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Coverage of White House Event on Gun Control Issues. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired February 21, 2018 - 16:30   ET


MELISSA BLANK, MOTHER OF STUDENT: I feel for all of these families. My -- my --


-- my heart is just broken for my whole community. We -- we're coming together.

I feel for all of these families, who have lost, and I feel for the ones that are here. Because we now have almost a guilt, like I have. Why not my child, which I feel bad saying I'm happy that he's here with me. But I feel so bad for all of you who have lost so many. And I'm just begging for a change. We need a change.

(UNKNOWN): Thank you. .

M. ABT: Do you mind -- may I pass the microphone back to my daughter? Because I think she has some nice solutions. And -- if that's OK with you.

TRUMP: Yes, sure.

C. ABT: Hi. My name is Carson Abt. I'm a junior, and I was at Marjory Stoneman Douglas at the time of the shooting.

And I know that there are a lot of different solutions that we can go through to help eradicate this issue, but one that stuck out to me was about all the drills and protocols that my teachers had to go through.

C. ABT: They knew what to do once the code red for an active shooter was announced, but through research I found that only 32 states require drills. But of those 32 states, more than half of the counties do not go through the drills because they want to spend their resources towards something else.

And I know that a bill was also passed that declare that each school has to go through one drill each month. But I know that my school -- we go through five drills every month, and we were -- we have not had our lockdown drill yet this year.

And I think -- a change that will increase all the trainings and protocols so if, God forbid, another shooting does happen, at least all the teachers will be prepared and can hopefully keep their students calm.

TRUMP: That's great. Thank you very much. (OFF-MIKE) Thank you. Please.

KLEIN: Hi. My name is Ariana Klein. I would just like to say thank you for leading this country. You're a great leader and I appreciate the direction that the country is going in.

I'm a junior. I attended Stoneman Douglas. And I just want to say that everybody, right now, is so stuck on what they believe that they're not even listening to what other people believe. We need to listen to the other points of views.

We all need to realize that we all have different points of views and that we need -- this solution is not going to be a singular thing. It's going to be multifaceted and it's going to be created by a collection of different people working together, and we all have to realize that we all have our opinions and, together, we're going to be able to work to a solution.

And this is not just Parkland anymore. This is America. This is every student in every city in every -- everywhere. It's everybody. It's not small. It's everything.

And I'd just like to say thank you for having us...

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

KLEIN: ... giving this opportunity.

TRUMP: Appreciate it.

F. ABT: My name's Fred Abt. I'm Carson's dad. I'm going to pass the microphone along to some of the other students. If we have a chance later on, perhaps I'll speak, or other parents could speak. But I'd like the students to get their chance.

TRUMP: Thank you. That's (ph) very nice.

J. GRUBER: My name is Justin Gruber, and I was at the school at the time of the massacre. I'm only 15 years old. I'm a sophomore.

Nineteen years -- 19 years ago, the first school shooting, Columbine -- at Columbine High School -- happened, and I was born into a world where I never got to experience safety and peace.

There needs to be significant change in this country, because this has to never happen again and people should be able to be -- feel that, when they go to school, they can be safe, and because there needs to be a change.

I'm sorry. People need to feel safe, and parents shouldn't have to go through the idea of losing their child, as I know, for my dad -- he was -- he was panicking, and he couldn't imagine it. So that shouldn't even be a possibility that should go through a parent's mind, and there needs to be some change.

Thank you.

TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you very much.

C. GRUBER: I'm Cary Gruber, Justin's dad, and I'll be brief.

You know, Justin was texting me, hiding in a closet, saying, "If something happens, I love you; if something happens, I love you." And you can't imagine what that's like as a parent. And then his phone died, and I don't know what happened for another hour.

So 17 lives are gone. I was lucky enough to get my son home. But 17 families -- it's -- this is -- it's not left and right. It's not political. It's a human issue. People are dying and we have to stop this. We have to stop it.

If he's not old enough to buy a drink, to go and buy a beer, he should not be able to buy a gun at 18 years old. I mean, that's just common sense. We have to do common sense. Please, Mr. Trump, these are things we have to do.

In Israel, you have to be 27 years old to have a gun. You're only allowed one. They tax the guns. You have to go through significant training. We got to do something about this. We cannot have our children die. This is just heartbreaking. Please.

Thank you.

TRUMP: Thank you.

MORRIS: Hi my name, my name is Shannon Morris. I'm a local administrator for a school in D.C., and I really want to continue the conversation for our students.

SCOTT-MARCUS: Hi, my name is Vielka Marcus and I'm also a local educator here in Washington, D.C., for Friendship Public Charter Schools, so I will allow our students that are here to voice their opinions as well as give some of their ideas to do that at this time.

And my condolences and my heart truly go out to not just the families that have lost children in this horrific, horrific incident that has occurred, but also to our families here in the District of Columbia that experience gun violence outside of our schools that directly impact our schools because they are our students.

BARNETT: Hello, my name is Alaya Barnett and I go to the Friendship Technology Preparatory Academy in the heart of Southeast D.C.

My condolences to every family here that experienced the shooting all the students that experienced that. And I'm here on behalf of my school and all of the Friendship schools in D.C., to be able to prevent those kind of things happening at our school, because in Southeast D.C. we do encounter a lot of violence and things. Most of the time at night but some -- a lot of the times it's in the daytime too. So our schools, we do take preventive measures and everything to stop that. Like we check bags at the door and everything, and it does make us -- at first we're like, no, we don't want to do this, but then we realize it's for our safety. But we wanted to make sure that it continues and that nothing can ever slip up to -- for this -- for these things to happen, like, in school.

Counseling for all students who are struggling with fear and bullying. Bullying triggers emotions that will make a student want to bring, like, a weapon to school to protect themselves or to get revenge for a person who, that did something to them. So we just want to have a lot of preventative measure to be in the schools, and also outside of school to make sure that nothing can happen to us while we are in school.

HUNSCHOFSKY: Hello, Mr. President. Thank you for having us. I'm Christine Hunschofsky. I'm the Mayor of the city of Parkland.

We have a great city. It's been one of the safest cities in America, and the fact that this happened in our city means it can happen anywhere. We are blessed that we are a very close-knit family- orientated city, and our community is coming together. We lost 17 lives, but the ripple effects throughout the community are devastating.

I have spent the last week going to funerals, friends of mine that lost their children.

We have to, at some point, care enough and be strong enough to come up with solutions. And I hope we will. And if I might, I had two parents who lost children this past week text me some of their thoughts, if I might share them with you. Thank you.

I spoke to Jennifer and Tony Montalto. They just buried their daughter, Gina, yesterday. And their comments were -- so Tony is an airline pilot, and he said he supports the Second Amendment, but he does not believe there's a need for assault rifles. He also said that the FBI, there were signs missed, and it reminded him of 9/11. So we do have to work on making sure that our protocols are in place so that area -- people don't slip through the cracks -- literally, in this case.

We also talked about the Red Flag laws. I think there's a little progress being made in Florida now on the Red Flag laws, which is when somebody shows signs of hurting themselves or someone else, you can take their -- their gun away from them.

Fred Guttenberg, service for his daughter Jamie was last week on Friday, and he would like the administration to publicly acknowledge the role of guns.

Now, these two parents talked about guns, and there are absolutely lots of areas that -- where there's room for improvement -- lots of areas, from mental health, from teacher training. But also, part of that is also the gun issue. So it's not that it's just those, and not the gun; it's all of them. And in the debate world, in the high school debate world, the kids talk about when they bring up legislation, you want to have impacts. You're not bringing up legislation that doesn't have a positive impact.

And the -- what is the positive impact of having legislation that stops assault rifles, bans assault rifles? It could save a life, and that needs to be a priority in any case.

And when we talk about rights, so we have the right for free speech. But if free speech in any way endangers someone, it gets restricted. And I think -- I appreciate that we're coming here to listen, and I appreciate that we're coming here to look at all different perspectives, because we need action, and we need to be solution- oriented. Thank you.

TRUMP: Thank you. I appreciate it. OK.

A. POLLACK: We're here because my daughter has no voice. She was murdered last week, and she was taken from us -- shot nine times on the third floor. We as a country failed our children. This shouldn't happen. We go to the airport -- I can't get on a plane with a -- a bottle of water, but we leave it, some animal could walk into a school and shoot our children. It's -- it's just not right, and we need to come together as a country and work on what's important, and that's protecting our children in the schools. That's the only thing that matters right now.

Everyone has to come together, and not think about different laws. We need to come together as a country, not different parties, and figure out how we protect the schools. It's -- it's simple. It's not difficult. We protect airports. We protect concerts, stadiums, embassies.

The Department of Education that I walked in today, that has a security guard in the elevator. How do you think that makes me feel? In the elevator, they've got a security guard.

I'm -- I'm very angry that this happened, because it keeps happening. 9/11 happened once, and they fixed everything. How many schools, how many children have to get shot? It stops here, with this administration and me. It's -- I'm not going to -- I'm not going to sleep until it's fixed.

And, Mr. President, we're going to fix it, because I'm going to -- I'm going to fix it. I'm not going to rest. And look at -- my boys need to live with this. I want to see everyone -- you guys, look at this. Me, I -- I'm a man, but to see your children go through this -- bury their sister -- so we -- that's what -- I keep saying this, because I want it to sink in, not forget about this.

We can't forget about it. These -- all the school shootings just -- it doesn't make sense. Fix it. It should have been one school shooting, and we should have fixed it. And I'm pissed, because my daughter, I'm not going to see again. She's not here. She's not here. She's at -- in North Lauderdale, at whatever it is -- King David Cemetery. That's where I go to see my kid now.

And it stops -- we all work together and come up with the right idea, and it's school safety. It's not about gun laws right now. That's another fight, another battle. Let's fix the schools, and then you guys can battle it out, whatever you want. But we need our children safe. Monday -- tomorrow, whatever day it is -- your kids are going to go to school. You think everyone -- everyone's kids are safe? It -- I didn't think it was going to happen to me. If I knew that, I would have been at the school every day, if I knew it was that dangerous.

It's enough. Let's get together, work with the president and fix the schools. That's it. No other discussions. Security -- whatever we have to do. Get the right people, the consultants. It's a (ph) -- these are our commodities.

I'm never going to see my kid again. I want you all to know that. Never, ever will I see my kid. That's how -- I want it to sink in. It's eternity. My beautiful daughter, I'm never going to see again. And it's simple. It's not -- we can fix -- this is my son, Huck, who's -- have to deal with this, too.

You have something to say, son?

HUCK POLLACK: I just want to add, it's imperative to the safety of everyone that -- to support the free market and free flow of ideas, and listen to people on -- listen to radical opinions on both sides.

And that's how we'll find solutions. You let people battle it out in a free flow of ideas. Censorship has got to stop, and that's how we find the solutions -- by listening to everyone, be -- having an open mind.

A. POLLACK: This is my son, Hunter.

HUNTER POLLACK: How are you. I'm Hunter Pollack, Class of '15, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas. I walked the same hallways where Meadow got shot, and all 16 other victims.

First off, I want to thank Mr. President for having us. We had an -- a very effective meeting before we walked in this room. Mr. Vice President, as well, and Madam Secretary -- I put all my trust into them and my father that, together -- that we'll be able to find a solution, and that's all I have to say.

Thank you for having us.

ZEIF: My name is Sam Zeif. I'm a student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland. And I just want to take a second, first, to thank you for having me, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, and Madam Secretary.

I was on the second floor in that building, texted my mom, texted my dad, texted three of my brothers that I was never going to see them again.

And then, it occurred to me that my 14-year-old brother was directly above me, in that classroom where Scott Beigel was murdered. Scott Beigel got my brother in the class; he was the last kid to get back into that class.

And I'm sure a lot of -- a lot of you have read my texts on the internet, with my brother. I didn't plan for them to go viral; I just wanted to share with the world, because no brothers, or sisters, or family members, or anyone should ever have to share those texts with anyone.

And that's why I'm here. I lost a best friend. He was practically a brother. And I'm here to use my voice, because I know he can't. And I know he's with me, cheering me on to be strong, but, it's hard.

And to feel like this, it doesn't even feel like a week. Time has stood still. To feel like this, ever, I can't -- I can't feel comfortable in my country knowing that people have, will have, or are ever going to feel like this.

And I want to feel safe at school, you know, senior year and junior year, they were big years for me, when I turned my turned my academics around, started connecting with teachers, and I started actually enjoying school.

And now, I don't know how I'm ever going to step foot on that place again, or go to a public park after school, or be walking anywhere. Me and my friends, we get scared when a car drives by, anywhere.

I think I agree with Hunter and Huck, and how we need to let ideas flow and get the problem solved. I don't understand -- I turned 18 the day after, woke up to the news that my best friend was gone, and I don't understand why I could still go in a store and buy a weapon of war, an AR.

I was reading today that a person, 20 years old, walked into a store and bought an AR-15 in five minutes with an expired ID. How is it that easy to buy this type of weapon? How are we not stop this? After Columbine, after Sandy Hook? I'm sitting with a mother that lost her son. It's still happening.

ZEIF: In Australia there was a shooting at a school in 1999. And you know, after that, they took a lot of ideas, they put legislation together, and they stopped it. Can anyone here guess how many shootings there have been in the schools since then in Australia? Zero.

We need to do something. That's why we're here. So let's be strong for the fallen who don't have a voice to speak anymore, and let's never let this happen again. Please, please.

HOCKLEY: Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Madame Secretary, my story is far too well known. I had two sons who were at Sandy Hook School. My eldest, who was eight at the time, survived, and my six-year-old son Dylan did not. And I have been working tirelessly on this issue for over five years now.

The organization that I help lead, Sandy Hook Promise, is very focused on keeping kids safe at school, because no parent should go through this. Every parent who sends their kid to school should know without any question in their mind that they're going to be coming home that day.

This is not a difficult issue. You're absolutely right. There are solutions, and this administration has the ability to put them in place. And after Sandy Hook, they said this -- we wouldn't let this happen again, and yet, it has continued to happen for five years. How many more deaths can we take as a country? How many more teenagers, and six- and seven-year-olds can we allow to die?

Don't let that happen any more on your watch. There are things that you can do right now. Mental health, you mentioned earlier -- funding for that would be very much appreciated. The Stop School Violence Act, enabling prevention programs and reporting systems in schools across America, it's already passed through the House. It's in the Senate right now. Urge swift passage of that. That can get a lot of help to schools.

I absolutely agree, since Sandy Hook, there has been an increase in school safety and security. We've invested a lot in the bricks and mortar of our schools. We've invested a lot in the security of our schools. I think we also need to focus on prevention: How do we prevent these acts from happening? How can we help identify, and get help for people who are at risk of hurting themselves or others before they pick up any weapon. That's what we need to focus on. By preventing these acts, and you have the ability to do that.

There's legislation available to you right now. There are free training programs, such as our Know The Science Programs, available across the states. Right now, you could mandate these sorts of programs. You could ensure that schools, students and educators are trained how to recognize these signs, and to know what to do when they see them, and then, to ensure that those tips are followed through.

This is not difficult. These deaths are preventable. And I implore you: Consider your own children. You don't want to be me. No parent does, and you have the ability to make a difference, and save lives today. Please don't waste this. Thank you.

TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you.

D. SCOTT: Mr. President, Vice President, and Mrs. DeVos, thank you for inviting my wife and I to be here today. I'm a little bit weak. I had surgery last week, so I'm kind of weak in voice and body.

But 19 years ago, I went through what some of the folks here are going through now because my beautiful daughter, Rachel, was killed and my son, Craig, was in the library that day. Two of his friends were murdered beside him. He lay there covered in their blood, looking down the barrel of two guns aimed at him and he knew he was going to die. And a split second before Eric and Dylan pulled the trigger, the alarm system went off and it distracted them, and they never came back to the table where Craig was at, or I would have lost two children that day at Columbine.

So my heart goes out to you, sir, and to everyone of you in this room that experienced the trauma that you've gone through at Parkland.

Our focus has been -- my beautiful wife, the most beautiful lady in the room, is right there, in the blue and white blouse, Sandy. We started a program called Rachel's Challenge, and it was started a year after Rachel died, and we have worked with some wonderful partners over the last few years. We've worked closely with Chuck Norris' his wife, Gena, in a program they call Kick Start for Kids. We worked with Bill Ripken, Jr. -- Cal Ripken, Jr. and his brother, Bill, and have created a program for athletes called The Uncommon Athlete and it's based on something my daughter wrote in one of her diaries.

We partner with Dr. Robert Marzano who is one of the top K-12 researchers in the country and a program called Why Try All Dear Friends (ph) and another program called Love and Logic, Dr. Jim Fey, one of the largest parenting programs. All of us combine our efforts together. Our organization has reached over 28 million students in the last 19 years, and we have seen seven school shootings prevented. We see an average of three suicides prevented every single week of the year -- over 150 a year.

I have a little book with me that I'd like to leave with you. It's got letters from students. We don't edit them. These are e-mails from students who were planning to commit suicide, and we see three of those every single week, students that have changed their mind.

And if you don't mind, I just want to share one simple principle with you that we've learned over the years as we've worked with millions and millions of young people, and it comes from something you said in your speech, and it was that we must create a culture of connectiveness. We must create a culture in which our classmates become our friends. That's something we've learned how to do over the years. We have over 28 different programs, and we see children connect with one another. Every single one of these school shootings have been from young men who are disconnected.

And we talk a lot about the mental health issues, but it actually goes deeper than that, because there's a lot of mentally ill children that are kind and compassionate. And so we work with those children every single day of the year -- of the school year. But there's always the one with the propensity to violence.

And so one of the things we have learned -- and we train young people and we train teachers -- that the focus must not be just on unity or diversity. Because if you focus too much on diversity you create division; if you focus too much on unity, you'll create compromise. But if you focus on relatedness, and how we can relate with one another, then you can celebrate the diversity and you can see the unity take place.

I'm all for diversity, I'm all for unity, But the focus really needs to be on how can we connect, and that's something that we, and our organizations, have learned -- one thing we've learned is how to connect students with each other, with themselves, with their teachers, and with their parents.

And I would love to share more as we have a chance to do so. Thank you again for having us today.

TRUMP: (OFF-MIKE) appreciate that (OFF-MIKE).

This is an incredible group of people, and we really do appreciate it. Some of the folks at the back and some of my friends sitting right back here -- I'd like you -- have you say a few words. We can learn a lot from you.

We want to learn everything we can learn, and we're going to go -- starting about two minutes after this meeting, we're going to work. This is a long-term situation that -


-- we have to solve. We'll solve it together.