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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Nineteen Children, Two Teachers Killed In Texas Elementary School Shooting; Biden Speaking About Texas School Massacre, Police Reform. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired May 25, 2022 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: We're going to leave you now with some photos of some of the 19 children and 2 educators who were killed yesterday.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The U.S. has now witnessed at least 30 shootings at K-12 schools this year, 30. And it's only May.
THE LEAD starts right now.
Another American tragedy. This time in Uvalde, Texas, 19 young children and two teachers all murdered in one classroom, as pain and outrage overflow this afternoon into a shouting match when Beto O'Rourke confronted Texas leaders for, in his view, not doing enough to stop guns from getting into the wrong hands.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR DON MCLAUGHLIN, UVALDE, TX: I can't believe you're a sick son of a bitch that would come to a deal like this to make a political issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Plus, the emotional toll in Uvalde and nationwide. Parents grappling with fears about whether their kids make it home from school.
And at any moment now, President Biden at the White House, marking two years since another deadly event gripped the nation.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
And we start with the national lead. The United States of America mourning the loss of 19 children and two teachers shot dead in Uvalde, Texas. Their lives suddenly ending with an 18-year-old shooter walked into Robb Elementary School, barricaded himself in a classroom, and started shooting.
Twenty-one families now forced to deal with the unthinkable, the loss of a loved one under such horrific circumstances. The number one cause of death in the United States for children zero to 19 years old for years was motor vehicle collisions. That changed, according to the American academy of pediatrics in a study released a few weeks ago.
Now, the number one cause of death in the United States for kids zero to 19 is firearms. Let me repeat that, the number one cause of death in the United States for children is firearms.
This announcement by the AAP was not met with the corporate response we have seen that made cars safer or the kind of action by lawmakers that led to seat belt laws or speed limits or distracted driver rules. No, the study was met with a kind of national shrug.
The details of the report are outrageous. The most common cause of firearm death for kids 0 to 19 is homicide in 2019. Black kids were far more likely to be killed by firearms than white kids, 10.32 per 100,000 black kids versus 0.72 for 100,000 white kids.
The authors write, quote: This is strictly a U.S. problem. Among countries with high incomes, quote, 90 percent of all firearm deaths in these countries, 90 percent for children 0 to 14 happen here in the United States.
It is a disgrace. You have every right to be outraged. In fact, you have an obligation. We as a country continue to allow people who should not be able to have access to firearms access to weapons, designed to slaughter as many people as possible as quickly as legally possible.
And as a result, predictably, today 19 kids are dead in Uvalde, Texas. Their family members last night were asked by law enforcement for DNA samples. Why? Because the damage, the physical havoc inflicted upon their kids' bodies in some cases was so severe, so devastating, law enforcement needed the DNA to identify the remains of these children.
You know, there are images of these shootings that law enforcement and frankly we in the news media, that we don't share with you, because they're so horrific. They're so awful. But maybe we should. Maybe the shock to the system would prompt our leaders to figure out how to make sure society can stop these troubled men, and it's almost always men, from obtaining these weapons used to slaughter our children.
We're starting to learn the names and faces of the 19 children and two teachers who died. Jose Flores Jr., Uziyah Garcia, Amerie Jo Garza, Xavier Lopez, Lexi Rubio, they were all 10 years old. They died alongside their fourth grade teacher, Eva Mireles. That's six of the 21.
CNN's Jason Carroll is at Robb Elementary School for us right now where the 21 families are trying to deal with this unspeakable tragedy.
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: These kids will never attend school again.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A Texas community coping with tragedy after a gunman entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and opened fire on a fourth grade classroom.
STEVEN MCGRAW, DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: The subject was able to make it into the school, as the governor reported. He went down a hallway, turned right and then turned left and there were two classrooms that were adjoining. And that's where the carnage began.
CARROLL: Law enforcement estimate the shooter was inside the school for 30 minutes.
ABBOTT: Border Patrol, consolidated ISD officers, police, sheriffs, and DPS officers converged on that classroom, and a border patrol officer killed the gunman.
CARROLL: At least 19 children and two adults were killed, only two days before the end of the school year.
FELIX RUBIO, LOST DAUGHTER: I just want my baby.
CARROLL: Felix and Kimberly Rubio had just been with their daughter, Lexi, at the elementary school, minutes before the shooting that claimed her life. She made the honor roll and received a good citizen award.
RUBIO: I'm a cop. I'm a deputy here in Uvalde County. This is enough. This is enough. No one else needs to go through this. We never needed to go through this.
CARROLL: Ten-year-old students Jose Flores Jr. and Uziyah Garcia, identified by their families, the mother of victim Xavier Lopez told "The Washington Post" he was funny and looked forward to going to middle school.
And the father of 10-year-old Amerie Jo Garza posted on Facebook after identifying his daughter as one of the victims: Please don't take a second for granted. Hug your family, tell them you love them. Their fourth grade teacher, Eva Mireles, an educator for 17 years, also among those killed.
ROSS MCGLOTHLIN, FORMER ROBB ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PRINCIPAL: We never believed something this tragic can happen so close to us. This is just a sad example. This absolutely can happen anywhere.
CARROLL: Official said say the gunman acted alone.
ABBOTT: The gunman was 18 years old and reportedly a high school drop-out. Reportedly, there has been no criminal history identified yet. There was no known mental health history of the gunman.
CARROLL: He began his rampage when he shot his grandmother. She survived her injuries and is in critical condition. He then crashed his car in a ditch, leaving the vehicle and walking toward the school. A witness told 911 he was wearing tactical gear and was carrying a long rifle.
CARROLL (on camera): And, Jake, now as we have seen so many times in the past, comes the debate. The debate over whether or not it was mental health versus evil, the debate over gun laws. All this as once again we see families, we see parents grieving for loved ones they'll never be able to hold again. Never be able to see again -- Jake.
TAPPER: Jason Carroll in Uvalde, Texas, thank you so much.
You're offering us nothing. That's what former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke shouted at Texas Governor Greg Abbott today during that news conference we showed you. O'Rourke after being shut down inside, spoke out in the parking lot outside the gathering.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETO O'ROURKE (D), TEXAS GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: He's refused to support a ban on ar-15s and AK-47s. This 18-year-old who just turned 18 bought an AR-15 and took it into an elementary school and shot kids in the face and killed them.
Why are we letting this happen in this country? Why is this happening in this state, year after year, city after city?
Stop selling AR-15s in the state of Texas. You want a solution? Have universal background checks. We don't have them. You want a solution?
Red flag laws or extreme risk protection orders which stop a shooting before it happens. You want a solution? Safe storage.
It's absolutely wrong. In fact, it is insane. The governor talks about mental health. It's insane that we allow an 18-year-old to go in and buy an AR-15. What the hell did we think he was going to do with that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Here's what went down minutes earlier inside the press conference. O'Rourke trying to deliver this message before getting into a screaming match with the mayor of Uvalde and other officials.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCLAUGHLIN: Sir, you are out of line. Sir, you are out of line. Please leave this auditorium.
You're a sick son of a bitch that would come to a deal like this to make a political issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Let's bring in Republican Congressman Tony Gonzales of Texas. Uvalde is in his district. First of all, let me start with the obvious question, there's no
answer for. How are the people of Uvalde doing?
REP. TONY GONZALES (R-TX): Yeah, thank you, Jake, for having me on. I grew up not too far from here, about 38 miles from here, small little town, 500 people. Uvalde is home to me, and this is what I'm seeing.
Everyone is in kind of a state of shock. Almost zombie-like, if you will. It really hasn't seeped in, the horror.
You know, I got to see a little bit of it today. We had a press conference -- we had a briefing at 10:30 with the governor, both Senator Cornyn and Senator Cruz, myself and others. And we walked through it.
What I saw, I saw people had to relive the horror that happened less than 24 hours ago. And as a matter of fact, there was one law enforcement in particular, as he's briefing, he passes out. I say that to go, really, here in Uvalde, it hasn't fully hit us.
I got a call earlier from the attorney general, and you know, we were speaking, and I go, sir, I appreciate all the support. There's other 100 FBI agents on the scene. Appreciate all the support, but I think we're going to need even more support in the coming days as it really begins to sink in.
TAPPER: Well, I assume some of the support you'll need will be mental health support because the trauma for these 21 families, not to mention the kids who survived it, and just the people in the community. They're going to need help. Are you planning on asking for that help as well?
GONZALES: Yeah, that's exactly right. We have gotten ahead of it, because the reality is everybody needs mental health at this point. I mean, to hear about the stories, and this is a small town. 16,000 to 18,000 people, Jake. Everyone is connected in some form or fashion.
A lot of them are very pro-law enforcement. A lot of law enforcement officers got to see some horrific things. So, we need a lot of help.
There's a lot of folks coming this way. As a matter of fact, earlier today, I had an opportunity to visit the victim -- the victim center where victims go to get some resources. And we were able to see, it's a very somber moment, but I think we're going to need more resources as things going forward.
I'll also share with you this. Over a year ago, I sat down with the county judge, who is a Democrat, the current mayor, who is a Republican, and we talked about mental health, as well as the sheriff. They go, Tony, our number one need is mental health. And we put together a package for a mental health facility. And the county donated property so that's done.
I got a community project, $2 million through federal project. It's a $20 million project, though, Jake. So we need $18 million more to get it over the finish line, but this is kind of the conversation we need to have. Come together for the betterment of everybody, the betterment of Uvalde.
TAPPER: I want to know if you can clear something up for me because I was confused. The director of Texas Public Safety earlier today was describing the shooting at the press conference. He said that the school resource officer, because the school did have one, engaged with the gunman before the gunman got in the school, but no gunfire was exchanged.
Somehow, the shooter got into the school. Later police arrived and he was described as being pinned down. Pinned down. So I have two questions about this, and maybe you can clear this up. How was the gunman able to get into the school if the resource officer had engaged with him but no gunfire was exchanged? How did he get in?
GONZALES: Yeah, so the started at his home. He tragically shoots his grandmother, and then he gets in a vehicle and drives to the school. It's less than a mile away, so it's really right around the corner.
And as he comes to the school, he wrecks. He kind of goes into this ditch, and it's when he got into that ditch is when law enforcement was called and engaged. So that's part of the initial contact. It was no firing that I understand.
He actually enters through the back of one of the buildings, through the teacher parking lot, if you will. He immediately enters one room, and then essentially that's when the police, the law enforcement officer, because it's not just police officers. It's sheriffs, it's border patrol agents.
I mean, everybody came together. People not even in this county, and they basically cornered him into one room. There are hundreds of children in that school.
Part of the story, there's a lieutenant named Javier Martinez, engages this assailant. He takes fire. He actually was wounded. It's tragic to see so many children be murdered, but this could have been a whole lot worse.
People like Javier Martinez and Chief Arredondo, they saved hundreds of lives. That's where you see him get pinned in.
TAPPER: He was pinned -- but just to be clear, he's pinned down or pinned in, in a classroom where he was slaughtering kids, right? I mean, is that what you mean by pinned down?
GONZALES: I understand that he went in that classroom and he begins to fire. He begins to murder people, starting with that wonderful teacher that was defending her students. And he doesn't stop.
The police officer actually engages him. Javier Martinez engages him. He kind of takes fire through the door, and then it stops. And he barricades himself in. That's where there's kind of a lull in the action. All of it, I understand, lasted about an hour. But this is where there's kind of a 30-minute lull. They feel as if
they got him barricaded in. The rest of the students in the school are now leaving. You know, they're trying to get people out to safety. And this assailant is barricaded in.
It's moments later, minutes later when they breach it and then ultimately a border patrol agent is the one that neutralizes this assailant.
TAPPER: All right, still seems like a lot of time that the police were outside the classroom and the shooter was inside the classroom where there were kids. But I know you have to go.
Also, Congressman Gonzales, I know you didn't want to talk about gun control, gun restrictions, and all that from Uvalde today. I would like to come back and talk about some of these issues with you at a time and location where it's more appropriate, if that's okay with you.
GONZALES: I would happily do that, Jake. Thank you for having me on. I think everybody in America should be talking about school safety and mental health. And I'm happy to have a deeper conversation on that.
TAPPER: All right. Thank you so much, Congressman Tony Gonzales. Appreciate it.
Repeatedly today, many Republicans refused to say if he would support, for example, expanding background checks for gun sales. So where does that leave Democrats, the ruling party in Washington?
Coming up next, I'm going to ask a leading lawmaker who has been pushing this issue for years.
Plus, processing yet another tragedy in America and the overwhelming need for mental health professionals at a time such as this.
Stay with us. We'll be right back.
TAPPER: In our national lead, an emotional reaction to the senseless tragedy in Uvalde, Texas. Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, whose father, a university president, was assassinated by terrorists with guns in Lebanon in 1984, Steve Kerr making an impassioned plea for some legislative effort, something to end this epidemic of gun violence. Kerr calling the inaction from lawmakers on Capitol Hill pathetic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE KERR, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS COACH: In the last ten days, we have had elderly black people killed in a supermarket in Buffalo. We had Asian churchgoers killed in southern California. Now we have children murdered at school. When are we going to do something? We are being held hostage by 50 senators in Washington who refuse to
even put it to a vote, despite what we the American people want. They won't vote on it because they want to hold on to their own power. It's pathetic. I've had enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Steve Kerr directly blaming Senate Republicans there.
Joining us now is Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He's a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Senator, specifically, what legislation could have prevented this tragedy?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Jake, we don't know fully all the circumstances here. But the question in a sense if I may say, respectfully, begs the real question, which is how can we save lives, to try to link one tragedy to a specific measure, there are indications the shooter issued warnings, was known to be in the depths of a mental crisis. That's exactly the kind of situation that cries out for the red flag statute that separates people from firearms when they are dangerous to themselves or others.
More than half of all gun deaths are suicides. And if we separate people from firearms, if they say they're going to kill themselves or kill others or indicate mental distress or derangement, that could save a lot of people's lives. But so would expanded background checks, safe storage, ghost guns ban, there are a variety of measures we have introduced, and my Republican colleagues have been complicit. If they don't show a sense of conscience now, if this tragedy doesn't crystallize that sense of outrage and action, then they're simply putting guns above children.
TAPPER: I certainly understand how a red flag law might have had an effect here. You have also been pushing the idea of banning semiautomatic weapons such as AR-15s and some of your Senate colleagues, Republicans, are already pouring cold water on the idea.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What about getting rid of AR-15s? Why are these semiautomatic rifles necessary?
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): If people want to talk about banning specific guns, they should propose that, but it wouldn't represent these shootings.
RAJU: Banning a weapon like that --
RUBIO: I mean, they could commit the crime with a different weapon that performs exactly the same, just wouldn't fit the definition in the law, but it wouldn't prevent these crimes.
RAJU: Why do people need an AR-15?
SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): We have in our Constitution, the -- you know, our Second Amendment rights, and I'm not interested in taking away rights from law-abiding citizens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Hold right there if you could. I want to listen to President Biden.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's just -- there's always been limitations.
But guess what? These actions we've taken before, they saved lives. And they can do it again.
The idea that an 18-year-old can walk into a store and buy weapons of war, designed and marketed to kill, is, I think, just wrong. It just violates common sense. Even the manufacturer -- the inventor of that weapon thought that as well.
You know, where is the backbone? Where is the courage to stand up to a very powerful lobby?
But here is one modest step: the federal agency that measures and ensures that gun laws are enforced and the Second Amendment is abided by -- the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the AFT -- has not had a Senate confirmation leader for seven years because of these disputes. For seven years, they've been out -- without anyone in charge.
I nominated a supremely qualified former prosecutor who has broad bipartisan support from law enforcement and the community overall.
His hearing was held easier today -- earlier today, I should say.
The Senate should confirm him without delay, without excuse. Send the nomination to my desk. It's time for action.
We're here today for the same purpose: to come together and say, "Enough"; to act. We must.
Vice President Harris and members of the Cabinet; members of the Congress; civil rights leaders; law enforcement officers and officials; distinguished guests, especially the families missing a piece of their soul, including the family sitting in front of me and the beautiful young girl who told me, my daddy is going to change history. And he will, honey. He will. They've lost a piece of their soul two years ago as well.
You know, I know events remembering your loved ones, even though they're meant with great reverence, are really hard. Everything is coming back as if it was -- happened yesterday. But in your own ways, you've each -- each of you whose family has been victimized have summoned the courage to find purpose through your pain, to stir justice that's been too long dormant, and to give hope while in need of hope yourself.
That's why the executive order I'll be signing today is so important, in my view. It's a measure of what we can do together to heal the very soul of this nation; to address the profound fear and trauma, exhaustion that particularly Black Americans have experienced for generations; and to channel that private pain and public outrage into a rare mark of progress for years to come.
Two summers ago, in the middle of a pandemic, we saw protests across the nation the likes of which you hadn't seen since the 1960s.
They unified people of every race and generation. Athletes and sports leagues boycotted and postponed games. Companies and workers proclaimed "Black Lives Matter." Students staged solidarity walkouts.
From Europe to the Middle East to Asia to Australia, people saw their own fight for justice and equality in what we were trying to do.
The message is clear: Enough! Just, enough.
And, look, almost -- almost a year later --
Almost a year later, a jury in Minnesota stepped up and they found a police officer guilty of murdering George Floyd, with officers and even a police chief taking the stand to testify against misconduct of their colleagues. I don't know any good cop who likes a bad cop.
But for many people, including many families here, such accountability is all too rare.
That's why I promised as President I would do everything in my power to enact meaningful police reform that is real and lasting.
That's why I called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to send it to my desk.
Some asked why I haven't done this executive order earlier.
If I'd done it, I was worried it would undercut the effort to get the law passed.
This is a call to action based on a basic truth: Public trust, as any cop will tell you, is the foundation of public safety. If they're not trusted, the population doesn't contribute, doesn't cooperate.
Two sides of the same coin, inextricably linked. And the principles of fairness and equal justice are at the core of each of them.
For the wheels of justice are propelled by the confidence that people have in their system of justice. Without that confidence, crimes would go unreported. Witness fears to come -- fear to come forward; cases go unsolved; victims suffer in isolation while perpetrators remain free; and ironically, police are put in greater -- greater danger; justice goes undelivered.
Without public trust, law enforcement can't do its job of serving and protecting all of our communities. But as we've seen all too often, public trust is frayed and broken, and that undermines public safety.
The families here today and across the country have had to ask why this nation -- why so many Black Americans wake up knowing they could lose their life in the course of just living their life today -- simply jogging, shopping, sleeping at home. Whether they made headlines or not, lost souls gone too soon.
Members of Congress, including many here today -- like Senator Cory Booker and Congressman Karen Bass, alongside members of the Congressional Black Caucus, House and Senate Judiciary Committees -- spent countless hours on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to find a better answer to that question.
I sincerely thank you all for your tireless efforts. But they're not over.
The House passed a strong bill. It failed in the Senate where our Republican colleagues opposed any meaningful reform.
So we got to work on this executive order, which is grounded in key elements of the Justice in Policing Act and reflects inputs of a broad coalition represented here today. Families courageously shared their perspectives on what happened to their loved ones and what we could do to make sure it doesn't happen to somebody else.
Civil rights groups and their leaders of every generation who have given their heart and soul to this work provided critical insights and perspectives.
The executive order also benefits from the valuable inputs of law enforcement who put their lines on the -- lives on the line every single day to serve.
Now, let me say there are those who seek to drive a wedge between law enforcement and the people they serve; those who peddle the fiction that public trust and public safety are in opposition to one another.
We know that's not true, but it occurs. I believe the vast majority of Americans want the same thing: trust, safety, and accountability.
The vast majority of law enforcement risk their lives every day to do the right thing. Their families wait for that phone call every time they put on that shield.
Just yesterday in Uvalde, brave local officers and Border Patrol agents intervened to save as many children as they could.
Here today, I want to especially thank the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Fraternal Order of Police, as well as the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives --
The Federal Law Enforcement Association, the Police Executive Research Forum, Major City Chiefs Association, and others who stepped up -- stepped up and endorsed what we're talking about today.
As divided as this nation can feel, today we're showing the strength of our unity. It matters.
This executive order is going to deliver the most significant police reform in decades. It applies directly, under law, to only 100,000 federal law enforcement officers -- all the federal law enforcement officers. And though federal incentives and best practices they're attached to, we expect the order to have significant impact on state and local law enforcement agencies as well.
Here are the key parts: First, the executive order promotes accountability. It creates a new national law enforcement accountability database to track records of misconduct so that an officer can't hide the misconduct.
It strengthens the pattern-and-practice investigations to address systematic misconduct in some departments. It mandates all federal agents wear and activate body cameras while on patrol.
Second, the executive order raises standards, bans chokeholds, restricts no-knock warrants, tightens use-of-force policies to emphasize de-escalation and the duty to intervene to stop another officer from using executive force, just as occurred -- that didn't occur, but people testified it didn't occur in George Floyd's case.
And third, the executive order modernizes policing. It calls for a fresh -- a fresh approach to recruit, train, promote, and retain law enforcement that tied to advancing public safety and public trust.
Right now, we don't systematically collect data, for instance, on instances of police use of force. This executive order is going to improve that data collection.
There's a lot more as well. The bottom line of the executive order includes reforms that have long been talked about but we're finally implementing at a federal level. And it comes at a critical time.
By building trust, we can strengthen public safety and we can more effectively fight crime in our communities. And we can do one more thing: We can show what's possible when we work together. Look, I know -- I know progress can be slow and frustrating. And there's a concern that the reckoning on race inspired two years ago is beginning to fade.
But acting today, we're showing that our dear friend, the late John Lewis -- Congressman -- wrote in his final words after his final march for justice in July of 2020. He said, democracy is not a state. It is an act.
Democracy is not a state. It's an act -- an affirmative act. And today, we're acting.
We're showing that speaking out matters, being engaged matters, and that the work of our time -- healing the soul of this nation -- is ongoing and unfinished, and requires all of us never to give up, always to keep the faith.
I'll close with this: Over two years now -- for over two years, we've gotten to know one another and pray with one another -- not figuratively, literally.
I promise the Floyd family, among others, that George's name is not just going to be a hashtag. Your daddy's name is going to be known for a long time. And that as a nation, we're going to ensure his legacy and the legacy of so many others remembered today -- it's not about their death but what we do in their memory that matters. The purpose.
In just a few -- in just a few moments, I'm going to deliver on that promise when I sign the executive order.
And Kamala and I will continue, along with our friends in Congress, to get meaningful police reform legislation on my desk as best we can, as quickly as we can, beyond what we're doing here, affecting states as well, directly.
On this day, we're showing the America we know. We're a great nation because the vast majority of us are good people. And there's nothing beyond our capacity -- nothing -- when we act together as the United States of America.
And this is a start -- a new start. May God bless you all, and may God protect our forces.
And now I'm going to go sign that executive order. Thank you.
TAPPER: President Biden now signing an executive order that would require new use of force rules for federal law enforcement. Today marks two years since George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes.
I want to bring back Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut to discuss our top story, that horrific school shooting in Texas.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
Before we cut to President Biden, we ran some clips from senator Marco Rubio and from Senator Rick Scott in which they pushed back on the idea of banning AR-15s. So, I wanted to get your reaction to what they had to say, suggesting that it would not have an effect, and in fact that individuals have a Second Amendment right to those weapons.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Jake, you have just asked a central question here, because we know that a ban on assault weapons will help save lives.
A ban on high-capacity magazines will help save lives. And we know it from Sandy Hook, which I attended the wakes and funerals and the deaths that occurred there, a horrific time that was brought back to me in all its horror when I saw those scenes in Texas. The shooter there had this assault weapon. The shooters in countless other mass shootings have had these assault weapons, and again, in this instance, very likely.
So there's no question that assault weapons are made for the purpose of killing and maiming human beings. Not for hunting. And these kinds of weapons, if kept out of the hands of dangerous people, and especially children like this 18-year-old, and he seems to have been really potentially dangerous and some of the signs he gave off I think is really tremendously important question.
In Connecticut, we had an assault-weapon ban. It reduced deaths. Nationally when there was a federal law banning assault weapons, there were fewer gun weapons. Evidence shows a ban on assault weapons can prevent these gun violence shootings.
TAPPER: So, one of the measures pushed at the horrific tragedy in your home state at sandy hook was two senators who normally support gun ownership, Senator Manchin of West Virginia, and Senator Toomey of Pennsylvania, they came together to offer legislation that would close what's called the gun show loophole. It would extend background checks at gun shows to include private sales for those in which they don't already require background checks.
I'm wondering if -- I understand that you and a lot of people, and in fact, large majorities of the American people support much more sweeping measures, preventing people with mental illness from buying guns, and making private gun sales and gun show sales subject to background checks. Smaller majority support the creation of a federal database, banning of AR-15s and assault style weapons, but what about the Manchin/Toomey provision, Manchin/Toomey? What about passing that?
I understand it wouldn't have had any impact on this measure, but that's something that seems like maybe some work can be done.
BLUMENTHAL: Absolutely right. And hopefully, Senator Manchin will be involved in an effort to expand background checks. 90 percent or more of the American people are in favor of covering all gun sales with background checks. But we're also working hard, Senator Graham and I, on a red flag statute, such as was adopted in Florida after Parkland.
If a person indicates that he's dangerous, if he's going to kill himself or others, then a court order could separate him or her from a gun. Not more than half of all gun deaths involve suicide, so a red flag statute can help prevent those kind of self-harm as well as harm to others, and we're working hard.
I'm very hopeful that maybe a red flag statute, we worked on this measure for years, could pass with bipartisan support. I think that we have to work on every one of these possibilities.
TAPPER: All right, Senator Richard Blumenthal, thank you so much for your time today. Appreciate it.
Coming up, the chilling messages the shooter sent right before he shot his grandmother and then killed 19 fourth graders and two teachers.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Back with our national lead. The horrific slaying, murder of 19 children and 2 teachers in Uvalde, Texas. A short time ago, the shooter's grandfather was asked about his grandson.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER (through translator): Regarding the boy, what can you tell us about your grandson? Did you ever know he had firearms?
ROLANDO REYES, GRANDFATHER OF UVALDE SHOOTER (through translator): No, I didn't know. If I had known, I would have reported him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: CNN's Drew Griffin now takes a look at the gunman's texts before the massacre. This report does include several images of the shooter.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: This is the text conversation just moments before the 18-year-old suspect would attempt to kill his grandmother, then in his words, shoot up an elementary school.
You know what I'm going to do right now, he writes. Tell me is the response. I can't, since me grandpa hasn't left. I'm waiting for this dude to leave.
Shortly after 11:00 a.m., Texas time, the suspect then complains about his grandmother and his phone bill. I'm waiting for this bitch. I'm going to do something to her right now. She's on with AT&T about my phone. It's annoying.
Five minutes pass, then, I just shot my grandma in the head. I'm going to go shoot up an elementary school right now.
That last message sent at 6:21 p.m. German time, which would have been 11:21 a.m. in Uvalde, Texas. Eleven minutes later, police received their first call of a shooting at Robb Elementary School.
The person on the receiving end of those texts, a 15-year-old girl in Germany. She had never met the suspect in person. They connected through a livestreaming app called UVU. Then Facetime, texted. He sent her videos of himself.
She's not the only person he was communicating with. The shooter's Instagram account shows a photo of two AR style weapons and tagged another young woman who he messaged the morning of the shooting saying I'm about to but didn't finish his sentence, and then, I got a little secret.
GRIFFIN (on camera): Jake, the teenage girl who spoke to CNN from Germany did so with her mother's consent and she says that reaching out to him through social media was her only connection -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Drew, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
The survivors and immediate community around Uvalde suffer the most acute pain, of course, but trying to comprehend tragedies such as this one, the sadness, the fear, the anger, can impact the mental health of all of us.
Here to help us understand this moment, Karin Price, chief of psychology at Texas Children's Hospital. You lead a team working with the victims and communities specifically in Uvalde.
What is your team saying to them? How can you help them?
KARIN PRICE, CHIEF OF PSYCHOLOGY, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: So during this initial phase, really, it's more focused on helping the community get through the crisis, to get through the tragedy. But with an eye toward building back the community and building back resilience.
So this really takes the form of talking with families, talking with school personnel, talking with community members, talking with parents about what they can expect to see, how they can help their children to manage the strong emotions that of course they're going to feel during this time.
And what to look for in terms of signs and symptoms that things may not be going well and that they may need professional help.
TAPPER: Are there enough mental health resources in place to meet the needs of the community right now? And will there be in six months from now? PRICE: So, nationally, of course, we're having a child mental health
crisis. We know that the community of Uvalde is going to need that mental health support. So thinking about what services we can offer now and what services we plan to offer in the future, including sending clinicians who are trained in trauma to the community to help them deal with this crisis.
TAPPER: So there are families across the country, maybe even around the world, who woke up this morning and were terrified. Parents and kids scared to go to school. Let's start with the parents. How should parents manage feelings that they may have about fear, anxiety, sadness, in a healthy way? What's the best way for mom, dad, or a guardian?
PRICE: So the first thing is for people who are parents, like myself, to get their own support. So, whether that is talking with friends, with family members, with partners, with other members of the community about their feelings, sharing them, talking about them. That's really important.
But it's also really important to bring those feelings better under management, better under control when they're preparing to talk with their children about their children's feelings as well.
TAPPER: Let's talk about the kids now. What do we know about how young minds process this? What do kids need emotionally to understand or deal with the news of what happened in Texas?
PRICE: The first thing that they need are adults around them who care about them, who can provide them with a stable environment and with structure, and with room to communicate about what they know, what they think they know, how they're feeling, and what concerns they have about what happened.
TAPPER: Professor Price, thank you so much for your work, and thank you so much for talking to us today. Appreciate it.
Coming up next, a closer look at the Texas laws that allow an 18-year- old to buy an AR-15.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
This hour, we're talking to the Republican senator whose bipartisan gun control bill got closer to passing than any other measure since perhaps the 1990s. Could it actually pass now?
Plus, the Uvalde gunman bought the AR-15 legally in Texas shortly after his 18th birthday. A look at what kind of checks he went through before being allowed to make that purchase. But we start on the ground in Uvalde where the families of 19 children
and 2 teachers are reeling as the country and investigators are searching for answers about how these innocent children and teachers were gunned down in their fourth grade classroom. The Texas governor says the gunman posted a private Facebook message that he planned to shoot an elementary school just before the massacre began.
CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Uvalde, Texas, for us right now.
Ed, what more are we learning about the timeline of the shooting?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, we did -- we were able to get more clarification on how all of this unfolded yesterday morning into the afternoon hours. So, it was about 30 minutes before Salvador Ramos shot his grandmother, we learned these messages were sent, essentially kind of foreshadowing this carnage that he was about to inflict.
He then goes to his grandmother's house where he was living with his grandparents, and that is less than a quarter mile from where we are here at Robb Elementary.