Return to Transcripts main page


Pres. Trump Offers Condolences, Doesn't Mention Guns; Gunman Confesses To Florida High School Shooting; 17 Dead, At Least 14 Hurt in Florida School Shooting; Shooter Charged With 17 Counts of Premeditated Murder; Shooter in Court Today, Denied Bond; Sheriff: Uber Dropped Shooter Off At the School At 2:19. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired February 15, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:14] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We are in Parkland, Florida, where yesterday's terror has faded into horror and anger and loss. This is now a community of forensic teams and grief counselors, mourners and trauma surgeons and funeral directors. It's a town of vigils. This one drawing thousands tonight.

This is Parkland tonight, points of light shining in the darkness. We have seen far too many vigils like this one, in Aurora, Colorado, we remember listening as the names of the dead were read aloud. And after every name, mourners who'd gathered chanted three simple sorrowful words, "We will remember", they said. It was a promise to the dead and to their families, "We will remember."

Parkland is now a name among names like Aurora. It's the newest point on a tear-stained map. Parkland is Las Vegas tonight. It is Sutherland Springs, Texas. It's Charleston and Columbine. It's Oak Creek and Newtown.

The only truly unique aspect to all of this and the saddest are the names and the lives of the 17 individuals, each unique and each precious. We know all of their names tonight. We only know some of their stories and we regret not knowing more but we want to tell you about those we know.

Nicholas Dworet was a star swimmer, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with an athletic scholarship to the University of Indianapolis this fall. His whole life was ahead of him. The university's president today saying Nick's death is a reminder that we are connected to the larger world, and when tragedy hits in places around the world, it oftentimes affects us as home. He was 17 years old.

Nicholas Dworet, we will remember.

Aaron Feis, coach, football. Worked security and worked after school on the weekends mowing lawns, helping people, putting others first. He helped a player through cancer treatment, sending him prayers and cheering him up, putting himself second, not first, was how someone put it. That's how he lived his life and that's how he died, putting himself between his students and the gunfire. When other lives were being taken he gave his. He was 37 years old.

Aaron Feis, we will remember.

During the summer, teacher Scott Beigel was a counselor at Camp Starlight in Pennsylvania. His kids have been posting tributes to him online.

And the camp posted this: The Starlight family is wrapping arms around each other today, singing from our hearts to Starlight's beloved friend and hero, Scott Beigel. May every road rise up to meet your feet and may the wind be at your back. May good friends supply every lack until once more as friends we meet. Shalom. Shalom.

Scott was 35.

Scott Beigel, we will remember.

We will remember Alyssa Alhadeff, a freshman. She loved soccer. Her mom says she was smart, she was talented, successful, beautiful. Just 14 years old.

Alyssa Alhadeff, we will remember.

Chris Hixon was athletic director at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and was the 2wrestling coach. A colleague at another school telling "The Sun Sentinel", Chris was probably the nicest guy I've ever met. He would give you the shirt off his back. He does so much, 49 years old.

Chris Hixon, we will remember.

Jamie Guttenberg was a student. Her father sharing the loss on Facebook.

My heart is broken, he wrote. Yesterday, Jennifer Bloom Guttenberg (ph) and I lost our baby girl to a violent shooting at her school. We lost our daughter and my son Jesse Guttenberg lost his sister. I am broken as I write this, trying to figure out how my family gets through this. Hugs to all and hold your children tight.

She was just 14 years old.

Jamie Guttenberg, we will remember.

Luke Hoyer's cousin says he was an amazing individual, always happy, always smiling. His smile was contagious and so was his laugh. He loved his mom and his dad with all of his power. He was 15 years old.

Luke Hoyer, we will remember.

Alaina Petty's family describes her as a vibrant, determined young woman, loved by all who knew her. She was in junior ROTC and served as a volunteer for the Helping Hands Program of the LDS Church. Alaina helped in the cleanup and rebuilding after Hurricane Irma.

Her family says while we will not have the opportunity to watch her grow up and become the amazing woman, we know she would become, we are keeping an eternal perspective. We are grateful for the knowledge that Alaina is a part of our eternal family and we will reunite with her. She too was 14 years old.

Alaina Petty, we will remember.

Martin Duque Anguiano was a freshman. His older brother Miguel writes, words cannot describe my pain. I love brother Martin. You'll be missed, buddy. He like Alaina was just 14.

[20:05:03] Martin Duque Anguiano, we will remember.

A friend says this about Joaquin Oliver: He was just a good-hearted kid who loved family and his friends. He was just a very family- oriented person who just loved to be around people. He loved to hang with his friends all the time, and all I can tell you is he was a very loving kid and he would have done anything for his friends and his family. He was 17 years old.

Joaquin Oliver, we will remember.

As we said, we regret not being able to bring you the stories of all 17 whose lives were cut short. The reason of course is we don't know them yet, but we will in the days to come and we hope you will too. But tonight, we want you to know all of their names.

Fifteen-year-old Peter Wang, we will remember.

Fourteen-year-old Alex Schachter. Alex Schachter, we will remember.

Seventeen-year-old Helena Ramsey, we will remember.

Fourteen-year-old Cara Loughran, we will remember.

Eighteen-year-old Meadow Pollack, we will remember.

Carmen Schentrup, 16 years old, we will remember.

And Gina Montalto, like so many others, so young, 14 years old, Gina Montalto, we will remember.

We remember them all tonight. The one name we will not be uttering, of course, the one person we don't want to remember, the one name that should not be remembered by history is that of their confessed killer.

We told you about Alyssa Alhadeff. Her mom Lori's grief is incredibly raw, as you can understand. This afternoon, she spoke to our sister network HLN.


LORI ALHADEFF, DAUGHTER KILLED IN SCHOOL SHOOTING: My daughter Alyssa Alhadeff was a beautiful young lady. Yesterday, on Valentine's Day, I dropped her off at school and I said, I love you. And then a few hours later, I get a call that there's a shooter at Stoneman Douglas High School and I ran as fast as I could to get there, and I knew at that point she was gone. I felt it in my heart. How? How do we allow a gunman to come into our children's school?

How do they get through security? What security is there?

There's no metal detectors. The gunman, a crazy person, just walks right into the school, knocks down the window of my child's door and starts shooting! Shooting her! And killing her! President Trump, you say what can you do? You can stop the guns from getting into these children's hands!

Put metal detectors at every entrance to the schools! What can you do? You can do a lot!

This is not fair to our families! Our children go to school and not to get killed!

I just spent the last two hours putting the burial for my daughter's funeral who is 14! President Trump, please do something! Do something. Action! We need it now! These kids need safety now!


COOPER: Shortly after that, our Gary Tuchman spoke with her. He joins us now.

Gary, what else did she tell you?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Lori Alhadeff and her husband are grief-stricken. They're devastated, but they're also smart and they're passionate and they're strong. And like most parents, they would move heaven and earth for all three of their children, and now two of them left.

And when we talked to her, we saw just the passion we had. That's why the interview we did with her is so heartbreaking.


ALHADEFF: She was meant for so much more in this world. She was meant for so much more. She was so passionate and just had the zest for life.

TUCHMAN: How does a mother cope with this situation?

ALHADEFF: Well, right now I'm fighting. I'm not fighting, my daughter's dead, but I'm fighting for all of these kids here, all of them. Because these are the ones that have to go back to that school, and they have to feel safe. I have two other children and they have to feel safe in their heart. OK? But we can't let shooters just walk in, just walk in that school without any security. Nothing!

TUCHMAN: You feel our government leaders should have done more over the years to protect your child and others?

ALHADEFF: Well, exactly. OK. If you have people with illnesses and people already know that this kid was a problem, how do we just let him go, let him loose? The kids were joking, saying we knew -- they knew about this kid.

[20:10:00] He deserves the death penalty. He doesn't deserve to live.

TUCHMAN: What would you like the president and Congress to do right now?

ALHADEFF: They need to get these crazy guns out of these kids' hands. Get them off the streets. They need to put metal detectors at every entrance to get into the schools. They need more security.

TUCHMAN: What would you say to your beautiful daughter right now if you could talk to her?

ALHADEFF: Alyssa, I am so sorry this happened to you. I would have taken the bullets for you. I would have protected you, and I'm sorry I wasn't there. I love you with all my heart and so does your dad.


TUCHMAN: Anderson, Alyssa Alhadeff was just starting high school. She was only a freshman -- Anderson.

COOPER: You're at the hospital now where the victims are still being treated. I understand that you have an update. What's the latest?

TUCHMAN: Right. There are still seven victims being treated in this hospital in Deerfield Beach, Florida, and another nearby hospital. Four of the seven are in critical condition. Three are said to be doing well. Two people pass away in this hospital.

One of them was the assistant football coach you talked about before, Aaron Feis. He was known as a nice man, assistant football coach. It was his alma mater, where he went to high school. But he will be remembered as a hero because he put his body in front of children who are being shot at. And they know him now as a hero -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Gary, thanks very much.

We want to know more about Aaron Feis, the assistant football coach who shielded, as Gary said, students with his body, gave his life the save others.

A short time ago I spoke to his head coach, Willis May Jr.


COOPER: Tell me about Aaron Feis.


COOPER: You guys work closely together?

MAY: Every day. When I came -- when I came in the morning he was sitting there at the gate. And when I would come in, he would lock the gate, he would come and get me on the golf cart and take me to my class every day and we would talk about whatever, you know.

COOPER: He work both as a coach and also --

MAY: Yes, he was my jayvee coach and -- he worked varsity, both, and he was a security guard during the day. He also drove the bus. He drove the bus for all of our teams.

COOPER: You were in your office when it started, right?

MAY: Yes, I had two college coaches and four -- four of my players. The college coaches come to talk to four of my kids, you know, about playing college ball, and so they were recruiting, doing the recruiting thing and I was kind of outside when it -- when it all started.

COOPER: Did you know right away what was going on?

MAY: No. No, really I didn't, because all -- all I heard first was like a shot. And they kind of -- I thought it was a gunshot but they kind of threw me a curve when on the radio they came and said -- somebody said, was that a fire cracker.

COOPER: You had the same radio --

MAY: Yes, I have the same radio. The coaches, all of the coaches pretty much have it. I had it with me and I was listening, and somebody -- one of 'em said -- one of the security guys said, was that a fire cracker? I heard Aaron say, that was no damn fire cracker.

COOPER: Aaron knew right away?

MAY: Aaron knew right away. I guess him and Chris were on -- on the way immediately, you know. And so, then the fire alarm goes off and, you know, we just had a fire alarm earlier in the morning. And I got to tell you, I been teaching 25 years, and in all of that time, we worked harder on those drills and on code reds and what all of the codes were this year than any year that we've ever --

COOPER: Never been so ready for something?

MAY: So ready for something, but yet find out you're not ready for nothing. The way it went so fast, we wasn't ready for nothing. But, you know, we were ready, you know.

COOPER: It all happened so fast?

MAY: Fast.

COOPER: The coaches and the students who were in your office, they actually saw the shooter walk out?

MAY: Yes, we -- I locked 'em in my office when the code red and the two coaches and the players. To be honest with you, I went out because I wanted to see what was happening. And when I went in the hall I heard the gunshots go off. I went back to go into my office, the kids are staying there, they're going, coach, I just seen him because they -- I had another radio in there and they heard the administration in the office was talking to BSO.

COOPER: They already had the description of the guy?

MAY: They had the description of the guy and seen the guy walk right by the window, you know.

COOPER: And at that point he had already ditched his weapon.

MAY: He had already ditched his weapon. He didn't have his weapon on him.

COOPER: That's how he got away, he blended in.

MAY: He blended in with the kids that were walking down the road.

COOPER: What is it going to be like going back to school?

[20:15:01] MAY: You know, I don't know. It is going to be hard because, first of all -- the first part of my day is going to be terrible when I don't see my buddy at the gate. That's going to be the hard part. Then I'm going to walk in my office and not see Chris who always said good morning to me, and that's going to be hard.

I'm sure it is going to be hard for all of us, you know. I don't know. We'll do the best we can.


COOPER: That's all people can do here, just try to do the best they can.

We said at the top of the broadcast the confessed killer's name will not be mentioned on this broadcast at least. His story, especially his back story is important. We want you to know about it.

CNN's Drew Griffin joins us now with everything that he has been learning.

What have you found out so far?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: I'm afraid the more learn, the more question (INAUDIBLE). People like the coach, like the parents out there are looking for answers. My colleague Jose Pagliery got hold of police records, of police calls to the home of the shooter over the past several years.

Anderson, we can show you those records. There are dozens and dozens of calls where police were called the home. We don't know why or who was involved with this, but they involved calls for mentally ill person, domestic disturbance, 911 hang-up calls, child elderly abuse, missing persons.

This is exactly what the neighbors told us, that week after week, police were at this home interacting with this troubled family. On an Instagram we uncovered now, the Instagram account of the shooter, we see that he posted pictures of bullets, these are bullets for an AR- 15. This is the same type of ammunition that would have been used in the gun used in the high school behind us.

Also pictures of him with these long guns. We don't know if one of these guns is the gun.

And then this ominous photo taken from the point of view of a gun scope looking down from a second floor. All Instagram pictures posted by the shooter, and what all of his friends are telling us is he was telling us what he was about to do.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): The warning signs were all there in person and on social media. Photos of guns, knives, extremist comments posted under political videos.

I want to shoot people with my AR-15. That quote attached to a YouTube video of a Donald Trump supporter being pushed around at a rally.

Under a video about Antifa, he posted, "F Antifa. I wish to kill as many as I can and I'm going to kill can them in the future.

And the comment that prompted a call to the FBI. He wrote: I'm going to be a professional school shooter.

Ben Bennight contacted the FBI when he saw that post.

BEN BENNIGHT, CONTACTED FBI ABOUT SHOOTER'S POST: They came out to my office the very next morning in person and met with me.

GRIFFIN: And those who knew the shooter said his life was filled with trouble. This video from a neighbor shows him brandishing what looks like a pellet gun. He was expelled from school, obsessed with guns. And when his adopted mother died in November, he ended up with no place to live. The family of a friend took him in. Their lawyer said he didn't get up as usual yesterday, but they had no idea what was about to happen.

JIM LEWIS, ATTORNEY: They saw some depression. Obviously he had lost his mom, but they helped him get a job at a dollar tree store. They got him going to an adult education so he could try to get his GED and he seemed to be doing better.

GRIFFIN: A former manager at the store where the shooter work says the suspect broke his arm, only recently having the cast removed.

HUNTER VUKELICH, FORMER MANAGER: He seemed guarded, but he didn't seem aggressive or mean. He just seemed like, you know, distant. He was cordial, nice, quiet. You could tell he was a little off.

GRIFFIN: School mates CNN spoke with described him as weird, odd, strange. Brody Speno grew up with the shooter. They used to ride the school bus together. He lived two doors down in the house the police were often called to.

BRODY SPENO, FORMER NEIGHBOR: The police were there almost every other week. That's kind of how we knew he moved, because like the police stopped showing up there.

GRIFFIN: Really?

SPENO: Yes, he was always -- like always getting into trouble. Like evil kid.

GRIFFIN: You were surprised that he was able to legally purchase a gun?

SPENO: Yes, I'm not surprised he was the one who did it. But I'm surprised he somehow got hold of it.


COOPER: And, Drew, the investigation is still ongoing. Do we know what law enforcement has learned?

GRIFFIN: Today, a nightmarish tick-tock, Anderson. The shooter shows up at the school at 2:19 in an Uber, goes inside. By 2:21, he uncovers the bag and puts together the rifle and starts the shooting spree. First floor, second floor, goes up to the third floor --

COOPER: So, actually begins the shooting in the school itself.

GRIFFIN: In the school, begin shooting in the school and at one point went back the two classrooms he already hits. Two classrooms he already hit, he goes back, drops the rifle. Runs away from the school, and then for an hour is just loose.

He's at the Walmart. He's having a drink. He's having a sandwich. He goes to McDonald's. It is not until about an hour later that police find him.

COOPER: Wow. Unbelievable.

[20:20:00] Drew, appreciate all of the reporting. Thanks very much.

James Gagliano and Charles Ramsey are here with me now, along with Phil Mudd who's joining us from Miami.

Chief Ramsey, I mean, what do you make so far of what we've learned about this person? Is there -- what was missed? Was anything missed?

CHARLES RAMSEY, FORMER PHILADELPHIA POLICE COMMISSIONER: Well, I mean, there were a lot of issues clearly, but it is easy to say that when you are looking back at something. At the time, what could you actually do and what kind of actions could you actually take to prevent something like this from happening?

There are a lot of gaps in the system, and I think this demonstrated how many gaps we've got. I mean, a person who's suffering from some form of mental illness that could make them a threat perhaps. How that information is communicated.

During a background check, do we even bother to check social media? I mean, you go for a job, employers are checking social media. COOPER: Right.

RAMSEY: You don't do that for background checks. So, we need to rethink a lot of this stuff and take a look so we can make it more difficult for someone like him to be able to get their hands-on an assault rifle and do something as tragic as this.

COOPER: James, what stands out to you from what you learned?

JAMES GAGLIANO, RETIRED FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: Law enforcement's biggest nightmare is did we miss something, did we fail to connect the dots. Unfortunately, Anderson, we always talk about civil liberties versus total security. We also have First Amendment protections here. A lot of people have been weighing in about did the FBI miss something with the social media postings.

Anderson, there are thousands upon thousands upon millions of postings every day on the Internet, and you have to weigh a couple of things. Did somebody say something in haste? Was it rooted in impulsivity? Could it be misinterpreted? Was it satire?

And you have to weigh all of those things. Now, at a minimum, and I think that's what the appropriate way to look at it here would be, the FBI conducts what we call knock-and-talks. So, if something happens, somebody posts something, in this instance it get sent to an FBI office. They would run it down. They would scrub it through all the national databases, try to determine where this person is, does this person exist. Is this a nom de guerre?

COOPER: Would they have -- I mean, if they knew who the individual was, would they have access to local law enforcement's records visiting this house? Because it seems like they were out of the house all the time.

GAGLIANO: The great thing about 21st century technology is it is all interconnected. Now, there are ways, especially with the Joint Terrorism Task Forces, that stuff gets -- it gets shared at the granular level. So, something like this would have been shared between state, local and federal. The problem is if you can't locate the guy or it is somebody using a name that doesn't exist in the system or didn't have a criminal history, therein lies the problem.

COOPER: Phil, I mean, does it make sense to you that the FBI says that it -- that it essentially could not track this guy down even though he posted that comment with his name attached?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: If you -- it makes sense if you look at investigations as a series of increasingly intrusive steps. And you got to make choices along those steps about how much you're going to get into somebody's life. This is a really initial investigation, not even a preliminary investigation. This is just a look at things like public records.

If you think this merits further investigation -- by the way, I completely agree with Chief Ramsey. The public tends to look back more and say what went wrong. Practitioners say, when you got 10,000 cases or 15,000 cases, you can't look at every single person who calls in a threat and say we're going to spend five days on this.

My point is, if you want to get more intrusive -- which it doesn't look like they did in this case -- are you going to go to a court and ask for intrusive measures? Are you going to listen to somebody's e- mail? You couldn't have done this in a case that a judge would have thrown you out.

Final comment, Anderson, don't tell me this was an FBI issue when you've got neighbors saying there was a problem, the kid was thrown out of school for disciplinary measures. Everybody said he had mental health issues. Those issues were evident on social media. If one interaction with the FBI about one YouTube video is the straw that broke the camel's back, I'm going to say what about the other 100 straws we saw over years at his hometown. I don't buy it.

COOPER: Chief Ramsey, I mean, you know, one doesn't want to paint with a broad brush anybody who has mental health issues. Most people with mental health issues do not resort to violence. But from a law enforcement standpoint, how tied are law enforcement's hands in trying to, you know, if somebody clearly has mental health issues, trying to force them to get help and/or have that record be on some sort of firearm database?

RAMSEY: Well, that's part of the problem, being able to get that information. Not everyone who suffers from mental illness like you said is a threat.


RAMSEY: To anybody.

COOPER: The vast majority are not.

RAMSEY: It could be anywhere from depression to someone who is actually going through a crisis, without actually looking to harm other people.

We've got to really sit down and think about, you know, and respect privacy, but at the same time not to the extent that we put others in jeopardy.

So what is that line? Where is that line? When we can actually get the information we need, have thorough background checks, not violate people's Second Amendment rights but protect the public.

[20:25:00] And right now, we aren't able to do it.

COOPER: Phil, I mean, you have been vocal there needs to be tighter restrictions with regards to guns and mental illness. President Trump actually undid an Obama-era regulation that year involving mental health restrictions on gun purchases. Congress went along and the president signed it. It was interesting, the NRA was for undoing it, but so were some mental health groups as well.

What exactly do you want to see proposed? MUDD: I would suggest something very specific. Let me give you two

examples. One, if there's an intervention program -- let's say something similar to a gang intervention program for youth that have mental health issues, should we require a standard as high as a judge saying that person shouldn't have a weapon? I'd say no. I'd be happy with a mental health professional saying this personal shouldn't have access to a weapon. We don't have to go to a judge.

Second thing I would say, which will never happen in this country but I believe in it, if you go for treatment in this country to a trained clinical individual for certain types of mental disorder, I believe that person, that trained professional should have the responsibility to tell authorities, this person has, for example, bipolar disorder, and that triggers a process that says if they've got that disorder, I ain't going to a judge, that person is not going to have a weapon.

COOPER: But, I mean, Jim, you know that -- I think it was in this state, there was a law they were trying to get doctors to at least be able to ask people if they had a weapon in their home, and that was struck down. So, I mean, even for a doctor to ask a person if they have a weapon, you know, the weapons lobby was completely against that.

GAGLIANO: It is a conundrum. It is the same thing with HIPAA and FERPA. You can't even tell parents sometimes if their kids have reached out for mental health issues. And that's the problem with this -- as the chief pointed out, privacy versus security and how we're going to marry that going forward.

I mean, I think when it comes to guns there's a number of different things we could do without people thinking that these are gun grabs. Thirty-nine states don't require you to report a lost or stolen firearm. So, we could do everything right. We can make sure guns didn't fall into the hands through the legal system, and then somebody loses a firearm or has it stolen and it doesn't have to be reported.

So, that weapon is now out there, no one knows where it is. There's just so many sensical things we could do.

COOPER: It is interesting, Chief Ramsey, how so many lawmakers we hearsay, we should listen to the police in terms of what we can do better in terms of mental health. But when it comes to -- you know, I hear from a lot of law enforcement saying, look, these high-capacity magazines are an issue, the availability of AR-15 like rifle is an issue.

There are a lot of law enforcement professionals who want to see some form of greater gun regulation.

RAMSEY: Yes, that's very true. But, you know, our elected officials say that at times like this, but they don't listen. You know, our Congress is so dysfunctional they can't get anything done. I mean, what happened with this whole issue around bump-stocks after Las Vegas --

COOPER: There was a lot of talk and nothing happened. RAMSEY: A lot of talk and nothing happened.

I guarantee nothing is going to happen now. There's no reason to believe that anything is going to be any different tomorrow than it is right now because they are so dysfunctional that they can't do basic stuff. You can be on the no-fly list and go out and buy a gun. Now, that is absolutely insane yet they can't even get that done.

So, I have zero faith that things are going to change.

GAGLIANO: And when the second amendment came on line in 1791, a trained infantryman in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War could load, I am and fire three musket balls in a minute. In one minute on semi-automatic fire that gunman could fire 45, 50 rounds at people. It is a different paradigm.

COOPER: I want to thank everybody.

Coming up, what the president said today -- you may have heard him -- about all of this. Perhaps more importantly to some what he did not say, what he didn't talk about. That's next.


[20:32:40] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, President Trump spoke to the nation today about the shootings and stressed that better tracking of people with mental health issues could help avert future tragedies like this. However, he avoided any mention of gun control.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: We are committed to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools and tackle the difficult issue of mental health. Later this month I will be meeting with the nation's governors and attorney generals. We're making our schools and our children safer, will be our top priority. It is not enough to simply take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference. We must actually make that difference.


COOPER: Joining me to talk about what may happen next in Washington, if anything, and what, if anything, President Trump may do or could do is CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash.

I mean does it seem like the President has any actual appetite, whatsoever to do anything about gun control, because after Las Vegas he made some reference that, oh we're going to be looking at this and of course nothing happened.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I mean the short answer is no, Anderson, it does not appear that there's an appetite either in the White House or among those who run Congress. And that -- we're talking about Republicans. It wasn't just the President who didn't mention guns or gun control or gun violence in particular, it was also the House speaker who was actually asked about it and said he doesn't -- basically punted and said he doesn't want to deal with this.

The other thing we should keep in mind is the NRA, the National Rifle Association which everybody knows is incredibly powerful, they stepped up their spending in 2016 in such a big way. They spent -- more than $52 million. Much of that was to help elect President Trump. And just by way of context, that was $20 million more than the last election cycle which then was a record-breaking amount.

COOPER: And just in terms of Congress, I mean as you said, in all of the comments people on Capitol Hill made it seemed like they were going out of their way to avoid any mention of anything to do with guns.

BASH: Look, I think it is probably because even those who are very, very much in favor of putting stricter gun control laws on the books realize that they've tried this with so many of the tragedies that we've seen. Just for example, Anderson, 2013 after New Town there was the Manchin-Toomey Bill that would have required background check for gun sales.

[20:35:22] That Manchin-Toomey, that was a bipartisan bill, that didn't go anywhere. Also after the New Town massacre the assault weapons ban. Dianne Feinstein tried to have a new assault weapons ban after it was -- it had expired in 2004. She couldn't get that to go anywhere. Then in 2016 after the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, that would have added suspected terrorists to be investigated more before they could get a gun. That didn't go anywhere. And then, remember, after the Las Vegas shooting at the end of last year people were talking about bump-stocks. There was bipartisan support, Anderson, for a law that prevented semi-automatic weapons from becoming automatic weapons, and that didn't go anywhere.

COOPER: Yes, I mean the measure that President Trump signed last year which nixed Obama-era regulation aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of severely mentally ill, essentially people who couldn't even take care of themselves and their names would have been referred to and put on the background check --

BASH: That's right.

COOPER: -- if he had not signed it, the shooter may not have been able to actually purchase a weapon. I mean i don't know -- we don't know exactly the status of the shooter's disability and whether he had somebody else to actually --

BASH: Right.

COOPER: -- monitoring, you know, and taking care of him in that sense, but it was a small measure but it was a measure nonetheless. I think it would have affected about 75,000 people.

BASH: That's exactly right, Anderson. And you're talking about something that as you said President Obama signed into law that was an attempt to be more aggressive at keeping people with mental illness from buying guns. One thing that the President did since he's been in office is roll that back. He signed something in the end of February of last year getting rid of that. So he -- that was his action vis-a- vis mental health despite what he said on Twitter and elsewhere about his concern about people with mental health getting guns after this most recent tragic shooting.

COOPER: Yes. Dana, thanks very much. Appreciate that.

The Broward County school superintendent Robert Runcie spoke at tonight's vigil about the lives those students lived. Here is part of what he said.


ROBERT RUNCIE, SUPERINTENDED, BROWARD COUNTY SCHOOL: Those lives should not be lost in vain. Those lives are telling us that now is the time for us to do something different. Our children are writing to us. They're telling us, school board members, community, elected officials, now is the time for us to enact some common sense gun laws in this country.


COOPER: And Mr. Runcie joins me now at the end of what has been a very, very long, difficult day, the second long and difficult day. I've been on so -- I mean I've been so many -- to so many of these shootings unfortunately, and I've never seen so many kids who went to the school where this happened speak publicly about them wanting some sort of change, whether it is something with gun laws. I've never been on location where that is so much in the discussion immediately after something like this.

RUNCIE: Yes, we're proud of our kids in Broward County. We try to promote student voice. We listen to our kids. They certainly are our future. And I'm proud to see the way they have come and responded to this. They're telling us as adults that we need to start to have a conversation now in this country about common sense gun laws. You know, I saw something today in the "New York Times" that there have been over 400 people shot in over 200 school shootings since Sandy Hook. You know, when is it enough? We've to really get control of this in this country.

COOPER: Do you actually believe though change is possible? I mean so many people talk about, you know -- I mean after Las Vegas there was talk about bump-stocks and everybody seemed to be in agreement on that and then nothing -- nothing happened. I mean how do you mobilize the anger that is here among students and people on the board and parents to actually do something?

RUNCIE: Well I tell you what, most change that wove 'ever seen in the generation is driven by young people. And I am extremely encouraged because if we don't get the job done in our generation I'm confident that our kids will. I think also that this is a two-fold problem. There's the whole mental health aspect and then there's also the gun laws.

[20:40:06] We absolutely believe that we've got to make an investment in mental health so that we can provide adequate intervention and support services for all of our kids 24/7. We've to make sure that we're dealing with disconnected youth and that they've got somebody in their lives that cares about them, that's encouraging, that's holding them accountable, helping them to set goals and aspirations. When that doesn't happen, we have problems in our society.

COOPER: I mean on the one hand there -- you're in a difficult bind because you don't want to stigmatize people with mental illness, because their whole range of mental illnesses, depression, lots of people -- so many people in this country suffer and experience it at one time or another in their lives. You don't want to, you know, sort of imply all of those people are potentially dangerous and violent. Yet at the same time some people who may be violent can often fall through the cracks or not get the help they need.

RUNCIE: But, you know, you need to create a culture where you can start having a conversation. We are starting in Broward County to have a huge conversation, not just in our schools but within our communities, about mental health concerns. You know, we know from studies that have been done, Kaiser Permente Centers for Disease Control have identified up to 70% of K-12 students in this country have been impact by some type of adverse childhood experience, some kind of trauma in their life. So we know that there's a need out there. We need to start having a conversation about it. In Broward County we started it by showing a film called "Listen." And it goes through bullying, it goes through suicide, a whole host of issues. We provide counselors and support services and we engage the students in a conversation. Those have been some very powerful experiences to initiate this conversation, to take the stigma out of having the conversation about mental health.

COOPER: You know, I talked to the football coach from the school today who said, look -- he said in his 28 years of education in other schools in West Virginia and here, he had never seen a school as ready, as had done as many drills, active shooter drills, fire drills, even a fire drill that morning and yet this still happened. There was an armed security guard that didn't interact.


COOPER: Where there.

RUNCIE: We have single-point entry. We have all of that. We do all of the drills as you indicated. But, again, there's no solution that's going to be 100% fool proof. It takes an entire community to ensure the safety of our kids. We rely on tips. We rely on information from students, parents, anyone in the community. We take every single one of them seriously. And we follow-up on them on a daily basis. We followed up on a bunch of things today. And it's through that that we've been able to really manage the safety of our community. This incident that occurred, this outrageous tragedy that we have had to deal with, we really had no signs, no warning, no tips alerting us to this situation.

COOPER: This person who did this -- I know we're not using this person's name. I mean they were expelled from the school. They were no longer a part of the school system. RUNCIE: Well, I don't know if we -- technically they were expelled, but you're correct. They were once enrolled in this school.


RUNCIE: They were then transferred, enrolled in another school within Broward County that was more appropriate for providing some of the services and needs that the student had.


RUNCIE: You know, this is a student that's had some challenges, and we recognized that and we continue to provide services and supports. But, again, we only have our students for about a third of the time that they're up, right? So two-third also of the time they're outside, we've got to figure out a way to do that. I'm encouraged by the conversations I've had today with our state legislature and the elected officials there that are working on some mental health proposals that will provide some decent funding, so we can get resources to increase the number of school counselors, mental health professionals.

COOPER: Because a lot of folks talking about mental health in Washington right now are also cutting funding for mental health services.

RUNCIE: Yes, there's a little bit of an irony there. We need to walk the walk and talk the talk in this country.


COOPER: I appreciate it.

RUNCIE: I appreciate you giving me the time. Thank you for being down here.

COOPER: Thank you (INAUDIBLE). Up next, to Superintendent Runcie's point we're going to hear from a number of students, a group of Douglas High School students, get their thoughts on what the leaders of this country are saying in the aftermath of this tragedy. We'll be right back.


[20:47:55] COOPER: Well there's a sameness to the reaction of politicians to mass shootings, especially if you're a politician who received donations from the National Rifle Association or is leery of two words, "gun control." Here is a sample in the wake of yesterday's killings.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We continue to have these conversations about how do law enforcement, how do mental health funding do we make sure people are safe, and we'll continue to do that. SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) TEXAS: The reaction of Democrats to any tragedy is to try to politicize it. So they immediately start calling that we've to take away the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. That's not the right answer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before we begin to advocate for new laws, I think it is imminently fair to say how are we doing enforcing the ones we currently have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not good if we've got gun laws that say criminals can't carry guns and they never get enforced.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: People don't -- they don't know how this happened. I mean how -- who this person is, what motivated them, how did they get hold of the weapon that they used for this attack. I think it is important to know all of that before you jump to conclusions there's a law we could have passed that could have prevented it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got an endless number of gun control laws and regulations currently on the books. So I don't know that more of those is going to stop evil like this when it takes place.


COOPER: Well, you may notice a pattern. Florida Senator Marco Rubio has sent out a great many tweets after all of these senseless massacres. Today he tweeted, and I quote, "In the world you will have trouble but take courage, I have conquered the world." A bible verse from John. Here's a look at some of his others. After Las Vegas, "I'm praying for all of the victims, their families and our first responders." After the Ft. Lauderdale airport shootings, quote, "Praying for the victims and everyone at the Ft. Lauderdale airport". Then after the Pulse Nightclub killings in Orlando, "Our prayers are with those injured and killed early this morning in the horrifying act of terror in Orlando". After the Oregon community college shootings in 2015, quote, "Praying for all those affected by the horrific violence in Oregon". After Sandy Hook Elementary School killings, "I hope we can take a break from the politics of shooting for a few days to mourn and pray for New Town. Plenty of time for policy debate later".

[20:50:03] And after the movie theater shooting, in Aurora Colorado, he tweeted, "What terrible news from Colorado this morning, praying that God provides comfort to the victims and families and healing to the survivors".

There's zero talk of any action whatsoever on gun control. One glancing reference to a debate that really never took place. We wanted to talk to Senator Rubio about what happened here in Parkland, he declined. We wanted to talk to the Florida governor, Rick Scott, he declined. We wanted to talk House speaker Paul Ryan, he declined. And we wanted to talk to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, he said no as well. We wanted to talk to all of them about not only gun control. But about what their specific plans are, any plans at all to make sure this doesn't happen again. But since none of the so-called adults would talk to us, we thought we'd hear from the kids from the high school themselves since they're the ones who are actually going through this right now. With me are Alexis Michael, Emma Gonzalez and Isabelle Robinson and I should note their parents all consented to talking to us. So thank you very much, I'm sorry for being under this difficult circumstances. Isabelle, what's the thing you want people know here? Because I've heard so many people, so many of the kids (INAUDIBLE) but teenagers here who are affected by this saying something has got to change. And there's a lot of anger out here.

ISABELLE ROBINSON, STUDENT, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: Yes, I think everyone is just in shock it happened here. And we don't want this to be like this to be like all the other where in a couple months everyone can simply forgotten. And I know that this graduating class and also all the other classes are very, very strong and very, very opinionated and we're not going to stop talking about it.

COOPER: You're worried this will become just -- yet another Aurora --


COOPER: -- Colorado or that nothing will change?


COOPER: Do you worry about that Emma?

EMMA GONZALEZ, STUDENT, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: I do. But I don't really worry about it, because I know that's not going to happen, because I know there's a people around us are the people who won't let it happen. And by us, I mean these people right here, like we aren't going to let it happen. We're going to make sure that these debates that happen in House of Representatives and stuff like that, they go through in our favor to make sure that we are safe. Like -- I know that there's suppose to be a debate or talk, that was put forth Adam Platinum (ph) and that was to decrease gun control and to decrease the facts -- to decrease background checks before applying to own a gun.

And I that that was, you know, postponed today, it was supposed to be today 2but I know that it was postponed. And I want to make sure that the student who were involved make sure that talk doesn't ever happen. That we do not decrease the regulations on guns. That rifles of this caliber are not to be sold.

COOPER: You know -- I mean Alex, there are some legislatures who say the answer is more guns. More guns in school. People think of -- teachers, even students perhaps being able to bring this weapons.

ALEXIS MICHAEL, STUDENT, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: I don't think bringing in more weapons would solve anything. I think that's creating more violence. And I just think that we need to take it away from people in order to actually make a difference.

COOPER: Do you think change is actually possible. Because I mean again, I can't tell you, you know, how many of these shootings there have been and each is horrific and great people's lives have been taken. But it doesn't seem like it registers in Washington.

ROBINSON: It's hard to say how different this one was because it's been so different for me that I was here. But I know -- or at least like feel like there's been a lot more footage and there's been a lot more just live tweeting I guess to increase the technology. And I think people are seeing more what happened and my friend David took a video of me like cowering in a closet and it's on the news. And I just want everyone to see that and see like that's the closet we were in.

COOPER: You want people to see what happened to not gloss over the reality.

ROBINSON: Yes. Because if they don't see it, they're going forget.

COOPER: Do you agree with that Emma?

GONZALEZ: I do. And I really, really feel like people need to understand that we've kind of become numbers. You know, like our test scores and how many test book packets do we have to order for the AP exams and stuff. But like, we need to stop being corporation figures. We need like -- the government needs to understand and people in the government need to understand that we are not to be bought by the NRA. Like they're not supposed to be listening to the NRA about our protection. They're supposed to be listening to the people who are getting hurt about our protection. And we're the ones who deserve to be kept safe. Because we were literally shot at

COOPER: Do you -- this just -- what happens here, does it -- does it change your future? Does it change the way you think about, maybe what you want to do with you lives or how you want to live your life? Does it change something? Or is too soon your kind of think about that?

GONZALEZ: I think, yes absolutely change the -- for me at least like I have a lot more school pride right now. And I know that I'm never going to be able to forget this. And is going to be part of my life forever and its going to be really big part of my life. All school majors are like out the window for me, like how do I stop this in the future from happening again? Like that's all I can think about right now.

[20:55:00] COOPER: Thinking about what you're going to major in college. That seems small compared to something like this.

GONZALEZ: Everything that we do is a steppingstone to our future. So thinking about where we're going to go to college, where we're going to college, what we're going to do with our live, we're the people who are going to be making the laws one day. And even if it seems small now, it's going to be incredibly incremental in the future and we need to put forward those baby steps.

COOPER: So if the President is listening tonight and, you know, he does watch cable news happened to what never he watches, he says he twice to watch some but does seem to watch a lot of them. What would you say to the President tonight or anybody on Capitol Hill? MICHAEL: Things need to change. Nothing is going to be different if we don't change anything.

ROBINSON: I would like to say that this shouldn't be a fight between two different parties. This should be a coming together where we all realize that something is wrong and even if we disagree on the way to fix it, we all just need to talk about it and stop being angry and stop slandering other people, because that doesn't help anyone and that's why people die because we just can't get along. And I don't think like giving blame on it, pushing blame on anyone is a good idea, because it just makes people more angry if that blame seems to make sense.

COOPER: Vilifying the other side doesn't help.


ROBINSON: No, it doesn't work.

COOPER: Either side?


COOPER: And what would you say?

GONZALEZ: I would just say what Isabelle said (INAUDIBLE).

COOPER: Well thank you so much for talking to us. I know it's not easy.


ROBINSON: Thank you for having us.

COOPER: We wish you the best. Alex, Emma, and Isabelle, thank you so much, really appreciate it.

MICHAEL: Thank you.

ROBINSON: Thank you.

COOPER: Best of luck to you in the future.

A lot more ahead. I'll speak with another student who actually took video on her phone as she was being evacuated. We'll talk to her. What she saw and heard.


COOPER: Well, obviously, it's been a deeply searing day here in Parkland, Florida. It has been for many a healing night as well. Because even as families are beginning to grieve, even as the details of the mass killers rampage are becoming known, thousands of people did what they could to reaffirm life, to come together and to honor the 17 lives many of them young lives take by a gunmen at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. [21:00:13] More on all of it in the hour ahead, well first what were --