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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

McConnell Greenlights Potential Bipartisan Gun Legislation; Closer Look: How Other Countries Have Reduced Gun Violence; Severe Weather Ahead For 60+ Million Along East Coast. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired May 27, 2022 - 05:30   ET





The horrific school shooting in Texas has renewed pressure on lawmakers to take action on gun reform -- something most Republicans have staunchly resisted. But Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell signaled to CNN that he is open to a bipartisan solution on gun violence.

What exactly that means -- well, CNN's Daniella Diaz is live on Capitol Hill to break it all down for us. Daniella, just how far is McConnell willing to go?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Laura, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, yesterday, signaled and gave his blessing to Sen. John Cornyn, that senior senator from Texas where that horrific shooting took place, to start engaging with Democratic colleagues -- namely, Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona -- on a possible gun safety legislation that they could all agree on.

This is what he said exclusively to our CNN -- CNN's Lauren Fox. "I have encouraged him to talk with Sen. Murphy and Sinema and others who are interested in trying to get an outcome that is directly related to the problem. I am hopeful that we could come up with a bipartisan solution."

Now, this could be the signal for some very, very important talks, Laura. This is huge. You know, in the past, Republicans have not met Democratic colleagues at the table on these issues of gun safety legislation, especially after all of the horrific shootings that have taken place in the last decade.


Now, whether the scope -- the scope of this -- of these discussions remains to be seen as that's a huge question mark. But still, it's very, very important that they are now engaging and that Sen. John Cornyn is going to discuss this with his Democratic colleagues. He actually met with Sen. Murphy and said that he had touched -- quote, "touched gloves with Murphy." And he said, quote, "That their talks are just getting started." So this is just the beginning.

Now, remember, the Senate is actually in recess right now. They left town last night. So this is going to take some time. It's not going to be an immediate solution on some sort of gun safety reform, Laura.

But look, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer took to the floor earlier this week and said he wanted to give time to his Democratic colleagues to try to reach a solution on gun safety legislation or some sort of legislation that could combat, of course, these issues that happen -- school shootings, mass shootings. So that is major -- the fact that Republicans are now engaging with Democrats on this issue -- Laura.

JARRETT: All right, we'll see. Danielle, thank you.

At one time, the U.S. was one of many Western countries where guns were part of everyday life. Now, the U.S. stands in a class of its own.

CNN's Brian Todd takes a closer look at how other countries have reduced gun violence.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the wake of the school massacre in Uvalde, attention focuses on the responses of other Western nations to mass shootings -- responses which made enormous differences in their levels of gun violence.

April 1996, a gunman killed 35 people at a resort in the Australian state of Tasmania. Twelve days later, Australian Prime Minister John Howard announced sweeping gun reforms. A national gun buyback program that took up to a million guns out of circulation. A ban on rapid-fire rifles and shotguns. A 28-day waiting period to buy a gun. And a national registry for would-be gun owners.

How did those reforms work?

DANIEL WEBSTER, PROFESSOR, JOHN HOPKINS CENTER FOR GUN VIOLENCE SOLUTIONS: Their rates of gun violence declined quite substantially, both with respect to homicides and with suicides. And they virtually eliminated fatal mass shootings.

TODD (voice-over): Since Australia's gun control laws went into effect in 1996, mass shootings have gone from almost once a year to almost never, with only one since that time.

And John Howard later pointed out his government was able to get that done even though he's a political conservative.

JOHN HOWARD, FORMER AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: There was a lot of resistance inside sections in my own political base, but even the most cynical, skeptical person would acknowledge that we have made a big difference with that prohibition.

TODD (voice-over): Hungerford, England, 1987. A man used two semi- automatic rifles and a handgun to kill 16 people. The British government responded by banning semi-automatic and pump-action weapons.

Nine years later, after a gunman killed 16 children and their teacher in Dunblane, Scotland, Britain announced a law banning the private ownership of all handguns. Britain now has one of the lowest rates of gun-related deaths among developed countries.

In New Zealand, after massacres at two mosques that left 50 people dead in 2019, the government was praised for immediately banning military-style semi-automatic weapons and announcing a gun buyback program.

New Zealand, Australia, Britain -- all countries that, like the U.S., had a culture of gun ownership before those mass shootings. But analysts say they don't see the changes those countries made happening in America.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: The right to own a gun -- the Second Amendment -- is a huge part of American culture. And I think that's really affected the political dynamic -- the political will of being able to get anything done.

WEBSTER: It's the simple structure of our government in the United States that gives substantially undue power to low population -- mostly rural states that are not too keen on gun control.

TODD (on camera): The analysts we spoke to believe the best the U.S. could do at this point is expand background checks. Expand red flag laws -- the state laws that allow police or family members to petition to take guns away from people believed to pose a danger to themselves or others. And institute more oversight of gun dealers. But they say even those modest steps could still make a difference.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


JARRETT: Brian, thank you for that report.

Just ahead for you, the singers who now say they won't play at the NRA convention that kicks off today.






JARRETT: At least four musicians now canceling scheduled performances at the NRA convention this weekend, of course, in the wake of the Texas school shooting. Country singer -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREENWOOD: Singing "God Bless the USA."


JARRETT: There he is. Country singer Lee Greenwood, known for "God Bless the USA" among them. Don McLean and Larry Gatlin also telling CNN they have bowed out as well.

Meantime, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott now says he will skip the event in Houston so he can stay in Uvalde. The governor will send a taped message instead.

Let's bring in now Donald J. Campbell, professor emeritus at the U.S. Military Academy, and the author of "American's Gun Wars: A Cultural History of Gun Control in the United States." Professor, so nice to have you on bright and early this morning. I'm looking forward to your expertise on this.

Your book talks about the gun reform debate really coming down to a clash of cultures and values. How so?

DONALD J. CAMPBELL, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, U.S. MILITARY ACADEMY, AUTHOR, "AMERICA'S GUN WARS" (via Skype): Well, in a sense, if you take a look at the overall culture in the United States, it actually divides into two groups.


In the book, I talk about one group, cosmopolitan Americans, which is typically the urban areas. And that group has been, for the most part, anti-gun. But the other part of America, called bedrock America, more rural in nature, has always been pro-gun. And those two cultures put together really reflect how guns have been interwoven in the overall society of the United States.

JARRETT: Well -- so let's talk about the pro-gun community. Obviously, no community is a monolith, but what do you understand to be the main objection to some of the more modest proposals that are sort of out there right now but frankly, stalled? Like expanding background checks or raising the minimum age for at least purchasing long guns. What is the main driver of concern there? Is it just that it's going to be a slippery slope to a total ban?

CAMPBELL: Yes. I think there's actually two issues. One issue is what you just brought up, it being a slippery slope. You know, if you go back and take a look at the history of the NRA, back in the '70s, it turned out that the NRA was much more moderate in its view of gun regulations and gun control.

What happened during that decade is I think a lot of people in the gun community said hey, we've compromised. We've passed bills. We've done a lot of things that we think should make the country safer. And yet, more and more legislation, more and more restrictions are being put on guns. And so, that made many in the gun community a little bit reluctant to continue to support legislation that they don't see as particularly useful in actually reducing gun violence.

JARRETT: You know, it's interesting --


JARRETT: Go ahead, please.

CAMPBELL: The second thing -- if you take a look at particular suggestions that on the surface look reasonable, members of the gun community would say that yes, but the devil is in the details. For example, you mentioned expanded background checks. The expanded background checks really aren't going to accomplish much except impact gun owners who will follow the law and not those who won't. So, it looks like it may be helpful but in the final analysis, it doesn't do anything effective.

JARRETT: Yes. So in a case like this latest shooting, obviously, he -- it wouldn't have been flagged on a background check. And so the argument is that that's not actually getting to the root of some of the mass shootings we've seen.

One of the other things sort of in the conversation right now that comes up after every school shooting -- it seems like, almost -- is what to do about security on campus, whether it's more security guards and maybe even arming teachers in some cases. What's your take on the effectiveness of these approaches?

There seems to be data out there that suggests that it is no more effective at reducing gun violence to have an armed security guard on campus. But there are certainly some parents who I heard say I actually -- I do want to have an armed guard protecting my kid.

Where do you come down on this?

CAMPBELL: Yes. I think if you take a look at the data there is a certain amount of evidence that suggests security on campus can be effective. It wasn't in this particular case.

But logically speaking, it simply makes sense that if you have a law enforcement officer or a trained armed teacher that they're right there and may be able to intervene while waiting for law enforcement to show up. It takes 10, 15, 20 minutes sometimes. In that period of time, much, much damage can be done.


CAMPBELL: So -- although, for example, the teachers' associations seem to be not behind arming volunteer teachers.


CAMPBELL: I think as a parent, many parents would say that makes sense. And if we don't have armed teachers maybe we should have school resource officers who are armed. Somebody on site who can intervene immediately.


JARRETT: No question we need -- we need more data and more research on this to see what would be most effective and most safe.

Professor Campbell, thank you so much for getting up bright and early there. I know it is extra early out there in Colorado. Thank you.

CAMPBELL: Thank you for having me.

JARRETT: We'll be right back.

CAMPBELL: Appreciate it.



JARRETT: Some rough weather in store for over 60 million Americans along the East Coast who might be looking to leave town early for an extended holiday weekend.

Meteorologist Derek Van Dam is here with the forecast. Derek, you trying to ruin my weekend?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I don't want to be the bearer of bad news but for those 60 million Americans looking to get a head start on their extended holiday weekend, when you navigate the skies or the roadways you'll have to keep two threats in mind. That is the potential for severe weather and the potential for flash flooding, specifically along the East Coast and more particularly, across the mid-Atlantic. That is the area that we're most concerned about today.

First, let's talk about the severe threat. The Storm Prediction Center -- slight risk where you see that shading of yellow -- Philadelphia, D.C., Richmond, all the way to Charleston, South Carolina. Damaging winds. Can't rule out a potential of a tornado or two with this slow- moving storm system. There's a lot of moisture to contend with here as these thunderstorms develop through the course of the afternoon and get the daytime heating from the sun.

And then, the flash flood alerts. Some of these storms moving over the same location for several hours could easily dump two to three inches of rainfall within these metropolitan areas. So that could lead to some localized flash flooding.

Temperatures are going to be cool to start off the Memorial Day weekend but warm up from here for many of the East Coast cities.

Laura, hopefully, that wasn't too bad news for you.

JARRETT: I'm not going anywhere. It's fine. Thank you, Derek.

VAN DAM: I'll take it.

JARRETT: Appreciate it.

VAN DAM: You, too.

JARRETT: So while lawmakers in Washington debate what should happen next on gun reform, Warriors coach Steve Kerr says change is possible, and he has a few ideas.

Andy Scholes has more in this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Andy.


So, Steve Kerr, if you remember, gave that very passionate press conference the day of the Uvalde shooting demanding change from politicians. And ahead of game five last night, he said gun control needs to be thought of as a public safety issue.


STEVE KERR, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS HEAD COACH: For whatever reason, it's a political issue, but it's really a public health issue. So, as soon as we can just shift the dynamic to this being a public health issue then you get momentum. So what I'm asking people to do is to get involved in their local communities.

I've got lots of friends who are Democrats. I've got lots of friends who are Republicans. And all I know is they all want gun violence to go away.


SCHOLES: Yes. Kerr's Warriors, meanwhile, advancing to their sixth NBA Finals in the past eight years -- the first team to do that since Michael Jordan's Bulls in the '90s.

And Klay Thompson was great in game five, making eight threes on this way to 32 points. And in spite of a late run by the Mavs, the Warriors led this game wire-to-wire, winning 120-110.

Steph Curry was named the Inaugural Western Conference Finals MVP.

The Warriors will host game one of the finals on Thursday. The Celtics can punch their ticket to the NBA Finals with a win over the Heat tonight in game six.

All right. Stanley Cup Playoff -- the battle for Alberta coming to an end last night. Oilers and Flames fans packing in outside their respective arenas and it would be a long night. Game five going to overtime in the extra period. The Oilers' best player coming through. Connor McDavid forcing the turnover. He would get it back and bury the game-winner.

Oilers win 5-4 to advance to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in 16 years.

All right. In baseball, the Yankees and Rays social media teams joining forces last night. Instead of tweeting about the game, they presented facts about gun violence in America. They posted nine different statistics on their account simultaneously through the night.

The Yankees calling the tragedies in Uvalde, Buffalo, and other communities across the country intolerable. The Rays adding, "We all deserve to be safe. This cannot become normal. We cannot become numb.

We cannot look the other way. We all know if nothing changes, nothing changes."

And Laura, the Warriors public address announcer doing something similar to what the Heat --


SCHOLES: -- did the night before, saying -- encouraging people to donate to groups that advocate for sensible gun laws. And they all -- and the P.A. announcer added it all starts at the ballot box.

JARRETT: It's very interesting to see how all these teams are using their platform in that way, and not just hopes and prayers but concrete actions. It's really interesting.

SCHOLES: Hoping for change -- yes.

JARRETT: Thanks, Andy -- appreciate it.

SCHOLES: All right.

JARRETT: Thanks so much for joining me. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Today was supposed to be the first day of summer break for 19 children and two teachers. Instead, the families are planning their funerals.

I'm John Berman in Uvalde, Texas this morning. Brianna Keilar is in Washington.

This morning, our exclusive conversation with an 11-year-old girl who survived the worst of the attack here a the Robb Elementary School. She saw her teacher killed. For the first time, we learn what the killer said before he fired his gun in that classroom. We hear new details about what he did.