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Piers Morgan Live

School Massacre: 20 Children, 6 Adults Dead

Aired December 14, 2012 - 21:00   ET


PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Breaking news -- you're looking at a community in mourning and shock after one of the worst mass shootings in American history.

Here's what we know: at around 9:30 this morning, a gunman walked in to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and opened fire. Police say he killed 20 children, young children from 5 to 10 years old.

The shootings took place in two rooms of one section of the school. He also killed at least six adults before killing himself. Police found the body of the suspect's mother in his home earlier in the day.

A prayer vigil for the victims was held tonight in a church. It took place a mile away from the Sandy Hook Elementary, hundreds of attendants.

Earlier at the White House, another vigil was held. People holding candles. But this gathering was for call for more gun control. Many say this tragedy demands tougher legislation.

Inside the White House, a visibly shaken President Obama offered these words about the mass killing.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The majority of those who died today were children -- beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old.

They had their entire lives ahead of them -- birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.

Among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams.


MORGAN: A highly emotional President Obama today reflecting how most of the nation would have been feeling and tonight, police have identified the killer as Adam Lanza. This is his brother Ryan Lanza being taken into questioning today. We'll have much more on the shooter ahead.

Now, I talked to his former classmate.

Meanwhile, Susan Candiotti has new details and joins me now from outside the school in Newtown.

Susan, a desperate day for the school and the families of these poor children and for America. What do we know about the person that perpetrated this hideous crime?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it is so heart-breaking, Piers. We are learning he is 20-year-old Adam Lanza. We know according to our sources that for whatever reason when he came to the school this day, he was wearing what's described to me as black battle fatigues and a military vest.

He came armed with three weapons. Two of them hand guns. One described as a Glock, another described as a Sig Sauer and a third police found in the vehicle. The two weapons were found on him in the school. The third was found, the Bushmaster which is a semi- automatic, and it was found in a car outside the school.

Now, what led him to this? We don't know.

We do know this -- the police have questioned both his brother and his father. His brother was taken into custody for questioning only -- he is not being called a suspect -- from his apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Now, we understand the father was also questioned by authorities here in the Newtown, Connecticut area. The father is divorced from Nancy Lanza. Now, she is the mother of the two who is a school teacher and who is counted among the dead. Her body was found in a residence here in the Newtown area as well.

Now, believe it or not, Piers, those weapons according to authorities were owned by the mother, Nancy Lanza, in this case. Not by the shooter. So, still trying to piece together a motive.

There signs we are hearing for our sources that the shooter may have suffered from some kind of personality disorder. Did he leave notes behind? Did he tell anyone what he was planning to do? Among the many questions that we all have tonight.

MORGAN: They certainly are.

Susan Candiotti, thank you very much indeed.

I want to turn now to Ashleigh Banfield. She's in Newtown, Connecticut, as well.

Ashleigh, I was watching earlier when you were speaking to Wolf Blitzer and you became very emotional because two of your children, think, went to school in Connecticut and you weren't sure for a while exactly what was happening with them. Thankfully, they were OK.

But this is every parent's nightmare. From what we understand the bodies of still lying there on what the police are calling the crime scene of the school. The parents can't even see them. It's an unimaginable horror.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is no other way to put it -- unimaginable horror, and it was an evil that's visited upon this community, according to the governor of Connecticut, Dan Malloy, who spoke here earlier, Piers.

I have another detail for you that I want to share about how some of these parents learned they wouldn't be seeing their children again. I think you already know the detail that many of the children were rushed out of the school, out of the Sandy Hook Elementary School by the police and teachers and raced on foot to a nearby police -- rather, nearby fire station which became the staging area.

There were robocalls that went out. We've heard those robocalls saying, parents of the Sandy Hook Elementary students, come to this fire station to be reunited with your children.

Throughout the day there was one area within that fire station where the children were kept and they were shown movies until their parents could come and find them. There was another area where a number of the parents were milling about, waiting for students to be brought into the fire station. You can imagine it was a chaotic scene for sometime.

Slowly but surely, Piers, over the course of the day parents arrive, children were taken away and parents continued to wait, other children didn't arrive. And, ultimately, there was a moment where they had to tell these waiting parents there will be no more reunions tonight.

And I'm told from someone who was inside that area in a room adjacent that at the moment the parents were told there would be no more reunions and no more children coming that there were wails that were released. And the person who told me this she said she completely broke down. There was also a nurse on hand who came -- volunteered having worked two decades in the business. Her brother telling me that she just wanted to be there and help in any way she could as a grief counselor and was present at that time as well.

Just a horrifying moment if you can imagine being those parent who is waited and waited and waited only to hear this and ultimately like you said, Piers, they know the bodies of their children are still in that school tonight.

MORGAN: It's hard to imagine anything worse in the world. Thank you for now.

I'm going to be joined now by Mark Boughton, the mayor of Danbury, which is right next to Newtown.

Mr. Mayor, thank you for joining me.

This is almost beyond description, beyond any understanding. How is the community dealing with this or are they? What can you do?

MARK BOUGHTON, MAYOR OF DANBURY, CONNECTICUT: Well, obviously it's been a horrific day in the greater Danbury area and particularly the town of Newtown. Clearly, our heart goes out to the individuals who lost loved ones today and obviously the children and the staff and everybody else. It's been an incredibly difficult day.

I have to tell you that the first selectman of Newtown, Pat Llodra, had done a tremendous job. She's been working very hard, unfortunately can't be with us right now. But she's really doing what needs to be done. The first responders were tremendous and the staff has been heroic in terms of their approach to this.

It's just been -- you know, an absolute international tragedy and crisis.

MORGAN: I understand, Mr. Mayor, that you knew the principal of the school who also was killed.

BOUGHTON: That's correct. I had the honor of working in the same school system and very close proximity to Dawn who passed away today. She was a teacher in the Danbury public school system and elevated up through the ranks and eventually ended up the principal here in Newtown. Just a committed, hardworking and dedicated educator, somebody who cared deeply about the kids and she put kids first in every facet and every way in which she executed her job, and somebody who we all admired working with her children as a professional.

MORGAN: That's extremely sad day and I appreciate you joining me, Mr. Mayor. I can only wish you the very best. We are trying to rebuild the community.

Did you know if there plans for more vigils tomorrow?

BOUGHTON: There are vigils scheduled throughout this community, Newtown, throughout weekend. In addition to that, Connecticut itself is having a simultaneous vigil, if you will, simultaneous vigil that they are trying to organize right now where each town and each village and each city will take a moment out and spend time reflecting and really maybe starting once we get through this initial horrendous shock, and reflecting a little bit about our public policy positions in terms of things like gun control, things like how we deal with folks that are mentally disabled.

Once we fully understand this horrific tragedy that's occurred. I think that conversation will be started over the next couple of weeks.

MORGAN: Mayor Mark Boughton, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

BOUGHTON: Thank you, Piers.

MORGAN: We can't imagine what it was like in the school. But Sofia (ph) Lebinski was there. She's just 8 years old. She joins me now along with her mother, Brenda

Thank you both for joining me. If I may start with you, Brenda. This is every mother's nightmare. When was the first you heard about this and how did you hear?

BRENDA LEBINSKI, PARENT OF STUDENT AT SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: I received a call from the school system from the superintendent saying that there was a shooting in Newtown, but didn't say it was a school, that the schools were on lockdown.

So, I wasn't too concerned because I didn't know where it happened. I received a text on my phone from a news organization and they said that Sandy Hook School, they had been a shooting. So, I got in my car and I went over to the school and there were already state police and the fire and Newtown police.

MORGAN: When you got there, obviously scenes of complete chaos, how quickly was it that you realized your daughter was safe?

B. LEBINSKI: OK. When I got there, there was complete chaos, but I did see moms and a neighbor and I asked them what happened, and they said they didn't know. But that there was a shooting and I saw a neighbor like I said and he said they carried out a little girl and she looked like she was dead.

So, instantly, I panicked because of my baby here. But, thankfully, no sooner he said that I looked towards the kids being brought from the school to the firehouse and I saw her class and I ran up and I said, "Where is Sofia?" And they said she is OK. She's coming. I saw her with her teacher and we al were taken into the firehouse and kept so they could do a roll call and make sure all the students were accounted for.

MORGAN: Sofia, it's been a terrifying day for you and for all your friends. What did you think was happening? Were you aware somebody was firing a gun in the school?

B. LEBINSKI: Can you hear?


B. LEBINSKI: She can't really hear.

She told me that they heard pops in the hall way. The teacher told me also, Courtney Martin (ph), she's my hero, that she locked the door immediately and brought all the kids to a corner of the room where they stayed there. They were scared, they were shaken, but they didn't know what was going on until later when they were brought into the firehouse.

Police came and knocked on the door and said it's okay, you can come out. And they guided them to the back of the school and they walked over to the firehouse. That's where I caught up with Sofia.

MORGAN: Brenda, how is Sofia now? It must have been a traumatic experience for all the children who survived this. B. LEBINSKI: I think she is numb right now. She is a pretty bright kid and she has a big support staff at home, and we love her very much and she will be fine. It's just that we are devastated for the rest of the families. We don't know who was hurt. I do know my close friends' children are OK, but we don't know who the children were.

MORGAN: I don't know if she can hear me or not, but I wondered if she wanted to say anything about what happened to her today.

B. LEBINSKI: Do you want to say anything, honey? No? Are you sure?

I think she's too cold now.

MORGAN: I think she should probably go home with her mom. It's been a terrifying day for everybody involved. And I'm just so grateful that you were able to see your daughter.

Obviously, your heart must go out to the poor families who have not been able to see their poor children again.

B. LEBINSKI: It's a small community and it's a close-knit school and devastating. I will be here for anybody and our prayers go out to all the families.

MORGAN: Brenda, thank you very much indeed.

B. LEBINSKI: I'm just the luckiest lady right now.

MORGAN: Thank you very much indeed for joining me. I appreciate it.

B. LEBINSKI: Thank you.

MORGAN: Very lucky indeed.

The gunman is identified as Adam Lanza. And joining me now from London is Lanza's former classmate, Alex Israel.

Alex Israel, you knew this character. Is this something you could have predicted he would one day flip and do something as monstrous as this?

ALEX ISRAEL, FORMER CLASSMATE OF ADAM LANZA: I don't know if you can ever predict something like that would happen. You never think it's going to happen to your school, somewhere you live and you've your whole life. But I don't know if I could predict it.

I mean, there was something off about him. I knew him closely when we were very, very young in elementary school together. I mean, he was always a little bit different. He mostly stuck to himself.

But I don't know if you can say you can predict this.

MORGAN: He was by all accounts a pretty clever young man, particularly in math.


MORGAN: Almost a genius apparently. Tell me about that side of him.

ISRAEL: I mean, I was never in any of his classes or anything like that, but yes, you could definitely tell he was I would say a genius. There was definitely something there that was a little bit above the rest of us.

MORGAN: Did he have friends? Was he sociable?

ISRAEL: I always saw him alone when he was walking through the school or when he was sitting at the table, or sitting on the bus. Bu I mean, I'm sure he had a few maybe close friends maybe through school, through his classes. Most of the time I saw him, he was alone, yes.

MORGAN: How would you describe his personality?

ISRAEL: He was really quiet. He kept to himself. He was a little fidgety, a little uneasy sometimes if you were just to look at him. I think he was just socially not really into going out there and making as many friends as everyone was really doing in elementary school and middle school. He was just -- he preferred to stay to himself.

MORGAN: Did you know his family, his mother in particular?

ISRAEL: I mean, I knew her because we lived in the neighborhood. I knew her through neighborhood events. My mom knew her. I mean, she was a very nice woman, a kindergarten teacher, obviously. So, I didn't know her personally.

But from what I remember, she was a nice woman.

MORGAN: His parents got divorced. Were you aware of that having a big impact on him?

ISRAEL: I don't know when they got divorced. I have known him since about first grade and he has always been the way that he -- that I described him. He's always been reserved and quiet.

So I don't know if the divorce had anything to do with that. I don't know when they divorced. That could have caused that or made it worse as he got older and became a little bit more reserved. I'm not sure if that affected it.

MORGAN: Where were you when you heard about what had happened? What was your immediate reaction when you discovered it was this person you knew?

ISRAEL: It was devastating. I mean, even to first -- I'm in London now studying here for the semester and coming home on Thursday to this. But I found out first, you know, early this morning I guess probably when it broke at home. But at this time, it was like around 2:00 and the first information of it, it's devastating in a town where you've grown up in, I felt safe my whole life. I was raised in that elementary school, raised in the school system there and finding out that it was someone I knew ultimately who had done all of this is just upsetting. I mean, you can't imagine that would ever happen.

MORGAN: And the community around Newtown, how would you describe it? I'm hearing it was a very kind of quiet place and this stuff never happens. Obviously, this is extreme.


MORGAN: But they don't get many shootings, gun murders. This is a very exceptional kind of place in that sense.

ISRAEL: No. I mean, it's a pretty big town, I mean, space-wise. We span over a pretty vast array of land, but it's really close-knit in that everyone knows each other. Everyone is close with each other. The school systems are close.

You grow up with these people and you go to school with them. Everyone came together I think through this. They are really supporting each other quite well. And that's one good thing to come out of it if anything at all.

MORGAN: When was the last time you spoke to Adam Lanza?

ISRAEL: Probably middle school. I didn't have any connection with him in high school. But middle school probably, I would say, the last time I actually said a word to him.

MORGAN: Your summary is kind of fidgety, slightly a loner and not massively sociable, but not apparently dangerous.

ISRAEL: No, I mean, I never -- I never noticed anything scary or violent or anything like that. I would never have expected that from him, I don't think. Just for someone who sort of went under the radar and kept to themselves, you wouldn't really think of them as doing something crazy like this.

MORGAN: Well, Alex, it must have been a heck of a shock to you and I am grateful for you joining us to give us perspective on the character of this person. I appreciate you joining me. Thank you.

ISRAEL: Thank you.

MORGAN: Coming next, the psychology of the shooter, Adam Lanza. Two experts are here to talk about the gunman.



GOV. DAN MALLOY (D), CONNECTICUT: Earlier today, a number of our citizens, beautiful children, had their life taken away from them, as well as adults whose responsibility it was to educate and supervise those children. The perpetrator of the crime is dead, as in an individual who the perpetrator lived with.


MORGAN: The Connecticut governor is talking about the tragedy.

We have new information on the gunman, Adam Lanza. He's wearing black battle fatigues and a bullet proof vest when opened fire at the school. What could have driven him to do this?

With me now is Dr. Xavier Amador, a profiler and psychologist. He's consulted in many mass shootings. Also, with me is Dr. Frank Ochberg, he's a former FBI psychologist.

Welcome to you both.

Let's start with you, Dr. Amador, if I may.

You have been involved in many of these kinds of incidents and possibly nothing as appalling as this. There seems to be a pattern of the moment. We saw this with Aurora, with the shopping mall shooting last week -- young men in their early 20s suddenly flipping and getting ahold of weapons and causing outrages.

What is -- what is driving them? What is the possible background to what is going on here?

XAVIER AMADOR, PSYCHOLOGIST, LEAP INSTITUTE: You know, working on a lot of these cases, there a number of different causes that can be divided into two broad categories. And one category are people who really have that trait of a loss of empathy and inability to connect to other people, and a history of cruelty, of -- you know, what people talk about as sociopaths or antisocial personality.

And at the other end of the spectrum, we have people with brain disorders, with serious mental illnesses that are either untreated, that are -- you know, because of what's happening in their life, exacerbated by stress. So, it sounds like the little bit that is coming out, that we are more in a direction that this is someone with a brain disorder. And there are other parts of the story that it may take years to uncover it.

But there is nothing sudden about any of these stories. That's the headline for me. It's sudden for us that this happened. But as you begin to understand the story, I assure you the warning signs were there. Not that they were ignored, but they weren't recognized.

MORGAN: Are people like this as likely to carry out what they end up doing, these atrocities, if they didn't have easy access to firearms?

AMADOR: Look, there is no question that firearms play a role. But I can tell you from experience if somebody wants to kill a number of people, there other weapons of destruction. There's ways to make bombs, in at least one case I worked on.

So, firearms are certainly an important part of the picture, but understanding when somebody has a mental illness, if mental illness has played a role here, and I'm not saying that I know that it has, that's certainly something that should be carefully considered before allowing that person to have a firearm.

MORGAN: Frank Ochberg, you specialize in treating post-traumatic stress and the effects of violence. Obviously, a very particular problem here with so many young people at the school who've luckily survived, but having to deal now with the horror of losing possible friends, people they knew from the school, teachers and the head teacher and so on. Where do you start with trying to counsel young children when this kind of appalling thing happens?

DR. FRANK OCHBERG, FORMER FBI PSYCHIATRIST: I think the first thing is helping the parents. The children look to their parents and for the parents, some of them are stunned. They are grieving. They've lost a precious 6-year-old.

For the children themselves, sometimes children who go through this and do survive take a while to make sense out of it. They may -- they may regress. They move backwards a year or two in terms of their normal development.

Some of them will figure out years later what actually happened. And some are going to do relatively well. They'll be sadder. They'll be wiser in a way.

The most important thing is what I see happening right now. That community is coming together. People are loving each other.

The president has come to remind us that we are a nation who cares and he came as a father.

So, I am a father and a grandfather. I have called my children and I want to know how they are doing with their children.

So, as we come together, we do the best that we can at a sad time like this.

MORGAN: Dr. Amador, I suppose the big question is why would this shooter do what he did? Go to a classroom and murder so many young children of such a young tender age, possibly the classroom that his mother -- he's already we know probably killed at their home. Can you try and piece together from your experience the thought process here? Why he would then, having killed his mother, go to the school and do what he did?

AMADOR: You know, I don't have a crystal ball and I haven't diagnosed or assessed him. And I'm not saying that people with mental illness are more violent. Let me crystal clear about that, because it's not the case. It's just simply not the data we have.

If indeed mental illness is a part of this, then there is a particular path that needs to be looked at. Is this somebody who became depressed and suicidally depressed? And with his autism, you know, his roommate Alex Israel mentioned that he chose -- he preferred to stay alone. Well, actually, it's symptom of Asperger's and this is one report coming out which may or may not be true, is something missing in the brain, a capacity for empathy, for social connection, which leaves the person suffering for this condition, prone to serious depression and anxiety.

And so, they are fidgety, they are anxious, they are depressed, and if they are suicidally depressed, you know, we just don't know enough, Piers. I guess what I am trying to do in agreeing to come here and talk about this is to ask people to don't rush to judgment about who this young man is. We don't have enough information.

If it was mental illness that played a role, you know, it's an opportunity for us to do better.

MORGAN: You see, I mean, there is a school (INAUDIBLE) that you shouldn't give him attention and name him and so on because it brings attention to him. My view is he's dead, so he won't be able to bask in the appalling glory of what he did. But secondly, there is a pattern now of these young men --

AMADOR: Well, Piers, you are making that assumption. He wants to bask in the glory of what he did. We don't know that.

I've met shooters. I've spent many hours with men like this who killed dozens of people. And they don't necessarily want glory. They are seriously ill. And I've met others who do want glory.

So, again, you are rushing to a particular interpretation of this.


AMADOR: It's way too soon to know.

OCHBERG: Piers --


MORGAN: Yes, sorry. Frank?

OCHBERG: I'd like to endorse that also. I know for the whole country now, we really want to know why this happened. And when you are a parent, you can't stop thinking about these questions that you are asking.

But we have to be very careful in answering them. When you mentioned that we had several similar cases recently -- yes, these were similar in that guns were used. They were spree killings. They were mass killings.

But I can tell you as a medical doctor and psychiatrist who's worked closely with the FBI on cases, there are dramatically different motives and mentalities. There are people who don't have a conscious. They torture animals. They have no basis in their mind for empathy or sympathy. They learn how to fake it.

I believe that one of the Columbine killers fit that pattern, but the other was completely different. He was not a psychopath. And in the case of the Aurora shooter, the jury is not in yet, but I have a feeling we are going to find that he was on the verge of major mental illness, with delusions, hallucinations.

One time in my life I was responsible for the federal program of mental health services in America. I have to admit we failed. We failed America in protecting the lives of the seriously mentally ill. Most of what they do is suffer in silence. Their families want to do better by them. And as a country, we have not stepped up and been sympathetic and caring and appropriate for the seriously mentally ill.

MORGAN: I think that's an extremely important point. What I was going to say to you, doctor -- you both have made extremely valid points. My point is you have three successive appalling mass shootings here involving young men in their 20s, where the background to all of them, from people that knew them, was not dissimilar. They seem to be fairly normal kind of slightly off, but nothing that would ring any alarm bells.

I suppose the point of examining their character and personality is that there must be a good likelihood of there being others like them out there, who may be considering similar atrocities. How do people that know these types of people spot any warning signs?


MORGAN: Let me start with the Dr. Amador.

AMADOR: I'm sorry. I have three small children. Before this interview, they asked me what I was doing. And we talked about this for about an hour and a half. My nine-year-old got very frightened. He goes to elementary school. I explained to him that these things are exceedingly rare.

Let's not forget, this is exceedingly rare. OK? I mean, just because something happened in the last month doesn't statistically make it a common occurrence. Let's really be clear and tell our children that.

The other thing is this is an opportunity to turn tragedy into an opportunity to fix some of the things that are terribly broken in our mental health care system. We actually do know what to do, Piers. We do know how to identify people at risk for violence. And it's all at the level of state funding. Sorry to get into the specifics, but it's funding of state mental health care and screening, and screening of not only young adults and children and offering a good assessment. We can, in fact, do a much better job of not only caring for these people, but identifying those who would never be violent if not for a mental illness.

So that is one bit of the story. There is another part which is what I think that most people are more familiar with and interested in, because of movies, frankly, the diabolical, anti-social, sociopath. Both stories are true, but both are actually quite rare.

MORGAN: The final word to you, Frank, and make it brief, if you may.

OCHBERG: America has more gun deaths than any other advanced nation in the world. And we have laws that say if you are seriously mentally ill, you shouldn't possess a weapon. But we don't enforce those laws. We have to get together across this divide. We need the NRA to step up and say that they believe in gun safety, not just in gun ownership.

We need politicians on both sides of the aisle to tackle this problem or we are going to have more dead American children.

MORGAN: Frank Ochberg and Dr. Javier Amador, thank you both very much.

Still ahead, we will talk to survivors of another mass school shooting. But next, the push for more gun control after today's tragedy. We'll debate it.



OBAMA: These neighborhoods are our neighborhoods. These children are our children. We are going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this regardless of the politics.


MORGAN: President Obama today on the shooting. The massacre is raising new questions about the access of guns in America. With me now is New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who is urgently calling for more gun control. Also John Lott, a former chief economist on the United States Sentencing Commission and author of "More Guns, Less Crime." Dan Gross, he is the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Steve Dulan, who is the attorney for the Michigan Coalition of Responsible Gun Owners.

Let's start with you, if I may, congressman. You were pretty outspoken today saying this is time now to bring in new gun control laws.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Yes. If this doesn't wake us up, I don't know what will. And I was heartened that the president said that we have to take meaningful action. And the only action he can take is to lead a crusade, to use the bully pulpit and lead a crusade for reasonable gun control legislation in Congress.

You know, these massacres are taking place more and more often. We saw, by the way, today a very similar incident in China, where a mad man attacked an elementary school in China with a knife, with 22 injured children. Injured, not dead. That's the difference. In the United States, we have 9,000 people killed with guns last year. In similar countries like Germany, 170. You have Canada, 150. There is a reason for that.

MORGAN: What would you like to see in terms of specific gun control?

NADLER: Well, there a number of pieces of legislation that we have been pushing for years. No reasonable gun owner who is a sportsman can object to bans on assault weapons made only to kill as many human beings as possible in a military situation. Nobody can reasonably object to a ban on the sale of large ammunition clips, so you can't reload.

Nobody can reasonably object to micro stamping of cartridges, so you can trace the murder weapon. No one can reasonably object to eliminating the gun show exception, so that even if you buy a gun at a gun show, they still have to check your background to make sure they are not selling a gun to someone on the terrorist watch list or to a mentally unstable person or to a felon. Those are the reasonable things we should do.

MORGAN: Let me turn to you, John Lott. We have had a heated debate before about this, after a previous incident. Two things happened in 1996. There was a massacre in Tasmania in which 35 people were killed. And the Australians, led by the prime minister, John Howard -- he was right wing, friends of George W. Bush. He brought in pretty Draconian new laws after that.

He banned semiautomatic and automatic rifles and shotguns. As a result, over the next decade, firearm homicide rate fell by 59 percent. The firearm suicide rate fell by 65 percent.


MORGAN: No, it is true.

LOTT: No, it's not.

MORGAN: It is true.

LOTT: If you look overtime --

MORGAN: It is true.

LOTT: I'm telling you, people can go and look up the statistics themselves. What you find is that for decades the murder rate was falling in Australia. It basically stopped falling. If you just compare the average over two decades where it's falling to what it was afterwards, it makes it look like the average before is higher than average afterwards. But if you look on a year by year basis, there wasn't that fall.

MORGAN: Why does Adam Lanza's mother, who sadly as killed by him today -- why did she need to have these three weapons?

LOTT: Can I follow-through on the Australia thing? MORGAN: No, I want you to answer this. Why does she need to have these three weapons, legally purchased, including this semiautomatic Bushmaster. Why would a woman teacher at a kindergarten need these weapons in her home? Allowing, therefore, a clearly deranged son to take them and commit this atrocity?

LOTT: Whatever that gun looks like, it's a semiautomatic rifle. Any hunting rifle, just about, is a semiautomatic rifle. Just because it looks different on the outside doesn't mean it functions differently.

MORGAN: He fired over 100 rounds in several minutes with this apparently harmless rifle.

LOTT: Nobody said guns were harmless. Guns make it easy.

MORGAN: You just tried to make out, it's just an average old gun. He fired over 100 rounds and he killed 20 children. Twenty Children between five and 10. At what point do you gun lobby guys say, we get it? It's time for change?

LOTT: Right, it is time.

MORGAN: Time to do what?

LOTT: To get rid of some of these gun laws that cause --

MORGAN: To get rid of the gun laws?

LOTT: Look at what has happened, all these attacks this year have occurred where guns are banned. Look at the Aurora movie theater shooting.

MORGAN: What the hell has that got to do with it? Seriously? What has that got to do with it?

LOTT: You never let me explain. Can I say something?

MORGAN: -- gun-free zone.

LOTT: Look at the movie theater one, for example. There were seven movie theaters showing the movie "Batman" movie within a 20 minute drive of where the killer lived. Only one of those banned guns. He didn't go to the movie theater closest to his home. He didn't go to the movie theater with the largest screen. He went to the one movie theater that banned guns.

Now if you look at bans generally, you can't point to a place, Chicago, D.C., where we ban guns -- murder rates and violent crimes went up afterwards. In the U.K. and Jamaica, Ireland, island nations that have banned guns -- you can't find a place where murder rates have actually gone down. They have gone up usually by large amounts.


MORGAN: Let me bring in DAN GROSS, PRESIDENT, BRADY CAMPAIGN AGAINST GUN VIOLENCE: First of all, basically every statistic that John Lott just cited is pure bunk in terms of the fact that the more guns equal -- no, that's true. They were gun-free zones. But attributing that to the fact that this violence occurred, that's where I have to step in.

Because listen, my brother was shot in a shooting on top of the Empire State building which was incredibly chaotic. I know firsthand. I have talked with the victims from the Aurora tragedy and all these tragedies. To a person, they all say if there were another person there that were armed, it would have undoubtedly led to more carnage.


GROSS: Excuse me. I let you talk. Let me finish. Let me finish. If every one of the cases, they say if there were more guns there, it would have only led to more chaos. Look at the recent Empire Building State Building shooting here in New York, where there were highly trained law enforcement officers. In the chaos, there were eight other people shot. And every one of them was an innocent civilian. Every one was shot by a law enforcement officer.

MORGAN: Let me bring in Steve Dulan. He's the attorney for the Michigan Coalition of Responsible Gun Owners. You believe that there should be more guns in schools. Is that right?

STEVE DULAN, MICHIGAN COALITION OF RESPONSIBLE GUN OWNERS: Well, I believe those of us who are licensed to carry, are responsible people, shouldn't be prohibited from carrying in schools or other places. In fact, the Michigan legislature just passed a bill last night and sent to the governor for signature a bill that would allow those of us who are licensed to take one more day of training, including range time, and then actually be able to carry in the places where we couldn't carry before.

MORGAN: Why on Earth would you want more guns in schools after what happened today?

DULAN: Here's why, Piers. If we could suddenly make all guns disappear, I would have a different position. But I spend a lot of time thinking about this and reading about this. I teach a class at the law school level called Gun Control Seminar. And I get a new group of law students every term and we discuss this in detail.

The simple facts are guns exist. They are essentially 1800s technology. Even semiautomatics came into being in the late 1800s. They are easy to make. They're not going anywhere. They last several human lifetimes with minimal maintenance.

So since guns exist and we know for a fact that the only way to stop an evil person like the person you were discussing earlier in the show is to shoot them.

MORGAN: Hang on. This is exactly the argument that I have been hearing ever since I joined CNN. I joined on air about a week after Gabby Giffords, the congresswoman, was shot in the head. Ever since then, we have the Sikh temple, the Aurora incident We had the shopping mall last week, guy downstairs shot in the head, from our New York bureau, and so on and so on and so on.

The argument I keep hearing if everybody else was armed, it wouldn't happen. It's a load of total hog wash, isn't it? If everyone in that movie theater --


MORGAN: -- more people would have been killed in the mayhem that erupted.


NADLER: -- they have reasonable gun control laws and they have 100 people a year, not 9,000 or 10,000 a year.


NADLER: Japan adopted strong gun control.

MORGAN: And has almost zero crime.

NADLER: And the homicide rate plummeted.

LOTT: The gun control didn't change it.

MORGAN: In Scotland in Dunblane (ph), in 1996, there was a very similar school shooting.

LOTT: Right.

MORGAN: Just an awful situation, 16 young children killed exactly as they were today. As a result of this, they brought in a hand gun ban; 162,000 hand guns were handed in. Right? It is time for --


LOTT: Murder rates went up.

MORGAN: There are about 35 murders a year in Britain, 35. There are nearly 12,000 murders a year from guns in this country. When are you guys going to focus on that and stop telling me the answer is more guns. It is not the answer.


LOTT: After the ban, it was higher than it was before the ban.

MORGAN: Do you want more guns, not less? Three hundred million guns in America isn't enough for you? How many more kids have to die before you guys say we want less guns and not more?


MORGAN: Let him answer the question.

LOTT: I'm upset because I worry that the gun control laws that you are pushing have killed people.

MORGAN: What a load of nonsense.


MORGAN: -- average of 35 killings from guns in Britain a year, in a place that banned hand guns. Here, no ban on these guns, 12,000 people a year die from gun murders.


LOTT: You have to understand --


MORGAN: I have been debating this all week. I was following the Bob Costas thing, the shopping mall, so on, following Aurora. I've been debating it for months, if not two years. I am so frustrated. I'm so furious for these kids who have been being blown away again with legally acquired weapons.

Some boy who has got problems takes his mother's three weapons, including this ridiculous assault rifle, and goes in the school and kills these kids. And you guys still want to tell me the answer is more guns? It is madness!


LOTT: How else can you stop someone from shooting people.

MORGAN: Let the congressman speak.

NADLER: What are we most angry about? It's that every poll shows that by massive majorities, Americans agree with what you just said. Yet we have a lobby, the leadership of the NRA, who function as enablers of mass murder. And that's what they are. They're enablers of mass murder, because they terrify the class of political people. And even though polling shows that most NRA members would support reasonable gun controls, every time someone proposes it, they come in. They lie. They say they will take your guns away. And they stop any kind of legislation to prevent that.


MORGAN: Nobody needs one of these in their home, end of story.


GROSS: Listen, the encouraging thing and what you should hopefully take inspiration -- because we are all frustrated. We are all outraged -- is this conversation and what these guys are saying does not represent what the American public wants. It does not represent the conversation that the American public wants to have. We are all in favor of things like criminal background checks; 74 percent of NRA members are; 40 percent of all gun sales don't require a background check. That's something that we all agree on. And there are things that we can do.

MORGAN: And it's not, as they try and tell me, an anti-American thing to say I respect the Second Amendment, I respect the right of every family to defend themselves; I don't respect the right of families to load their homes with these so that a disturbed kid can take them and blow up a school.


MORGAN: We are ending the debate for now. But this will continue next week. I can guarantee you.

Come back next week when you have had time to think about this, because you have to change your thinking. The gun lobby has to change its thinking.

LOTT: Why do all of these --

MORGAN: We're going to leave it there. Coming next, survivors from other mass shootings share their thoughts on today's appalling massacre.


MORGAN: One of the most disturbing images from the shooting, police officers escorting young children outside the school. Brought back memories of a similar picture from another mass shooting in 1999 at a Jewish community center in California.

And Josh Stepakoff was a six year old student at JCC. He was shot in the leg. He joins me now, along with Mindy Finklestein, who is another JCC survivor. Also with me, Steve Barton, and a survivor of the tragedy in Aurora, and Paul Ercolino, whose brother was killed in the deadly shooting at the Empire State Building.

Welcome to you all. Let me start, if I may, with Josh Stepakoff. This must have brought back awful memories for you today, as it does, I would imagine, whenever there is a mass shooting in America. What were your feelings?

JOSH STEPAKOFF, SURVIVED JCC SHOOTING: It's -- it's impossible to put words to what I really feel. It's a mixture of sympathy and disgust. And my heart goes out to those families. And there are people who have gone through the same thing and who understand what they are going through. And immediately what I thought was just that I wish that there was something I could do to help them.

But, you know, in reality, it's a helpless situation.

MORGAN: Mindy, you survived what happened to you. When you hear the raging gun debate, which I'm sure will be particularly vociferous in light of this appalling incident today, what do you think? Do you wish after what happened to you and to Josh that tougher laws had been brought in after that to try and do something about this?

MINDY FINKELSTEIN, SURVIVED JCC SHOOTING: You know, I do. I think that Josh and I and everyone in our community, in this weird family that we have of survivors of gun violence, wishes the day after what happened to them, nobody else has to go through it.

Unfortunately, 13.5 years later, we're sitting here watching these tragedies unfold on a daily basis.

MORGAN: You were 16 at the time of the shooting. Obviously, a lot of kids at this school today will be much younger than that, and they will have either lost friends or people they knew at the school. It is going to be very, very difficult for them when they have to go back.

What advice would you give them? What is the best way to try and deal with this? Perhaps the advice is best served for their parents. What do you think?

FINKELSTEIN: You know, to be honest, it's heartbreaking. Because they are not going to know really what or how to feel until five, 10 years from now, when it actually keeps haunting them and nightmares and fears that keep coming up. Josh can speak to that himself. He was six years old at the time. And you know, now he's in his 20s and it haunts him every day.

I was 16. I knew why I was shot. I knew that somebody tried to kill me. And every day, my entire life -- I'm almost 30 years old -- I'm haunted. There is nothing I can say to them except that I am so, so sorry that they have to go through this. And I really truly hope that something will be done after today, because we cannot stand for this anymore.

MORGAN: Stephen Barton, you survived the Aurora massacre. That was just a few months ago. There was a huge outcry then and people promised to do all sorts of things, politician mouths, the usual rhetoric. Absolutely nothing happened. And low and behold, here we are with an even worse tragedy. More dead, and this time 20 young kids. What are your views about the debate that will now unfold on this?

STEPHEN BARTON, SURVIVED AURORA MASSACRE: I mean, I think the president said we need a meaningful action now. And he said that in the past, and so I'll be waiting for that action. It's a shame that 20 children have to be slain for us to even start talking about this. But I really think that the American public is fed up with the lack of conversation on this issue.

MORGAN: And there have been be more mass shootings in the last five or six years than I think in the previous four decades, in terms of these particularly appalling ones. And yet you keep being told, well, it's not as bad as it seems, the situation. But it truly is. Since I've been here, I've been utterly horrified. It's why I get so animated when I debate this on the show, because I just come from a country where this would be unthinkable, that movie theaters, shopping malls, kindergarten classrooms would be shot down in this indiscriminate way on a bi-monthly basis. I just don't get why Americans aren't far more angry.

BARTON: Yes, I -- it's one thing for a politician to take action, but it's equally important that the American public demands these reforms, these changes. And the polling is clear. There is support for common sense gun reform; 82 percent of gun owners support universal background checks. It's really a failure of the system that we haven't arrived at that point yet.

MORGAN: Paul Ercolino, your brother Steve was killed in the Empire State Building shooting. When we talked before, you believe in the right to own a handgun and a referendum on guns in America wasn't need. What do you feel today?

PAUL ERCOLINO, BROTHER KILLED IN EMPIRE STATE BUILDING SHOOTING: I think in the wake of today, a referendum on guns is needed. I was talking the day my brother was murdered. And this -- as a father, as children -- innocent children, I see the heart break. We have to go back to that. We have 20 families -- 26 families that are devastated right now, while we're having this debate. That's something we have to focus on.

This debate is about gun control. It's about mental illness. It's a combination. It's got to be all groups that come together.

MORGAN: It includes violent video games, violent Hollywood movies.

ERCOLINO: The culture of violence in America.

MORGAN: It is the gun violent culture in America has got to be tackled, all areas. There's got to be a proper debate. My argument is the politicians here don't want to have this debate.

ERCOLINO: Well, they have to. They have to. You have to have a congressman like Jerry Nadler. He was on today. You have to have a Republican congressman step up, get together. This has to be taken care of. We can't talk about it anymore. We have to start doing things in America.

MORGAN: Listen, thank you all for joining me. You have all been, in your own way -- been through horror stories of your own. This must have brought back very difficult memories today. And I appreciate you all joining me.

It is time. President Obama talked today in a very moving and emotional way. It's time for action. It's time that America's politicians just did something. Stop worrying about the gun lobby, who make millions -- billions dollars out of this trade in what often leads to appalling death. It is time for some moral conviction and some moral courage.

Stay with CNN all weekend long for the latest on this school shooting. We'll be right back on Sunday night with a special edition of PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.

"AC 360" starts now.