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Erin Burnett Outfront
Police: 2 Doctors, 2 Others Killed In Tulsa Mass Shooting; New Questions About Who Knew Uvalde Students Were Alive Inside Room; Zelenskyy: 20 Percent Of Ukraine Is Now Under Russian Control; Soon: Biden To Address Nation After Recent Mass Shootings; Biden Delivers Speech On Guns In Wake Of Mass Shootings; Biden Calls On Congress To Act On Gun Reform After Mass Shootings. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired June 02, 2022 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next:
A teacher's final moment. We're learning tonight of a call that a teacher who was killed in the Uvalde school massacre reportedly made as she was dying.
Plus, a Texas state senator raising questions about whether the 911 calls from inside Robb Elementary were relayed to the incident commander. That state senator is my guest.
And President Biden about to deliver a major primetime address on guns this hour. He's expected to press Washington to take action after the rash of deadly mass shootings. We're going to bring you his speech when it happens this hour live.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT this evening, President Biden about to address the epidemic of gun violence in the United States. We're looking at live pictures of the White House at this moment. It is where President Biden will be speaking in just about 30 minutes.
His primetime speech follows, of course, in the past few weeks, has been mass shooting after mass shooting that have taken the lives of children, teachers, doctors, where mothers, fathers, grandparents, friends, in so many different settings -- hospitals, grocery stores, schools.
These are just some of the faces of those who have lost their lives in Buffalo, Uvalde, and now, Tulsa, where police say two doctors, a receptionist, and a patient were killed during a rampage at a medical building. The gunman, according to police, OK, purchased the AR-15 style rifle three hours before he went and murdered all those people.
He went to the hospital with the intent of killing his doctor, three hours before he goes and buys an AR-15, takes it immediately to kill.
In Uvalde, Texas, haunting details about the final moments of Eva Mireles, a fourth grade teacher at Robb Elementary.
According to "The New York Times," Mireles was on the phone with her husband, who's an officer with the school district, during the shooting, at one point telling him she was dying.
Omar Jimenez is OUTFRONT in Uvalde tonight. I do want to begin though with Lucy Kafanov who is in Tulsa as that story develops.
And, Lucy, what more are you learning about that shooting tonight?
LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are getting a sense of the motive, Erin, a grudge against a doctor blamed for ongoing back pain after surgery as well as a TikTok of how this massacre unfolded.
The shooter, Michael Louis, named by police today, had an operation in his back here last month, May 19, with Dr. Preston Phillips. Louis was released on May 24th. But he continued to complain of pain after the procedure. He called this office multiple times and was seen again by Dr. Preston on May 31st. He called again yesterday, but at 2:00 p.m., he purchased that AR style rifle, and nearly three hours later, the 911 calls began to flood in.
Lewis used two guns, that AR style weapon that he bought a day after shooting, as well as a handgun purchase three days prior. We know that he had a letter on him, police say, which specifically said that he was going to be, quote, killing Dr. Phillips and anyone who came in his way.
Four people got in his way, including Dr. Phillips. Dr. Preston Phillips was actually 59 years old when he was gunned down. He spent his time annually volunteering in Africa, providing surgeries with a nonprofit to people who needed them.
He was killed alongside Dr. Stephanie Husen, 48-year-old, sports medicine specialist. Amanda Glenn, a receptionist, a mother of two boys. And also William Love, a patient who is there in the wrong place at the wrong time, just like the others who lost their lives.
The doctor at the press conference earlier today breaking down, apologizing to Mr. Love's family about why the team couldn't save his life. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. RYAN PARKER, ASSOCIATE CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, SAINT FRANCIS HOSPITAL: We so wanted to be able to utilize our skills and training to save these precious lives. To the family of Mr. Love, I am so sorry we could not save you. They are grieving with you. When I walk this morning I really just want to this to all be a bad dream, but this is the reality of our world right now. And today, our world and our St. Francis family are devastated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAFANOV: We were outside of the San Antonio Hospital in Texas last week, talking to traumatized doctors and nurses who were treating the Uvalde patients, who also treated the Sutherland Springs mass shooting victims. Now we are in front of this medical facility, where the doctors themselves and some of the people there at the time were targets of America's 233rd mass shooting -- Erin.
BURNETT: Just so far this year. Lucy, thank you very much.
And now to the other horrible and totally preventable shooting that we are following tonight.
Omar Jimenez is OUTFRONT from Uvalde, Texas.
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More than a week after the shooting at Robb Elementary, there are still questions now about the frantic 911 calls from children trapped inside.
ROLAND GUTIERREZ (D), TEXAS STATE SENATOR: The 911 calls were being communicated to the so called incident commander.
JIMENEZ: That incident commander was Uvalde schools police chief, Pete Arredondo, leading when investigators say officers delayed entering the classroom. State Senator Gutierrez is raising questions about whether information was properly relayed among responders on scene, and what radio procedures were followed.
A report from the Texas Department of Public Safety into the shooting is expected Friday.
What are you looking for most in this report?
GUTIERREZ: I want to know where the cops were in that room. I want to know how many of my cops were there. How many state troopers were there. I want to know how many state troopers were outside. I want to know how many federal officers were inside for 45 minutes.
JIMENEZ: There was another link to the outside though among the flurried communications. A Uvalde county judge told the New York county judge, Eva Mireles, a teacher that was killed, had been on the phone in her final moments with her husband, a school district police officer, who was outside. As Mireles lay wounded, she was comforted by a friend, a Department of Public Safety trooper, Juan Maldonado.
JUAN MALDONADO, SERGEANT, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: It was an honor to spend the last moment with Eva as she left his Earth into a greater place.
JIMENEZ: For survivors, like Leanne Garcia (ph), she still hears the bullets, says her grandfather, and even now gets scared at the slightest sounds.
He says people things will never be the same for his family. Her face is damaged and swollen, he says. It was difficult for him to even look at a photo of her. But while Garcia awaits a trip home from the hospital, others are
finding solace in memorials, which continued today and are expected to every day for the rest of the week. It's a pain shared in this community.
I asked Rodriguez how difficult it's been.
Oh, yes, he says. May God give these people strength to move forward.
And to us, too.
JIMENEZ: And they are one of the lucky ones, as Garcia and the family tells us is expected to be okay.
On the investigative side, search warrants obtained by CNN show that authorities were given permission to look through this shooter's cell phone, which was found next to the shooter's body after he had, of course, been killed. The results of course hadn't been made public.
Separately a county judge who is in charge of the death certificates and autopsies, told CNN the wounds on these victims were all over the bodies, indicating these were -- the shooter was indiscriminately firing at these kids in many cases.
But moving forward as part of it, this judge also said that at one point, nine bodies had to be moved out of this classroom just to get to the injured out, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Omar. Every new detail we get, and just unbearable to imagine.
And I want to go now to Texas state senator, Democrat Roland Gutierrez.
And I'm -- well, I'm not glad to be speaking to you again, but I -- I do know that you -- you know the most about what's going on here, Senator, and I appreciate you taking the time to share it with me.
I do know you have some new information on the investigation. What can you tell me about it?
STATE SENATOR ROLAND GUTIERREZ (D), TEXAS: Well, Erin, unfortunately, it's not new information. That clip that you just showed earlier about me getting the information tomorrow about where the police were inside the building, which law enforcement agencies they belong to --
GUTIERREZ: -- and what times they were there, I just got a text from Steve McCraw, who I've been working with for the last several days, the last ten days, on this, very effectively, today, he told me at 5:00 that he was ordered not to give me that information.
BURNETT: And any reason as to why? I mean, this is obviously the crucial information that everyone has been waiting for, of who was there, when they were there, and what they knew when they were there.
GUTIERREZ: Well, I know from a conversation earlier that we had today that it was between at first, last week, we were told there was two DPS troopers in that hallway. Now we know that there were as many as 13 at one time during that 45-minute, Erin, or thereafter.
And so, we need to piece that information together. That's why that's important to me as a state legislature to --
GUTIERREZ: -- understand where the police that were -- that are accountable to us were in that facility.
We were told just now by Colonel McCraw that the district attorney is now presenting this information at some point, I suppose, to a grand jury. That this is something that's normal.
You know, quite frankly, the perpetrator is dead.
BURNETT: Right. So --
GUTIERREZ: I mean, unless we're -- unless we're going to indict a bunch of cops that made a bunch of mistakes, I don't really understand what we're talking about here.
BURNETT: It sounds like that is what they're talking about, right, from what you're saying?
GUTIERREZ: Perhaps. You know, perhaps, perhaps.
There was a lot of malfeasance here, a lot of malfeasance, a lot of abrogation of appropriate protocols.
Earlier today -- you know, I've had to piece things together myself talking to the state's communication emergency office about 911 calls in the rural communities, understanding that the nine calls -- 911 calls were going to -- to the Uvalde PD. But they were also going to 17 other entities here.
I also know that Arredondo was not receiving those 911 calls, and not been told a reason why.
This community is a community that is hurt, that is fractured, that is devastated. But absolutely, they need to know what happened here.
BURNETT: So let me ask you, Senator, something very important you just said there. You were talking about the 911 calls.
Just to be clear, at 12:16 p.m., a student calls 911 from that classroom saying eight to nine students are still alive. Police do not breach that door for almost 40 minutes, right, until 12:50. Okay, that's when they go in, right?
GUTIERREZ: That's right.
BURNETT: People died in that interim, okay? People died who didn't need to die because as you've pointed out, children died and there were police right outside.
Now you're saying the city police were aware of those 911 calls, as well as 17 other agencies, but that the person who's actually in charge on the scene in this small town with a totally separate title of school's police chief, Arredondo, maybe the only person who didn't -- didn't know that there were 911 calls coming out of that room? Is that possible?
GUTIERREZ: That has been what is being represented to me. Obviously, I've been hammering law enforcement quite a bit trying to get this information.
Now, Colonel McCraw has been very helpful to me.
GUTIERREZ: Those other agencies are not accountable to the state legislature. And so, I have not been able to talk to them. It's my hope the mayor and other people that they are accountable to will begin to look at this information.
But unfortunately, now, everything has been stopped by the district attorney. It's my hope that she can expeditiously present whatever it is that she needs to print so that this community can get the answers. We need to pull this band-aid off and let people know what happened.
BURNETT: Yes, you're talking about in a room, right, over this period of 40 minutes, people continued to die. That means bullets are heard, screams are heard.
One does not need a 911 call if you're in the hallway outside to know there's still something going on in the room. I'm not -- obviously, I'll just say these are -- these are fair questions to ask.
Do you know, Senator, whether Chief Arredondo, who was the incident commander, was on the scene during the shooting? Whether he had a radio with him? Whether he was physically there himself?
GUTIERREZ: At this time, Erin, I don't know the answer to that question and I don't think any of us who've been presented with that -- with that either, throughout this process.
This is probably the most bungled investigation in responses we've had that I've ever seen with these types of mass shootings in the United States.
It is a deep, deep concern to me that we have a policy where we have a tremendous amount of police force, that are state troopers along the border, and yet we have this issue confronting us right square in the face that we weren't able to execute as well as we should have.
I respect law enforcement but here, there was an abundance of errors, admittedly so by Colonel McCraw.
BURNETT: I mean, clearly, an abundance of errors and I think as -- I think the news that you're talking about of a grand jury being empanelled is obviously could be hugely significant, but I think we all know that this many people did not need to die, even if you accept that someone showed up with a gun, this many people did not need to die. And mistakes -- horrible, horrible mistakes were made.
Senator, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.
GUTIERREZ: Thank you, Erin.
And next, we are standing by for President Biden's primetime remarks on gun violence. They are slated to begin here in just about 10, 15 minutes. We are live at the White House with that.
Plus, Ukraine's president now conceding that Russian forces control 20 percent of Ukraine. Now, he does add Ukraine is having some success on the battlefield. We're on the ground tonight.
BURNETT: Right now, we are waiting for President Biden's prime time address to the nation after a series of deadly mass shootings. That speech is expected to begin in about 10 minutes.
We are also following the news and developments out of Ukraine, where President Zelenskyy tonight says Ukrainian forces have been seeing some success pushing back Russian forces in Severodonetsk where Russian forces were trying to occupy that crucial town.
And in Kherson, where Ukrainian forces say they just liberated five miles of land. Five miles, that is the way this war is a war of attrition and foot after foot, but those victories, such that they are, come hours after Zelenskyy said that 20 percent of Ukraine is now in the hands of Russian forces.
Matthew Chance is OUTFRONT in Kyiv tonight.
And, Matthew, 20 percent of the country under Russian control and President Zelenskyy is coming out and saying it loudly and clearly.
What does this mean?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean it gives us a really good indication, it underlines just the price that Ukraine has paid in the past four months. It's been 100 days now since the invasion began, 20 percent of the country, an area the size, he says of Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands, actually about the size of the state of New York that is currently occupied by the Russians, inside Ukraine.
[19:20:11] You add to that the price in terms of human casualties and you got tens of thousands of people across the country that have been affected, probably killed. Millions have been displaced, 5 million people have left their homes and left the country and gone out of Ukraine altogether, and there are millions more displaced internally inside Ukraine.
So it's an enormous price that Ukraine has been paying and continues to pay in this war with Russia. So, you know, and President Zelenskyy underlining that -- Erin.
BURNETT: Yeah. And I know you know and I know Zelenskyy was saying 60 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers dying everyday. Now, the price they are paying is so incredibly high and yet, you know, you speak to soldiers, talk to a soldier today going back to the front lines just without hesitancy, they go.
And they fight. I know that you have new reporting, Matthew, on this very crucial issue of what Russia has been doing in terms of taking Ukrainians en mass and deporting them to Russia, putting them in some sort of filtration camps there. The word is sinister, and the reality, as it becomes more and more clear appears to be even more so. These are staggering numbers of people you are now learning are going through this.
CHANCE: Yeah, well actually, the most staggering figure I think comes from the Russians themselves. They say that there are 1.6 million people from Ukraine that have come into Russia. They say they've given them sanctuary and they're saving them from this conflict and basically they are, you know, offering them shelter.
But that's not how it's characterized, as you can imagine, on the Ukrainian side. These are people, according to the Ukrainian government who have been forcibly deported from their homes, taken out of Ukraine to depopulated whole swaths of the country and amongst them, more than 200,000 children, President Zelenskyy of Ukraine saying this is, you know, talking about this in terms of it being a huge tragedy for the country, couple of hundred thousand Ukrainian children taken out, transplanted to Russia in the hope, he says, they will basically forget their Ukrainian roots.
BURNETT: I mean, when you put it in that context, 1.6 million, 200,000, this is why people are talking about genocide with this forcible movement and, you know, raising these horrors.
All right. Thank you so much, Matthew Chance, with that reporting live from Kyiv tonight.
And next, we are just moments away from President Biden's prime-time address on gun violence. We are going to bring this to you live, next.
BURNETT: You're looking at live pictures inside the White House. Just moments from now, President Biden will approach that podium and address the American people about gun violence and just the most recent mass shootings, the ones in Buffalo, Uvalde, and Tulsa. Biden expected to use this rare prime time address to the nation to urge Congress to pass common sense gun control legislation.
Obviously, that has been a complete nonstarter after every single mass shooting in recent memory.
Let's go right to chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins, as we get ready for President Biden.
Kaitlan, this is a significant moment. They have chosen to do this in primetime, obviously going to begin in a couple of moments. And as you've been reporting, he was the one pushing to give this speech in this forum.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Erin, and he had been thinking about doing so before four people were killed in Tulsa last night. He didn't make the final decision to give this speech until today and it's not often you see President Biden give an evening address. Typically, he does them in the morning or afternoon.
I think this really highlights the importance the White House is putting on this, and having him speak to the nation after what we've seen happen in the United States after the last several weeks because yes, there is gun violence in the United States everyday but the White House, obviously, having to brief President Biden over three shootings in just the last three weeks alone, the one of course in Buffalo, Uvalde and then last night in Tulsa, a third briefing for the president to talk about this.
One thing I think to look for tonight, the White House has not really previewed yet is whether or not he is going to call for Congress to enact specific legislation. They want him -- they want Congress to take action here. They want common sense gun laws, they say, but haven't said exactly what it is the president is looking for in this round of negotiations.
A lot of that is by design because the White House says he wants to give Congress space to have these talks that are happening right now between Democrats and Republicans and they say that the president has not been directly involved in those yet, but clearly, the president speaking to the nation. He's also speaking to those lawmakers as well, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Kaitlan, thank you very much.
As those doors open, of course, we're waiting the president.
With me now, John Avlon, our senior political analyst, and Anthony Barksdale, former acting Baltimore police commissioner.
So, John, the president pushed to do this and he pushed to do it in primetime. This is obviously rare for him to do so, right, demanding the television time in a very specific way at this time, at this second. So the bar is high. JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The bar is high, but this
is an issue he cares deeply about. The third speech on guns in three weeks, he clearly thinks this is something his administration will be judged on and he thinks there might be a chance, just maybe, that Congress can get something done.
He has a record of passing gun legislation as he is fond of pointing out back to the 1990s, much tougher bar now, given how polarized Congress is, with some possibility. The question is what constructive role can the president play in pushing this forward today.
BURNETT: And commissioner, let's talk about that, right? I mean, the nation is on edge about gun the nation is on edge about gun violence. People are angry on both sides of the political spectrum but completely divided on what to do about it. You have some in Congress already saying, you know, raising the age to 21 is unconstitutional, right? You have people who are starting in some of the most basic reforms saying they're nonstarters.
Is there anything President Biden could say tonight that would make a difference?
ANTHONY BARKSDALE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I just want the president to stay on the course that he's set to do something about this. That 21 years of age argument -- think about this, Erin -- two incidents that involve 18-year-olds, look how many we've lost because of that.
So, it's worth the fight. Hopefully, it's not a fight that, you know, that can't be figured out, but we need new laws. We need action, and we need it now.
BURNETT: And John, you know, in am the context of John Cornyn from Texas, any restrictions not going to go there, right? Jim Jordan the one that made the comment on the unconstitutionality of 21, are there enough Republicans to move forward on some common sense? And when I say common sense, when the White House says it somehow comes off political, I want to use it in the sense this is something the vast majority of Americans support --
BURNETT: -- and also vast majority of members of the NRA support.
AVLON: Well, yes and that's what's so critical. We have super majorities that the American supporting things that fall under common sense gun safety laws, preventing people from mental illness, from getting their hands on weapons, closing the gun shell loophole, for example. These are common sense.
Here's the president of the United States.
BURNETT: Yeah. He says -- he's walking out here in these final seconds, obviously so much at stake for him in this address. Because it's one thing to speak and get the air time and what matters is if we're going to listen, is he actually going to be able to move the needle in Congress.
So, here is President Biden speaking on gun control.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On Memorial Day this past Monday, Jill and I visited Arlington National Cemetery.
As we entered those hallowed grounds, we saw rows and rows of crosses among the rows of headstones, with other emblems of belief, honoring those who paid the ultimate price on battlefields around the world.
The day before, we visited Uvalde -- Uvalde, Texas. In front of Robb Elementary School, we stood before 21 crosses for 19 third and fourth graders and two teachers. On each cross, a name.
And nearby, a photo of each victim that Jill and I reached out to touch. Innocent victims, murdered in a classroom that had been turned into a killing field.
Standing there in that small town, like so many other communities across America, I couldn't help but think there are too many other schools, too many other everyday places that have become killing fields, battlefields here in America.
We stood at such a place just 12 days before, across from a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, memorializing 10 fellow Americans -- a spouse, a parent, a grandparent, a sibling -- gone forever.
At both places, we spent hours with hundreds of family members who were broken and whose lives will never be the same. And they had one message for all of us: Do something. Just do something. For God's sake, do something.
After Columbine, after Sandy Hook, after Charleston, after Orlando, after Las Vegas, after Parkland, nothing has been done.
This time, that can't be true. This time, we must actually do something. The issue we face is one of conscience and common sense.
For so many of you at home, I want to be very clear: This is not about taking away anyone's guns. It's about -- not about vilifying gun owners. In fact, we believe we should be treating responsible gun owners as an example of how every gun owner should behave.
I respect the culture and the tradition and the concerns of lawful gun owners. At the same time, the Second Amendment, like all other rights, is not absolute. It was -- it was Justice Scalia who wrote, and I quote, "Like most rights, the right -- Second Amendment -- the rights granted by the Second Amendment are not unlimited.
Not unlimited. It never has been. There have always been limitations on what weapons you can own in America.
For example, machine guns have been federally regulated for nearly 90 years. And this is still a free country. This isn't about taking away anyone's rights. It's about protecting children. It's about protecting families. It's about protecting whole communities.
It's about protecting our freedoms to go to school, to a grocery store, and to a church without being shot and killed.
According to new data just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, guns are the number one killer of children in the United States of America. The number one killer. More than car accidents. More than cancer.
Over the last two decades, more school-aged children have died from guns than on-duty police officers and active-duty military combined. Think about that: more kids than on-duty cops killed by guns, more kids than soldiers killed by guns.
For God's sake, how much more carnage are we willing to accept? How many more innocent American lives must be taken before we say "enough"? Enough.
I know that we can't prevent every tragedy. But here's what I believe we have to do. Here's what the overwhelming majority of the American people believe we must do. Here's what the families in Buffalo and Uvalde, in Texas, told us we must do.
We need to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. And if we can't ban assault weapons, then we should raise the age to purchase them from 18 to 21. Strengthen background checks. Enact safe storage laws and red-flag laws. Repeal the immunity that protects gun manufacturers from liability. Address the mental health crisis deepening the trauma of gun violence and as a consequence of that violence.
These are rational, commonsense measures. And here's what it all means. It all means this: We should reinstate the assault weapons ban and high-capacity magazines that we passed in 1994 with bipartisan support in Congress and the support of law enforcement. Nine categories of semi-automatic weapons were included in that ban, like AK-47s and AR-15s.
And in the 10 years it was law, mass shootings went down. But after Republicans let the law expire in 2004 and those weapons were allowed to be sold again, mass shootings tripled. Those are the facts.
A few years ago, the family of the inventor of the AR-15 said he would have been horrified to know that its design was being used to slaughter children and other innocent lives instead of being used as a military weapon on the battlefields, as it was designed -- that's what it was designed for. Enough. Enough.
We should limit how many rounds a weapon can hold. Why in God's name should an ordinary citizen be able to purchase an assault weapon that holds 30-round magazines that let mass shooters fire hundreds of bullets in a matter of minutes? The damage was so devastating in Uvalde, parents had to do DNA swabs to identify the remains of their children -- 9 and 10-year-old children. Enough.
We should expand background checks to be -- keep guns out of the hands of felons, fugitives, and those under restraining orders. Stronger background checks are something that the vast majority of Americans, including the majority of gun owners, agree on.
I also believe we should have safe storage laws and personal liability for not locking up your gun.
The shooter in Sandy Hook came from a home full of guns that were too easy to access. That's how he got the weapons -- the weapon he used to kill his mother and then murder 26 people, including 20 first graders.
If you own a weapon, you have a responsibility to secure it -- every responsible gun owner agrees -- to make sure no one else can have access to it, to lock it up, to have trigger locks. And if you don't and something bad happens, you should be held responsible.
We should also have national red-flag laws so that a parent, a teacher, a counselor can flag for a court that a child, a student, a patient is exhibiting violent tendencies, threatening classmates, or experiencing suicidal thoughts that makes them a danger to themselves or to others.
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have red-flag laws. The Delaware law is named after my son, Attorney General Beau Biden.
Fort Hood, Texas, 2009 -- 13 dead and more than 30 injured.
Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, 2018, 17 dead, 17 injured. In both places, countless others suffering with invisible wounds. Red-flag laws could have stopped both these shooters.
In Uvalde, the shooter was 17 when he asked his sister to buy him an assault weapon, knowing he'd be denied because he was too young to purchase one himself. She refused.
But as soon as he turned 18, he purchased two assault weapons for himself. Because in Texas, you can be 18 years old and buy an assault weapon even though you can't buy a pistol in Texas until you're 21.
If we can't ban assault weapons, as we should, we must at least raise the age to be able to purchase one to 21.
Look, I know some folks will say, 18-year-olds can serve in the military and fire those weapons. But that's with training and supervision by the best-trained experts in the world. Don't tell me raising the age won't make a difference. Enough.
We should repeal the liability shield that often protects gun manufacturers from being sued for the death and destruction caused by their weapons. They're the only industry in this country that has that kind of immunity. Imagine -- imagine if the tobacco industry had been immune from being sued, where we'd be today.
The gun industry's special protections are outrageous. It must end.
And let there be no mistake about the psychological trauma that gun violence leaves behind. Imagine being that little girl -- that brave little girl in Uvalde who smeared the blood off her murdered friend's body onto her own face to lie still among the corpses in her classroom and pretend she was dead in order to stay alive.
Imagine -- imagine what it would be like for her to walk down the hallway of any school again.
Imagine what it's like for children who experience this kind of trauma every day in school, in the streets, in communities all across America.
Imagine what it is like for so many parents to hug their children goodbye in the morning, not sure whether they'll come back home.
Unfortunately, too many people don't have to imagine that at all.
Even before the pandemic, young people were already hurting. There's a serious youth mental health crisis in this country, and we have to do something about it. That's why mental health is at the heart of my Unity Agenda that I laid out in the State of the Union Address this year.
We must provide more school counselors, more school nurses, more mental health services for students and for teachers, more people volunteering as mentors to help young people succeed, more privacy protection and resources to keep kids safe from the harms of social media.
This Unity Agenda won't fully heal the wounded souls, but it will help. It matters.
I just told you what I'd do. The question now is: What will the Congress do?
The House of Representatives has already passed key measures we need. Expanding background checks to cover nearly all gun sales, including at gun shows and online sales. Getting rid of the loophole that allows a gun sale to go through after three business days even if the background check has not been completed.
And the House is planning even more action next week. Safe storage requirements. The banning of high-capacity magazines. Raising the age to buy an assault weapon to 21. Federal red-flag law. Codifying my ban on ghost guns that don't have serial numbers and can't be traced. And tougher laws to prevent gun trafficking and straw purchases.
This time, we have to take the time to do something. And this time, it's time for the Senate to do something. But, as we know, in order to do any -- get anything done in the Senate, we need a minimum of 10 Republican senators.
I support the bipartisan efforts that include a small group of Democrats and Republican senators trying to find a way. But my God, the fact that the majority of the Senate Republicans don't want any of these proposals even to be debated or come up for a vote, I find unconscionable.
We can't fail the American people again. Since Uvalde, just over a week ago, there have been 20 other mass shootings in America, each with four or more people killed or injured, including yesterday at a hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
A shooter deliberately targeted a surgeon using an assault weapon he bought just a few hours before his rampage that left the surgeon, another doctor, a receptionist, and a patient dead, and many more injured.
That doesn't count the carnage we see every single day that doesn't make the headlines.
I've been in this fight for a long time. I know how hard it is, but I'll never give up. And if Congress fails, I believe this time a majority of the American people won't give up either. I believe the majority of you will act to turn your outrage into making this issue central to your vote.
Enough. Enough. Enough.
Over the next 17 days, the families in Uvalde will continue burying their dead. It will take that long in part because it's a town where everyone knows everyone, and day by day they will honor each one they lost.
Jill and I met with the owner and staff of the funeral home that is being strong, strong, strong, strong to take care of their own.
And the people of Uvalde mourn. As they do over the next 17 days, what will we be doing as a nation?
Jill and I met with the sister of the teacher who was murdered and whose husband died of a heart attack two days later, leaving behind four beautiful, orphaned children -- and all now orphaned. The sister asked us: What could she say? What could she tell her nieces and nephews?
It was one of the most heartbreaking moments that I can remember. All I could think to say was -- I told her to hold them tight. Hold them tight.
After visiting the school, we attended mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church with Father Eddie. In the pews, families and friends held each other tightly. As Archbishop Gustavo spoke, he asked the children in attendance to come up on the altar and sit on the altar with him as he spoke. There wasn't enough room, so a mom and her young son sat next to Jill and me in the first pew.
And as we left the church, a grandmother who had just lost her granddaughter passed me a handwritten letter. It read, quote: Erase the invisible line that is dividing our nation. Come up with a solution and fix what's broken and make the changes that are necessary to prevent this from happening again, end of quote.
My fellow Americans, enough. Enough. It's time for each of us to do our part. It's time to act.
For the children we've lost, for the children we can save, for the nation we love, let's hear the call and the cry. Let's meet the moment. Let us finally do something.
God bless the families who are hurting. God bless you all.
From a hymn based on the 91st Psalm sung in my church: May He raise you up on eagle's wings and bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun and hold you in the palm of His hand.
That's my prayer for all of you. God bless you.
BURNETT: And that's the president of the United States. He is obviously not taking questions after his remarks there which were about 17, 18 minutes addressing the nation. Obviously, very emotional.
John Avlon, Anthony Barksdale are back with me. Dana Bash is also with me, our chief political correspondent and co-anchor of "STATE OF THE UNION".
I should note as he walks out there so far for our viewers to know, they did a symbolism of the candles. No doubt many of you -- you notice, may have wondered, is that the number of people in these recent shootings? It actually was to commemorate all 56 U.S. states and territories and to get the commentary from the White House that this scourge, this epidemic of gun violence has affected every single U.S. state and the territory. So, that is the symbolism of those candles.
Dana, in the speech, he was emotional, but he was also very specific, extremely specific, and he said it and said it again -- very clear on what he wanted: a ban on high capacity magazines, a ban on assault weapons, and if not, a raise of the age to 21, removing the gun company liability laws, having people be responsible for locking up their guns. And it went on and on. He was very, very specific.
This was not a general motivate people.
This was a to-do list. DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It was. And it's a big
change over the past week in the White House response from the president and the people who worked for him in the executive branch, Erin. I was in Uvalde over the weekend and I was there when the president came and had that -- those meetings, private meetings with those families that he discussed.
But on the policy level, the White House did not come out at all to talk about anything except to say it's up to Congress. Congress needs to act and they need to figure it out. The president said at various times until today. There's only so much I can you.
That clearly changed because he does have the bully pulpit, he does have the biggest, loudest, most important megaphone on the planet. And he -- you can tell by not just what he said but the way he said it that it was time to use it exactly right.
The specifics from raising the age to buy a high capacity weapon to red flag laws, to other topics that very much are in play, not just in Congress, Erin, but in states maybe not fully in play, in Texas, but they have happened in other red states. And Florida right now is a red state. And after Parkland, they made some of the very changes that the president was talking about.
BURNETT: And, Commissioner Barksdale, you know, that point, the president did take the time to go through some of the inconsistencies, right? You know, maybe in recent days, people have heard -- well, you can buy an assault weapon in Texas years before you're able to rent a car.
Well, he pointed out today, you can buy an AR-15 in Texas at 18, but you can't buy a pistol until age 21.
These are basic inconsistencies, Commissioner, which I'm sure the president was hoping would, and it would seem, should appeal to anybody with an open mind.
BARKSDALE: Agreed. This message was more than I could have hoped for. It was fair what he is talking about. It's fair. It's illogical. It makes sense to move in this direction.
I just hope that they can find the ten Republicans to make this happen.
BURNETT: So, let's talk about that, John, because this is -- this was the one part of the speech where I saw you flinch a bit, but when he was talking about the Senate, which obviously this is where it's going on. He says he supports the small group working together. But then he was -- he expressed his frustration --
BURNETT: -- with the majority of the GOP.
AVLON: And that was the one discordant moment in the speech. This was -- this is a personal issue for Joe Biden, going back
decades, particularly dealing with the death of children. And this is a time in the speech where he was trying to turn that pain, that raw pain into purpose and specific policy. But he knows, any progress is going to go through the Senate, and he encouraged those senators who were meeting by Zoom now, in good faith, apparently making some progress.
But when he said the majority of Republicans opposed this, that could be interpreted by some as a stick in the eye.
BURNETT: It's unconscionable.
AVLON: That's right.
Especially when Mitch McConnell apparently gave his blessing to John Cornyn and the Republican senators who were negotiating with this.
Can't make the perfect the enemy of the good here. He knows better. He spent a lifetime in the Senate before this. But that's where this is going to get done.
And that list you indicated, that specifics, those are all things that the supermajority of the American people support.
AVLON: So, this is a time to be focusing on that, not castigating people for what could be seen as political --
BURNETT: And by the way, to be clear if people break on party lines on this, it did include both changes to when you can buy a weapon, it also included mental health, right? So, if you're -- if you're reaching to one side or the other --
AVLON: That's right.
BURNETT: -- it was all in there. It was not as if he went one way and not the other.
Kaitlan Collins is back with me now.
So, Kaitlan, what went into the decision as you hear, you know, everyone pointing out here that the big shift, right, from generally, "I support what's going on, I want change," to a very specific laundry list of items?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, and also, the White House had been saying that the president wasn't directly involved in these negotiations on Capitol Hill --
COLLINS: -- because he wanted to give them space. But he did just make news there, Erin, when he was talking about
specifically what he wants to see because yes, a lot of it is what he has said before -- banning assault weapons, universal background checks, these red flag laws, talking about safe storage, talking about mental health. But also saying that if they're not going to ban assault weapons -- they being Congress -- the president said they should raise the age to buy them from 18 to 21.
That is something he kept going back to time and time again in his speech, which seems to hint that that is something that the White House potentially thinks is feasible. It's possible for Capitol Hill, lawmakers on Capitol Hill to come to an agreement on because the president kept going back there. He kept returning there more than anything else in that speech.
And we heard some skepticism from Republicans who were involved in these negotiations on Capitol Hill about this idea of raising the age limit from 18 to 21. One of them is Senator Thom Tillis, a Republican who was saying he wasn't sure if that's an idea that Republicans could get behind because, technically, if you're 18 and in the military, you can have those weapons.
And the president specifically pushed back on that criticism saying there that's different, because if you're in the military, you're being trained by what he said were the best experts in the world, obviously, a reference to the U.S. military.
And so, that did seem to be a point that the president wanted to hammer home repeatedly, of course, along with the word "enough", which he said many times, even there at the end, saying that this has been enough. And so, it was a rallying call for lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Of course, the major question is how did they respond to that? And is that idea -- and that pushback from the president on this day of raising the age from 18 to 21 -- and the criticism of that, if that's something that Republicans could get behind?
BURNETT: So, I want to bring in chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju live on Capitol Hill.
So, Manu, you know, as we go through the list, you heard Kaitlan talking about some of the individuals. You heard John talking about, you know, some of the challenges you seen in the small working group, right?
And you mention Cornyn. Okay, involved, but he's also, you know, today, basically give him the Heisman -- to anybody, you know, making any changes, right? So, it is unclear where these individuals stand.
How realistic is what President Biden just called for? And I understand he doesn't think he's going to get everything on this list, but he thinks he's going to get a lot of it.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, and I think it's still uncertain whether he gets any of it, Erin.
RAJU: These discussions are still happening. They're still very fluid. They're still uncertain, about whether the deal can actually happen here.
I talked to the chief Democratic negotiator, Chris Murphy, about this earlier today. He said he's optimistic that they can get to a, quote, incremental but significant deal. But he also said he's completely, quote, prepared for failure in the case of this all collapsing.
The Democrats want to move pretty quickly. They want to get a deal by the end of next week. But there are still a mountain of issues that they have to resolve.
And one of the big issues is whether or not Republicans will get behind what a small group of members are currently discussing.
And they are not discussing what Joe Biden just called for. They are not discussing a ban on assault weapons. That is not part of the discussions here.
They are not talking about going this far on expanding background checks, as Joe Biden wants. In fact, they're talking about looking at background checks over -- during gun show sales, not over internet sales, and certainly not during private transfers. Joe Biden wants universal background checks. That it's not part of the discussion, Erin.
So, there are really uncertain -- ultimately where Republicans will come down ultimately when this deal comes together, if in fact it does come together. But at the moment, Erin, the big question here is when they come back into town next week, can they get behind something? Can Republicans ultimately get --
RAJU: -- the ten Republican votes to go -- to get behind a deal here? But Joe Biden may ultimately get nothing despite his call for the laundry list, that the asks that he just made there, Erin.
BURNETT: Yeah, despite that there are super majorities.
But, Dana, you know, one interesting thing here, you know, obviously, the window of time is very short. Manu is talking about they're going to come back next week, right Their window of time is pretty short before all of a sudden, you know, things start to flake and they walk away, because that's what they have always done in the past.
BASH: Uh-huh. One congressional aide said it to me this way to me recently, a Democratic aide, that what happens after so many of these events is that they -- this is their allegation -- that Republicans hide behind this bipartisan group, whatever that bipartisan group might be, until the white hot spotlight is off and then everybody moves on. The question is, do we take people like Dick Durbin, the number two
Democrat, or Chris Murphy who has been working very hard on this --
BASH: -- do we take their word when they say that they do feel like this time is different, not just because of the tragedy and the massacre -- massacres, plural -- that we have seen, but because of the conversations that they're having in private?
We don't know the answer to that. But we do know, is that the White House made a tactical decision that they want to keep the spotlight on and do it from the most important person in that building, which is the president of the United States.
It is an open question whether what John Avlon was talking about is true, which is that because it was the president and the tone that he took in some of the language there, it could scare off some Republicans. But that's obviously a risk they wanted to take.
BURNETT: Willing to take.
AVLON: Look, I just think he knows he's not going to get the assault weapons ban. That's why as Kaitlan pointed out, what significant is him saying, if not that, then this, 18 to 21. The red flag laws that Rick Scott signed into law when he was a governor, now as a senator and said he'd be open to.
There are places where we can get common ground. And I think what's clearer than ever is the failure to enact anything after Sandy Hook, in retrospect, does look like the shame that it is. And this is a chance to remedy some that. We'll see if the opportunity is taking --
BURNETT: Certainly the shame that it is, and, of course, at the time, right, as Joe Biden was the one who is heading that up.
Thank you also very much.
And thanks very much to all of you for being with us.
"AC360" begins right now.