this attorney prepare a defense?


[07:25:29] PAUL: Twenty-five minutes past the hour.

When it comes to the trial of church massacre shooter Dylann Roof, and I wonder what's next, he has his bond set at a million dollars and facing nine counts of murder. This after sources say he confessed to the crime. So, some officials, including South Carolina's governor, Nikki Haley, is calling for the death penalty.

Let's talk about this HLN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, Joey Jackson.

Joey, the guy confessed. How do you craft a defense for him?


As a defense attorney, two types of cases really. Those you could prevail and ones you cannot. The ones you can prevail on, you challenge everything, witnesses, ballistics -- no matter what it is, you challenge it because you have a shot.

In the alternative, there are those cases like this that are not winnable, and that's the reality check you have with your client. Why? Because there is a confession. Because there are witnesses. Because there's surveillance and because it was you.

In those cases, you go down the list of what might prevail. You look at, you know, choice A, is there some type of mental defense that we can proffer?

In this case, I don't think so for a variety of reasons. There is the gun. There is plotting. There's carrying that gun there and staying there for an hour and there is the killing and making statements that are outrageous concerning why he had to do this. Then the consciousness of guilt associated with his flight.

So, I don't think that you could establish -- you didn't know right from wrong when were so deliberate and were so malicious in your killing.

So, then, what's left? What's left is a negotiation? I think that negotiation from a defense prospective will center around saving his life. These are death penalty eligible cases. When I say "cases," there are nine individual lives that have been taken here, that he has to be held accountable for. So I think the attorney is going to focus in on any strategy that would spare him from the death penalty.

PAUL: So you are whole heartedly believing the death penalty will come into this case?

JACKSON: I really to do. I think it's an aggravating factor here. And when you talk about the death penalty on the South Carolina law, if you kill two or more people in the same criminal transaction, the same criminal scheme, it comes into play.

So, based upon the grueling nature of what he did, the heinous nature, you're in a house of god where people are more vulnerable. You're praying with them. You're building kinship with them and then you take their life.

As I've heard you say so aptly, Christ, they're not a statistic. I now know you.

PAUL: Yes.

JACKSON: I've had fellowship with you. I was kind to you. As a result of that, what do I get? You kill me?

And so, I really think that any defense here has to focus on the reality that you're not winning the case and the most you can do is spare him, if there is any redeeming quality you could convey to that district attorney.

The public is outraged, the community is outraged, the nation is outraged by his actions and he's going to have to take ownership of them. I think the best we hope for really and realistically is that his life is spared. Otherwise, I just do not see a successful defense proffered here.

And, finally, Christi, these are discussions that we have with our clients behind closed doors all the time. Can you win? If you can, you go for it. If you cannot win, then you have to talk about what you can to mitigate the punishment. That's the discussion going to occur here and that's the only discussion that will occur.

PAUL: All right . Hey, Joey Jackson, thank you for giving us that insight. We appreciate it.

JACKSON: Thank you, Christi.

BLACKWELL: Well, some family members of the relatives of the victims in that Charleston shooting, they're showing some remarkable courage. They're making these statements. You heard them in court in the bond hearing, telling Dylann they forgive him.

We'll examine how difficult is this? They haven't buried their loved ones yet, but they are forgiving the shooter.


[07:31:29] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Mortgage rates dropped this week. Here's your look.


PAUL: Thirty-three minutes past the hour.

And in just a couple of hours, New York City is going to join the rest of the country in honoring and remembering those people who died this week in this week's church massacre.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Thousands are expected to gather at an AME Church in Queens. But family members in Charleston, they have begun the healing by forgiving the shooter.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You took something very precious away from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you, and have mercy on your soul.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I forgive you. My family forgive you. But we would like to take the opportunity to repent. Give your life to the one who matters the most, Christ.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We welcome you Wednesday night in our bible study with open arms. You have killed some of the most beautifulest people that I know. Every fiber in my body hurts! And I'll never be the same.

Tywanza Sanders is my son. But Tywanza was my hero. Tywanza was my hero. But as we say in the bible study, we enjoyed you. But may God have

mercy on you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone's plea for your soul is proof that they -- they lived in love and their legacies will live in love.

[07:35:09] So, hate won't win.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I acknowledge that I am very angry, but one thing has always joined in our family with is that she taught me that we are the family that love built! We have no room for hate, so we have to forgive!


BLACKWELL: All right. So, let's talk now about faith and that forgiveness. We are joined again by Reverend Randolph Miller, the pastor at the Nichols AME Church there in Charleston. Pastor, good to have you back and I want you to react to something we heard from another pastor, Thomas Dixon.

Here is what he told CNN's Erin Burnett about the families of these victims and their having to forgive Dylann Roof. Listen.


BLACKWELL: OK. Well, indeed, he said they have to forgive them for their own healing.

Expound on that, if you could, that for one to heal, they have to forgive.

MILLER: OK. As a community of faith, how can we teach the word of the bible and the things that Christ taught us? And one thing, one of the major things he taught through the word is learning us how to forgive, especially our enemies.

So, as a Christian community, a community of faith, how can we teach others if we don't put into practice what we have learned? So, that's all we are saying. If we are going to teach it, we must act on it. Just be the examples.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you practically the logistics of now Nichols AME. Does this change your approach to security? Are there people who you will scrutinize? I wonder, is your church still a place and can churches still be a place where all are welcomed after what we saw in Charleston?

MILLER: Let me say this. Everyone is welcomed into our churches. But incidents like this puts you on an alert status. Say, when someone enters your door, you don't know their motives.

But our bishop for the state of North Carolina, Bishop Richard Franklin Norris of the Seventh Episcopal District, he was putting this in place already. We have had state meetings and state sessions at our state meetings where we have Reverend Attorney Eduardo Curry, and his wife, Judge Tamara Curry, they have been teaching us safety in the sanctuary now.

BLACKWELL: So, what's new? What's hanged?


MILLER: Oh, let me tell you what, we have been teaching that and now must implement what we have taught. Not that we're going to just turn someone away, but you've got to be careful, because when a person that you don't know enters your sanctuary, you don't know what their motives are.

Like they said, this young man sat in a bible study for over an hour sitting there hearing and listening to the word. And when the whole situation was over, this is what we have. Nine bodies, nine people --

BLACKWELL: Are there times -- I apologize for interrupting -- but I wonder are there times in which people will be turned away? Are there metal detectors? Are there searches? Practically, what's changing?

MILLER: Let me tell you what happens, we must have our members, we must have a security team in place so that when people come to the door, you got to watch them. I mean, what can we do? This puts us on what we call high alert.

BLACKWELL: High alert, all right.

MILLER: In our sanctuaries.

BLACKWELL: Reverend Randolph Miller, I thank you so much for being with us this morning.

MILLER: Thank you.

PAUL: Washington has declared a new leader among terror groups. State Department reporting now that ISIS is the world's most prominent terrorist group. Yes, they are worse formally than al Qaeda.


[07:42:44] PAUL: The State Department is declaring ISIS is the new leading terrorist group, topping al Qaeda. Really pretty astonishing how fast they have grown. In January of 2014, President Obama dismissed the terror organization, calling it a jayvee team. That's what he said about is. But in a year, they have conducted 35 percent more terror attacks, caused 81 percent more fatalities, and inspired multiple lone wolf attacks, by spreading its gruesome agenda on social media.

Let's bring back retired Maj. General James "Spider" Marks.

Have you ever seen, Major General, a group proliferate and grow as that what we've seen with ISIS?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: No. With al Qaeda, when we saw this post-9/11, clearly, they had been in place years ago and then we jumped on top of them immediately and took them time to span and grow but not like this.

PAUL: So, what is your number one concern with them?

MARKS: Well, primarily, their ability to recruit and it's a cynical recruitment process done online, done virtually. And then these young men, mostly, get into this very deep corridor of total belief and then they're available for deployment.

PAUL: How vulnerable do you think the U.S. is to an attack here at home?

MARKS: Very much so. Clearly, individuals in the United States intend us harm and they have been converted and they are converting others. So, it's one we need to stay on top of all the time.

PAUL: And do you think al Qaeda is still a legitimate threat?

MARKS: Oh, sure. These are different forms of terrorism. One metastasizes into another is an off-shot of another. So, if ISIS would go away tomorrow, we'd see something after ISIS, some terrorist organization, some successor organization that would emerge that would probably be worse, frankly.

PAUL: All righty. General Spider Marks, always good to have you here. Thank you.

MARKS: OK, Christi, thank you.

BLACKWELL: So, how will the revived gun debate now shape the 2016 election, in the wake of this week's horrific church massacre? We'll tell you what President Obama and some of the candidates are saying about it, after this.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We all know that we are supposed to eat our fruits and vegetables, but a lot of us don't know about ugly vegetables. That's right. They're not pretty like pears or peaches or apples.

[07:45:02] These are ugly vegetables that are packed with vitamins and minerals.

For example, celery root, it may look unappetizing but it's got potassium, phosphorus and fiber. You could make roasted celery root chips or grate it raw into a salad.

Also how about these Jerusalem artichokes? Interesting note, they're not from Jerusalem and they're not artichokes. They're also known as sun chokes, also packed with all great things.

The lowly rutabaga has potassium and fiber and works great in pot roast instead of potatoes.

Parsnips are not exactly pretty but they taste very sweet and have lots of vitamin k and folate. Who would have thought that the unattractive taro root could be such

an excellent source for vitamin E or that turnips could be a great source for vitamin B6 and selenium?

Now, the general public doesn't us these vegetables a lot but chefs are getting into it, so you should too. They taste great and they are good for you.



BLACKWELL: Eleven minutes until the top of the hour now. In the aftermath of the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, there's been a growing political discourse about race and also the revived gun control debate.

[07:50:00] The president addressed this during a speech yesterday. Watch.

OK. So, the president did talk about having to have this news conference where he expresses remorse and sorry for so many families, now 14 times and he's tired of doing it.

A lot of presidential candidates are expected to address the issue today on the campaign trail.

Let's bring in Republican strategist Lisa Boothe, and Democratic strategist and CNN commentator Maria Cardona to talk about this.

And, Maria, I want to start with you. Good morning to both of you.


BLACKWELL: Maria, I want to start with you, I wonder -- could any law that could be enacted stop what we saw in Charleston?

CARDONA: Well, Victor, I don't think we know the extent of what happened in Charleston. But I can tell you that if we are able to pass common sense gun safety legislation, like the ones we tried to pass a couple years ago, that 90 percent of the American people support, which means a simple background check to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and out of the hands of those who might be mentally ill. We can at least reduce the number of gun deaths that we have in this country.

And in 2013 we had 11,000 people who lost their lives because of guns. We have to come to the point that we understand as a country, there is something that can be done. And I hope that this at least spurs an additional debate where Republicans will now understand that they're going to have to heed the calls of the majority of the American people as opposed to the NRA and do something that makes sense to keep our people safe.

BLACKWELL: Lisa, what about that? The president, the vice president, many in Congress, many Democrats in Congress tried this harsh push after Sandy Hook but didn't get anywhere. Not even background checks, which roughly 87 percent of people supported.

Why can't this get through?

LISA BOOTHE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, Victor, according to recent pew research the majority of Americans don't support increased gun laws. And, you know, we've got a lot of Americans that practice their Second Amendment rights here.

But look, the common sense gun reform that Maria talked about that did not pass Congress would not have done anything to prevent this strategy. And it is a tragedy. And that's absolutely where the focus should be, that this is a horrible tragedy. That this act was committed by a murderous monster, and that's where the focus should be.

But those common sense reforms that Maria mentioned wouldn't have prevented this. This guy did not use an assault weapon. He did not use a multiple capacity magazine. He used a handgun.

And if you look at the incident of the Sandy Hook incident as well, that guy failed to pass a background check and ended up stealing his mother's legally obtained gun.

So, these common sense, these so-called common sense reforms that Democrats often mention really fail to actually prevent a lot of these incidents from happening.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about tone. And that can -- it plays a major role in the way the national discord proceeds, not only in the 2016 presidential race but also around dinner tables around the country. We heard from former Secretary Clinton when she was asked how this could be stop and she said that often, the public discourse is hotter than it could be and can trigger those less than stable to do something that we've seen.

And then she went on to say this, let's put it up on the screen. She says, "I think decent people need to stand up against it. We have to speak out against it. Like, for example, a recent entry into the Republican presidential campaign said some very inflammatory campaign things about Mexicans. Everybody should stand up and say, that's not acceptable."

We heard from Donald Trump when he entered the race saying that Mexico, they send over rapists and criminals.

Maria, is that fair, or is she playing politics with the national tragedy?

CARDONA: No, I think she's absolutely right. And I think what has been missing in this discourse, Victor, in terms of what Hillary Clinton said is that when folks say -- when folks on the far right talk about incendiary comments like the ones Donald Trump made, no one in their own party or with their own political philosophy stands up to them to say, that's wrong.

And it's not just Donald Trump. There's been an array of Republicans and far-right wing extremists who have talked awful things about immigrants in this country and about other constituencies in this country. And no one on their side stands up to say that's not the kind of civil discourse that we need here.

BLACKWELL: All right. We've got 30 --

CARDONA: It's one of the reasons why -


BOOTHE: No, that is after -- no, that is not true.


BOOTHE: Maria, that's absolutely ridiculous.

[07:55:00] The reality is that hate exists in Americans and it's wrong. If anything, it is incredibly saddening that politicians are already turning to gun control and trying to make this a political issue.

If anything, what we should be doing as Americans is actually following in the footsteps of the victims of the family who in court the other day told the killer that they forgive him. They showed an incredible amount of faith and compassion.

And that is where the national dialogue in this country should be right now. It should be about healing. It should be about coming together as a nation. And if the victims of the families, the families of the victims are able to forgive, they're able to show compassion, if they're able to show that kind of resolve, then the rest of the country should as well.


BOOTHE: And, Victor, they deserve being held across the country. If anything, we should be looking at the uniting that is happening in this country.

And, Maria, that is shameful to make this a partisan --


BLACKWELL: We've got to wrap it there. But let me say to both to Lisa and Maria, that the question they were asked is, if they had something to say on behalf of their relatives. The judge didn't ask if they have comments about gun control, and maybe they would have --

BOOTHE: I understand that --

CARDONA: I agree.


BLACKWELL: Lisa, Maria, thank you very much. Of course, this conversation could go on. We'll do it again. CARDONA: Thank you, Victor.

BLACKWELL: The next hour of NEW DAY starts after a break.