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Biden Calls For "Greater Action" On Guns After VA Mass Shooting; LGBTQ Club Mass Shooting Suspect Makes First Court Appearance; AAA: Nearly 55 Million Americans Traveling For Thanksgiving. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired November 23, 2022 - 14:00   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there, I'm Victor Blackwell. Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM.


We are following developments from two mass shootings. The 22-year-old suspect accused of opening fire Saturday inside an LGBTQ club in Colorado just completed his first court hearing in the case. And we're learning more about the store manager who allegedly opened fire in a Walmart in southeastern Virginia last night killing six people before killing himself. A store employee says the man began shooting in the break room. Now, the two incidents were the deadliest of six mass shootings in the U.S. since Saturday alone, according to the gun violence archive.

BLACKWELL: There have been more than 600 mass shootings this year. Today, President Biden issued a plea for greater action to stop gun violence. He wrote that tomorrow is Thanksgiving, one of our most cherished holidays that brings us together as Americans as families. Because of yet another horrific and senseless act of violence, there are now even more tables across the country that will have empty seats this Thanksgiving. There are now more families who know the worst kind of loss and pain imaginable.

GOLODRYGA: CNN's Dianne Gallagher is in Virginia. Dianne, what is the latest there?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, you can probably see up here behind me that we still have a lot of first responders here on the scene. I just saw a bunch of agents in the FBI jackets walking toward this Walmart as they continue to process the scene for evidence. The city of Chesapeake confirming what CNN sources have been telling us that the gunman was identified as 31-year-old Andre Bing, Walmart telling CNN that he was an overnight team leader, a manager who had been with the company since 2010. According to the city here, they say that he came in and began shooting. He used a handgun and had multiple magazines on him. Talking to survivors who one of them Briana Tyler telling ABC's Good Morning America about those just chaotic and terrifying moments when he walked into the break room.


BRIANA TYLER, WALMART EMPLOYEE: Yes, he just -- literally just started shooting throughout the entire break room and I watched multiple people just drop down to the floor whether they were trying to duck for cover or they were hit. He just opened fire.

He looked directly at me but he -- luckily, he missed my head by like an inch or two. He just came around the corner and he just started shooting. The first person that was in his eyesight, he shot him down. And the next thing you know, he just started ringing throughout the entire break room but he did not say a word.


GALLAGHER: And, so again, six people killed before the gunman killed himself. The city says that three including the gunman were found in that break room. They found another person dead at the front of the store. Three others were taken to the hospital where they sadly succumbed to their injuries.

You know, Victor and Bianna, Briana also talked about the fact that when she started recently, she was told to just kind of watch out for that particular manager that he always had some kind of issues with him. Other survivors and employees have told us that they also found him to be odd and had problems with him. Look, my colleague, Brian Todd has been pressing Walmart for any sort of disciplinary history or whether or not they had events reported to them about this gunman in the past, but so far Walmart has not responded with any of those details.

BLACKWELL: All right, Dianne Gallagher for us there at the scene, thank you.

Joining us now is Virginia Congressman Bobby Scott, whose district includes the neighborhood where the shooting happened. Congressman, thanks for being with us. First, I just want your reaction to this happening in your community, in your neighborhood.

REP. BOBBY SCOTT, (D-VA): Well, this happens all too often, and our thoughts are with the victims who have been in touch with the mayor and the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, that have victim assistance programs. And we're making sure that those were available. I've been in touch with Walmart. They're making sure that all of the people who are in the store, victims -- direct victims are otherwise being cared for. So, that's our first thought.

But Virginia has been subjected to many of these kinds of incidents going back to Virginia Tech, just last week, University of Virginia, Virginia Beach a little while ago. It just happens all too often. There's something unique about the United States. These kinds of things you just mentioned, over 600 mass shootings just this year, we need to do something about it.

[14:05:15] GOLODRYGA: Yes, a shameful number at that. Congressman, Virginia enacted several gun safety laws just last year, including a universal background check, extreme risk protection law, stronger protections for victims of domestic violence, meaningful investments, and community violence intervention programs. But you say you want more bills passed. Which bills specifically? What kinds of bills would you like to pass?

SCOTT: Well, after Sandy Hook, the U.S. House created a gun safety task force. Regrettably, we couldn't get any Republicans to join but we had a list of initiatives that we believe will be very helpful. Beginning with the assault weapons ban, limiting the size of magazines, universal background checks, crime prevention measures, generally, investments in mental health, and a lot of things we can do. There's not one thing you can do that will cover everything but there are things you can do to reduce the incidence of these mass shootings. And we have to take whatever action is necessary. That might not be enough if we did everything that's on the list now, but we have to say -- begin to take action.

The U.S. House passed -- Congress passed, the president signed some bills that took a little step in the right direction. But it was not adequate to effectively deal with all of the loopholes in background checks and other things that need to be done.

BLACKWELL: I think it's important that you point out that there's no single legislation that will end all gun violence. And even the list of potential legislation you just read off may not end every shooting. But when you say that something has to be done, you're going into lame-duck Republicans take control of the House in January. Is it realistic that anything more than was already passed after you've Uvalde and Buffalo will get passed on the federal level?

SCOTT: Well, you'd have to ask the Republicans. I think there's a significant interest on the Democratic side to do something and we've had significant resistance from the other side of the aisle. So, you will have to ask them what they're willing to do. I think you wouldn't have much problem with Democrats wanting to step up and do something about. 600 -- and we're just 606 mass shootings this year, I think it's 100 Since September, I mean, other countries don't go through this. We can do something about it.

GOLODRYGA: Well, let me push you back on that just if I can because Virginia State Senator Lionell Spruill, just today -- and he -- we should note he represents parts of Chesapeake there. Just today said what you've been saying that there's not any or much support for more gun legislation amongst Republicans. But he also admitted that that applies to some Democrats as well, within the Commonwealth of Virginia. So, what is your response there, if you can get even members from your own party on board for some of this legislation?

SCOTT: Well, you can -- we can get the vast majority of members of our side. They could not unusual that you can't get unanimous support. There will always be somebody's side that will not agree with the majority of their party. But I think there's significant support on the Democratic side to do something. The resistance has come from the -- from the -- from the Republican side, that you're not going to get unanimous support.

And even if we had unanimous support on the -- on the Democratic side, it's not enough to overcome in the Senate -- U.S. Senate a filibuster. But to suggest that there's -- there one or two Democrats that aren't supportive when virtually all of the Republicans are opposed to say it's -- you can't find where the problem is. You know where the problem is.

GOLODRYGA: Well, Congressman Bobby Scott, thank you for joining us. I'm sorry that it's under this devastating headline, and we're thinking of you and your community there today. We appreciate your time.

SCOTT: Well, thank you. And on behalf of my constituents, thank you for highlighting this and we're going to be supporting the victims and the families.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. Thank you.

Well, we turn now to Colorado, the El Paso County District Attorney just announced that formal charges against the suspect accused of attacking an LGBTQ nightclub is expected to happen next month. The 22- year-old did just had his first court appearance in the case. CNN's Nick Watt is in Colorado Springs following all of the developments. So, Nick, what happened in court?


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianna, the suspect appeared via video link from the jailhouse, the suspect was seated, slumped, wearing an orange jumpsuit. It was difficult to tell on the video but appeared to have some bruising around the forehead. Remember, there were two people in that club kicking this suspect repeatedly in the head while the suspect was being subdued. The suspect in court spoke very little, confirmed his name, and confirmed, yes, that the suspect had watched the video about the rights and know that there were no questions. I think we have a little bit of that video that we can show you right now.


CHARLOTTE ANKENY, COURT JUDGE, EL PASO COUNTY: Could the defendant please state his name?


ANKENY: Anderson Aldrich, did you watch the video concerning your constitutional rights in this case?


ANKENY: Do you have any questions about those rights?


(END VIDEO CLIP) WATT: Now, you will notice the judge used the pronoun he during that hearing. But the defendant's lawyers in court filings last night say that this suspect identifies as non-binary and uses they-them pronouns. Now, the district attorney was asked after this appearance, whether that will have any bearing on how this case is prosecuted. Remember, right now, the arrest charges are five times first-degree murder, and also five-times bias-related crimes. The DA dismissed that out of hand and said he -- the legal definition is defendant. The DA said I'm looking at evidence to what occurred here. And the pronouns, the non-binary status, he said will have no impact on the way I prosecute this case.

Now, this morning, we spoke with one of the suspect's recent neighbors here in Colorado Springs. Apparently, the suspect and the suspect mother lived just down the hall until September. The person we spoke to bonded with the suspect over video games they would play for hours.

Now, this neighbor said that the suspect never once mentioned a non- binary status to him. And also that, you know, the suspect had on occasion made slurs against the gay community. Had said that he didn't like -- sorry, they didn't like or slash hated gays, and according to his neighbor used a slur. But these sort of infrequent outbursts, the neighbor told us sort of came apparently from a place of anger and were normally directed in a racial fashion rather than against the LGBTQ community.

Now, apparently, the suspect was very pro-free speech, very pro-guns very pro-First and Second Amendment, and showed the weapons to this neighbor, and the neighbor, you know, expressed some concern, and the suspect apparently told this neighbor, it's not the guns you got to be afraid of. It's the people, guys.

BLACKWELL: Important context. Nick Watt for us there outside the courthouse, thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Joining us now is Andy Pico, a Republican representative in the Colorado General Assembly. Thank you so much for joining us. So, in the aftermath of the shooting, there's been a lot of questions as to why the state's red flag law was not triggered. Now, one of the explanations given following the suspect's arrest last year was that no charges were filed. Having said that, in the aftermath of the shooting, Governor Polis said the statute itself is not being sufficiently used. He said, "I think it needs to be really evangelized more and talked about more." Do you agree with that statement from the governor?

ANDY PICO, REPUBLICAN STATE REPRESENTATIVE, COLORADO: Thanks for having me on. But no, I don't quite agree with it. The red flag law as it is written does have some shortfalls in personal protections, the rights of due process, and so forth, which most red flag laws across the country have that failing. That said, the red flag law, whether it was used or not, we don't know why it wasn't.

I mean, I've asked that question, too, why, since it is on the statute -- on the books, why was this guy even walking around based upon what happened a year ago? I don't have an answer on that. And quite frankly, it's too early to say because those records are sealed under Colorado law. We can't have a look at it just yet.

And the investigation is still ongoing, so you know we don't know why he wasn't charged or why the red flag law wasn't triggered in this particular case. So, you know, we just kind of have to wait and see when the -- when the records are unsealed at such time and the investigation has a chance to fully run its course.


BLACKWELL: All right, let's talk about the trend -- the trajectory of mass shootings across the state of Colorado, 60 -- more than 60 mass shootings in Colorado since 2013, 10 or more in 2020, 2021, already this year as well. What needs to change in Colorado to reverse this trajectory?

PICO: Well, I think what you have is much more of a mental health problem among people who are -- who aren't, for some reason, not able to deal with the circumstance that they are. It's not the issue of the guns per se. It's the issue of the fact that there are a number of people who really should have treatments of some kind. (INAUDIBLE)

BLACKWELL: How do you -- how do you it's not the issue of the gun?

PICO: I'm sorry, what?

BLACKWELL: How do you know it's not the issue of the gun? You say it's mental health, and that certainly has a place in the conversation. But to dismiss the issue of the gun, the only thing that every mass shooting has in common is the gun.

PICO: Well -- do you think we should --

BLACKWELL: They may not all have mental health issues. I'm asking why you're dismissing it.

PICO: I'm not dismissing the fact that you have guns, but the issue is that guns is just a tool. The problem is the individuals who have it. If you take guns away, for example, you're going to have the same sort of problem. It's the violence problem is not necessarily a gun problem. In other places where guns have been taken away, and other things are used.

In London, for example, you're talking about steak knife control. In China, you had a mass killing in a school, much more horrific, and it was done with knives. So, it's the issue of the individuals, not necessarily the gun. The guns have been around for, you know, hundreds of years here. We've had semi-automatic guns around for 100 years. And this is more of a recent problem.

So, the problem is not the guns per se. That's just a tool. The individuals who need to be in some sort of treatment program are identified and so forth. But here, what we have in Colorado, is some pretty strict laws on all these things.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. PICO: And we still have the problem. So, you know, you've got a red flag law, you've got magazine restrictions, you have a lot of what people say they need, and yet we still have a problem.


PICO: So, it's not the -- it's a violence problem. It's not necessarily a gun problem.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. Sadly, we're out of time. We're going to have to have your back because I think you would agree with us that the United States doesn't have a monopoly of people with mental health issues. Surely, your state doesn't have a monopoly of people that are suffering from mental health issues.

PICO: Certainly, not.

GOLODRYGA: But as we saw from that graph, the numbers are going up. Police responded within minutes and still, five people were dead. So, perhaps you can come back and talk about the weapon itself and the role that it plays in this.

PICO: Sure.

BLACKWELL: Colorado State Representative Andy Pico, thank you.

All right, the holiday travel rush, it's on. It actually started a couple of days ago, if not in earnest yesterday.


BLACKWELL: Huge numbers of people are passing through airports and highways. Some help for your trip, that's next.

GOLODRYGA: And from the turkey to the sides, we'll tell you how inflation is making this a much more expensive holiday.



GOLODRYGA: Well, today marks one of the busiest travel days of the year. An estimated 55 million Americans are expected to leave home for Thanksgiving and that's back to pre-pandemic levels.

BLACKWELL: Pete Muntean is on the road, at I-95 in Dumfries, Virginia. How do things look in there?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'll show you, Victor. This is 95 southbound on your Dumfries. If you've ever tried to drive from Maryland, Northern Virginia, DC down on I-95 south to Richmond and the Tidewater area points south, you know, this spot. This is the linchpin. This is where it typically gets bad.

We have been in stop-and-go traffic for the last few miles now. And this goes for about another 20 miles. We are in the thick of it. This is kind of the worst period, AAA says, to drive for the Thanksgiving holiday, which really started about 11:00 a.m., goes until about 8:00 p.m. tonight. Today will be the busiest on the roads.

The forecast from AAA, 48.7 million people driving 50 miles or more over the next five days starting today, really not all that far off from the 2019 actual numbers when we saw 49.9 million people hit the roads. Just look at the breakdown here of the metro areas, they're going to see really bad traffic over the next few hours. Atlanta, New York, LA, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, the congestion today will be twice the worst congestion on a normal day. So, this is going to be really bad out there.

What is really interesting here is that gas prices really are factoring into this for folks even though we're seeing gas prices the highest they've ever been for the Thanksgiving rush. $3.61 is the national average according to AAA, up from $3.40 not all that long ago, about a year ago. So, you know that -- down from the highs of $5 which we saw back on June 14, but it's going down just not really keeping folks off the roads. They can't really be daunted especially when you look at traffic like this on I-95. It is not holding people back, Victor and Bianna.


BLACKWELL: Yes, Pete, wonderful report. I got everything I needed. What's with these house phones hang it up next to you. Where do you get them, from family ties like --

MUNTEAN: Oh, these -- this is --

BLACKWELL: Do they have a cell phone anywhere?

MUNTEAN: It's a little -- it's a little old school. This is what we call the RCV, the roaming coverage vehicle. And yes, we got landlines in here. It's so -- it's so we can talk to you guys actually, although it's kind of outdated now. I'm able to hear that you're piece on my phone in 2022.

GOLODRYGA: It's like a 1982 Batmobile you're in right now.


MUNTEAN: It doesn't make me feel very official. Yes.

BLACKWELL: Pete Muntean, thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Keep smiling.

BLACKWELL: All right, air travel, let's talk about that, hovering around pre-pandemic levels. The TSA estimates that agents will screen 2.5 million passengers between today and Sunday, all this despite a spike in airfare costs. Barry Biffle is the CEO of the low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines. He's with us now. Barry, good to see you. I checked FlightAware before the show, things are looking good. What are your expectations for today and through the rest of the holiday weekend? BARRY BIFFLE, CEO, FRONTIER AIRLINES: Yes, look, I think we're getting people back in the air and it's good to see. And the season is actually more elongated. It's unfortunate to hear about that traffic on the road. But you know we started seeing outbound travel for Thanksgiving start last Thursday, actually. And we're seeing the returns spread into next week. So, it's kind of flattening out that demand. So it actually enables more people to travel. I then used to but yes, we're -- well, within I think the industry overall is doing well with operations.

BLACKWELL: Has Frontiers solved the staffing issues that made travel for every flyer on any airline really over the summer, have they solved those issues?

BIFFLE: So, we actually had a great summer --

BLACKWELL: Just made it a nightmare for people that night.

BIFFLE: Yes. So, we actually had a great summer operationally for Frontier, we had staffed ahead of it and stayed ahead of it. And so, we didn't have the challenges. And, in fact, had one of our best summers we've ever had operationally. But the industry did have some challenges but, you know, our perception is that pretty much everyone has got the staffing challenges behind them now.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about this letter that three Democratic senators sent to Secretary Buttigieg yesterday, Secretary of Transportation, asking the DOT to require airlines to cover secondary costs for delays or cancellations that are the airline's fault or at least controllable meal vouchers, hotel stays. Frontier is the only major U.S. airline that does not offer hotel stays for passengers -- any passenger affected by controllable overnight delays or cancellations. Why?

BIFFLE: Well, so we don't actually have daily flights in all of our markets, so we have provided hotels. But the way that the -- that the -- I guess the rules were written there, it makes it sound like we never provide meals, hotels because there may not be another flight for another week. So, we don't provide it for seven days but we do provide hotels in certain situations.

BLACKWELL: OK. Do you or will you offer potentially put them on another flight with another partner or with another airline?

BIFFLE: No. We do provide refunds and we will allow them to fly on the next flight. But we do not use other airlines.

BLACKWELL: All right, let me ask you about the go wild all you can fly pass.

BIFFLE: But if I could say --

BLACKWELL: Go ahead.

BIFFLE: If I could say though, I do think that you know, in the past airlines did, you know allow reciprocal, you know, caring on each other. And I think that's something that we should look into as an industry. We would welcome that.

BLACKWELL: All right. You're the CEO. We'll have you back once you look into it. Let me ask you about all you can fly past. 799 for 12 months, some passes, they go up after that limited number for flights on more than 300 days of the year, including international travel. Is this the way that you think the industry is going and why is Frontier going in this direction?

BIFFLE: Well, I think we're unique. We don't carry a lot of business travelers so we don't have a lot of walk-up demand. But if we look over the last year, we carry -- we had over 5 million empty seats. And we projected that we'll have another 5 million over the next year. And so, this gives you unlimited access to those seats over 300 days a year for 799. And in -- if the flights are available tomorrow, you know, if the next day, we'll confirm you and it's up to 10 days for international. So, you know if you just take a trip or two international, the pass pays for itself and it kind of gives you freedom and it really fights the inflation that people are seeing.

BLACKWELL: Barry Biffle, CEO of Frontier Airlines, thank you. Happy Thanksgiving.

BIFFLE: Likewise.

GOLODRYGA: Twin explosions struck Jerusalem this morning. One was at a bus station that killed a teenager. We were live on the ground as the manhunt for those responsible continues.