Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With New York Governor Andrew Cuomo; Syria Crisis; Oregon Shooting Investigation. Aired 18-19:00p ET

Aired October 2, 2015 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Armed for massacre. Authorities reveal they found a huge arsenal at the scene of a mass shooting in Oregon and in the gunman's home, as we learn more about the campus killer's anger and isolation. Did his views on race, on religion influence his decision to open fire?

Historic flood threat. More than 30 million Americans now at risk with massive rainfall in the forecast along the East Coast. States of emergency in effect and the deluge is just beginning.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: The breaking news tonight: As Russia unleashes more airstrikes in Syria, President Obama is warning Vladimir Putin that he's about to get stuck in a quagmire by thumbing his nose at the United States and attempting to prompt up the brutal strong man Bashar al-Assad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Putin had to go into Syria not out of strength, but out of weakness, because his client, Mr. Assad, was crumbling, and it was insufficient for him simply to send them arms and money. Now he's got to put in his own planes and his own pilots.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The president also offered more passionate remarks about the deadly shooting at a college in Oregon. He says he won't hesitate to politicize the issue of gun control because he says the failure to pass new laws is a political decision made by Republicans and opponents, he says, of reform.

The president has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff at the White House and other public buildings in honor of the shooting victims, as we learn more about the gunman behind the rampage. We have our correspondents, analysts and newsmakers standing by to cover all the news that is breaking now.

First, let's go to our justice correspondent Pamela Brown with the latest on the shooting investigation -- Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we learned from law enforcement sources that the gunman handed his writings to a survivor right in the middle of the shooting rampage instructing that person to give them to police.

His writings paint a picture of a disturbed man who was on a mission to kill as many people as possible.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): Investigators are poring through writings the gunman, 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer, penned some time before the shooting. Sources say he expressed hatred toward black men and general feelings of anger about being isolated and unable to build relationships.

MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: We're looking at an offender who has hatred across the board. These are people that don't just hate blacks or Christians or women; they hate everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Somebody is outside one of the doors shooting through the door.

BROWN: Why the shooter targeted Umpqua Community College is still unclear. He lived nearby in this apartment complex with his mother. CNN has learned his family told investigators he suffered mental health issues and sought treatment.

IAN HARPER, FATHER OF GUNMAN: Shocked. Shocked is all I can say.

BROWN: The gunman's father in California told reporters he didn't see this coming.

HARPER: Obviously, it's been a devastating day, devastating for me and my family.

BROWN: Police say the gunman was carrying body armor, three pistols, one long gun, and enough ammunition for a prolonged gunfight. ATF officials say two other guns were found elsewhere on the campus and inside the one-bedroom apartment he shared with his mother, police found seven more guns.

CELINEZ NUNEZ, ATF: Seven have been purchased by the shooter or a family member all within the last three years.

BROWN: The gunman was discharged from the Army after only one month in 2008, but his interest in the military seemed to continue.

BRYAN CLAY, NEIGHBOR: He wore combat boots, very distinct. I remember black combat boots and country camo -- military uniform almost.

DAVID WESTLY, NEIGHBOR: I did see him at the time walking or leaving his apartment and coming home with what looked like gun cases, him and his mom both. And he actually did say that he used to go shooting at some range.

BROWN: Investigators are also looking into blog posts apparently linked to the shooter, one talking about the Virginia man who recently murdered a TV news crew live on the air, the post reading, "It seems the more people you kill, the more you're in the limelight."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And as for the gunman's connection to the community college, we're learning he was a production assistant there, but other than that it appears, Wolf, that he wasn't a student, at least at this point in the investigation.

BLITZER: They are still reviewing a lot about this individual.

All right, thanks very much, Pamela, for that report.

Just a little while ago, authorities gave an update on the shooting investigation with the sheriff revealing the names of the nine who were murdered.

CNN's Dan Simon is in on the scene for us in Roseburg with the latest -- Dan.

[18:05:00]

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as you can imagine, just so somber in this community and the sheriff just a short time ago held a news conference where one by one he named off all of the victims.

Looking at the names, it appears five of them were women, four of them men, their ages ranging from 18 to 67. Listen now to the sheriff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HANLIN, DOUGLAS COUNTY, OREGON, SHERIFF: The victims are Lucero Alcaraz of Roseburg, 19 years old, Quinn Glen Cooper of Roseburg, 18 years old, Kim Saltmarsh Dietz of Roseburg, 59 years old, Lucas Eibel of Roseburg, 18 years old, Jason Dale Johnson of Winston, 33 years old, Lawrence Levine of Glide, 67 years old. Mr. Levine was the teacher.

Sarena Dawn Moore of Myrtle Creek, 44 years old. Treven Taylor Anspach of Sutherland, 20 years old, and Rebecka Ann Carnes of Myrtle Creek, 18 years old.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON: And this horrific shooting incident is said to be very personal for members of the first-responder family. Two of the individuals are said to be characterized as extended members of that family, and one was a son of a firefighter or EMS person, the other being a niece. There were some very moving statements read by the sheriff from some of the family members.

At this point, Wolf, of course, all of them want privacy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan Simon, thanks very, very much.

We're also learning more about the nine individuals who were wounded in the shooting massacre.

Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is over at Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg.

Sanjay, tell us what the conditions are as far as you know of these nine.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that there were 10 patients brought here originally, one patient died when they arrived here, Wolf. They have -- several of the patients have received operations, and there are now three patients who are left in the hospital.

They gave us a little bit of good news about these patients, saying they expect one of them actually to go home later today and the other two are doing really well, probably go home over the next couple days. I should point out that there were also three patients that were transferred to another hospital.

We now know these were all women. They were between the ages of 18 and 34 and they all had gunshot wounds to the head, but they are also now all in stable condition at that other hospital as well. It looks like the tide has turned a little bit in terms of the overall conditions of these patients. They're not out of the woods by any means, Wolf, but things have certainly improved.

BLITZER: There are indications, Sanjay, as you know, this is another incident where mental health may have played a significant role. Clearly, this individual had some mental health problems there, maybe he wasn't being treated. Here is the question. If he were receiving proper medical attention, medication, for example, could this have been avoided?

GUPTA: It's quite possible, Wolf. It's a really interesting question. I think it's one that doesn't have an absolute answer.

It's complicated in that certainly, first of all, it's difficult to get treatment. It's difficult to get a diagnosis and difficult to even get in to see somebody, but even during the time you're starting treatment or weaning off of medications, those can be vulnerable periods as well.

It really hard to sort of pinpoint exactly what went on. We know that people who have mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence as opposed to perpetrators of violence. President Obama talked about that today as well.

I asked the chief medical officer specifically about this issue, asked him what he thought had happened here and what kind of resources are available. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. JASON GRAY, MERCY MEDICAL CENTER: As a physician, it's obviously hard to understand what would push somebody to the point to perform such an act on that.

The treatment of mental illnesses is understaffed nationwide, as you're aware, and access to mental health services are lacking, especially in this community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: And I can tell you, Wolf, we did a little bit of investigation into that.

When they say mental health services are lacking in this community, when you look at about a 50-mile radius around where we are right now, there are around seven mental health professionals that are available to take care of patients.

My point is it's not enough and it's difficult to find these people, so again difficult to get a diagnosis, difficult to get outpatient treatment and certainly difficult to get inpatient treatment, Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly is. Sanjay, thanks very much, Sanjay Gupta on the scene for us.

[18:10:00]

Now to the president's new remarks about the Oregon shooting and his vow to keep talking about gun control in America.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski.

You were there, Michelle, at his news conference. Once again, we saw a very, very irate president when it comes to the lack, he says, of gun control in the country.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf.

We have heard him angry and emotional, today more pragmatic as he took on these tough questions and he answered his critics. Remember, we have already heard him say he cannot act on this alone and that he's virtually given up on Congress acting, that we as a nation can't prevent every act of violence, we can't reach every potential shooter.

And for those who would say he is politicizing this, today, he said he will continue to politicize because in his words inaction is a political decision we make.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The politics has to change. The politics has to change.

And the people who are troubled by this have to be as intense and as organized and as adamant about this issue as folks on the other side who are absolutist and think that any gun safety measures are somehow an assault on freedom of communistic or a plot by me to take over and stay in power forever or something.

There are all kinds of crackpot conspiracy theories that float around there, some of which, by the way, are ratified by elected officials in the other party on occasion.

So, main thing I'm going to do, John, is talk about it and hope that over time I'm changing enough minds, along with other leaders around the country, that we start finally seeing some action. I don't think it's going to happen overnight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSINSKI: We hear him using ever more blunt talk on this and he also addressed the argument we hear a lot lately that it's not guns or laws at the heart of this, it's mental health.

And it is true for a lot of these cases lately, these are young people, no criminal background, no involuntary commitments, no high- powered weapons. Many of those laws we hear debated simply would not apply. The president said today the one thing we can do is make sure that these people don't have access to an arsenal of weapons.

However, to do, it is likely the threshold for restricting people's freedoms would have to be lowered and we all know Congress has been extremely reluctant to do that, Wolf.

BLITZER: Because he seems frustrated. He's got, what, a year or so left to do something about this. He said basically he's going to go out and talk, talk, nonstop talking about this issue.

KOSINSKI: Right. What that will do remains to be seen. I don't think he has high hopes that talk will do a lot of good.

We also may see more executive action on the part of the president, but he said himself yesterday what a president can do is minimal. We have seen him take executive action in the past. But a lot of these measures just don't have teeth legally or we see them stymied by action in Congress, Wolf.

BLITZER: It's a frustrating moment for the president of the United States, now the second time in two days going out and speaking, ordering those flags over the White House to be flown at half-staff to honor those who were killed.

He says this is probably the biggest frustration of his so far seven years of office, that he hasn't been able to get what he calls commonsense gun legislation passed.

KOSINSKI: Yes. Then again, early on his presidency, when Democrats controlled both houses, that wasn't something that was as actively pushed. It's only now later, when it's much, much more difficult in Congress. There has been criticism there of the administration as well.

Now it's trying to get done and we have seen some bipartisan effort, especially in the Senate, but in the end, you know, it just doesn't go anywhere. I guess what he's looking at is to continue pushing this, see if anything changes after this latest tragedy, Wolf.

BLITZER: He got close a couple years ago, but not close enough and I'm sure he was disappointed that not only Republicans, but some of his fellow Democrats voted against the legislation he wanted enacted.

Michelle, thanks very, very much.

Joining us now to discuss the breaking news, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York.

Governor, thanks very much for joining us.

I know you have called for a national gun policy. What is stopping this from happening, because you see how angry the president is right now?

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Political courage, Wolf. I think that's what is stopping it, political courage by the elected officials in Washington and apathy by American people.

BLITZER: How do you change that?

CUOMO: I'm sorry?

BLITZER: How do you change that?

CUOMO: Well, first, I am amazed that the American people must have lost so much faith in the system that you can watch every few weeks basically the same horrendous scene replay on the screen and they haven't spurred to action.

[18:15:00]

I believe it the American people's beliefs that Washington is so gridlocked and so dysfunctional that there's no purpose. With the elected officials themselves, they are afraid of this issue. That's what it is. And I say that as an elected official. We passed a law in New York right after Sandy Hook, when New Yorkers thankfully said enough is enough, and we passed the law just about a week after Sandy Hook, the smartest, toughest gun law in the country.

And there is a political cost to it, Wolf. There is a segment of the population in New York, in this country that is Second Amendment zealots, frankly, because there is no Second Amendment right for a mentally ill person to have a gun or for a criminal to have a gun, but they're Second Amendment zealots.

And I passed a law and came down in popularity. And you know what? From my point of view, fine. It's called political capital and that's why I ran for office and I believe my law saves lives. The frustration for me is, I close the front door of the state to guns,and the guns are coming in the backdoor. They're coming in from Virginia, South Carolina, et cetera.

I lost a member of my staff, 43 years old, beautiful guy, to random gun violence just two weeks ago. So, big politicians in Washington don't want to take a vote. They don't want to offend the gun lobby, because it is about the money and it's about the political support and they would rather hold onto their political capital than take a vote.

I would like to see the Democrats threaten shutdown over this issue the way the conservatives say if I don't get a tax cut I'm going to shut down the government. Let the Democrats say I'm going to shut down the government if we don't get a gun control law.

Make this election a referendum on gun control from the presidential to every congressional race, and then we will see, because the American people get it, Wolf. It's the legislated officials who don't get it. But the American people get it.

BLITZER: I know you're passionate on this, and understandably so, given what has been going on in the country.

Is the National Rifle Association, the so-called gun lobby, is it that powerful, it controls these members to avoid doing what you say is common sense?

CUOMO: It's not the NRA alone. It's the NRA strikes a chord that is out there.

There is, you know -- in New York, 35, 40 percent of the people say Second Amendment, don't touch my gun, don't touch my right to have a gun. It's a slippery slope. Government will then confiscate the guns. It's a very difficult political issue, one of the most difficult.

And they want to stay away from it. I get it. But it is also one of the most pressing national issues, and it's frankly an issue where this government could do something. And it's an issue that could actually be talked about in the campaign that would mean something.

We talk about hairstyles. We talk about every kind of irrelevant issue. This is the issue. And I would nail down every candidate's position and make, from the presidential all the way down, what are you do when you get to Washington on this issue?

BLITZER: One final question before I let you go, Governor. I know your time is running out.

We did a poll recently on CNN. This was a CNN poll. And we asked how President Obama is handling the gun issue in the country. Look at this. Only 35 percent approve of the way the president is handling it and 59 percent disapprove.

What should the president do right now to get what you call commonsense gun legislation enacted?

CUOMO: If I were the president now, I would do -- he has a luxurious position in some ways. I would do it all. I would not hold back on the advocacy, which he's not. And I credit him.

I would keep it going all through the campaign. I would make it an issue in the presidential and in the congressional races. And whatever he can do by executive action, I would do. I was there during the Clinton years, as you know, Wolf. I was the HUD secretary. And President Clinton was very aggressive on actions with the ATF by executive action.

But whatever he can do by executive action -- and this is where the bully pulpit comes in. And he can drive an agenda and put his bill out there and make every Democrat in Congress who is running state their position on that bill.

[18:20:03]

And I would run this election as a referendum on guns because I believe the American people get it. You're going to lose 30 percent, 35 percent, but you know what? This isn't about winning 100 percent. It's about doing what is right and restoring faith and trust in government and getting something done for the people of this country.

BLITZER: All right.

Governor, appreciate your calling in. Thank you so much for joining us.

CUOMO: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we will have much more on the president's frustrations about gun violence in the United States. Can anyone or anything persuade members of Congress who are opposed to act?

Also, the president's stern warnings today to Vladimir Putin, why he says Russia's airstrikes in Syria are an act of weakness.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:25:54]

BLITZER: Now to President Obama's stern words for Vladimir Putin about Russian airstrikes in Syria and a strategy the president is calling a recipe for disaster.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is joining us with more.

What's the latest that you're over getting there, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pentagon officials are watching this press conference very closely, looking for some key decisions, a lot of talk for Vladimir Putin. Not very likely Putin is about to change his mind. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): A warning from President Obama to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

OBAMA: An attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population, is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire, and it won't work. And they will be there for a while.

STARR: And criticism for targets of Putin's airstrikes.

OBAMA: He doesn't distinguish between ISIL and a moderate Sunni opposition that wants to see Mr. Assad go.

From their perspective, they're all terrorists. And that's a recipe for disaster. And it's one that I reject.

STARR: If Russia continues hitting rebel forces the U.S. wants to succeed, will the U.S. defend those rebels? The Pentagon not willing to even say if the Russian have hit them.

PETER COOK, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We don't have a clear picture of their intentions at this point and so it's impossible for me to judge with certainty exactly what they have done on the ground.

STARR: GOP members challenging the narrative.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I can absolutely confirm to you that they were strikes against our Free Syrian Army or groups that have been armed and trained by the CIA.

STARR: Russia continuing its airstrikes over Syria, even as the Pentagon and Moscow talked about how to ensure pilots from both countries can avoid each other in the skies over Syria.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE: The U.S. pilots are going to have to look after themselves. They're also going to have to be very aware of their surroundings and they have to know where Russian pilots are flying.

STARR: The latest Russian gun camera video, the Russians say it shows they are going after ISIS. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was asked what other groups the Russians consider to be terrorists.

SERGEI LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, if it looks like a terrorist, if it acts like a terrorist, if it walks like a terrorist, if it fights like a terrorist, it's a terrorist, right? I will recall that we -- all of us were saying that we're going to fight ISIL and other terrorist groups.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: Pardon me.

Now, what about U.S. military strategy? Any changes there? So far, no announcements from the White House. The Pentagon still watching for those decisions -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thank you.

Let's get some analysis. The former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer is joining us. He's an expert on Russia, along with our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.

What is your reaction to the president's suggestion the Russians are losing, the U.S. and its partners are winning?

STEVEN PIFER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UKRAINE: I think President Putin and Russia have taken a big gamble by this operation into Syria.

The first question is what silver bullet do the Russians bring, does the Russian military bring that's going to solve or change the situation on the ground that the U.S. military hasn't applied over the last couple of years? And also you have got a situation now where Putin and the Russians, they are not going after ISIS.

As Foreign Minister Lavrov said, they are going after ISIS and other extremists groups. And in the Russian definition, extremist groups is a very broad band.

BLITZER: Extremist groups are anyone that opposes the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

PIFER: Exactly.

The Russians are there to protect the Assad regime, not necessarily to attack ISIS, per se. And the problem there is that you may have the Russians targeting groups that the United States, Europe, Saudi Arabia consider to be the moderate opposition and maybe even groups that those countries are assisting.

BLITZER: Well, there's no doubt that if you listen to U.S. intelligence officials, as you have, Jim, that's what the U.S. is accusing the Russians of doing, going after these individuals, these targets backed by the U.S.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question, and, as you say, anybody who is opposing the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Yes, in recent hours, the Russian air force attacked ISIL targets, some ISIS targets, but if you look at where they're concentrated, it's about building a bulkhead around what part of the country is still controlled by Bashar al-Assad. And that -- you know, that is clearly their focus, regardless of what they're saying in their statements.

BLITZER: You're an expert on Russia. Why is it so important to Putin to prop up Bashar al-Assad?

PIFER: I think there are a couple of reasons here. First of all, you're -- there's a long relationship between Russia and Syria and if you're Vladimir put and you don't have many international allies, you don't want to see one go down.

Second part of this is Russia basically making clear that it's now a player on the world stage and also has an important domestic aspect, which is Putin has shown to his population, we play in the world stage, our voice counts, although there is a risk here because on Wednesday, there was a poll in Moscow that said 69 percent of the Russian population opposed sending the Russian military to Syria.

PIFER: Meaning ground troops, what about airstrikes?

PIFER: Air support is a little bit -- that's different and so far Russians are saying airstrikes only. But there have been a lot of operations in the last four years where somebody said airstrikes only and then went into something very different.

BLITZER: What are you hearing, Jim? Where does the U.S. Go from here?

SCIUTTO: Well, if you listen to the president's comments today, basically, they can't do anything. They're not willing to do anything and are comfortable with not doing anything. The essential administration line I've heard privately, and you heard it in the public comments, is Russia knock yourself out. You're going to get yourself in a quagmire, as the president said today. And as the president said, as well, in his view acting out of weakness, not out of strength here.

That seems to be their view, and frankly, you know, on top of that there is not a lot the U.S. can do about that.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, Steve Pifer, thanks very much for joining us.

Just ahead, we'll get back to the breaking news, our top story, the Oregon shooting massacre. We're getting new information. The epidemic of angry young men with guns who turn to mass violence. Would tougher gun control measures stop them?

And heavy rains, historic flooding underway right now, threatening millions of Americans along the East Coast. The danger and the forecast just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:36:48] BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news on the massacre at the Oregon community college. The sheriff there on the scene now says the gunman was, in fact, enrolled in the exact class where the mass shooting took place. Nine people were murdered.

Let's talk about that with our CNN anchor, Don Lemon; also, joining us our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin; the former ATF executive Matt Horace; and psychologist Jeff Gardere.

Jeff, a lot of these mass shooters seem to be young men disengaged from society. The shooter complained about being isolated. Is mental illness enough to cause this kind of mass murder? JEFF GARDERE, PSYCHOLOGIST: Mental illness is enough, but of

course, then you throw into the mix the deadly guns. And a lot of people have talked about looking at some sort of sensible gun control. I think that's something that's within our control, if you will.

But treating mental illness, being able to identify those with mental illness, the type of mental illness, especially those with severe personality disorders, are very difficult to diagnose, very difficult to control. But we see that these are the types of illnesses that lead to these mass murders.

These young while males who have these sorts of issues become isolated, become paranoid, develop these sort of schizoid personalities with delusional thoughts and can't understand why the world is against them, at least that's the way they perceive it as part of this mental illness.

BLITZER: Matthew Horace, you say there are more people in the world like this shooter than a lot of us might realize. Explain.

MATTHEW HORACE, FORMER ATF OFFICIALS: Well, in my experience at the ATF, Wolf, there were any number of occasions where on official authority, through search warrants and arrest warrants, I was in homes where there were 20 guns, 50 guns, 100 guns, 300 guns. There are more people out there that have weapons, that enjoy guns, that enjoy the sport, whether it's hunting or collecting, than people would ever think.

So the idea that, because he had 14 guns creates some sort of image that he was a monster. He was a monster because of his acts.

And I go back to the idea about young while males and what's happening. Listen, they're committing heinous crimes. At the end of the day, they're heinous crimes, whether it's because of mental illness or not. We have to call it what it is.

BLITZER: Jeff Toobin, 20 school children, a member of Congress, people sitting in a movie theater, a reporter, a cameraman killed on live TV, we've all seen it over these past few years. Yet, nothing seems to change to effect what the president wants, namely common- sense gun control. Why is that?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's really the politics dictate it.

We have a situation where a substantial majority of the population supports what the president would call common sense, background checks. But the people who oppose it, oppose it passionately. It's a voting issue for them. And they are also concentrated in states where they control two senators.

So we have a system where 40 senators can block anything. And when you have the gun right supporters, you know, led by the National Rifle Association, basically controlling the outcome of many elections because of the intensity of their supporters, that's going to dictate the result. [18:40:13] Even after Newtown, there -- when the Senate was still

in Democratic hands, background checks didn't get through the Senate. So it's certainly not getting through the Senate or the House, now that the Republicans control it.

BLITZER: Yes, you heard the president, Don Lemon, say that our country is different, that other advanced countries, and these mass shootings, they've become almost standard operating procedure, yet nothing much is ever done. Are we becoming, as the president suggests, numb to this kind of mass murder?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, the only thing different is that we have more guns.

And, you know, I don't know if we're becoming numb, but I think that we, in some ways, may be looking the other way or just used to it. Numb is -- maybe numb is the best term.

Here -- these are the facts, and this will tell you -- you can use whatever term you want: numb, looking the other way or what have you.

For every American -- this is CNN's research. For every American killed by terrorism in the U.S. and around the world -- this is around the world -- more than 1,000 were killed by firearms in the U.S. during the most recent decade for which comparative data is available. For every American, more than 1,000, more than 1,000 for terrorism. More people died by the hands of guns in multiple, I mean, multiple times than they did by terrorism.

When you make such a big deal about terrorists: We've got to fight the terrorists. We've got to do it. They're going to come on our soil. They're going to -- well, people are being terrorized by guns on American soil, and it doesn't appear that much is being done about it.

BLITZER: Is you take a look in some of the big cities, Matt Horace, over the weekend, look at how many people were killed by gun violence in Chicago alone or some of the other major cities. We get numb to that, as well, right?

HORACE: Well, I think, Wolf, it goes back to this. The only people who are concerned are the people who are impacted. In Chicago, in Philadelphia, other major cities, four murders, Newark -- four murders, six murders, eight murders a weekend. It's no different. It's being perpetrated by offenders with firearms, and in this case, offender with a firearm. We need to be sensitized to all of it, not just every time there's a random shooting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we need...

TOOBIN: Wolf, I think there's another point that needs to be made here, is that as horrible as these mass shootings are, crime is down in the United States. Violent crime is down dramatically since the 1990s. So, you know, that is worth keeping in mind. You know, we focus on these big stories, as well we should,

because they are horrific. But overall, all crime, including violent crime, is dramatically down since the 1990s. So we just have to keep that in the picture, as well.

BLITZER: Jeff -- Jeff Gardere, why are these shooters, these mass killers here -- and we've seen so many of them in recent years -- almost all of them young men? I can't remember a time when a woman, for example, was responsible for a mass shooting like this.

GARDERE: Well, of course, we see more men are involved in these shootings, because we're talking about more testosterone, much more aggression. That's the way that they're raised. In many ways, that's the way that they're reinforced.

And we talked earlier about white males. Now, we see this is not just a white male problem. We see black males. We see an Asian male was involved in one of these shootings, or at least two to my recollection. So this is something that is becoming epidemic.

Why? Because many of these people with mental illness, again, are not being diagnosed. And let's be very clear here. Some of the issues they have, these extreme personality disorders, there are no medications for that kind of illness. And therefore, they continue to be out in the population, not being hospitalized, not getting the psychotherapy and the care that they need.

And therefore, they continue to become more mentally ill, because that kind of treatment that is needed is not really there, other than the psychotherapy. And not enough therapists are out there. They're falling through the cracks as far as getting the treatment they need.

BLITZER: And Don, what worries me and I'm sure worries you and so many others, these copycat killers. This individual apparently, he was inspired by some of these other mass murders; pointed that out in his writings. And then he goes ahead. Maybe he wants to commit suicide, but he wants to do it with a lot of notoriety, a lot of publicity.

LEMON: And the ones who had done it before him -- and Dr. Jeffrey Gardere could attest to this, as well -- is because of the way -- and I was speaking to a psychologist last night, or a psychiatrist. It's because of the way we sort of glorify or what we think masculinity is in this society. It is masculine, it's cool to kill people when you see the video games and all those things.

All of it adds up. And just as we are as passionate about some things, according to this doctor, as we are passionate -- we need to be as passionate about saying that, "Hey, listen, violence with guns is not cool."

BLITZER: Don Lemon, Jeffrey Toobin, Jeff Gardere, Matt Horace, guys, thanks very much.

An important note to our viewers: Don will be back later tonight with much more on this story. "CNN TONIGHT," a special time, 9 p.m. Eastern. He's got a lot more coming up.

[18:45:02] BLITZER: Just ahead here, tens of millions of Americans will feel the impact of Hurricane Joaquin even if the storm doesn't hit the U.S. There are new warnings up and down the Atlantic coast. Some areas could see what are historic flooding.

And he was shot seven times trying to protect others from the Oregon campus shooter, we're going to tell you about the U.S. Army vet who's now being hailed as a hero.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:50:09] BLITZER: Tonight, more than 30 million Americans, they are at risk from life-threatening flooding. Heavy rains are in the forecast along the East Coast and weather emergencies have been declared across several states. The Carolinas are about to get hit with the worst of it.

Let's go to our meteorologist Jennifer Gray. She's joining us from the severe weather center.

Jennifer, what's the latest?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIS: Well, we do have those flood watches all up and down the East Coast. You know, we are going to get a strong onshore flow and that's going to affect the Northeast throughout the weekend.

But the bulls-eye this weekend is going to be over South Carolina and North Carolina. We could see historic flooding all the way through Sunday. We're talking 15 to 20 inches of rain.

Look what is going to be happening. The rain is pulling in. It's called training -- think of train on tracks and it goes one after another. That's what happens, and that's the scenario that's setting up. A lot of tropical moisture is being fed into the Southeast.

And so, that's what we're going to see. South Carolina, North Carolina. And the topography is very interesting because you have mountains to the West. All the rain is going to come down, wash those mountains and affect places like Columbia, South Carolina, and eventually head down and impact Charleston.

On top of that, you have a strong onshore flow. So, while the rain is pushing -- pulling down the mountains and into the low country, on top of that, you have the onshore flow. So, we're going to see the water pile up big time over south and North Carolina over the weekend.

It's all because of the upper level low pulling in the moisture wrapping around and it's going to bring a lot of rain to the area. Here's where we're thinking the most will occur across portions of central and South Carolina. We're talking about the possibility of more than 20 inches of rain right around Charleston. We could see 10 to 15 inches. Columbia, the same. And even in North Carolina, we could see areas that will receive

6 to 10 inches of rain. And so this is really going to be something to watch over the weekend -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Everybody should be really careful in those areas.

All right. Jennifer, thank you.

Just ahead, a U.S. army veteran who became a hero at home. He was shot seven times trying to protect others from the Oregon campus shooting.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:57:02] BLITZER: Tonight, we're learning more about one shooting survivor's brave attempt to stop the Oregon gunman from carrying out that massacre.

Chris Mintz was shot seven times while trying to save other people's lives. CNN's Jake Tapper has the story of this U.S. Army veteran who is being called an American hero.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "Happy birthday, Tyrik," that message to his 6-year-old son was the last Facebook post 30-year-old Chris Mintz made yesterday.

DISPATCHER: Active shooter at UCC, 1140 Umpqua College Road.

TAPPER: Hours later, the Army veteran was shot seven times, trying to save his college classmates from a madman on a shooting rampage.

DISPATCHER: We do have one female that has been shot at this time.

TAPPER: According to witnesses, Mintz blocked his classroom door and told the gunman, "You aren't getting by me."

WANDA MINTZ, CHRIS MINTZ'S AUNT: He tries to block the door to keep the gunman from coming in, gets shot three times, hits the floor.

TAPPER: Mintz's aunt and cousin in North Carolina say they are in shock.

MINTZ: It's just unbelievable.

TAPPER: Mintz was shot several more times, breaking both of his legs.

MIKE GWELTNEY, MINTZ'S FRIEND AND COWORKER: I was actually there when he rolled out of surgery.

TAPPER: Mintz's co-worker at the YMCA Mike is hardly surprised by his friend's courage. GWELTNEY: It was a tragic thing but a peace came over me because

I knew who we are talking about and I know he was going to make it. He's stubborn and he's tough.

TAPPER: Today, Mintz's family says that he's out of surgery and is recovering from the gunshots to his hands, back, stomach and legs but he is smiling.

A witness told ABC News Mintz had the chance to escape but went back into the building to save others.

HANNAH MILES, SHOOTING WITNESS: He ran to the library and pulled all the alarms and he was telling people to run, grabbing people, telling them, you just to have go. And he actually ran back towards the building where the shooting was.

TAPPER: Mintz's aunt says as her nephew laid wounded, he only had one thing on his mind.

MINTZ: Looks up at the gunman and says, "It's my son's birthday today."

TAPPER: He was no doubt hoping, praying that he would hope to see another.

GWELTNEY: He's just a great father, driven in that area, too, loves his son. Loves his son with unconditional love, which is what every father should do.

TAPPER: Helping his classmates and community is nothing new for the army veteran who, in addition to classes, works the overnight shift at the local YMCA.

GWELTNEY: The main thing is making sure that our building is clean and working and he's part of that hardworking team.

TAPPER: Just weeks ago, Mintz posted, quote, "I see UCC is holding training to help fight fires. I need a baby sitter and the money to go do it." But little did he know he would end be being a hero in another way.

Mintz's family has set up a Go Fund Me page to help with his recovery. They've already raised thousands of dollars.

Jake Tapper, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you, Jake, for that report.

We leave at this hour with the president's decision to fly the flag over at the White House at half-staff right now in memory of those nine people murdered in Oregon.