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CNN Live Event/Special

CNN Town Hall - America Under Assault: The Gun Crisis. Aired 9- 10:21p ET

Aired August 07, 2019 - 21:00   ET



CUOMO: Hello, everybody. I am Chris Cuomo. And welcome to a very special primetime town hall. We're calling it "America Under Assault: The Gun Crisis."

It's been a tough week, but we should not waste this moment. So let's take a breath and let's talk and take the time to listen. We've put together a beautiful program for you tonight with some of the most prominent voices, and they have very different ideas about protecting our society from gun violence.

And I am surrounded by a gift tonight, the strength of survivors, the same kind of strength I saw on the ground in El Paso. This audience traveled from far and wide and mostly in lousy weather, so thank you for dealing with the elements.

And they did so to represent their communities. How do we heal when this happens to us? No one and nowhere is immune. El Paso, Dayton, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Las Vegas, Virginia Tech, Columbine, Chicago. Many of the people here survived the bullets that tore through their bodies, changed their lives, and changed their communities. Many lost loved ones. Some are now advocates for reform. Some work in the firearm industry. Others work to limit that industry's reach.

We also invited the National Rifle Association, the NRA, to be part of tonight's conversation. They declined. They sent a totally disingenuous statement that they're open to honest discussion, but not "this spectacle." That's what you call this, a spectacle?

I guess they want to do their talking with propaganda ads and millions in lobbying. Besides, let's be honest. The gun lobby is not going to be the answer. And that shouldn't be expected any more than we expected Big Tobacco to help us expose the ills of smoking.

The reality is, people like you are the answer, and there can be no sides when it comes to wanting to be safer, better protected. There just can't be, not anymore.

So let's use this moment, let's connect and confront what should be obvious by now. The other special interest involved tonight is our collective interest in dying less this way.

Now, I want to start by showing you what weapons are we talking about. For some in this room, I totally understand if you don't want to look at these images. I get it. But as you know, I think we have allowed too many outside this room to hide from the reality for too long.

So these are law enforcement photos of the actual weapons used in American massacres. They're not models; they're evidence. The photos you're looking at, they can be called weapons of war. They are certainly responsible for 132 deaths. They're not for hunting. They're easily modified, accessorized. They can hold a hundred bullets, like we just saw in Dayton. They're not subject to the kinds of restrictions that we put on handguns in most places.

So let's talk about why we are here and why we can't seem to get anywhere better. To do that, I'm going to start with those who have lived this crisis. We have Christine Leinonen. Her son, Christopher, went by Drew, he was one of the 49 murdered in that Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando. David Colbath, shot eight times inside the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. And we got JT Lewis. He lost his brother, Jesse, at Sandy Hook Elementary. He was one of the 20 first graders murdered there. JT is 19. He's running for State Senate in Connecticut, and he's running as a Republican.

I want to welcome each and all of you. Good luck to you, and thank you. Good to see you. Thank you for being here.

All right, I want to start with a little bit of news. So, in El Paso, the family came forward and said we don't know where he learned these things. And let's take them at face value. They say we raised him with love and kindness, who knows what happened between when he was in their house and his early 20s.

The mother then says, "But I did contact the police a few weeks ago" before the shooting, obviously, right, because she was concerned about her son owning an AK-type firearm. She didn't say, "And he has this" -- because they say they didn't know. And she doesn't say (ph) and he doesn't seem right. But she said, I don't know about him having something like this. He's only 21. I don't even know that he knows how to use it.

Now, the interesting gap to me, Christina -- I want your take on this first -- is the officer doesn't take any next step. And I'm not faulting the officer. The rules and the processes are what they are. There is no, "Well, let me talk to him. Well, let me see why he got it. Well, let's see what he's doing with this." There is none of that.

What do you see in what we know and what we don't?

CHRISTINE LEINONEN, PULSE SHOOTING VICTIM'S MOTHER: Well, first of all, I don't think he's any more or less indicative of most angry, mad American males. I mean, there should be a museum called MOMAM. In D.C., it should be Museum of Mad American Males.

And they want to put their hatred somewhere, and they look online. So I can give her some credit as a mother because from what I'm just -- from my research -- and I've only been in this for three years, researching it since my son's death. But I see that these kids, they -- so many of them get radicalized online. And it doesn't matter. If they're southerners, maybe they're going to put their hatred in the Confederate flag. If they got some kind of European descent, they might become a Neo-Nazi.

CUOMO: But imagine if you had a next step, David, like -- you know, so you get told this, the family is concerned. There are countries like Canada, you know, not like the most remote place in the world, where you would get a phone call, "Hey, your family is a little worried that you bought this AR. Why did you buy it? What are you doing with it? How are you doing?" What do you think about the practicality of something like that?

COLBATH: Well, it's like a red flag law, right?

CUOMO: It is. It would be a lesser standard, right, because a red flag law is where you have -- in the states, 17 or so that have it, right, one of the problems is, the idea of a federal one, I don't know the legal mechanism for that, it's usually by states.

But it is, you call and say I know Chris well, he's not doing well. He's off his meds. He's saying crazy things. He's a danger to himself. He's a danger to others. And that would trigger, no pun intended, that would activate a withdrawal of my right to have the guns for a certain amount of time.

So this would be short of that. But if the mother is worried and the person has something like this, what is the plus/minus on putting another step in the process?

COLBATH: Well, perhaps the mother or the father should have -- if they know the kid well and they're living at home, should maybe did more checking and following what's going on with him.

But the other thing would be, is there a possibility that -- are we saying maybe a police officer could have went out above on his own time or above the call to check into it because he was worried, because the mother was worried? I mean, I guess that's good.

Are you asking me, do I think there should be a law where we could intercept that? I'm going to surprise you with this answer. I think there needs to be something looked into on that line carefully. And I think this is some ground that we're treading that -- I'm a staunch supporter of our Constitution. So I would be real careful about treading on that ground like that and...

CUOMO: Right. So you want to take this on?

LEWIS: Absolutely.

CUOMO: You want to go in, you want to run for office, you want to be part of the change. These are the kinds of questions.


CUOMO: What should happen when a parent calls, this kid has no diagnosis, he is not a threat, as far as she knows. She just doesn't like what she's seeing. Is that anything of any interest to our laws?

LEWIS: Yeah, so it really does get into the red flag territory that the president has actually been talking about recently, something that we do need to look at.

If you look at the history of it, the shooters give indications that they're about to pull something off like this. In Sandy Hook, the shooter actually wrote something called the "Book of Granny" when he was in a first grade classroom, the same classroom that my brother was in, my brother was murdered in. This was about a witch who went into the classroom, her broomstick opened up into a semiautomatic rifle and killed kids.

The teachers got a hold of this book and they didn't do anything about it. And we let him fall through the cracks. And this is very common.

The same thing in Parkland. The shooter posted videos about wanting to carry out a mass murder to make himself famous, so to say. And I appreciate that your show doesn't give the name and the image, because there are copycat shooters, and they're there. You can find them. In Sandy Hook, the kids his age afterwards said, yeah, I saw that coming. You know, I saw -- he was a troubled kid and I saw that that was coming.

CUOMO: It is like the highest form of see something, say something. But it's complicated. You know, in any other context, if you wanted to do that to me in college, you'd be OK. You want to do it about another kid in school, you want to do it about somebody at work, I'm wearing a band from a protocol called the Columbia Protocol, where you learn the right questions to ask somebody, to see if they need help and they're in some state of distress, but you do it when somebody has a weapon, calling into question whether or not they should have one, now you got a fight on your hands.

Let's get some questions from the people who know better than I. Erin, do me a favor. Stand up, introduce yourself, and ask your question to Christine, please. Or you could stay seated. It's good. You knew the instruction. I got it wrong, and you did right. Thank you very much. See, we're already working together. Go ahead.

QUESTION: As survivors of the Las Vegas massacre, my husband and I struggled with the fact that the conversation in this country seemed to move on within a week while our lives would never get to go back to normal. Can you talk about what happens to gun violence survivors after the camera crews leave? And what are the psychological and lasting impacts of gun violence that often aren't discussed when the conversation moves on to the next topic?

LEINONEN: Well, for me, personally, I find it very cathartic to get involved in my community, in whatever way I can, to give my son a voice. He lost his voice, so he has to speak through me, whether it's in gun safety activism or, like, for example, I'm wearing this -- I made this t-shirt, no Pulse Museum.

Believe it or not, the owners of the Pulse nightclub want to make an admissions-charging, gift-shop-having, tour-bus-coming-from-Disney to stay an extra day in Orlando so that this business owner can have an income for her and her family into perpetuity off the deaths of my child. So of course that's going to make me anger and I'm going to want justice. So we started a community coalition against the Pulse Museum, so we

have, if you want to find out more. I started a petition and I've got over 41,000 signatures already to stop this Pulse Museum.

Where else in the country -- and see this is where -- Orlando is a very liberal, left-leaning city, and they always like to, you know, talk about the right, the hypocrites on the right, oh, they're being such bigots. This is the only mass shooting that a Muslim Arab- American committed, and they're making a hate museum? What sense does that make? Do we have one at the Waffle House? Do we have -- is there going to be a one Walmart, you know, museum now?

Why is it that, you know, the white supremacists, the Neo-Nazis, and the Confederate flag-waiving population could commit these mass murders and they do go away? And then Pulse happens and you have a business owner who's trying to capitalize on the deaths?

CUOMO: Well, neither result winds up being adequate, right, because you don't want it to go away so you can try and figure something out, and you certainly don't want it to become a spectacle where people can profit off it. That's the worst message we would spend. All right, so let's move to the idea of stopping -- or what do you have?

COLBATH: Just to follow up on her question, so right now, at my church, there's a lot of people praying for me. I'm trying to choose my words real carefully. And they're praying. And I understand when those words come up from the national media and the national people that run the country that we need more than that, I agree.

But her question was, after the fact. So I would like to answer part of that. With those prayers, our little community got together and went and visited Santa Fe, and tried to, through Christ, lift people up and encourage them, listen to their story, and guess what? Ours is similar, so we could converse and we could talk, no debating, no Republican, no Democrat, no independent, nothing like that.

And so, right now, as a church body, we are trying to go to El Paso. You can't just walk in there and do that. You got to get somebody to help you.

Her question was, do we -- how do we survive after the fact? How are the survivors doing? What happens? Well, let me assure you of a couple of things. There's no help. You better hope you have insurance. The government stops whatever they've got offered to you, that's done. You're on your own.

The healing is long. Two months in the hospital for me, mostly incapacitated, rehab, rehab at the finest place God offers on this Earth is that -- the Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio for me and a couple of others that were fortunate enough to go where our wounded warriors go in rehab, months and months of that.

The mental thinking of our 24 survivors, including young children, it's 19 -- or 20 months later now, it never ends. It never ends. And I don't think it ever will. I think it may dissipate. I think it may be lighter. Myself and people I know, as soon as we heard about 10 days ago a shooting, it affects us. Saturday, wow, Sunday, wow, it -- it's all over again.

CUOMO: It's not that the prayer -- it's not that prayer is unwanted. Prayer is incredibly powerful. But the whole point of it is that you are trying to inspire something better and act, like your church does when it goes somewhere else.

The criticism is that don't do the first part if you're not genuine in trying to act on what it is that you're literally praying for divine inspiration in order to do. But I take your point. And it's important to understand how many layers there are to this.

Let me get to another question, though. We have Cameron Kasky here, in terms of talking about what works and what doesn't. What's your question, my friend?

QUESTION: Hey, everyone. My name is Cameron. I was at -- I was actually at the last CNN town hall calling for the end of gun violence where we said this has to be the last mass shooting. And if history has taught us anything, I'll be at the next one, too.

So I was watching the news unfold on Monday. I woke up in the morning wondering how another one of these mass shootings could have happened, wondering what happened in El Paso could have possibly happened again. And then I learned that there was a shooting in Dayton of a similar horrendous size.

So I started learning about it. I tried to cry. I don't think I can do that anymore. I've cried for too many people this year. I think I've run out. But I looked at Sutherland Springs, actually, and I looked at how the shooter was shot several times before leaving. And I explored the good, old-fashioned American "good guy with a gun" argument.

Because so many people believe it. I really wanted to pick it apart and understand what exactly it means. And soon enough, I learned that the shooter in the Walmart was actually stopped by several armed people. And I said, well, you know what, I understand what a lot of these people are coming from.

Until I started to think, 22 people were killed in Walmart, and in all of these shootings where this good guy with a gun has shown up, it's been after far too many people have been killed. So I said, is this "good guy with a gun" concept strong enough when dozens are already being massacred?

Am I going to feel safer in public with more armed people when -- when, you know, if 39 people are massacred and the shooter is stopped after that, is that enough? What exactly does this mean? What can we do here?

And Texas and Ohio are actually both states with concealed carry. So naturally, assuming that argument, you'd assume people should feel safer there than anywhere else. Do these shootings change your perspective at all on what exactly it

means for there to be a "good guy with a gun"? And do you still believe that more guns in a place will make it safer? Because I'm seeing these shootings in these states that are apparently these heralds of Second Amendment rights, and yet dozens are still being killed.

CUOMO: So, JT, that's one of the kinds of things you want to tackle...

LEWIS: Absolutely.

CUOMO: ... if you get into government. What do you think?

LEWIS: It's hard to rely on someone at a shooting to have a gun. I mean, that's not where I want to go.

Now, as far as at schools, at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the shooter shot out the glass front doors and killed kids. A principal had to confront him in the hallway. That's not fair to the kids.

The way I look at it is there should have been an armed guard in there, a police officer, someone highly trained. I think that's something we can get behind. Now, I know at Parkland there was, and he wasn't able to act. And that's unfortunate. But you give yourself the best chance when there is someone there who can act.

Most of them are -- you know, they've been former first responders, police, military, they know what they're doing. If you get someone good, and -- they're obviously vetted for many months. You get someone good, they're able to act.

QUESTION: Well, do you think, considering the fact that you and I are both -- you know, we're both white -- the police brutality in this country...

LEWIS: Right.

QUESTION: ... when it comes to different students of color and the school-to-prison pipeline and just how easy it is for somebody to be discriminated against because of what they look like, do you think that putting these armed resource officers in schools are going to put students of color at higher risk?

LEWIS: Well, the idea would be that they're totally separate from the administration of the school and they're just there to protect the students. You do get into a gray area there, with police especially.

Now, I'll tell you, after Sandy Hook, all of the schools in our town of Newtown implemented guards and police. And we have cameras. My high school has 400 cameras. We have doors that lock from the inside. Very important, simple things. They're not doing it for show; they're doing it because it works. And, you know, that's something I've been advocating for, for the past year and a half. And it's very important. QUESTION: Sure, well, Newtown and Parkland are similar. Both

communities that are, I'd say, you know, on the higher end of the socioeconomic spectrum, and also both communities where most of the people, again, like us, are white.

Around the country, do you think that we need to be implementing the same procedures? Because I think about all these communities that are forced to face police violence every single day, and I cannot imagine being a student walking into school that day knowing that these teachers are packing heat. I always say, think about the worst...

LEWIS: Oh, I don't support...


CUOMO: No, he's not talking -- I know that there are some proposals about that...

QUESTION: Frankly, any adult on campus.

CUOMO: But there's a difference between having a police officer or an armed security officer in it. Sometimes they call them school resource officers. And I understand why that term rubs people the wrong way. But there's a difference between that and having teachers with guns.

QUESTION: But then you look at the sexual harassment from police officers around the country, with young women included. And I just think the more -- this is a high school. You've got young, developing people, young men and women from around the country, and the thought of more people with weapons that can corner these children.

I mean, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, there were several teachers that after the shooting were revealed to have several sexual harassment claims. And officers around the country -- do we think that more people with guns around children is going to make the children safer when we have not seen any clear data that that does anything for it?

LEINONEN: Well, I want to just say that...

CUOMO: Christine, why -- go ahead.

LEINONEN: I want to see less guns on less people, period.


Exactly. And I partnered with Gail Schwartz, whose nephew, Alex Schacter, 14 years old, was killed at Marjory -- at MSD, and she had this ingenious idea that -let's try to get that as a ballot initiative to And she asked me if I would team up with her. Absolutely, I said that's ingenious.

Let's have the voters -- since our politicians are saying that they're going to help us, and then they get into office and they don't help us, I want to see less guns. I want to see a -- if we can do it in Florida, I want to see that countrywide, ban assault weapons.

And that answers your earlier question, too, about the mother with the son with the AK. If they're banned, there's easy-peasy for the police officer. He doesn't have to play some kind of psychological game. It's a banned weapon. You're going in. That's...

CUOMO: A ballot initiative would be a state by state solution...


CUOMO: ... because on the federal level you don't have the same mechanism. Let me get another question. Mary Ann Jacob, where are you?


CUOMO: Good. What's your question?

QUESTION: Thank you, Chris, for having us here tonight. I just want to start by saying I can't believe we're sitting here having this same discussion six-and-a-half years after I survived the Sandy Hook shooting and JT's brother, Jesse, was killed there. I mean, if we can't do something after 20 6-year-olds are killed, it's pretty shocking.

I'm a Republican. I have guns in my home. My husband and my sons are avid sportsmen and hunted. But we also believe that gun responsibility -- gun ownership comes with grave responsibility.

I think most Americans do, and gun owners do. What will it take for our elected leaders to hear the call of people like us in the radical middle and bring background checks for all gun sales to a vote in the Senate?

CUOMO: What do you think, David?

COLBATH: At one time, I was 100 percent against it.

CUOMO: Because?

COLBATH: Because we have a Second Amendment that it expressly states that's not to happen, our rights won't be infringed. But today, I don't want just some answers thrown out -- and like she said, what's it going to take? I think there needs to be some unity. I think there needs to be some tremendous prayer in all of these decisions.

I think that this gun registration, again, I'm probably going to surprise some people that know me, and they know me real well, I think it's a viable alternative. It wouldn't have stopped any of these shootings, though. None of these shootings had guns illegal. So it wouldn't have stopped any of them.

QUESTION: Well, if the background -- if the background check law was extended so that instead of a three-day waiting period, there was more like a 10- or a 20-day waiting period, the shooter at Charleston shooting would not have had a gun, because he wouldn't have passed the background check law, but he got a gun, because three days later, his background check hadn't passed. So that's a fact.


QUESTION: And we know that background checks keep guns out of the hands of people and save people, because -- you know, every gun that's sold starts as a legal gun. And not until a background check is missed does it become an illegal gun potentially.

COLBATH: Right. But if he still would have been able to get that gun 10 days afterwards, he still had his mindset.

QUESTION: But you know what? He wouldn't have passed a background check, he would have been -- he would have not gotten a gun.

CUOMO: Right. That's -- that case is -- that case is fact-friendly to the idea of why background checks work. I think that the other point of analysis that becomes relevant here is that, is it fair to say if the rule wouldn't have stopped the event that precipitates that rule, then it must be a bad rule?

And I think that what we're learning is, you need layers. You know, what we're learning as a word -- and arguably abusing as a word -- which is holistic. And the reason I say abusing is we keep talking about a holistic approach to it, but we do nothing. And it seems that we're using the word holistic as a reason to say, well, if we're not going to do all of these different things, then we won't do any of these things. And you wind up where we are right now.

Whereas, OK, so background checks wouldn't have made a difference because in this particular instance, this person didn't have a criminal record or any of the other thing. OK. But as a combination effort of if you have red flag laws that are fully funded and encouraged in a way -- OK, if you have better treatment for people and an ability to get people who need that treatment kept in a place, well, that's OK.

But that's not going to be the panacea that we're hearing from the president, because people with mental illness are much more likely statistically to be victims of violent crime than they are perpetrators of it. And while we do see an overweighting in percentages of tragedies like the one where you lost your brother and that you had to live through, in mass shootings in general, once you look at what really should count as mass shootings, in places like Chicago, well, now that's off the table. It's not about mental health anymore. But it is a piece.

And it seems that if we could talk more about doing lots of things that might make a difference, maybe this one doesn't matter in this case, but it might matter in the next. And as a comprehensive solution, we would apply that to every other problem we deal with, except this one.

If you thought about it in terms of protecting kids from predators, if you look at the laws on that -- I don't know why you would, that just happens to be my life, that's the kind of things that we look at in this business -- there are many different layers of protection, different agencies with different responsibilities that do different things and share information in different ways, where you can live afterwards, how you can be, how they review you in prison, because we're so worried about having it happen again. Not here. And that's something for us to think about.

I appreciate each and all of you for sharing this, because I know it's not easy. Christine, I know having this conversation takes a little piece out of you every time. But it's an important conversation.

LEINONEN: Always, but it's important, exactly.

CUOMO: So, Christine, thank you. David, thank you. And god bless, JT. Good luck going forward.

LEWIS: Thank you.

CUOMO: You're picking some path going into politics.

LEWIS: For sure.

CUOMO: As somebody who wants to have less violence, going into politics, you're a brave young man, and I wish you well.

LEWIS: Appreciate that.

CUOMO: All right. We're going to take a break. Here's a fact to kind of send us in to this commercial break.

Guns. Look at the number on your screen. There are more guns in America than people. Think about that, 393 million held by civilians in the USA. No other country can match us in that way.

And you have to recognize that, by law and culture, this will never be a gun-free country. So where are we together on what can change? And what are the real challenges? Let's take that on next.


CUOMO: All right, welcome back to our "Prime Time" town hall. You know, there's often a disconnect between what the country wants and what actually gets done in Washington, especially on this issue.

Let's look at that with people who get the political realities. We have Mitch Landrieu, former Democratic mayor of New Orleans, one of the most dangerous cities in America, and Eric Gonzalez, Democrat, district attorney for Brooklyn, New York. His brother was shot and killed in 1996, so he's got a professional and personal connection.

We wanted Republicans, by the way. I didn't want to make this about politicians, but I wanted it about balance. It's not easy in this environment. But I do want you to know this. Congressman Tom Massie, OK, he's a very big deal on this issue. He's the founder of the Second Amendment Caucus. He wanted to be here. It was weather that kept him away. I didn't think it would be right to have him on a remote talking about this. He wanted to be here. He deserves that respect. Gentlemen, thank you. Thank you. A little bit of news. The

president, we're told, was on the phone with the head of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, yesterday or today. They are in contact. Is that a good thing? Is that a bad thing?

GONZALEZ: What do you think?

LANDRIEU: Well, I think when people are talking, it's a good thing. Depends on what they're talking about. If they're talking about doing nothing to finally doing something.

So, you know, there's an event like this. We have what it is that we have. There's a great deal of agony. The mayors of both of these cities and, of course the victims and their families are going through a horrible time. Somebody says something that somebody says is political, and somebody says, well, now is not the time to talk about it. And then it goes away and we don't talk about it.

So I think the first thing that needs to happen is we have to have an appointed time to actually speak about it and to actually work through it to find answers that actually will create meaningful difference in peoples' lives. And we don't do that right now.

CUOMO: Do you believe that the NRA is that powerful, that that's what the main reason is that we don't see the right wanting to make more legislative change in the area of controlling access?

GONZALEZ: I believe that the power of the NRA in controlling some of our elected officials and not wanting to face the wrath of that organization and supporters is a major factor in not having reasonable gun control.

CUOMO: See, I wonder about the idea of the wrath, right? Because, I mean, look, you guys both know this. What do they bring to bear? They put up like $17 million in lobbying. That's real money. Doesn't put them at the top of the list. They bring votes. I mean, that's why we started the show tonight, talking about how the power has got to be at the ballot box. They will bring people who have made this issue into a political proxy issue for freedom, you know, that the -- these are people -- a lot of them don't even own guns, but they want the right to own that gun. They'll come and vote. Is that their real power?

LANDRIEU: Well, I think people can argue about that until the cows come home. Essentially, though, nothing is getting done, that's fixing this problem. And I quite frankly don't think that the people of America really understand the scope of the problem.

Since 1980, in our country, our beloved country that we all love, 630,000 Americans citizens have been killed on the streets of New Orleans, some in what people would call street crime, some in mass shootings, some in suicide. But that's more soldiers -- American soldiers that have been killed in all of the wars of the 20th and the 21st century.

I think that means clearly we have a problem with violence in America. Right now, Congress prohibits any significant research on violence as a public health threat. It would be nice to know what exactly that we're talking about. The fact that with data...

CUOMO: Why do you think they don't allow that?

LANDRIEU: Because I think they're worried about guns. Then we begin to talk about guns and we don't talk about public health. We talk about public health, we don't start talking about national security. The piece of news that you had on before was the issue about the FBI and is this a terrorism threat. I think everybody can agree now that this is a form of terrorism, what happened in El Paso...

CUOMO: What this guy did in El Paso? Absolutely.

LANDRIEU: Of course. Now, we didn't -- when Miami happened, I mean, when it happened in Orlando, we were arguing about whether that was terrorism or not, because it invokes federal resources. Now, our law enforcement do a great job, but since, I don't know, September 11th, the funding for the FBI to be focused on the ground has been cut because they were looking overseas. And so I think that the federal...

CUOMO: That's the key part. There's no reason to run past it. You know, in doing an investigation, it's all about resources to look into any type of organization that may be behind it. We don't do that with this.

If they were Muslims involved, you know, if you had a Muslim who had -- and not even -- they're not real Muslims. If you had an Islamic extremist, right, because Muslims will tell you he's not a member of my faith if he did this, shot up Walmart that way, we'd all be about resources. Who did they know? Where did he get it from? Who did he talk to online, whether he's a part of the group or he's a proxy for the group, you know, we're going to go after that group, because they're out to get us. We don't do that here. And do you think that makes a big difference?

GONZALEZ: It makes a difference also the sense that every day we're losing people's lives in this country. We lose it in our big cities. And those lives seem not to matter to folks in the NRA and others.

You know, we lose them often in low-income communities, in black and brown communities, and there is no resources put in to understanding those problems, where those guns are coming from. And when we have a mass shooting like this, it highlights it, because it puts everyone on the edge, but we don't have those further conversations...

CUOMO: It doesn't go on. And even -- we talk mental health, but we were just talking to somebody who's part of the solution here in the crowd, two-thirds of homicide, you know, death by person with guns, suicide. And what are we doing about that? How are we figuring it out? All right. Let's continue the conversation. Samuel Granillo from Colorado. What is your question?

QUESTION: Hi, my name is Sam Granillo, again, from Columbine, representing that part of town in the country. So this is to do with pro-gun and anti-gun conversations and how polarizing it can be once it even comes up.

So when those conversations happen, people are expecting them to disagree fiercely. And what they're not expecting is for people to come together and find a solution. So how can we change those expectations? What would it take for each position to listen, absorb, and understand one another, so they can find a solution?

LANDRIEU: Well, first of all, thank you for that question. It's a great question. But there's a better one. If, in fact, the polls indicate that 65 percent of Americans -- I just picked that number randomly -- agree on something, why can't Congress pass that? That's a different issue.

And one of the things we have to think about is, what kind of reasonable restrictions make sense? I'm from Louisiana. Very, very heavy, pro-- Second Amendment state. But I can assure you, with all of the hunters in Louisiana, these folks believe in responsible gun ownership. And I think most Americans will agree with the following statement, that not everybody should own any kind of gun at any time to do anything they want with.

Even the Heller case that came out of Washington, D.C., that Justice Scalia wrote said that there can be reasonable restrictions that make sense and work. So universal background checks, banning assault weapons, or putting age limits on them, a waiting period, is what most Americans think are fairly reasonable things that push responsible gun ownership that the NRA, by the way, Chris, used to be in favor of a long time ago.

So the bigger question for Congress, that sometimes enacts preemptive legislation, that is to say, this is what the law is and local governments can't do any different, or when governors do that, that seems to be a reasonable place for us to talk.

I want to do that, but I also don't want the discussion about guns to take us away from what the district attorney was saying about the public health side of this, the national security side, that goes back to what you said in the last segment about having a comprehensive approach. And if just one thing doesn't work, deciding, OK, well, then we're not going to do anything.

CUOMO: But look at where we are, just in context, you know. Sam, not to run by your own history, you know, you're not just from Columbine. You survived the shooting. That was 20 years ago. I was at that shooting. It was the first one I ever covered. We covered it as a phenomenon. We were there for weeks. We couldn't believe that these two kids had arrived at this kind of solution.

I spent days in malls following around this mythical group called the Trench Coat Mafia, which turned out to just be a group of goth kids in big trench coats, because we were so desperate to understand how this could have happened, because this would never be something we could expect, 20 years ago that was. All of the ones since, we're less curious about it now than we were then. What does that mean to you?

QUESTION: Wow. So, it's always fascinating every time another shooting comes up that Columbine comes up. I don't know why it's some sort of barometer. It was definitely unique when it happened.

And what's different now, a lot of people will argue, is nothing. Things have gotten exponentially worse in various ways with technology and internet and whatever it is that, you know, creates these perfect storms that create these massacres and everything that makes them happen.

So, I guess what we're trying to find now is this common thread and a common ground that we can all be on to have this discussion that doesn't end in this polarizing debate that gets nowhere. So what is that common ground?

So that common ground is that we all have families, we all have friends, we all have loved ones, we all want to be loved, we all want to give love. And what makes -- what that makes us all is human. And the common thread here is that we are all that, and every single person in the world is human, and that is a common ground that we can all come to and understand that we need to change something here. And whether it's Columbine or Parkland or Vegas or -- I could go on and on and on and on. My situation is not any more unique than anyone else's.

CUOMO: Let's get another question. Jennifer Lugar, where are you? Good. What's your question?

QUESTION: So as Chris said, two-thirds of gun deaths every day are suicides, like my husband, Scott. An extreme risk protection order or red flag law may have saved his life. It would have been the one thing I could do to help him in crisis. So now, I work with every town to advance this legislation in my home state of Pennsylvania. Do you believe that this life-saving legislation should be advanced widely in states and the federal government?

GONZALEZ: Well, we just passed it here in New York state, and it's effective August of this year. So it's brand new. It's one week old. But I believe that it has the possibility of preventing a lot of tragedy.

And having -- and it's done in a way that I think protects due process rights, because a court has to be involved. They have to find there's a legal standard by clear and convincing evidence, if there's probable cause to believe that the person would hurt themselves or another. There's legal protections put in. But it allows many different entities -- police and the DA's offices and others -- to go into civil court and take these guns away.

CUOMO: The pushback is -- Mitch addressed this -- it's too much. It's too far. It's too low a standard, probable cause. And for how long, how long you could keep the weapons? And how do you get them back? What do you say?

LANDRIEU: Well, first of all, I'm sorry about your husband. But if you'll notice, in all of this discussion, we can't get anywhere because everything is too much of whatever, and we never, ever talk about a comprehensive approach. So one thing that you raise that would help educate the public is that

we're talking about violence that involves guns. Some of it can be a mass shooting, some of it's suicides. As the DA so appropriately said, today, probably 40 people in America got killed, and a lot of folks just don't think much about them. And so what is the common thread through all of those things? Our willingness to use guns to resolve a problem.

And I don't think that that's just going to go away by passing one particular law, but I am very much in favor of trying lots of different things. So, yeah, we're afraid to take one step because the question is, well, where is it going to go? Well, let's figure out. We're smart enough to find the balance. You know this, because you're a lawyer. In the Constitution, everywhere there is a right -- there's First Amendment, Second Amendment -- there is a corresponding responsibility to exercise that right in a balanced and a thoughtful way. Where is the balance?

I will just remind the country that even Justice Scalia, the most conservative justice, wrote Heller, and said, you know, you can find a balance between a person's right and then a person's freedom. And I think we have to work on it hard.

I have a dream that Congress somehow is going to be called into session and they will all be sitting in their seats, and we can see all of this, all of the senators and all the House members, they will open up the floor of the House and the Senate for open debate, and it will stay open until they find a comprehensive solution, because, like, when are they going to do it?

Because somebody said, the best time to fix your roof is when it's not raining, not when it is raining. And I just think that we have to stop dancing around it. And the country should say, it's not OK for my daughter to go to Walmart to get school supplies and get killed, or go be on the porch with your little brother and get your guts blown out because somebody came by because they wanted to hurt your daddy. That's not OK in the United States of America. And we have to stand up and let our leaders know that.

CUOMO: Let's do this. District Attorney, Mr. Mayor, stay with us. We have more questions that test what the resolve is, what the right remedies are. So let's take a break and then we'll come back.

Here's another fact for you. You heard that number. Nearly 40,000 people were killed by guns in America in 2017. If you look at it, as a rate, that's about 109 people a day to this and we do nothing. We're going to keep doing these questions. We'll get more people together. You can listen. Hopefully we'll all learn something. Stay with us.


CUOMO: All right, thank you for joining us tonight for this special "Prime Time" town hall. We're going to continue with Mitch Landrieu and Eric Gonzalez. Gonzalez is a DA in Brooklyn. Landrieu was Mayor in New Orleans. I mean, they're both unique settings of having to take on the different challenges of aspects of criminality.

And we're talking about the different ways that this issue gets spun and presented, which largely contributes to inaction, right? Because that's where we are. We found lots of reasons to do nothing.

So, I want to talk to somebody now who's going to ask a question, who's going to be a little bit harder for the people who are in power to not listen to. Christopher Underwood, it's good to have you here. You're 12 years old. You know this issue too well because you felt it in your own family. You lost your brother. Now you're trying to make a difference. You're speaking out. You're from Brooklyn, New York, Gonzalez's district. What's your question?

QUESTION: My question today is, when will these lawmakers start protecting me from gun violence, destroying lives and communities? Don't I deserve to grow up?

CUOMO: How do you -- how do you process the message, DA, in terms of who's at risk and who needs the help?

GONZALEZ: It's heartbreaking. I have spent more days of my life consoling families, going to hospitals, praying with families who have lost loved ones. And although New York state -- and New York City is the safest big city, and we do -- in terms of gun violence, we do better than other places, it's too much.

And there's pocket of communities where there's no resolution and there's no justice for families who lose loved ones. And so I'm sorry. But we're working around the clock to figure out solutions.

We're never going to arrest our way into solving the gun crisis. We have to have a multi-faceted approach. I believe, you know, Cure Violence and Violence Interrupters -- and there has to be many different parts working together, including our hospitals, to deal with the trauma that a lot of young men have and the anger they have, that causes them to do this in the first place.

CUOMO: And even if, you know, even if Christopher gets lucky, and you've got Gonzalez's DA who's interested in this issue, you've got the guy who's governor in the state with the funny name, and if they pass a lot of the right laws, you can still go to a state that doesn't have the same laws, get the gun, bring it over.

You know, it's one of the unspoken truths about Chicago. Illinois has passed a lot of laws. Chicago as a municipality passed a lot of laws. You go to another state, you get the guns, you bring them in. You're in the same place. This kid in -- one of our last two murderers that we saw. His state wasn't allowed for him to get the gun. He got it from Texas. Brought it to Ohio. That's the trick.

LANDRIEU: Can I speak to that issue?

CUOMO: Go ahead.

LANDRIEU: I'm sorry about your brother. That was your baby boy? In New Orleans, when I was there, I thought that if I showed the people of America what it looked like the day before somebody was killed and the day after they were killed, that they would think that that life is valuable and we're going to do something about it.

Not to compare mass shootings with what happens every day. They're both deaths and they're both painful, and the DA and I both have to go to funerals and we actually are in the emergency room. We're there when people expire. We have to tell people about it.

There was a little girl named Briana Allen, who was 5 years old, who was on the porch at her cousin's birthday party. His name was Kinard. And there were two guys that came by that wanted to kill her father. They came by with an AK-47 and sprayed the porch and blew her guts out. She was five. Kinard got hit in the leg that day. He went to the emergency room.

A year later, there was another shooting in the city, and Kinard got hit in the cheek. He missed by being killed by two fractions of a second. And the truth of the matter is, I think that we don't have a full understanding of the complete and total damage, not just of the people obviously would be killed or the folks -- but the people that have been shot or traumatized by it.

And that's why the public health research on this is really important, so we can rise up and figure out how damaged we really are as a country. And at some point in time, our political leaders have got to stop whatever it is that they're doing and -- because this is a solvable problem. There's no question that we can change behavior in this country.

It's not like going to Mars, which, by the way, we want to do and we're all excited about, but I would kind of respectfully suggest we ought to try to fix what's here on the ground while we're at least thinking about doing that or maybe before we go. It is a fixable problem.

CUOMO: When you've got 12-year-olds begging you to let them grow up and to take care of them, you've got to think about what you're doing wrong. Let's take a break, and let's come back. Let's have some more real talk.


CUOMO: Welcome back to our special town hall. You know, we're in a room surrounded by the strength of survivors, and now we're joined by two men who are in the business of trying to keep people from having to go through the process of not surviving gun violence.

We have former Philly Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey here. He was also Washington's police chief during the D.C. sniper rampage.

Also here with medical perspective is Dr. Joe Sakran. He's director of emergency general surgery at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. He was once a gunshot victim himself. He's now an activist with the Brady Campaign. It's good to have you back. It's nice to meet you. It's good to see you again, Chief. Chief, let me give you a question right from the audience to start. Theresa Inaker, thank you very much for being here. What's your question for the chief?

QUESTION: Thank you. I'm Teresa, and I am a volunteer with the Coalition of New Jersey Firearm Owners. So I am a proud female firearm owner. And I just want to say that, I'm a firearm owner and I care, too. So I think there's a little bit of a misunderstanding that we don't care. But we do. And actually we're against violence, all violence, not just gun violence.

So my question is, do you believe a woman has a right to choose whether or not to defend her own body, and in the manner she chooses, and that the government should not interfere with that decision?

RAMSEY: Well, that's a little off topic here, but I do believe in a woman's right to choose. Now, when you get into the area about any means she chooses, I don't know what you mean by that. I mean, there are laws if you're talking about deadly force, for example, you carry a gun or whatever. There are only certain circumstances under which you can actually resort to deadly force, OK?

And so it's important as a gun-owner -- and that goes for any gun- owner -- to understand the laws of that particular state so that they don't wind up doing something that could actually cause them some problems down the road. But certainly if you're assaulted or whatever, you have a right to defend yourself. But when you talk about deadly force, that's a little different.

CUOMO: You know, it's interesting. There's a transitive property involved, right? You're playing on what we see with reproductive rights. And in each case, though, people who are making these impassioned arguments, what's the concern? The concern is the well- being of the person who winds up being the recipient of the act, right? When you're talking about reproductive rights, which obviously isn't what we're talking about tonight, but still important. It's, well, what about the fetus? What about the baby? When is it a person?

You're thinking about, well, who is going to be impacted by the decision that's made? Well, that's the same thing here, is that I have a right to own a gun. I do own a gun. But my right has restrictions on it, Chief, right?

RAMSEY: Exactly.

CUOMO: And when we start talking about, well, what is the impact of my right on the rest of society, that's where you get into even what Scalia -- and you have to say it that way, may he rest in peace. He was a genius jurist. Before that case, we didn't have an individual right read into the Second Amendment.

And the difference is huge. The Second Amendment used to be about what the state could make you do. That's where it came from. You have to have the arm. It has to be able to be used, and you have to know how to use it, so that when you come to work in Washington's army, you know what the hell you're doing, so it doesn't have to spend so much time and so much money training you up and equipping you.

Now it's different. It's about what you as an individual are empowered to do. So as a reality, once you get passed all that legal gobbledygook and you're on the street, the reality of how many guns and in how many ways they are used in society and what that does to a police force, Chief, what has been your experience?

RAMSEY: Well, first of all, I started in the Chicago Police Department in 1968. I spent 30 years as a Chicago cop. I remember a time when we used to recover what they called Saturday night specials, a little .22, .32 caliber handgun, maybe could carry six rounds, seven rounds, or whatever.

Now you're getting these high-powered semiautomatic weapons, including assault weapons. You go to crime scenes now, you never find one shell casing. You'll find 30, 40 shell casings at a scene. It has changed dramatically.

And the devastation of the wounds, nobody gets shot one time. I mean, we're talking about people getting shot multiple times with a high- powered weapon that is designed to kill. I mean, that bullet expands on impact and rips tissue, it rips anything that it touches. And now people literally bleed out on the street.

My cops in Philly were carrying tourniquets. They carry them every day just to be able to stop the bleeding and get them to the hospital. And we don't wait for an ambulance. You throw them in the back of the police car and get them to the trauma center. That's how desperate things are.

CUOMO: So the counterargument is, Doc, and I want this through the perspective of your reality in the operating room, you know, what you guys call assault weapons, you're giving these long guns a bad name. A lot of .223 caliber, they're not even that big a caliber. They're not even really that powerful. And they're being demonized, these guns, when they don't really make that much a difference.

What have you learned since you started and to where you are today in terms of what the difference is between the small caliber handgun and these longer guns and the AR-style guns that we're seeing and what they do to people?

SAKRAN: Yeah, well, let's be clear about one thing first. We are facing a public health crisis in this country. And when you talk about the comparison of the handgun versus the assault rifle, we know that the kinetic energy, the force that's delivered pulverizes the tissue, when we see these wounds and these missiles that are passing through bodies.

And the reality is, is that makes it difficult for us to save those lives. It's very different than if someone gets shot with a handgun. And when you look at us as a system, right, we are a team that have come together with a common goal, right, to save that patient's life, to stop the bleeding.

But that's the end game. What we should be doing is we should be preventing these injuries from happening in the first place. And that's something that we haven't focused on from a public health perspective.

CUOMO: Do you believe -- another one of the arguments that's offered up is, well, if they didn't have these, they'd use something else? And if you even took away access to guns, if magically you found up some matrix of laws and processes, well, then they'll use knives and they'll use cars and they'll use explosives and you'll be in the same place. Do you believe that?

SAKRAN: Well, no, I don't. Because look what happened in Dayton. I mean, 100 round drum, 32 seconds, nine dead, a number injured. I mean, you cannot do that in such a short amount of time. So I think that theory is false.

CUOMO: Shana Harrison, where are we? Great. What is your question?

QUESTION: Hi, thank you so much for having me. My name is Shana Harrison. I am the education director at New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. We teach gun violence prevention programs in different high schools all around the city.

One of the, you know, primary focuses of our classroom is to really talk about the root causes of gun violence. And in lieu of Donald Trump's recent remarks about video games, I wanted to ask you guys, the U.S. has far more gun violence than any other industrialized country, in America, even though we play the same video games and we listen to the same music. Why do you think we struggle with such a huge gun violence problem in this country?

SAKRAN: I mean, I think the answer actually is relatively simple. It's the access to firearms that we have. And I think it's a fallacy to try to say that the problem that we have is a mental health problem or related to violent video games. I mean, look at Japan, for example. They play way more violent video games than we do, and they don't have this problem.

And so I think your question is right on point. And when we talk about this problem, I mean, the mainstream media -- let's be honest, we cover this issue around the mass shootings. But that's just a small proportion of this epidemic. And we have young black men that are being killed on our streets every day in cities like Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia, and those stories often go untold. So I think we have the responsibility...

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you so much.

SAKRAN: I think we have the responsibility to tell those stories. And, you know, I recently had a 17-year-old high school student that was shot in the back of the head, execution style. The worst part of my job is having to go up to those waiting rooms and talk to those families, the mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers.

And I went up to talk to this kid's mom and explain to her that her child had a devastating brain injury and he was never coming back. And as I began telling her this story, and what the prognosis was, she began telling me about her son. And she said, you know, he was the first in our family to graduate from high school, which in the African American community in Baltimore is a big deal. He had hopes and dreams of going to college, none of which will ever get fulfilled.

And as she was telling us this, she looked up at the healthcare team and she saw the devastation in our eyes. And she walked over and she did something I'll never forget. She put her hand on my shoulder and she said, "Are you OK?"

And just imagine this, Chris, for one second. Here's a mother that just lost her son, and she's asking us if we're OK. It's moments like that that restore my faith in humanity and it's moments like that which allow me and a lot of other folks, including the people here in the room, to get up every day to work tirelessly to reduce firearm- related injury and death in America.

CUOMO: You know, Chief, the idea that we don't focus on a lot of the different aspects of this, 1994, the crime bill that was passed then is getting a lot of heat right now in politics, right? People are talking about how it was misplaced justice at the time.

The assault weapons bill was part of it. I went back and I was reading through that bill. That bill gets a lot more credit than it deserves. One, you cannot figure out if it made a difference in crime, because we don't track it. Two, the manufacturers went right around the restrictions and there are all these weapons that existed out there already that were willing for transfer. And that was done indirect response to the kinds of crime he's talking about.

RAMSEY: Sure, I mean, listen...

CUOMO: Barely passed, 216-214, so it wasn't like there was huge consensus, but everybody looks at that as -- well, those were the good old days of when we got it right. Did we?

RAMSEY: We have never gotten it right. I mean, we've never really been able to sat down and have a discussion without getting overly heated to come up with some real solutions to the problem.

Again, we're talking about it now because of mass shootings. I dealt with homicides every single day when I was a cop for 47 years in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. I mean, it's absolutely incredible, and I call it collateral damage that's caused by the violence that occurs in many of our neighborhoods.

You go to an outdoor crime scene, and you've got a body laying there, crime scene doing what they do, look across the street, there's little kids over there looking at what you do. They've got to walk past that same place to go to school the next day. And then we wonder why they have trouble reading and writing. They're traumatized.

And there's no way...


There aren't the services in place to be able to help these kids. I saw my first homicide when I was 14 years old. It wasn't a gunshot. My brother's best friend who lived next door to us got stabbed in the back by gangbangers because he wasn't in a gang.

I mean, I grew up in Englewood on the South Side of Chicago, which we all know has got its issues, right? I mean, this is not new. It's not new. The impact it has on the first responders, the cops that have to deal with this, the medical personnel that have to deal with this. I mean, there's a lot of moving parts and a lot of things that we need to think about, take a comprehensive approach.

But let me tell you something else. I don't care what they pass. If they don't get the assault weapons, it ain't going to make a damn bit of difference.

CUOMO: Chief, thank you very much. Doc, I appreciate it. Thanks to both of you.

RAMSEY: Thank you.

CUOMO: Look, they're hard truths to hear, but if we're not going to listen now, when are we going to listen? We're going to take a break. I'll give you a nugget as we go to commercial. Ninety-four percent of you, OK, if you're a voter, you support universal background checks for gun owners. That is as close to unanimous as we get these days. But no one is listening to you. How do you make them do your job?

Now, in the next segment, I'm going to lay out -- I usually call it the closing argument, but not tonight, because I don't see sides to the issue of doing more or doing better than we're doing right now when it comes to gun violence. But there are some things that are obvious and they need to be said. And then it really is up to what you demand.

So let's get after it, next.


CUOMO: All right, first, I want to thank all of you. I'll do it again at the end of the show, but it's deserved to be twice. I appreciate you being here with what you've lived through and what you want to pass on. Thank you.

Second, I want you to stop saying that this is going to be about the president. He's not going to solve this problem. You can argue the reasons why in different ways, but it doesn't matter. He says he's open to making changes but he has yet to act in a real way. And this really shouldn't be all about him.

All major movements in this country start with you, not them, not the politicians. Sure, when they run, they all have plans and ideas and promises, thoughts and prayers, sympathy for those who suffer. They just rarely act on it because it really is for you to lead, with your voices and your votes.

And I believe there's reason for help. For one, we can't continue to be this stupid. It just defies common sense. We have a clear consensus among Americans of wanting better and more protection.

Second, we were in El Paso this week, right? I felt something different there. This country rejects hate. And the idea of white nationalists preying on a certain part of us is unacceptable. And I believe your revulsion will force lawmakers to treat people like them as the terrorists they are.

People point to the '94 assault weapons ban as a model. But is it really? Barely found political consensus. It was like 216 to 214. And to be honest, it really was easily run around by manufacturers.

So I would argue we've never really taken this on. And yet change is obvious. What good argument did you hear tonight for why all gun sales should not be checked and that that data really shouldn't be shared with relevant agencies? These fears of some mystery database where they'll know what you have and then when you have to go against the government someday you'll be unprepared, ill-equipped. Come on.

Hundred-round drums are no more necessary than bump stocks. And even this president found his way to banning those. The rules that state already that you have certain requirements to meet if you want a handgun, concealed, open carry permits, those questions, the affidavits, those sales, if you just put those in place with every sale, you'd make a real difference in vetting who gets weapons and why. And we already have the infrastructure for it.

And, yes, letting families flag authorities about a loved one who seems determined to hurt themselves or others and remove their access to weapons -- not forever, not in every case -- that would help, too. And it would be nice to track shootings federally. It would be nice to know what's happening and where and by whom.

And the reasons for doing none of these things are hollow at best and toxic in the main. If lawmakers don't like one or some, they do nothing. They use holistic to blow a hole in the idea of a solution. Right now, there's a bill on Senator McConnell's desk. He won't even allow it to be debated.

Now, you have to wonder, if it has been migrants or Muslim extremists who were doing these mass shootings, you think he would treat it the same way? Do you think this president would be so quiet?

So, I believe it is down to you and what you demand. And I was reminded of the power of our people when I was in El Paso. That's why I'm holding this rock. I've been holding it all week.

This woman named Alma gave it to me. She was personally affected by the El Paso massacre. But she was watching us, and she was worried about us. So, in her grief, she goes and finds a rock that was heavy in her garden. She said it was important that it was heavy so you'd feel the weight of it. And she paints it with Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Mother of Mercy. And she brings it to me and says I think you need this. Keep this with you. It's heavy and you should feel this weight on your heart because this matters.

This is who we are. Americans love deeply, and they connect fully. Our real currency here isn't cash. It's community and compassion. That's what makes us who we are. We cry, and we cringe. We don't want to be divided on being safe. We know there's every reason for us to come together.

So I ask you to ignore the politics. Be open to options. But most importantly, you have to demand your leaders do their damn jobs. And remember, we have to be better on this, because the problem is literally killing us.

I want to thank you for watching our town hall tonight. "CNN Tonight" with D. Lemon starts right now.