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NRA Chief Wayne LaPierre Calls for Hardening of Schools; Interview with Stoneman Douglas Student Carly Novell; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired February 22, 2018 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] WAYNE LAPIERRE, NRA CEO AND EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT: And these essential values have been increasingly and sadly ridiculed, and disrespected and diminished in this country. And it won't take long if we stay on the path we're on to erase them completely.

That's the real consequence of this new socialist wave in America. You know, I hear a lot of quiet in this room. And I sense your anxiety. And you should be anxious. And you should be frightened. If they seize power, if these so-called new European socialists take over the House, and the Senate, and god forbid they get the White House again, our American freedoms could be lost and our country will be changed forever. And the first to go will be the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.

History proves it. Every time, in every nation, in which this political disease rises to power, its citizens are repressed, their freedoms are destroyed, and their firearms are banned and confiscated. It is all backed in this country by the social engineering and the billions of people like George Soros, Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer and more. And gleefully promoted by those who have risen to power in the so-called national news media and seized control of social media to spread their propaganda.

They don't tell us news. And you all know it and people know it all over the United States. They say it to me every day. They don't tell us news. They tell us what we need to think. That's the way it is these days.

On college campuses, a communist manifesto is one of the most frequently signed texts. Karl Marx is the most assigned economist and there are now over 100 chapters of young Democratic socialist of America at many universities and students are even earning academic credit for promoting socialist causes. In too many classrooms, all over the United States, and I know you think about this one you decide where you're going to send your kids to school, and your kids think about it, too.

The United States Constitution is ignored, the United States history is perverted, and the Second Amendment freedom in this country is despised. You know, some people out there think the NRA should just stick to its Second Amendment agenda and not talk about all of our freedoms. But real freedom requires protection of all of our rights. And a Second Amendment isn't worth its own words in a country where all of our other individual freedoms are destroyed. (APPLAUSE)

LAPIERRE: So I promise you this, the NRA will not only speak out, we will speak out louder and we will speak out stronger than ever before.


LAPIERRE: We will do it through NRATV and our media operations, which will expand to reach a growing audience of Americans that are looking all over this country for the truth. They're going to do it with strong voices like Dana Loesch that you just have seen, Dan Botino and others who are engaging in new programming to make our message just as accessible as NBC, the "New York Times," and the rest of the so-called national news media.

Let's be clear. We are never talking about an armed resistance against the socialist corruption of our government. We are always talking about a resistance arm with the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights in our country.


LAPIERRE: The genius of those documents, the brilliance of America, of our country itself, is it all of our freedoms in this country are for every single citizen.

[10:35:01] And there is no greater personal individual freedom than the right to keep and bear arms, the right to protect yourself, and the right to survive.


LAPIERRE: It is not bestowed by man, but granted by God, to all Americans as our American birth right.


LAPIERRE: So I call right now today, on every citizen who loves this country, and who treasures this freedom, to stand and unflinchingly defend the Second Amendment, the one freedom that protects us all in this country.


LAPIERRE: And I refuse to leave this stage until I say one more time that we must immediately harden our schools. Every day --


LAPIERRE: Every day young children are being dropped off at schools that are virtually wide open, soft targets for anyone bent on mass murder. It should not be easier for a mad man to shoot up a school than a bank or a jewelry store or some Hollywood gala. Schools must be the most hardened targets in this country. And evil must --

(APPLAUSE) LAPIERRE: And evil must be confronted immediately with all necessary force to protect our kids.


LAPIERRE: I said five years ago, after that horrible tragedy in Newtown, and I wish, oh, god, I wish more had heeded my words. So lean in, listen to me now, and never forget these words, to stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun.

Thank you very much. Thank you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You've been listening to Wayne LaPierre, the executive director of the NRA, giving a 30-minute speech before CPAC, a conservative group in Maryland.

This was a combative, asserted, conspiratorial speech that went way, way beyond the issue of gun rights. He accused the media, he accused Democrats, he accused elites of exploiting this school shooting one week ago for political gain. Opportunists exploiting tragedy for political gain, he said.

He suggested he supports hardening the schools, providing armed security for the schools, schools should not have less protection, he said, than jewelry stores, but he also blamed what he called the elite European-style socialists for speaking out for gun control.

And not once, not once in this entire speech did he discuss the kids from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who have been speaking out, speaking out to keep their school safe and speaking out for new action.

We're going to have much more to discuss on this. Stay with us.


[10:43:13] BERMAN: All right. We just saw Wayne LaPierre, the executive director of the NRA, delivering a speech, the first time he has spoken since 17 students and teachers were massacred more than one week ago in Parkland, Florida, at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The executive director of the NRA suggested no new measures as far as we can tell for gun control and lashed out at the media and others for questioning the NRA over the last week.

Joining me now is Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief to the "Chicago Sun-Times," former Trump campaign adviser and CNN political commentator Steve Cortes, Michael Nutter, CNN political contributor, former mayor of Philadelphia, also with us CNN's White House reporter Kaitlan Collins.

You know, Lynn Sweet, you know, first to you, I think what we saw there one week after the fact where these lines are in this discussion. Wayne LaPierre made crystal clear that he is not open to much of a discussion at all on new measures. Except, perhaps, arming teachers.

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Well, I'll tell you, he talked about us and them. This speech is -- was divisive, it was polarizing, it didn't seek any middle ground. And I just want to point out a few things quickly, I know you have a big panel here, at the very end of this list of them and us he's against, elites, the 2020 Democratic presidential contenders.

He said one of the things we do need is to harden schools for anyone bent on mass murder. That is the plight. If he could possibly narrow this, the way you commit mass murder, which is the discussion these students in Florida are having, students who are not the media elites, is the two things they have been focusing on is you commit mass murder when you have an assault style weapon with a large capacity magazine.

[10:45:08] Meaning you could shoot off a lot of bullets without having to stop and reload. That's mass murder.


STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Lynn, that's just -- that's just not true. The Columbine massacre occurred during this so-called assault weapon ban. And I say so-called because, by the way --

SWEET: But, Steve, now hold on --

BERMAN: Hang on, hang on, Lynn. Steve, make your point -- Steve, quickly because we have a big panel here. I want to get to everyone. Go ahead, Steve.

CORTES: Columbine happened during this so-called assault weapon ban. And I say so-called because all weapons are by their very nature assault weapons. Really you're talking about the aesthetics of guns, not the firepower.

SWEET: No, Steve.

CORTES: There are far higher firepower weapons.

SWEET: Let's get into the -- can we have a better discussion than that?

CORTES: No, let's get into it. Let's get into it because it matters.

BERMAN: Hang on, Steve.

CORTES: Let's deal with actual --


BERMAN: Actually hang on one second here.

SWEET: But try and analyze --

BERMAN: I'm not sure where you're going here, Steve. So let's just wait a second. We're talking about what Wayne LaPierre said, Lynn Sweet making the point.


BERMAN: That he brought up hardening schools. I think he's talking about increased security at schools right now. You just leapt to the assault weapons ban, which is something that some are calling --


CORTES: No, because, Lynn --

BERMAN: No, no. Hang on. Hang on. Hang on.

SWEET: No, I didn't mention the ban.

BERMAN: Hang on. Hang on one second. Let me just do this, Steve. Let me play what Wayne LaPierre said about those who have been discussing this tragedy one week ago. Listen to this.


LAPIERRE: We share a goal of safe schools, safe neighborhoods, and a safe country. As usual, the opportunists wasted not one second to exploit tragedy for political gain. The elites don't care, not one wit about American's school system. And schoolchildren. If they truly cared, what they would do is they would protect them.


BERMAN: So, Steve, address this. They say the opportunists are exploiting tragedy for political gain. Those speaking with the loudest voices for the last eight days have been the survivors. The students of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the students who watched their friends murdered, the students who escaped with their lives. Whether or not you agree with them, to call them opportunists? What do you make of that?

CORTES: No, I would not -- I would not call them opportunists. I think and hope what Wayne LaPierre is talking about there are people in the political system, not the students who survived that. I have nothing but empathy and respect for them and for their voice. It's also --

BERMAN: He didn't say that. He didn't it -- he didn't say one word on the students and their voice there.

CORTES: But he did talk about, though -- what he did talk about is how do we protect students and he's exactly right. We as a society, and I think this is a societal failure, we guard our jewelry and our money, and people like me and office buildings far better than we guard our children. Our precious children in school. And that has to change.

BERMAN: Yes, he did, he brought that up as well as bringing up celebrities trying to stoke a little bit of a culture war on that end as well. Mayor Nutter, what did you make of it?

MICHAEL NUTTER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, John, thank you. First of all, that was 30 minutes of just verbal vomit from Wayne LaPierre who clearly demonstrated that he has no concern for those young people at that particular school or any others. Those as you point out are the loudest voices. And they're not opportunists. They are survivors. And they are talking about their own lives. Maybe he missed the CNN town hall last night.

So it's clear from that speech, you know, wandering all over the place, you know, European socialist, and, you know, I'm from West Philly, I'm not a European socialist. So it's clear that the letters NRA actually stand for no real answers. He put nothing forward. He refused to recognize the power and the death and destruction that comes from the weapon of choice, the AR-15 in particular, and others like it, with no explanation as to why someone should actually have to have a military style weapon in the first place as a civilian.

BERMAN: He did talk about hardening schools and that might be an area where there is room for agreement when it comes to security, perhaps not arming teachers. I don't think Democrats would go for that. He also talked about mental health and the comprehensive background checks. There might be clarity there where both sides on this issue can come to bed together.

Kaitlan Collins, though, he didn't address at all some of these developments over the last 24 hours. Marco Rubio saying he might be supportive of banning high capacity magazines, the president of the United States talking about background checks, bump stocks and raising the minimum wage to buy a rifle to 21.

He did not address those issues. He seemed to suggest he would oppose any and all of those issues. What kind of pressure does that put on the White House and does the White House think it's going to have a fight with the NRA here.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, talk about speaking to an audience of one, that's what we just witnessed from LaPierre on that stage at CPAC because about an hour before he took the stage, the president tweeted calling him a great American and others who work at the NRA and saying that they love this country.

[10:50:03] So I think -- certainly believe he was trying to appeal to the president there, a president who also in another tweet this morning further the idea of raising the minimum age to buy a gun to 21. Something the NRA has rejected.

So I certainly think LaPierre was trying to appeal to the president's senses here because this is a president who's made it clear he wants Congress to do something on guns, he does seem very invigorated by that, especially after that very intensely emotional listening session he had here at the White House yesterday. And I think LaPierre was trying to say, here is something you can do.

BERMAN: Yes. COLLINS: More armed security at schools and trying to get the

president to back away from any kind of gun control measures because LaPierre was making the argument there that any attempt at gun control is really an attempt to eradicate all guns. So he certainly seemed to be speaking directly to President Trump from that stage.

BERMAN: Yes. That's an excellent point. The tone in the White House yesterday at that meeting and the tone that we just heard from that stage there, starkly different, before Wayne LaPierre spoke, Dana Loesch, who was the spokesperson of the NRA, suggested that some in the media love mass shootings. I really -- I'm not going to dignify that with any kind of response other than to say no.

Lynn Sweet, I cut you off before and I apologize for that. Again I think this does in a way tell us, you know, the parameters, the outside lines of where this debate will be. The NRA is not going to let it go very far here. The president, if he wants to get something done, is going to have to push.

SWEET: Well, here's what's different this time around. And I agree with the analysis that this was an audience of one because LaPierre may be afraid that Trump is getting wobbly. What is new here are the voices of the students in Florida. They haven't voted so you can't attack them as being partisan. They haven't given donations, so you can't say that it is about money. They have no oppo research that you can do on them to tear them down.

They -- and I saw the town hall on CNN last night. They're able to articulate the issues at their age with people who have unblemished records and who have the social media skills to fight back when people say that they are crisis actors. It's the first new potential force I've seen out there and I think maybe some of the vitriol in LaPierre's speech, divisive speech today attacking everyone, is maybe his noticing this potential new movement.

BERMAN: We're going to talk to a student just ahead.

Lynn Sweet, Steve Cortes, Michael Nutter, Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much for being with us.

We'll be right back.


[10:55:43] BERMAN: All right. So much discussions about guns in this country, gun violence, what to do about it. We just heard from the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, the executive director, spoke.

Joining me now is someone who has been in the middle of this for the last week, Stoneman Douglas High School student, Carly Novell.

You survived the shooting last week. You were at the town hall last night. Thanks so much for being with us. I really appreciate your time.

The head of the NRA, and I know a lot of the students at the school have been speaking out against the NRA over the last week. The head of the NRA just gave a speech which was carried all around the country where he said that those who have been speaking out in the wake of this tragedy, he said they're opportunists exploiting tragedy for political gain.

Your reaction, Carly.

CARLY NOVELL, STUDENT, STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: I just think that's disrespectful and insensitive to call us opportunists when all we're trying to do is to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else in America. And we're trying to make sure that the gun laws aren't so flexible that people can obtain these guns and go into people's schools and into people's public places and kill other people. That's all we're trying to do.

And I don't think that's opportunist or taking advantage of the tragedy that we just went through. We just went through a traumatic experience and we're just trying to take action now.

BERMAN: And you hid in a closet during the shooting?


BERMAN: All right, again, I think that gives you agency to discuss this, however much you want in whatever terms you want over these next few days and for the rest of your life, frankly.


BERMAN: To be fair to Wayne LaPierre, he did suggest that this country needs to harden its schools. He thinks that jewelry stores shouldn't be more protected than schools. In other words, more armed security in schools in this country. Is that something you support, Carly?

NOVELL: I think we do need to figure out a way to make our schools safer, but I don't think that you can arm every school in America and I think just simply arming a school is putting a band-aid over a gunshot wound, over 100 years of gun violence in America. And that won't change if we just arm schools.

This isn't just happening in schools. This is happening everywhere. And we need to do more and look at the deeper problem here, which is gun control.

BERMAN: What did you think of the discussion last night at the town hall? Marco Rubio, Florida senator, was there for two hours, and he listened to a lot of passion. Listened to a lot of boos, frankly, yet he was there, and he did listen. And he also said that he might be changing his mind on some things, including high capacity magazines. What was your reaction to that?

NOVELL: I think that it made me really optimistic for what we can change and what we're doing here. I don't know if he's being honest or if he's just saying things and I don't think I'll believe that until things actually happen. But I think just the fact that he was there made a difference because he was willing to start a conversation and to talk to us and to talk to others about gun control, which can't be said of our governor and our president.

BERMAN: Well, the president did hold a listening session inside the White House yesterday. And the president did suggest this morning that he might be willing to raise the age to buy a weapon to 21. Very quickly, because we're just about out of time, Carly, going forward, what is your plan?

NOVELL: Our plan is to raise awareness and to change gun laws. And I think it's great that the president agrees with that, but he didn't call the students that are talking and are speaking out.

BERMAN: Right. Carly Novell, again thank you so much for being with us. I think the students of Stoneman Douglas High School have inspired this discussion that is very much happening right now, largely because of you.

Thank you all so much for joining me today. I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR" starts right now.