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Texas Massacre Update; Texas Massacre Suspect Threatened Mother-in-Law; Gunman Had Bad Conduct Discharge; Trump Blames Mental Health; Bump Stock Ban Talks. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired November 6, 2017 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Thank you, Kate.

And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

And quite a sad day it is. Twenty-six dead, 20 wounded in a massacre at a small town Texas church. Young children and a pregnant woman among those shot dead at Sunday worship.


SHERIFF JOE TACKITT, WILSON COUNTY, TEXAS: We don't know why he actually showed up yesterday, but we know that when he left, he left destruction.

GLORIA XIMENEZ, KNEW CHURCH SHOOTING VICTIMS: There's no words to describe what everybody is going through.


KING: President Trump reacting while traveling in Asia, expressing his condolences. And, after the second mass shooting in just 35 day, brushing aside a question about whether new gun laws might be need.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that mental health is your problem here. This was a very -- based on preliminary reports, a very deranged individual.


KING: Plus, during that trip, the president, tough words for Kim Jong- un and he encouraged Japan to buy a new American weapons system to protect it, he says, from North Korea's missiles.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He will shoot them out of the sky when he completes the purchase of lots of additional military equipment from the United States. He will easily shoot them out of the sky.


KING: We begin the hour with a small town in Texas, a small community grieving today after a man gunned down worshippers at a Baptist church on Sunday morning. This massacre left 26 people dead, 20 others wounded. That's nearly 50 people in a town of no more than a few hundred.

The town gathered last night, as you see there, to mourn those lost. The youngest victim, just 18 months old. At least eight of the victims were members of the same family. The pastor's daughter, only 14 years old, also among those killed.

Law enforcement officials say 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire during the Sunday services at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. Police say a neighbor grabbed his own weapon, confronted the gunman, who dropped his rifle and fled the scene. The neighbor, not even wearing shoes, jumped into a car with a man driving by and they chased him.


JOHNNIE LANGENDORFF, CHASED TEXAS CHURCH SHOOTING SUSPECT: I had to catch the guy. I had to -- I had to make sure he was caught. And at one point the gentlemen riding with me said, you may have to use your truck to get him off the road. And there was no hesitation. It -- it was do, you know, do everything necessary to make sure that this guy is stopped.


KING: The sheriff says the gunman apparently took his own life in that vehicle.

Let's go straight to CNN's Dianne Gallagher. She is on the scene in Southerland Spring, Texas, where law enforcement, just moments ago, wrapped up a news conference.

Dianne, what were the big headlines? Any changes from last night?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, perhaps the most somber headline of all, of course, is the change of those victims' ages, 18 months old to 77 years old. That is the age span of those 26 victims who were killed at the First Baptist Church here in Southerland Springs. Twenty remain in the hospital ranging in age from just five years old to 73 years old. It really gives you an idea of just how the congregation spanned in age and just how indiscriminate those bullets really were.

We also learned that this appeared to be a targeted attack. Of course, there have been a lot of questions surrounding motive at this point. Law enforcement not ready to go into exactly what was -- the suspect was thinking at this time, John, but said that this appears to stem from a domestic-related incident. His mother-in-law attended this church and that recently he had sent threatening text messages, they were told, to her. They stressed that this was not racially nor religiously motivated, at

least at this point they believe. They also said they do not see any ties to terrorism. But that doesn't mean that this did not -- something that he had thought and planned out to begin with.

John, we are learning now that not only did he come essentially dressed for war, all black, wearing a tactical-style ballistic vest with a plate in the front, he also had a mask with a skull, like a white face over that black mask, as he came into that church and opened fire.

Again, we're told three firearms. There is that Ruger AR-556 that we are told he used during that shooting in the church, as well as two hand guns ATF says they found on him. They are now attempting to figure out exactly how he was able to legally purchase those weapons, according to the Department of Public Safety. He wasn't -- he wasn't -- he was denied, excuse me, a license to carry. So they're still trying to sort that out at this point, John.

But here in this town, as you mentioned, just a few hundred people. The pastor, Frank Pomeroy, his wife, Sherri, spoke. They talked about their 14-year-old daughter, losing her. And they said something that really struck me. They said, we have lost the majority of our church family. Our building will probably be beyond repair. And they asked people out there not to forget Southerland Springs. That, unfortunately, these things happen quite too often and it may be easy to forget them in the weeks coming.

[12:05:02] KING: Dianne Gallagher on the scene for us. It is remarkable listening to the people in that small town talking about the stories of their friends and the families lost and they ask us -- and they're right to ask us -- not to remember -- not to forget their small town.

For more on the investigation, joining me now from Los Angeles, CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem, in New York, CNN law enforcement analyst James Gagliano, with me here in Washington, crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz, and CNN's senior law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes.

Shimon, let me start with you.

You heard Dianne say their investigators are trying to piece this together. One thing they know for certain, some tension in the family here, some domestic issues, angry texts, threatening texts to his mother-in-law, who was not at the service yesterday but who does attend that church. What more do we know?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, that's exactly right. And as Dianne there mentioned about the text message, I'm told some new information here from the law enforcement officials that she actually -- the mother-in-law actually received a text that morning from him, a threatening text message.

And law enforcement officials are saying, this has been going on for quite some time. There has been this family dispute. This isn't something that just started. And it just seems like the family was trying to deal with it on their. There's no indication that they went and got him any help. And there was also a component of mental health issues here and that the family was really just trying to deal with. And also, I'm told, that it doesn't seem like his dispute with the family is really founded on anything. It could just be more of stuff that he had going on in his head.

So all of that is, you know, now part of the investigation. And it's just sad, sad all around because we have another situation where family perhaps saw some signs and they really -- they wanted to help him. They wanted to deal with it. And it just -- it got this bad.

KING: Right. And, Tom, someone who's done this for years, it is incredibly sad but not uncommon, some sort of a family dispute, interfamily dispute, leads to something like this. But this man also made a choice. If he had some dispute with his mother-in-law, he could have gone to her home.


KING: He went to a church where he thought she would be most likely and where he knew there would be a larger crowd of people. What does that tell you as you're trying to do the building blocks of an investigation?

FUENTES: Well, I think the problem is the -- just as you said, it was more than just a complaint against her or the family, you know, his mother-in-law. It was also just society in general now had become his enemy. And the congregation at the church where the in-laws worshipped at then also became an enemy in his mind. So I think it just -- it speaks to the terrible mental condition this guy was in and the unfortunately helplessness probably of what the family felt in trying to deal with it.

And I'm not sure, you know, we have the -- you see something say something. OK, what if they call the police and say, you know, our son-in-law is derange, if he's heavily armed, he already beat our daughter and granddaughter back when he was in the military. What would the police be able to do with that? Probably nothing.

KING: You say probably nothing. Could they perhaps even make a visit though and just find the -- find the weapons and --

FUENTES: Oh, sure. Sure. They go visit them and he says, oh, no, I'm not going to do anything bad. I'm a good guy. And that's about the end of it. Until he actually carries out an act, which you hope is that you could get him early enough in progress to carry it out, to stop him before he kills, as he did here.

KING: And so the questions now in part are, how did he get the guns? They say he bought four over a number of years, two in Colorado, two in Texas. And then the bigger question, should he have had those guns, especially given the fact that he was given a bad conduct discharge from the United States Air Force, he was sentenced to 12 months, which is a very significant sentence for domestic violence against his former wife and a child. Twelve months tells you this was not -- I'm not minimizing any domestic abuse, but this tells you this was an incredibly serious abuse there.

James Gagliano, come in on this point. Listen to the governor of Texas saying that this man also did apply for a concealed carry permit and was told no.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: Devin Kelley sought to get a license to carry a gun in the state of Texas, but the state of Texas denied him the ability to get a gun. So how was it that he was able to get a gun? By all of the facts that we seem to know, he was not supposed to have access to a gun. So, how did this happen?


KING: How did this happen, James? Is there a distinction between dishonorable and bad conduct that somehow leaves the door open to get weapons here?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Absolutely, John. There's actually six different classifications for someone to be discharged from the service. The top being honorable discharge, which is what everyone obviously seeks, all the way down to entry level separation, meaning you go to boot camp and you -- it just doesn't work out for you and they decide to separate you because you don't have the mettle to do it.

In between there, just above dishonorable discharge, which is the most onerous, is the bad conduct discharge. Now, John, the distinction here that's so beguiling is, if you get a dishonorable discharge, you are clearly prohibited from owning a firearm, just as if you're a convicted felon, if you renounce your U.S. citizenship, if there's an order of protection against you, or if, in this instance, you have a misdemeanor conviction whereby there was violence detached to members of your family, battery. Well, that happened in the court-martial. He spent a year in the brig. But for some reason that did not make it into NIX (ph).

And, again, we don't have all the paperwork. I know the ATF was very careful to make that distinction today, saying they're going back and referencing that. But it is utterly baffling and unconscionable that someone could own a weapon, not be allowed to carry it because, remember, in Texas, to have an open carry privilege, you have to have a concealed carry permit. Not every state requires that. Texas does.

[12:10:22] KING: And, Juliette, when you listen to this, number one, you have these questions now. How did he get these weapons? Should he have had these weapons? Where there systems -- maybe system not talking to each other, something go through the cracks, or is there a gap -- is there a gap that needs to be fixed? And then the presentation from the law enforcement officials at the top of the hour where they laid out the case, the domestic issues with the mother-in- law. What jumps out to you and what's your biggest question?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: My biggest question now is, did he obtain the guns fraudulently or illegally? That's a distinction. Because if it was by fraud, then you can begin to think of sort of policy -- sort of policy proposals that would close some of the capability of someone being able to get a gun fraudulently.

If it was illegally, then you go after the gun sale owner. I mean this is what we have to begin to do. If someone illegally gives him a gun and knows that they shouldn't be giving him a gun, unless law enforcement starts to go after the gun sellers or the gun manufacturers, you won't see any sort of progress in terms of making the laws on the books effective.

Now, there's a third category, which is, there were sort of -- he got the gun by mistake. And that, I think, is starting to look like maybe that could have happened, that information wasn't shared. That too is a policy fix that we have to focus on. In other words, just because we now know his motivation, it wasn't terrorism, it wasn't race crime, but was family oriented, does not stop our responsibility as law enforcement, homeland security people to talk about, OK, we understand the motivation. We still have to get to insuring that people like that don't have the means to get it, whether they get it fraudulently, illegally or by mistake.

KING: And one of the things we heard a few moments ago during the law enforcement briefing was that there is some video from inside this service that they say they're looking at. And that has to be a horrible task for the investigators as they piece it together. But, obviously, critical to -- if anything was said and if people were targeted in a specific way. Is that how that would be put together?

FUENTES: Well, I think, depending on the camera angle of how it showed the people in there, if it was just focused on the people at the front of the church giving the sermon and conducting the service for broadcast to other people in the community, it may not show -- if we don't see him, he may be in the back of the church off camera doing all of this or in the front -- walking toward the front, but we may not see enough of that in that video. We'll learn about that later. But right now, we don't know how much is in that video.

KING: Right. And I don't want to end this conversation without talking about the remarkable scene that played out. A gentlemen who lives across the street from the church, hearing the gunshots, grabbing his own weapon and coming out into the street. Apparently not even waiting to put his shoes on. Somebody driving by, they hop into a vehicle and they chase this person down. Law enforcement saying they believe those good Samaritans could have saved additional lives.

But it also tells you, Shimon, something interesting from an investigative standpoint. Sometimes these shooters show up preparing to die. This shooter apparently was hoping to escape.

PROKUPECZ: Yes, I mean he was wearing a bullet resistant vest, a metal plate, ready for battle of sorts. Yes, so it seems that he expected to escape, or at least he was prepared.

The other thing on the video, John, the police talked about he was able to move freely around the church. So maybe their -- that may be some of that video captured that or I'm sure some of it is based on witnesses. But they seem to have a pretty good indication of how he moved around inside the church.

KING: Appreciate the insights, all four, about this investigation, which is just beginning in many ways. We'll continue to bring you the details.

Up next, President Trump gives his snap judgment on Sunday's deadly shooting in Texas. Critics are calling it a double standard.


[12:17:52] KING: Welcome back.

President Trump is dealing with the second mass shooting in just 35 days. This time as he travels in Asia on a high-stakes international trip. Remember, after the Las Vegas shooting, when the president said it was too soon to talk gun control. He said the shooter was, quote, sick, demented and had his wires screwed up. Today, in Tokyo, quite a similar take. He called the massacre in Texas a horrific act of evil and said access to guns is not the issue.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that mental health is your problem here. This was a very -- based on preliminary reports, a very deranged individual. A lot of problems over a long period of time.

We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries. But this isn't a guns situation. I mean we could go into it, but it's a little bit soon to go into it. But, fortunately, somebody else had a gun that were shooting in the opposite direction, otherwise it would have been -- as bad as it was, it would have been much worse.


KING: With us to share their reporting and their insights, Olivier Knox of "Yahoo! News," "The Washington Post's" Karoun Demirjian, CNN's Manu Raju and Margaret Talev of "Bloomberg."

We watched the president there. Some say double standard. That you shouldn't talk about -- the president didn't say this directly today, he did after Vegas -- Kellyanne Conway said it today, his adviser -- shouldn't be talking about gun control right away. That's disrespectful to the victims. But after the New York terror attack, the president reflexively, within seconds, was talking about how, because this person was an immigrant, we need tougher immigration policy. Is that a double standard?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, "THE WASHINGTON POST": One fits into his policy and one does not. He never campaigned as being an anti-gun kind of candidate. He has not been that type of president.

We know that he's been pushing for various sort of regulations and restrictions on immigration for a very long time. And so one kind of inspires the knee jerk response and the one certainly inspiring more of a, hold on, hold on, let's all back off this right now.

But the president's not alone in that either. I mean this is a partisan split. Really, really hard and fast down the center. I mean we get a slightly not normal moment after Las Vegas because everybody was so surprised at what bump stocks were. Nobody knew the GOP was ready to maybe move. But nothing happened.

And so here we are again, in our traditional split of, you know, oh, it's Democrats saying we need to talk gun control, Republicans saying we can't prevent somebody who's going to do this anyway. They can find a gun illegally. So it's just disrespectful to have that really acuminous debate.

[12:20:14] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: : And really the only way that Congress is going to be able to get something done on this issue is if there is a significant amount of president leadership that will be able to bring both sides together, potentially work with the NRA, see what can be done to find any sort of consensus. That's going to take a lot of effort and focus by this White House.

That's not coming from -- that's the message coming from this White House after these last couple of instances. And we already know how difficult it is to get anything done on gun control or background checks that -- you know, look at what happened after Newtown. There was a Democratic controlled Senate and they still couldn't get past the Manchin-Toomey Bill. So it's very difficult to get something done -- for Democrats to get something done. They're in the minority, obviously. But to get anything in this environment, you're going to need the White House's push on this. And the president doesn't feel that this is something for -- to regulate.

MARGARET TALEV, "BLOOMBERG": YOU know one of the most expensive kind of health care there is in the entire world? Mental health care. And there are two -- there is two other kind of parallel tracks that I would watch in terms of the mental -- in terms of the health care debate, right, which is, one, the president's effort to undo the Affordable Care Act and to change the kind of cost model into this two (ph) cheaper insurance that's more available for people. Things like those association plans that are not going to include coverage for preexisting conditions for mental health issues.

And the other is the opioid problem, which is very expensive also. The president was sort of tempted by this idea of doing an emergency declaration through FEMA and then decided not to because it would take away from the hurricane money. But that opioid treatment also includes a tremendous amount of, you know, mental, as well as drug counseling, that goes hand in hand.

Yes, it's true that people who are not mentally ill don't usually go around shooting dozens of people. But it's much harder for someone who's mentally ill to kill dozens of people with a knife or their bare hands. So it's a combined problem, obviously.

KING: And it's a fact for this president, it's a relatively modest number of individuals, but this president did sign a law, passed by the Republican Congress, that reversed an Obama administration rule under which the Social Security Administration could report to the background services, the background check services, those who they deemed mentally unfit to manage their disability benefits.


KING: So they thought, if you're unfit to manage your finances and we think there's something askew with your mental health issue, we would report you. And they signed a law that stops that.

OLIVIER KNOX, "YAHOO! NEWS": Yes, I think one of the things here is that he didn't buy this -- he didn't buy these firearms legally. He bought them fraudulently. He skirted the law. He lied on his background check application. And I wonder whether that would be a relatively cosmetic change to background checks, I think. And that might get -- you know, enforcing those a little bit more might be something that they could get through.

But, again, it's going to require presidential leadership. And if you look at the calendar, if you look at the -- everything that this Congress has to do, everything that this president wants to do, it just -- it seems unlikely. If they wouldn't act after Newton, if they wouldn't act after Vegas, despite the relative good will on bump stocks, if they didn't act then, I -- it just seems unlikely they'll do it now.

DEMIRJIAN: There's one other element that I just wanted to raise, if we're going to be talking about mental health versus gun control, and that is the domestic battery that's in the middle. I mean you don't -- yes, you had that (INAUDIBLE), you know, something that he was court- martialed for and everything happened during his military career. But you probably don't go from that to threatening texts to a mother-in- law without something in between.

And that's also a societal issue. You know, we don't talk about this. It's not considered -- it's still taboo to talk about that too opening. That can trigger a lot of identifiers that might actually say this person has problems. But the first issue often times in these cases is some sort of home battery issue. And we know that that was at least an element in the past in this situation.

KING: Right, and you do see this was an assault -- AR-15 was the rifle -- a Ruger style AR-15 was the rifle used at the church. Now, the NRA will tell you, and gun rights proponents will tell you, the gentlemen who lived across the street who grabbed his own rifle and came out probably saved lives. That, you know, he had a gun and used it responsibly to chase this man down. That will be part of the conversation.

To the bump stocks question, which we had right after Vegas -- let's just go back and remember. In the day immediately after Vegas, the most horrific mass shooting on American soil, politicians of all stripes say, maybe we should do something.


SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: I am willing to move forward with Republicans on banning these bump stocks.

REP. PAUL RYAN (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: Apparently this allows you to take a semi automobile and turn it into a fully automatic. So clearly that's something we need to look into.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll be -- we'll be looking into it over a next short period of time.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We know that both members of both parties in multiple organizations are planning to take a look at bump stocks and related devices. We certainly welcome that, would like to be part of that conversation.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: Automatic weapons are illegal. Converting another weapon into an automatic weapon is legal. Most of us -- I certainly never even heard of a bump stock until this tragedy. So I -- you know, however that gets fixed, I'm probably for it.


KING: That was all in the week after Vegas. There was a bipartisan piece of legislation introduced. The speaker of the House pretty quickly, even though you heard him there saying we should probably do something about this -- said the Trump administration should deal with this administratively. Let's not pass the bill. Since then, crickets.

[12:25:04] RAJU: Yes. And the NRA said that they should deal with this administratively. The last thing that these gun rights groups, these supporters want is for Congress to start meddling and adding things that they don't like. They believe they could do this more effectively to their own interests, though the administrative level. And we haven't seen a whole lot there. So as soon as the NRA weighed in, Republicans in Congress sort of backed off on this. That's sort of what happens.

DEMIRJIAN: Everybody's so afraid of momentum that they don't actually have the wherewithal to get done what they want to get done, because they're afraid to what that might open the floodgates to. And so that's the stasis that we've been in for years. And even in this situation where there was actual bipartisan unity on this point, people are so afraid of what might come next that they wouldn't --

KING: It's pretty damn near impossible to justify the bump stocks. So why the president couldn't at least say, we're going to do this one thing. I'm not going to come for your guns. I'm not going to go for big legislation. Why can't we do this one thing? He can do that with the stroke of a pen or pick up the phone. But, 35 days later, nothing. We'll see.

Up next, President Trump is in Asia, in Kim Jong-un's backyard. His message to the North Korean dictator, so far, all stick, no carrot.