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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

El Paso Death Toll Rises to 22; Joe Biden on Mass Shootings. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired August 05, 2019 - 20:00   ET


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

We're coming to you tonight from El Paso, one of two cities where the pain of loss is raw and fresh as it is in Dayton, Ohio, as well. People here are just starting out on a journey of darkness and the best that can be said is that they are not alone. They are not walking alone on this road.

We've seen this before and it's happening here whether in a small town or big city, people coming together to form a kind of extended family to do the things, even little things that can help light the darkness if only just a bit. Which is not in any way to diminish that is the hurt around us tonight, nor does the welcome presence here of kindness to meet that hurt erase the need for answers to why this happened on all levels, including the very top.

President Trump tweeted this morning then in prepared remarks spoke from the White House, his words, comforting to some, no doubt, others, hard to reconcile with the kind of statements we've heard from him time and time again. Former President Barack Obama weighed in as well, as with all the Democratic candidates.

I spoke exclusively with former Vice President Joe Biden and tonight, we're going to play that interview for you. He spoke about the president, about his views on what to do and he spoke about the people here in El Paso and Dayton who died and those who are grieving tonight.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It matters the stories of these people for the public to understand that this is not just a statistic. This is -- this is who we are, who they are. I mean, it's a -- it really is about, you know, reweaving that social fabric that holds the society together -- honesty, decency, hope, leaving nobody behind, giving hate no safe harbor. That's who we are. That's who we are. It's the thing that holds us together.


COOPER: Giving hate no safe harbor, he said. We'll have the entire interview in this hour tonight.

We begin, though, with the brave actions of one man we want you to know about his name David Johnson. He went to the Walmart with his wife, Kathy, to shop at groceries and a present for their 9-year-old Kaitlyn who's with them when the shooting began.

David Johnson knew guns, grew up with him, lived with them all his life, went hunting, and knew that above all else, he was going to protect Kathy, and Kaitlyn. His niece wrote on Facebook: My uncle hid his wife and their 9-year-old granddaughter. He protected them from that murderer and worked as a shield. If he hadn't been there, they wouldn't have made it.

Well, David Johnson was 63 years old and he did make that He was one of 22 people murdered here in El Paso. About an hour ago, I spoke to David's daughters Krystal and Kimberly and Stephanie Melendez, who's Kaitlyn's mom.

They're speaking tonight in their darkest moment because they want you to know their dad died a hero.


COOPER: First of all, how are you holding up?


STEPHANIE MELENDEZ, DAVID JOHNSON'S DAUGHTER: I don't even know how to answer that. Just making sure everybody is okay.

COOPER: Does it even seem real at this point?

JOHNSON: No, I keep thinking we're going to wake up.

MELENDEZ: He's going to walk through the front door, I'm back. Just that he's at work. I had his phone this morning with me and all his work alarms went off.

COOPER: So you have his phone?

MELENDEZ: Yes. And so all his work alarms went off so I just keep thinking he's at work.

COOPER: How is your daughter doing? How is Kaitlyn?

MELENDEZ: She's being super strong. She's -- I was expecting I don't know what I was expecting but that little girl is laughing and she's playing. She's excited to go to school. She wants to go to school, and I'm --

COOPER: She's 9. Does she understand what she saw, obviously?

MELENDEZ: Apparently, according to my mom she knew just what to do in a situation, I guess, from school. I don't know. But she exactly she knew what was going on.

COOPER: Do you know exactly what happened at this point?

MELENDEZ: Just when I called my mom, I was just checking up on my daughter at my lunch, and they were still being -- they I guess it just happened and they were being evacuated. From what my mom told me over the phone, she just said he shot and I just heard my daughter crying, that they were at Walmart.

And it was so -- there was no full sentences. There was -- it wasn't real. I even asked her if she was joking because this stuff doesn't happen. It happens on TV but not here.

[20:05:02] COOPER: Now do you know the full story of what happened?

JOHNSON: From what we've been told, like what my mom said was that he pushed them down, my niece and my mom and he covered them --

COOPER: Your dad pushed them both down.

JOHNSON: And he covered them and he got shot.

COOPER: When they were shooting, he got on top of them.

JOHNSON: Uh-huh.

MELENDEZ: He pushed them and made them hide.

KRYSTAL ALVORD, DAVID JOHNSON'S DAUGHTER: My mom's memories, they are coming. It happened all so fast, so.

MELENDEZ: All she did say was the gunman was two feet away.

COOPER: That close?

MELENDEZ: My daughter talks about the smoke. That's what she remembers. But other than that, they still haven't really and I'm not pushing right now.


Yes, I mean, in a situation like this, how do you proceed with your 9- year-old?

MELENDEZ: I don't know. I'm reaching out. A lot of people have reached out to help. I've already taken her to her doctor and they have given us numbers and referrals and people to help her. Her school has reached out and agreed to help her, and she has so many people behind her right now.

And me and my husband, we're just there for her. We're staying there for her, and letting her know it's OK to talk.

COOPER: When you heard what your dad had done, did it surprise you at all, that he sacrificed himself like that?

ALVORD: No, he is that kind of man 100 percent. I mean, he's been around guns his whole life. He used to hunt, I believe. He knows what to do. Him saving my niece and my mom, that is him. Absolutely.

COOPER: That's great testament to him.

ALVORD: Yes. Like no one was surprised. They are his number ones. So he would do that for any of us. COOPER: What do you want people to know about your dad?

JOHNSON: He's a hero. That he saved my mom. He saved my niece, and he was an amazing man.

COOPER: How about you, Stephanie?

MELENDEZ: The same thing. I mean, I could have lost my daughter. I was so close to losing her, but because of him, she's still here. And my mom, my mom is still here, and if it wasn't for him, she'll -- his legacy will be forever with us and I want -- he was just a hero.

I couldn't -- I wish he was here for me to tell him how thankful I am because I could have lost her.

COOPER: And he saved her.


COOPER: Is there anything else you want people to know?

ALVORD: Just what a wonderful man he was. He did so much for all of us, and sometimes we didn't deserve it, but he was the best dad that anyone could ask for.

COOPER: And he loved his grandchildren a lot. Kaitlyn had him wrapped around her finger.

ALVORD: She was the first, so yes, absolutely.

MELENDEZ: He would sit in the kitchen and do little chemistry experiments with her, and sit and make her little potions and no matter how tired he was from work, he'd be there. No complaints. He'd be smiling.

COOPER: Well, again, I'm so sorry for your loss.

MELENDEZ: Thank you.



TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Tom Foreman in Washington. We're having technical problems with Anderson's feed in the field, but we've been talking to more and more people connected to a witness in that this.

Our Gary Tuchman spoke today with a mother and her daughter but in different locations when the shooting began.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Maribel Latin is recovering after being shot twice at the El Paso Walmart. She heard what she thought was firecrackers but saw the gun and gunman. She tried to run away.

MARIBEL LATIN, WOUNDED IN EL PASO SHOOTING: When I threw myself, I saw him reloading the gun.

TUCHMAN (on camera): And what was the demeanor? What was he doing? What did his face look like?

LATIN: Normal.

TUCHMAN: Normal?

LATIN: Normal.

TUCHMAN: Not yelling?

LATIN: With all the time in world.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): She heard the gunshots ringing out. She ran and didn't realize right away she had gotten shot.

(on camera): You have a bullet that hit you here near your elbow and a bullet -- do you mind, that hit your foot.


TUCHMAN: When were you shot? Before you put yourself down on the ground or after?

LATIN: I have no idea.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Maribel was at the Walmart with her 10-year-old daughter Maylene and several members of Maylene's soccer team. They were selling lemonade as part of a fundraiser but Maribel's daughter was outside a different part of the store. Maribel didn't know if Maylene was alive and the gunman was still shooting outside as she hid.

LATIN: I saw him walking towards us. At that point I said what do I do?

TUCHMAN: Maribel says she played dead.

LATIN: And he shot eight more bullets. I counted them because I said one of these is going to be mine.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Were you afraid that your daughter had already been shot?

LATIN: Because I don't know if he was by himself or he have other people.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Horrifying minutes went by. The shots stopped. Maribel went in the store, out of the store, back in the store and finally found her daughter in the other girls on the soccer team. They were all OK.

(on camera): What was the first thing you did and she did?

LATIN: I ran. I ran towards them and I yelled her name. They were all in a little ball just shaking and holding each other.

She saw me, and she saw me like mom, I see you and at that moment, her face changed and she got scared.

[20:15:04] And that's when she realized that I was bleeding.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Maribel also realized that two of her daughter's soccer coaches that were there were also shot. One of them on the right, Memo Garcia (ph) is in critical condition. Maribel says he step in front of other members of his family.

LATIN: He sacrificed his self-for his son daughter and wife.

TUCHMAN: Maribel hasn't been able to see her daughter in person since the shootings. Because of the measles outbreak, children aren't allowed in the hospital.

(on camera): When you see your daughter in person for the first time since she's not allowed in the hospital to see you, what's going to happen?

LATIN: We're going to cry. I'm going to hug her so hard. And she's not going to tell me mom let me go. She's not. She's going to hug me right back.


FOREMAN: That was our Gary Tuchman reporting.

President Trump spoke from the White House today. He vowed action to prevent further mass killings and called on Americans condemn racism and white supremacy.


TRUMP: The shooter in El Paso posted a manifesto online consumed by racist hate. In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and wipe supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the hard and devours the soul.


FOREMAN: The president did not however address any of his own statements, which have been called racist. However, former President Obama did without naming president Trump. He said in a statement, quote: We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments.

Late today, Anderson exclusively spoke with Joe Biden and this notion dominated the conversation.


COOPER: You entered the campaign saying that this is in your opinion a battle for the soul of the nation. Given the violence of the last couple days, who's winning the battle?

BIDEN: The white supremacists are winning the battle. This is -- this is domestic terrorism. I mean, look, when those folks came out of the fields in Charlottesville, their veins bulging and -- I mean, just coming out from under the rocks carrying torches singing (ph) anti-Semitic bile that spewed in Europe and Germany in the '30s, accompanied by white supremacists and Ku Klux Klan, and a young woman gets killed and the president gets asked, well, tell us about what you think and he said, there's very fine people on both sides -- for God's sake, no president has ever said that.

COOPER: You --

BIDEN: And then he's just continued it.

COOPER: You talk about Charlottesville being a defining moment. Do you see this as another defining moment?

BIDEN: Absolutely. But, you know, it's a continuation. I mean, this is -- this is a president who continues to speak in ways that just are completely contrary to everything who we are. I mean, referring to immigrants as, you know, Mexicans as rapists and talking about, you know, rats in Baltimore. I mean, the way he talks about people.

COOPER: Do you blame the president in part for what happened in El Paso?

BIDEN: I don't -- well, what I do is his rhetoric contributes to this notion that it almost legitimates people coming out from under the rocks. I mean, this -- this is white nationalism. This is -- this is -- this is -- this is terrorism of a different sort but it's still terrorism.

COOPER: Beto O'Rourke has said that he believes the president is a white nationalist. Do you?

BIDEN: Well, let me put it this way -- whether he is or not, he sure is using the language of contributing to the kind of things that they say. The idea that this guy in El Paso talked about what he is going to do is keep -- I'm paraphrasing -- keep these keeps folks from South America, these Latinos and Guatemala from polluting America, from overtaking our society, wiping out, you know, who we are -- I mean, it's just -- it's just the kind of thing that the president contributes to and for the first time today, the first time I've ever heard him say he condemns white supremacy, white terrorism.

COOPER: When President Trump today said we have to defeat white supremacy, bigotry, hatred, you don't believe he --

BIDEN: Well, let's start to -- show me something then. From this point on a show me something. Can you imagine if you had children in a school where the principal

after a terrible shooting or after what happened in Charlottesville or happened in El Paso or happened Ohio, in Dayton, stood up and said, well, you know there are fine people on both sides, or, you know, there really are a lot of really bad people coming across the border and they are going to pollute -- all those things he said, I'm paraphrasing them, what do you think would happen?

Parents would be asking for that principal to be fired. And if anything happen in that school, would they say he's -- he caused it? Well, maybe he didn't cause it, but he sure, in fact, did not do anything to make it clear it's reprehensible conduct that will not be tolerated.

COOPER: So you don't go as far as Beto O'Rourke, to say that the president is a white nationalist? I think Cory Booker said that the president is to blame for this because of the rhetoric and his lack of action on guns.

BIDEN: Clearly, his actions have done nothing to do anything other than encourage this kind of behavior. That going to whether he is -- I'm not sure what this guy believes, if he believes anything, just an opportunity, an opportunist to be able continue to maintain his base and to divide the country.

COOPER: That may be behind the rhetoric you're saying, an effort basically to just stoke white supremacists or white nationalists to at least give them a dog whistle?

BIDEN: Well, it is -- they do have a dog whistle, they do have a dog whistle. Look, this is -- this is a president who has said things no other president has said since Andrew Jackson. Nobody said anything like the things he is saying and the idea that this contributes to or legitimate or make it more rational for people, to think that we, in fact, can speak out, we can speak out and be more straightforward, and we can make this an issue, we've been through this before.

We've been through this before in the '20s with the Ku Klux Klan, 50,000 people walking down Pennsylvania Avenue in pointed hats and their robes as they, in fact, decided they didn't want any Catholics coming into the country. We went through it after the Civil War in terms of the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacy.

This is about separating people and the good and bad in his mind. It's about making -- it's about an access to power. It's a trade used by charlatans all over the world -- divide people, divide them, pit them against one another.

COOPER: If that's the case, I mean, it is a very dangerous game then that he is playing.

BIDEN: Oh, no, no, there is no question it's a dangerous game. There's no question that his rhetoric contributed to at a minimum, at a minimum of dumbing down the way in which we as a society talk about one another, the way we've always been -- look, we've always brought the country to gather, we've never -- you know, we the people hold these truths self evident. He flies in the face of all the basic things that we've never really met the standard, we've never abandoned it before. He looks like he's just flat abandoned the theory that we are one people.

COOPER: In terms of the actual things that he talked about today, in terms of action, early morning, he tweeted about the idea of linking background checks or stronger background checks with immigration reform. He -- that he never mentioned it after tweeting about it, I guess, maybe he talked --


BIDEN: There's an example. I mean, why don't we have background checks for the guys like who, in fact, do these terrible things? There are not immigrants who are doing this. There are American citizens who are doing these things.

COOPER: Does the idea of linking action on stronger background checks to immigration reform makes sense?

BIDEN: Well, no, but it makes it sound like the reason we need background checks is because of those immigrants. Let's get immigration reform, period. And let's go after the notion that these background checks should be universal, period.

Let's go make sure that we in fact do not allow what I was able to do once with Dianne Feinstein's help eliminate the ability to have an assault weapon, eliminate to have -- the ability to have a clip with more than 10 bullets. Well, who the hell needs 200 rounds in a gun, in a weapon? I mean --

COOPER: That is -- the president really did not talk about anything relating to guns today.

BIDEN: No, no, I know he hadn't. That's my point.

COOPER: Right, yes. Well, he focused on -- he talked about videogames. He talked about mental health, the idea of red flag legislation, identifying somebody ahead, perhaps committing a crime maybe involuntary confinement for somebody with mental issue who seems to be a danger. And he went on to say that it's not, it's not -- it's mental, it's someone with a mental illness or with hatred that pulls the trigger, it's not the gun pulling the trigger.

BIDEN: Oh, come on, man. Look, how many times I heard that. Here's a deal -- hatred is not necessarily -- it's sick but it's not a mental illness. To confuse that with a certifiable mental illness -- white supremacy is wrong. White nationalism is wrong.

It is not a mental illness. It is hateful behavior. It is the way in which people are raised and encouraged to take out their venom on people who they don't like because of the color of their eyes or their skin or the way they walk or where they are from. That is not mental illness, that is, in fact, hatred. Hatred.

COOPER: There is much we don't know about the shooter in Dayton yet, but certainly it indicates like he had some mental issues or at least emotional issues early on. And, obviously, with other issues --


BIDEN: By the way, I've always argue that there should be people who are denied the ability to have weapons if they have a mental illness. They should be made aware -- the police should be made aware of someone with a background check if they've been treated. Just like what happened in Virginia, at Virginia Tech, and a whole range of those things. We've been talking about that for a long time.

But up until now our friends -- friends, I used that too lightly, you know, the folks on the right of argue that no, no, no, that's not anybody's response, but they should be able to own a weapon.

Look, why don't we call this for what it is? This is pure and simple white nationalism, terrorism. It's domestic terrorism, period.

COOPER: So, do you, in a Biden administration, do you want to see the FBI able to prosecute domestic terror --

BIDEN: Absolutely.

COOPER: -- in the same way that they do international terror?

BIDEN: Absolutely.


COOPER: As of right now, that in itself, domestic terrorism is not a crime. It's usually a weapons charge or something else.

BIDEN: But there is domestic terrorism. White supremacy is domestic terrorism.

COOPER: You would like to see a change law to have domestic terrorism basically be combat at the same way that international terrorism is by the FBI.

BIDEN: Yes. What's the difference? What's the difference? There's been as many -- there's more acts by domestic terrorists today than in the past years, than there has been by foreign terrorism, even those who are being recruited --

COOPER: Chris Wray from the FBI just testified the other week that they've had almost as many arrests on domestic terrorism than the first three quarters of this year than they have with international terrorism.

BIDEN: Yes. So what's the difference? In terms of the lives of American citizens, innocent people.

COOPER: You're in support of stronger background checks, universal background checks?

BIDEN: Universal background checks.

COOPER: You're in support of an assault weapons ban.

BIDEN: I was able to get one passed.

COOPER: Right. In 1994, the assault weapons ban. The final studies though on the assault weapons ban that people point to they say it was basically inconclusive. They said there were so many guns, so many assault type weapons already on the market that it didn't really have a demonstrable effect on the reduction of crime which occurred. There was reduction of crime but they can't point at the assault weapons.

BIDEN: Well, that's too, but look, here's a simple proposition. Let's assume it's all absolutely accurate. To want to continue it, does anybody think that it made any sense that someone is able to walk into a gun store, buy an assault weapon that has a multiple rounds, or buy an assault weapon that has 100 rounds even though it may not, you can't point to the fact that it, in fact, stopped it before? Do you want more of them on the street? Do we want to do that?

COOPER: So, to gun owners out there who say, well, a Biden administration means they're going to come for my guns?

BIDEN: Bingo. You're right if you have an assault weapon. The fact of the matter is, they should be illegal, period. Look, the Second Amendment doesn't say you can't restrict the kinds of weapons people can own. You can't buy a bazooka. You can't have a flame thrower.

The guys who make these arguments are the people who say the tree of liberty is watered with the blood of patriots, we need the protection against the government. We need an F-15 for that. We need something well beyond whether or not you're going to have an assault weapon.

COOPER: So, would you -- how do you deal with all the assault weapons that are already out there that people have?

BIDEN: What I would do is -- I would try to -- I would institute a national buyback program and I would move it in the direction to making sure that that in fact is what we try to do, get them off the street.

COOPER: But that's not confiscating people.

BIDEN: No, that's not walking into their homes, knocking on their doors, going through their gun cabinet, et cetera.

COOPER: So people would be allowed to keep the weapons they already have?

BIDEN: Right now, there's no legal way that I'm aware that you could deny them the right to have purchased (ph) -- legally purchase them. But we can in fact make a major effort to make them off the street and out of the possession of people.

COOPER: The -- Kamala Harris, one of the things that she says is that within the first hundred days if Congress doesn't act on gun control efforts or background checks, she would act by executive order. BIDEN: You can, we did that in our administration, act by executive

order, on 30 different executive orders. The problem with that is just an executive order, what happens is the next guy comes along and he wipes it all out, which the president did.

Now, you can't, I can't -- we didn't figure out a way you can by executive order say, you can no longer purchase this weapon, you can no longer have a clip with this many bullets in it. You got to get legislation to do that.

But to say that you need to eliminate the gun show loophole to define what constitutes, I'm the guy that pushed the Brady Bill through the United States Congress when I was chairman of the Judiciary Committee on background checks. You can in fact do those kinds of things, but you cannot, as a matter of executive order constitutionally, say this is what we're going to do relative to this particular weapon.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: I think you said you -- I read you said in the past that you had two shotguns. Do you still have two shotguns?

BIDEN: Yes, I do. I haven't fire them long. The only time I've ever used them was when my son was alive, skeet shooting. They're locked up, though, in a cabinet. Every single person that has a weapon should in fact be required to have them under lock and key. They should be responsible. If you left your keys in your automobile out here in the street and a 15-year-old kid gets in it and gets in an accident, you can be held responsible.

COOPER: You're not for a federal license for firearms, which some of your Democratic opponents are.

BIDEN: Well, we may get to the point -- what we have to do is act right now, though, to make sure we do the things that are within our power. Let's get these things off the street now, being able to be sold. Let's move now to deal with thorough background checks. Let's move now. And the difference is I think the American people now. Look, when the president asked me to put together -- former president asked me to put together a series of initiatives related to background checks and executive orders --

COOPER: This was in the wake of Sandy Hook?

BIDEN: Sandy Hook, I was able to do that. The problem was that we ended up in a situation where those executive orders, even the ones that got passed that were very useful that were implemented, were able to be wiped out.

COOPER: So, but some people will look at that and say, well, President Obama put you, you know, in charge of this commission. You came up with ideas. They didn't pass Congress for the extends -- more extensive background checks didn't pass. If it couldn't pass then, why would it pass under a Biden administration?

BIDEN: Because the world has changed. People are now aware. What was clear is that you had over 55 percent, 56 percent of NRA members agreeing with the things we put forward. There's two -- we have two real problems. We have the NRA and we have the gun manufacturers. Right now, we're able to make possible technology to make a weapon that only your biometric on your finger can pull that trigger.

COOPER: Right. You have spoken out in favor of smart weapons.

BIDEN: Yes, OK. Now --

COOPER: Smart guns.

BIDEN: -- what happens now? Well, they develop some of those in terms of pistols, initially. So you have gun stores selling them and what happened? The manufacturers at NRA came and said we boycott those. And so they bought those stores. They took them off the market. We have to take on the gun manufacturers, as well as the NRA. All they're interested in is selling a weapon, not about safety.

COOPER: Do you think President Trump is afraid of the NRA? Because he, you know, he called in members of Congress and he was making fun even of some members of Congress saying that they were scared of the NRA. He said he would take it on and then --

BIDEN: The first thing he did, he show up at the NRA and he spoke to them internationally and said, Mayor Cooper (ph), Mayor Cooper, you know, what do you need, basically.

COOPR: You think he's beholding to the NRA still?

BIDEN: I think he's beholding to his base. I think it's his base. I think he's beholding to the NRA because a significant portion of his base is made up of people who he has identified as being, you know, dividing people into those who are good guys and bad guys, those who in fact are, you know, he preaches division. That's what it's about.

Look, he speaks to his base, which is somewhere about 35 percent of the American people. A president should speak to everybody, everybody. The base should be Democrats, Republicans, independents across the board. That's not who he is. He's focused on his base and that's one of the ways he's been able to intimidate some of the Republican colleagues.


COOPER: That's part of the conversation I had with former Vice President Biden earlier today. We're going to have more of my exclusive interview with the former vice president after a short break. We apologize. We had some technical problems here from broadcasting from El Paso. We are back.

In the next segment, Vice President Biden talks a very personal terms about what it's like losing a loved one and what his advice would be for families here who are coping with grief. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:38:29] COOPER: As you'll see in a little bit during my exclusive conservation with Vice President Biden today, we talk to a great deal about enduring loss after a tragedy, also about what gun owners he's met have said about gun control and whether he thinks Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would ever let anything substantive get a vote in the Senate. We also discussed President Trump's contention that violent video games are a big part of the problem. Here is more from the conversation with Vice President Biden.


COOPER: When I mentioned that the President talked about video games today as being part of the problem, I saw you kind of rolled your eyes. It's something that people have talked about for a long time.

BIDEN: I've talked about it, too, but it is not healthy to have these games teaching kids that, you know, this passionate notion that you can shoot somebody and just, you know, sort of blow their brains out.

COOPER: But video games are popular in Japan and --

BIDEN: They are, that's my point. But it's not in and of itself the reason why we have this carnage on our streets.

COOPER: Do you think the President's response to El Paso would have been different in terms of what he was calling for if the shooter had been Muslim or an undocumented immigrant?

BIDEN: Are you kidding? The fact of the matter I might guess is he'd be calling for -- anyway.

COOPER: You think it would be?

BIDEN: I think it would be. And I think that what we're talking about here is look at the way he talks about Muslims, look at the way he talks about immigrants, look at the way he talks about people of color, look at the way he talks about them.

He talks about them almost in subhuman terms. He talks about people of different races and backgrounds as if somehow we were -- look, you can't define what an American is based on ethnicity, on race, on religion, on background.

[20:40:13] There's only one thing that unites us, only one, an agreement on the basic formation of this government, which is we hold these truths. All men are created equal. We never live up to it, but it's that notion, that notion that holds it together.

How else do you define an American other than a commitment whether they talk about it in terms of a constitution or not, the idea that everybody has a chance, everybody should have an equal chance in the country and given a chance they can do something. That's who we are as a nation.

We -- America is an idea. It's an idea. It's bigger than any damn ocean, more powerful than any army. The only way to undermine America, defeat America is America itself.

COOPER: You don't hear this White House talking about that vision of America or that shining sitting on a hill --

BIDEN: It can't. How can it talk about it when the language used is always about pitting one group of Americans against another? Whether it's based on your sexual identity, whether it's based upon whether you're a man, you're a woman, whether it's based upon your origin, where you come from, what your religion is, come on.

COOPER: Mitch McConnell has not allowed the legislation that's in the House right now to get to the Senate. He's done the same thing on, you know, election security just recently. Why do you think he is doing that?

BIDEN: I'll make an analogy. No one knew what the Affordable Care Act was until it was started to be taken away. I went into 24 states, campaigned for 68 or 69 candidates, Republican areas, we won back the House and the Senate. You didn't hear any Republicans running around at the end of this last election saying let's take away preexisting conditions as being covered. Let's take away.

The American public unfortunately is getting exposed to just how deeply and badly this nation has been divided by this President. And they absolute, absolute sort of, how can I say it, attack on the character the country just going on and they're feeling it, they're seeing it, and it's a different place.

I met with every one of the families up in Sandy Hook. I met with the families down in the Pulse Nightclub. I met with the kids down in Florida who was, in fact, their school was victimized that they marched, they came up to Washington. These are people who in fact have -- you know, you have to put this in human terms.

And now as American people hearing the stories, they're seeing, like I said up in Sandy Hook, you know what the biggest thing when I met with all -- I met with all the police that were there, state police, they needed help, mental help.

You know what they talked about? This guy piled babies on top of one another in the classroom and then shot them again. People should understand, people are beginning to understand the depth of the depth of the damage and how this is scarring, scarring the country.

COOPER: And rhetoric and leadership matters.

BIDEN: It matters a lot. It matters. What a president says matters. Like I said, our kids are listening, but the public is going to listen too. They understand if you mean it. They understand what has to be done. The vast majority of the American people think that there should be rational gun policy.

And rational gun policy means, number one, you have to be able to pass a certain background check to be able to own a gun, period. Number two, we can limit the types of weapons you can own and on circumstance which you can own them. That's constitutional responsible and allowable.

Number three, you have to be in a position where you let the people know that when you -- that you have a responsibility when you own a weapon, that you have to care for it. You have to make sure that no one else can have access to it. You have to lock it up. You to have trigger locks. You have to put it in gun cases. And if you don't, you can be held responsible for that.

We wouldn't say that about -- I mean, everything else we talked about the damage as people you required to make sure you take certain precautions of something you own that has the potential to be lethal that in fact it is protected, it is kept away.

And those are just basic, basic things that the American people deal with and know that in fact are -- and then when you do have the right to purchase a gun because you had a background check, you shouldn't be able to buy certain weapons, because they have no rational other than.

Like when I was campaigning at (INAUDIBLE), I go through Southern Delaware, a big -- a lot of gun owners in Delaware because of duck hunting and they'd be fishing and all, but should be (INAUDIBLE) on the eastern shore there and they said, "Joe, why would you take away my shotgun?" I'd show him a picture of an assault. Do you think you need this? I said, how many deer our there, if you're going deer hunting, you need 30 rounds?

[20:45:05] You shouldn't be hunting there. What are you -- no, no, no, I don't need that. This is -- so, I mean people, when you expose them to what's going on, they understand. And there's a movement occurring in America where finally I think going to get to the place where there's a rational position on gun ownership.

COOPER: If I could just ask you one more question, and it's a personal question, if you don't want to answer, that's OK. You've experienced losses that no parent should ever experience. Going to El Paso from here, well likely be talking to family members whose child or sister or brother or mother or father has been killed.

As someone who has been through that and live through that and lives with that every day, what would you -- what do you say to the people who are grieving right now?

BIDEN: You understand it. You lost your brother. You understand. It's literally -- it really takes a part of your soul. I mean, it is. And what I tell people is that it's going to take a long time, but the person you lost is still with you, still part of you and that I -- when it happened to me, when I got a phone call when I was in Washington after I was elected before I got sworn in that my -- they put a first responder on the phone, God love her and said you got to come home, there's been an accident.

What happened? A tractor. I said -- they're dead. Your wife and daughter are dead and your sons. And I remember thinking to myself, my God. I mean, I didn't -- I just remember being so angry, angry at everything. I shouldn't say it, but angry with God, just angry. And I remember -- and people would come up to me and say meaning well, after that, I understand. And you feel like saying you have no idea, you have no idea. You know they mean well. But the people who in fact have been through it, you know they understand. And it gives you solace that they made it. They just -- you just want to know, can I make it through?

And I had an older gentleman, 35 years, my senior, a former elected official in the state of New Jersey call me, former governor, and he said I understand. I all most said to him -- and he said, you know, I was walking home from lunch. I was the attorney general and my wife came, a woman who helps out once we came running across the mall saying she's dead. She's dead. Your wife just died.

And I said -- and I realized he did know. And he said, you know what I did? And my advice that helped me anyway is two things. One, he said get a piece of graph paper and mark every single day how you felt from one to 10 that day, because you know you lost your brother when a thought would come to you after awhile, you'd be down just as down as the moment it happened.

And he said, don't look at it for six months. Mark it on the graph paper one to 10. The downs will be just as far down, but you know you're going to make it when they get further and further and further and further apart. Still, get down.

COOPER: It never goes away.

BIDEN: But it never goes away. But, but, that's when you know you can make it. That's when you know you can embrace the family members that are left. That's when you know that you can make a contribution.

Just like when I lost my son, Beau, I remember him saying to me, you know, I wrote a book about it unfortunately. It was harder than I thought it was going to be, but I wanted people to know what he was like.


BIDEN: And he looked at me when he -- we go home on Fridays to have dinner with him, he lived about a mile from us, and he asked his wife to take the kids upstairs. And my wife had gone home to change before she came back. We got right off the train and he said, "Dad, look at me, dad." He said, "I'm going to be OK no matter what happens." He knew he only had months to go.

And he said, "But promise me, dad, promise me you'll be OK." And I said, "Beau, I'll be OK." And I know people make fun of it, but we have a thing in our family. He said, "Dad, promise me as a Biden, give me your word as a Biden, you'll be OK, because that's the sacred thing we do." And I said, "I will, Beau." But I knew what he meant. He meant, "Dad, don't do what you want to do. You want to turn inward. You want to just wall yourself off. You don't want to be part of it all."

He just wanted me to make sure that the things that animated my life, my whole life I didn't walk away from. He knew I'd take care of the kids. He knew I would be there for the family, but it's the thing. The other thing I would strongly urge people, and they can't do it now, they just can't even think through the fog right now, but eventually what will take you through is purpose.

[20:50:10] Find a purpose, something that matters, particularly if it's something connected to the loss you just had. And so -- I'm being too personal. I get up in the morning and I think to myself every morning, is he proud of me? Am I doing what he wants? And I'm sure that it's the same way with you and a whole lot of other people.

And -- but at a moment there will come a time when you think of the person you lost, it takes a long while. But you'll get a smile before you get a tear and that's when you know you're going to make it. And so many people have gone through what I've been through without the help I had.

Think of all the heroes out there walking the streets every day. They get up every single morning. They put one foot in front of the other and they move, they move.

COOPER: My mom used to say a saying, it's from a Scottish philosopher, the saying is, be kind, because everybody you meet is fighting a great battle.

BIDEN: Exactly right.

COOPER: I think that's a very important thing.

BIDEN: And, you know, Kierkegaard also said, faith sees best in the dark. Sometimes it's really dark, but there is hope. And think about what it means for those family members you have left, they need you. They need you. And look, folks, that's why I think that it matters the stories of these people, for the public to understand that this is not just a statistic.

This is -- this is who we are, who they are. I mean, it's a -- and it really is about, you know, for reweaving that social fabric that holds a society together, honesty, decency, hope, leaving nobody behind, giving hate, no safe harbor. We don't always -- that's who we are. That's who we are. And it's the thing that holds us together. And I don't see much of it coming from the far right and the Breitbarts of the world and this administration. It's a -- it's uniqueness of America.

COOPER: Mr. Vice President, thank you very much.

BIDEN: Sorry, I didn't mean to get so personal.

COOPER: No, I appreciate it. It helps.

BIDEN: Well, you know, I mean, it's just amazing how -- it's a -- and everybody knows who Donald Trump is. We got to let him know who we are, man. Even his supporters know who he his. They have no illusions about the basic fun character traits. I mean, it's -- and I think sometimes he thinks that when we talk about this thing that we talk about other people, like we're being suckers, you know, like take care of yourself. I mean, I don't know. I don't -- we let him know that, you know, we choose hope over fear, you know, unity over division, and maybe most importantly, truth over lies.

It's a -- it's -- but they got to make sure that -- not because I'm running. We got to make sure that the American people understand whoever you're trying to lead that you mean what you say with some authenticity to it and it matters. And you know as well as I do, it really matters.


COOPER: Vice President Joe Biden, his message to America and the victims' families here in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.

Up next, Chris Cuomo is going to join me. He'll have an interview with presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke, the former congressman who represents El Paso. We'll be right back.


[20:58:35] COOPER: And just a quick note, at the top of broadcast, we brought you the story of David Johnson who was killed protecting his wife and granddaughter, 9-year-old Kaitlyn. We had some technical problems. His family has started a GoFundMe page. We're going to put it on the screen right now.

You can also check our "A.C. 360" Facebook page to find out more information about it, and also our Twitter page. It's to help to pay funeral costs and medical expenses for Kathy, his wife. Chris Cuomo is joining me as well. Chris, how are you doing?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Look, I mean, we've been to many of these situations. I do think that this community is uniquely driven by what happened here. This goes to the heart of inclusion and exclusion for them and may have come out as you see behind us, these are not all Latino people, this is this community in El Paso coming out to say they are better than the man who came here to try to kill them.

And that's been unusual for me. I've never had more people from a community come up to say this will not beat us. But it's also a manifestation of us versus them, which we have to stop in this country. We're better than this.

COOPER: Yes. And so many people have also point -- make a big effort to point out this man came from far away, drove here for hours in order to come here to -- many of the people here it's very important that -- to point out that he is not of this place and not of this place.

CUOMO: You are 100 percent right. He's not sick. He's not deranged. He wasn't out of his mind. He was thoughtful and deliberate and he's a hater. He's a white nationalist and he should be treated like the terrorist he is under law and prosecution.

That's an important message, because the President made it sound today like, you know, this was mental health. We have -- this has nothing to do with mental health. It has to do with law and our policy.

A.C., thank you very much for bringing us these amazing stories. We have to connect with the people who are here tonight, that is the focus of "Prime Time." You know me, I'm Chris Cuomo, and we are good to have you with us here in El Paso.