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CNN Live Event/Special
More Than 20 CBP Agents Responded To Texas School Shooting, Injured Agent In Stable Condition; Biden: "When In God's Name Are We Going To Stand Up To The Gun Lobby"; Blumenthal: America Is On The Side Of Gun Violence Prevention. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired May 24, 2022 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: For families, so many families, in Texas, tonight, it is an unthinkable tragedy. It is an unthinkable tragedy for us all, as we're reporting the killing of 18 young children, and one adult, at Robb Elementary School, in the Texas town of Uvalde.
CNN's Ed Lavandera is reporting, for us, tonight.
Ed, what is the latest you've learned?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the horrific news that there are 18 children dead, two adults, this, at Robb Elementary School, in Uvalde, Texas.
And the most telling information was, what we learned in the last hour, when you spoke with the DPS, Department of Public Safety sergeant, who described the scene and, really the, some of the first details that we learned, of the shooting that took place, before the shooting, at the school, at the suspect's grandmother's house, and then moving on to the school, where he apparently crashed his car.
And then, he got out of the car, wearing body armor, and entered the school, and was able to fire off the deadly barrage there, inside the school, before what appears to be law enforcement officers, responding to the scene, shooting the suspect, there.
But what is not clear is what led to the crash. What - how were law enforcement agents, so quickly on that scene? Was it all connected in some sort of way? I think those are some of the questions that are still outstanding, based on what we've been able to learn, so far, tonight.
But we do know that law enforcement agents, investigators continue to work the scene there, at the school, as also law enforcement agencies are going through the horrific process, of notifying family members, of those, who have been killed, in this attack, at the school.
But Anderson, at this point, there is no real clear motive - information, on what the motive might have been. COOPER: And we should also point out, we don't know if this crash, what precipitated the crash, into this ditch, as the sergeant described it, or even if the school was his intended target.
I mean, he came out of this vehicle wearing body armor, with a rifle, and a backpack. So, he seemed to have had some sort of target, in mind. Whether it was this school or not, we simply don't know, nor the circumstances of the crash.
LAVANDERA: Right. As I was listening, to that interview, those were some - exactly what I was - what I was thinking, trying to figure out exactly, if this was ultimately the intention. And at what point did law enforcement officials get that understanding, or kind of figure that out?
LAVANDERA: Was it clear from the beginning? What kind of clues might have been unleashed before all of this, to kind of point them in that direction? I think, those are still some of the questions that we need to figure out, before we can report on that, more clearly.
LAVANDERA: But it's clearly it was a very tense situation, as officers were responding in there, to that scene.
And we had gotten that indication, from people, who were near the school, who talked about the onslaught of law enforcement vehicles that were showing up to that school, just immediately after the reports of the shooting happened.
COOPER: Yes. Ed Lavandera, appreciate it.
I want to play that interview that Ed just referenced with - that I had with, in our last hour, with Sergeant Erick Estrada, of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Information has been hard to come by. So, we want to run the full conversation, again. Because, as you heard, a lot of interesting details, were revealed to us, just a short time ago, by this sergeant.
I spoke to him in the last hour.
COOPER: Sergeant Estrada, I appreciate you talking to us, tonight.
What can you tell us about what has occurred here?
ON THE PHONE: SGT. ERICK ESTRADA, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: Well, sir, so first of all, our condolences to the families that were affected, because of this shooting.
But I do want to state that there were two different incidents.
The first incident was involving the suspect, at their grandmother's residence, where he shot the grandmother. And then, the grandmother was airlifted.
And then the second incident that came in was actually involving, they called it in as a crash, and a man with a firearm, outside the school premises.
There was several law enforcement that engaged the suspect. But he was able to make entry into the school, where he did go into several classrooms, and unfortunately, he did fire his firearm, inside the school premises.
But then, he was met with another tactical law enforcement agency, which ultimately, were able to bring him down. And that's us, at AFDC (ph).
Unfortunately, there is confirmation, right now that there is 18 deceased children, or students. And there's two deceased adults. They didn't tell me they're female or male. But there are two adult victims.
COOPER: And Sergeant, do you have any information about how many others are wounded?
ESTRADA: No, they told me, right now, everything's preliminary. So, they did tell me there are other several children that did get injured. And those are in nearby hospitals, right now. So, there were other - several other people injured.
COOPER: Sergeant Estrada, I just want to ask you a couple questions, as to - and I know, there's some things you can't comment on. And I certainly respect that.
The two deceased adults, I'm assuming that does not include the shooter, correct?
ESTRADA: So, from what we have, right now, yes, one of them is the suspect.
ESTRADA: And then, the other one is another adult. They didn't specify if it was a male or a female.
ESTRADA: But there's two adults, deceased.
COOPER: There was also a law enforcement officer, I believe, if I heard our correspondent correctly, was shot. Do you know his condition or her condition?
ESTRADA: Right now, we don't have any conditions. But as far as the confirmed deceased, we only have two, as of now. COOPER: OK.
ESTRADA: We are monitoring other - we are checking up with other law enforcement agencies that were affected, by this shooting, just to make sure that the officers are OK. But, as of now, we don't have any additional deceased people that were inside the premises.
COOPER: Sergeant Estrada, you mentioned. And I - it was because of the phone call, I'm not sure I heard it correctly, that prior to his entering the school, did you say that - was your term, an epic crash?
ESTRADA: Yes. So, he did - the suspect did crash near a ditch, here, nearby the school. That's where he exited his vehicle with, I believe, it was a rifle. And that's when he attempted to enter the school, where he was engaged by law enforcement.
And unfortunately, he was able to enter the premises. And then, from there, that's when he went on, and entered several classrooms, and started shooting his firearm.
COOPER: Do you know, was he being pursued by law enforcement? Is that what precipitated the crash?
ESTRADA: No. As of now, there is no vehicle pursuit that got reported, on our log, or on any other law enforcement log. But it is, of course, preliminary. And, as of now, it just got reported as a vehicle crash, nearby the school.
COOPER: I understand that. You also said that the law enforcement engaged him, prior to his entering the school. Is it clear to you - were they aware he was trying to enter the school? Was he engaging with them, after the crash, and then he ran into the school?
Again, I know it's preliminary, and you may not have that information.
ESTRADA: Right. So, what got reported was a call of a man, with a gun that had crashed nearby the Robb Elementary School. And then, he was observed, exiting the vehicle, with a long rifle, and a backpack. He also had a - he also had body armor with him. That's whenever the, I believe, the ISD police officers engaged him.
Then, there was a second call, where he entered. Through the south doors of Robb Elementary School, he entered. And that's when he started with his gunfire, inside the premises.
COOPER: You said ISD. I'm sorry, what does that stand for?
ESTRADA: So that their - that's their School District police officers.
COOPER: Got it. So, those would have been people who were on scene, already, at the school?
ESTRADA: That's correct.
COOPER: OK. Do you have any idea, how many ISD officers, were assigned, to this school? ESTRADA: So, no, I don't have--
ESTRADA: --that specific number.
COOPER: And again, I'm sorry for being so specific. I'm just trying to get, for our viewers, as much as we can understand.
You said he had body armor with him. Do you know if he was wearing the body armor?
ESTRADA: Yes, he was.
COOPER: OK. Do you know if that was just a tactical vest, he was wearing? Was there a helmet? Was there other forms of armor on him?
ESTRADA: So, at least what they confirmed to me was that he was wearing body armor, and that he was carrying some sort of rifle.
We do have several agencies here that are assisting us, with the investigation. And that includes ATF, FBI. And we also have our Texas Rangers out here. And we're trying to figure out, the details of the incident.
COOPER: When - do you have any idea how long, or when law enforcement - other law enforcement units came to the scene? I assume, the ISD units were there already. Do you know how quickly other units responded?
ESTRADA: No, sir. I don't have that exact time. But I do have, when the initial call came in, it was around 11:30.
COOPER: 11:30. And that call, do you know who called that in?
ESTRADA: I don't.
COOPER: Do you know what kind of rifle it was?
ESTRADA: No, I don't have the rifle. And that's why we have ATF, right now. And they're doing that--
COOPER: Got it.
ESTRADA: --that part of the investigation. But we will have further information, once the investigation starts revealing more details, of the incident.
COOPER: Do you know - have all the families of the victims been notified, at this time? ESTRADA: I know, we've been in contact with several families. We've also been in contact with some of the local officials, here, and other local agencies. So, we're trying to take care of all that. But some notifications have been made already.
COOPER: Do you know this, the suspect, who is deceased, was this person known to law enforcement? Do you know, at this stage?
ESTRADA: No. I don't know his history.
COOPER: And do you have any sense of - clearly, motive is something you wouldn't know, or wouldn't even be able to comment on, this stage. Was there any history of police calls, to his grandmother's house? Would - is that something you would know, at this stage?
ESTRADA: No, sir, I don't. That's pretty much all the information that we have gathered, as of now.
ESTRADA: But we are going to be having further details, further down the road.
COOPER: OK. Sergeant Estrada, I appreciate your patience, with my questions. And I appreciate all your efforts, today. And I'm sorry, it's under these circumstances. Thank you so much.
ESTRADA: Yes, sir. Thank you.
COOPER: We're joined now by Andrew McCabe, CNN's Senior Law Enforcement Analyst, and former FBI Deputy Director.
Juliette Kayyem, a CNN National Security Analyst, and former U.S. Assistant Secretary, for Homeland Security.
And Charles Ramsey, a CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst, and former Police Commissioner of Philadelphia, and former Police Chief, in Washington D.C.
Excuse me. Andrew, you and I have spoken, in the past, about the FBI's analysis, of active shooting situations, and what law enforcement has learned, from that.
The reaction time, obviously, is critical. Most - and correct me, if I'm wrong, I'm just - just from memory. But most of the killings, in active-shooter situations, usually take place, as my understanding is, within the first like four minutes to six minutes. Is that correct?
ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, that's absolutely correct, Anderson.
So those killings happen so quickly that even when you have officers, in the immediate area, who respond directly, within five minutes or less, they typically don't get to the scene, until after much of the killing, most - in some most cases, all of the killing has already taken place.
I think we saw that again, just a few - just a week or so ago, in Buffalo, right? The officers were very quick to respond to the scene, I think, within 2.5 minutes. And the killing of the folks, at the grocery store, had already taken place.
So, it's an almost impossible prospect, to stop, before it happens, or even while the mass shooting, is taking place.
COOPER: And Juliette, according to the DPS Sergeant Estrada, there were school safety personnel, on hand, who - and I'm not sure, if it's they who observed this gunman, getting out of the vehicle, with a rifle and body armor.
But, according to - again, this is an earlier report. But they engaged with the gunman. They were not able to prevent him, from getting inside the school.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HOMELAND SECURITY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: That's exactly right. So, this idea that if we just have more armed personnel is, you know, and just the facts just don't prove it anymore.
I mean, if you look, at what happened, in Buffalo, you had a former Police officer, who engaged the shooter. The shooter there had armor on, as we're getting some accounts, today that in Texas, the gunman also had armor on.
And so, you're hoping, as I said, your fingers are crossed that this - that this is the moment, when the good guy, actually kills the bad guy, who won't be in armor, right? And that's - and then, imagine, you have to multiply that a million times, because of every school, and elementary school, and soft target, in the United States. It's unsustainable. And it's not the way we want to live.
If guns made us safer, we would be the safest country on earth. I mean, this is what President Biden was saying. He leaves for - to go abroad, after Buffalo. He returns, before everyone, in Buffalo, is actually buried, and to another horrific mass shooting, involving children.
And that narrative, about what the United States means, to the world? We can pretend that we represent goodness, and the right side of history, in whatever conflict is out there.
But the world looks at us, and says, "This is an American phenomenon that we are we are not getting," right? This is not American exceptionalism. And I thought that was important that Biden put that in context.
COOPER: Chief Ramsey, just in terms of, I mean, the investigation?
The gunman is dead. There's still a lot, authorities now are trying to piece together, what happened at the grandmother's house, the history of this gunman. And obviously, the moment-by-moment account, of what happened, inside that school.
What is happening, on the ground? Couple that with, the need to notify parents, which is just a horrific process, and needs to try to happen, as quickly as possible, to spare as many parents as possible.
CHARLES RAMSEY, FORMER PHILADELPHIA POLICE COMMISSIONER, FORMER POLICE CHIEF OF WASHINGTON, D.C., CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST, DISTINGUISHED VISITING FELLOW, DREXEL UNIVERSITY: Yes. Well, first of all, there are search warrants, I'm sure, that are being executed, at his home, his car, anywhere else, they think, he may have been, where they could gather evidence. So, that is taking place.
You also have a crime scene, inside the school. You have 18 children. You have one adult, whose bodies are probably still inside the school, because it's being processed. That's going to take some time, to really process that scene. And it's going to be very difficult, for the men and women that have to go through that.
And I know we've talked about mental health. But the children, who survived, the families, who did not lose children, as well as those that lost them. But the police officers that had to respond, and then process the scene. I mean, this is horrific. I mean, every aspect, of this particular case.
There's just absolutely no question about it, this is something that people are going to struggle with for a very long time. And sometimes, you hear people talk about healing. You don't heal from stuff like this. You just don't.
And I think it was Juliette that mentioned earlier, there are many people that when they watch television, they see crime scenes. Those are sanitized versions. You work the street. You see what it really looks like.
And I can only imagine, unfortunately, weapons, as devastating as assault rifles, ripping through the bodies of children, and the kind of damage that it causes, and what that scene has to look like? I mean, this is something that, believe me, people need to understand, just how devastating this is.
And hopefully, there'll be some action taken, although I'm not optimistic that there'll be any action taken, unfortunately.
Juliette, I mean, just over a week ago, 10 people were killed, in Buffalo, as you mentioned. What - I mean, I don't even know, if it makes sense to talk about, trying to protect targets, like this.
But I mean, again, we're talking about schools, and we're talking about a supermarket. So, let's just call them targets. I mean, everything, by that definition, is a target.
KAYYEM: Right. I mean, the life is a target, when you have this kind of weaponry, out there. And just - and that is - that's the reality. And we sanitize it. I mean, I sanitize it. I say killer, and not gunman. It's a gunman. I mean, it's someone, who uses a gun, to kill 18 children who, as Chief Ramsey was reminding us, as we've been all reminding us, what is happening, right now?
It's 9:19 PM, and we haven't had really a very good press conference. I'll tell you, what's happening. There's 18 little bodies that have been destroyed, and decimated, and I'm going to be clear here, by a gun that is meant to do that.
But these are young bodies. And they are not - they do not have identification. They're not - they're not carrying wallets. And their parents know that they haven't survived, because their parents aren't unified, with them.
And their parents, as every parent knows, is the only person, who can probably identify that child, right now, the birthmark on the thigh, the crooked toe, whatever it is that we know about our kids that no one else would know that wouldn't be in a - in a sanitary - sanitized medical report.
And that's what's happening. That's why it's 9:20 PM, and the three of us, have been on air for, I think, about seven hours. And I just have to say it. Again, this is - this is what's happening, inside that room.
And when we talk about the gunman's motives, and guns? That's all important. And then, it's important, because this is what happened. I mean, this is our American - this is our American rinse and repeat. This is what we do.
COOPER: Andrew, CNN is reporting that Meta, formerly Facebook, is in contact with law enforcement, and took down an account, possibly associated with this gunman. We don't have much more information other than that.
We know in Buffalo, there was live-streaming by the gunman. He had followed the example, set by the shooter, the mass killer, in Christchurch, in New Zealand, years before, who also, I believe, it was a live stream, that time.
How critical are social media postings, whether it's for investigators, or frankly, for other people out there, who admire these killers, and want to follow in their footsteps?
MCCABE: Well, they're enormously influential, Anderson. They - we know that people, who engage in these sort of attacks, they do it with full knowledge, of those, who have gone before them.
So, whether it's the Christchurch shooter, or it's Anders Breivik, from Norway, or it's, the shooters from Columbine, have enormous - big communities of people, who track, study what they did, and think about those things, in an inspirational way. So, it's very important to understand, what this killer may have posted, on his own social media accounts that may give us some insight into whether or not, what were his motivations? Who was he looking to? Who was he potentially motivated or inspired by?
It's also important that the existence of those accounts may come to the attention of the social media companies, before law enforcement is aware of it.
And oftentimes, social media companies, will take those accounts down, because they violate their terms of service. And that actually obstructs law enforcement's ability, to quickly get, on top of that evidence, and understand what those posts may include.
So, oftentimes, that's why you have a situation, where the social media company, in this case, possibly Meta, reaches out, to law enforcement, to say, "Hey, we took this down, earlier today, when we realized it was related." But obviously, you need access to this material. So, that's my suspicion of probably what's happening here.
COOPER: And Andrew, I'm just informed, we have another piece of information.
More than 20 U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents responded to the shooting, today, provided aid, on Tuesday, according to a law enforcement official. A Customs and Border Protection agent, who was injured, in the response, is stable, according to this official. He was shot in the head. The bullet did not, however, penetrate.
What does that tell you about the response, if anything?
MCCABE: Well, it tells you a little bit about where we are, right? There's a massive presence of Customs and Border Patrol agents, in that area, because you're right near the border.
It also is very common, and I'm sure, Chief Ramsey seen this as well, that when the call - a call, like this, goes out, on police radio frequencies, of an active shooter, at a school? You can imagine that any law enforcement, whether they're federal, state, local, whatever they're engaged in, law enforcement officers run to the sound of the guns.
That's what we like to say, right? They are instinctively trained, and inclined, to try to help, in a crisis like that.
So, you often have law enforcement officers, who self-deploy. They may not have been told by their supervisors, or their command, to deploy. But if they're in the area, they hear a call like that? They're going to go to the scene, in the event that they can help.
And it looks, in fact, in this case, like one of them was likely crucial, to stopping this gunman. So thank God, we have law enforcement officers, who are as dedicated, and courageous, as these folks are.
But it is a very common occurrence, when you have a crisis situation that, you get an overwhelming law enforcement response, right away.
COOPER: Yes, Charles - Chief Ramsey, I remember seeing, in the city, you formally know very well, and formally worked, in Washington, at the Navy Yard shooting, when you see - look at the security cameras, of the first law enforcement personnel, entering the premises, to try to stop the shooter? It was, I think, it was or at least one Bicycle Patrol Officer D.C. It was a Navy personnel, with a weapon, as well, as well as other law enforcement.
It's critical. I mean, the strategy now that the tactics police use now is whoever is on the scene first, they enter. It's no longer, Chief Ramsey, correct, waiting for a SWAT unit to - or a tactical unit--
COOPER: --to enter?
RAMSEY: Yes. That's a lesson learned from Columbine. And from Columbine on, the training totally changed.
And active-shooter training, is regularly provided, in police departments, local, state, federal. I mean, if it's - if you're nearby, you get there. You go in, and you neutralize the threat. Period. I mean, and that's just the way they train, right now.
Fortunately, you had - because of the location of the city? And remember, it's a very small town. I don't know how many police officers they have. But it can't be that many. And so, thank God, they had some federal agents, from Customs and Border Patrol, nearby that could respond.
When a call, like this, goes out, at simulcast? In other words, it's broadcast over a variety of radio frequencies. So, others can hear it, and if they're nearby, they can respond. So, I mean, it's really good that they were nearby.
RAMSEY: It didn't avert the tragedy, unfortunately. Because, as you mentioned earlier, these things happen very quickly.
And with these assault weapons, it's just a matter of seconds that you can get a lot of rounds fired. And the rounds are so devastating that each one potentially could be a single shot that would kill. And with these assault weapons, people are getting hit multiple times, not just once, but multiple times.
COOPER: Charles Ramsey, Juliette Kayyem, Andrew McCabe, thank you.
Joining us now is Fred Guttenberg. His daughter, Jaime, was one of 17 people killed, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, in 2018.
Mr. Guttenberg, I'm sorry, we're talking under these circumstances. You're - how are you doing, when hearing this news?
FRED GUTTENBERG, DAUGHTER JAIME KILLED IN MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HS SHOOTING: Listen, this has been a horrific day. It doesn't matter how much time passes, it brings you right back to that minute.
I can't stop thinking about these families, today, who need to figure out how they're going to bury their children, who need to figure out how they're going to console their other children, who need to figure out, how they're going to deal with the reality that they had other children, likely, in that school, who are going to have PTSD, who need to figure out a eulogy, who need to be supported by loved ones, but also, who need to support loved ones.
And I can't stop thinking about this community that needs to figure out how they're all going to rally, how they're all going to take care of one another, in this aftermath.
This preventable violence, this - it is so infuriating, Anderson. Because all of these instances, we know the next one is going to happen, because we haven't done anything, to fix it, you know?
I can't stop - Mitch McConnell put out a statement. It literally could have been written four years ago, after my daughter was killed. And back then, he also left out any mention of guns, OK?
So, it's a useless statement, Mitch. Don't bother, OK?
I'm just so broken. And what's even worse? It's not like this country doesn't want to fix this. We have 80 percent to 90 percent want to do something. But we have a cadre, in the Senate, for whatever reasons, who won't, and we need to fire them.
COOPER: If you're - if you're able, can you tell us - well, what would be your message, to parents, who are facing, who are - I mean, they are now - whether they know now, I'm not sure. The last, we were told, it's not clear, if all the families have been informed, of what has happened. But as you know all too--
GUTTENBERG: Probably not.
COOPER: Yes. And as you know all too well, I mean, they are in - their world now is forever changed, and they are entering unchartered territory. Sadly, it is not uncharted, for you, or for so many families, in this country.
What - how did you get through, not only this night, but the next night, and the next night, and the next night?
GUTTENBERG: The first few days, it's more like how do you get through the seconds, and then the minutes, and then the days.
I'll never forget what my Rabbi said at Jaime's funeral, because it's sort of been a guiding light for me. "We don't move on. We move forward." COOPER: Yes.
GUTTENBERG: And that's what I've tried to do every day. Everyone is different.
But I can also tell people, that what our now-President, Joe Biden, said to me, when he was, at the time, a private citizen, which is, "The day will come, where you will look at photos and memories, that right now bring a tear to your eye, the day will come, where it will bring a smile to your face." And he was right.
I want everyone to know that they are loved, and that they are going to go forward. It's what I call, a new normal.
But the next few minutes, hours, days are going to be brutal. And I just want everyone, also, to know - and I hope you'll indulge me, because I've said this on a few other programs, tonight.
If anyone is watching your program, tonight, and they just want to reach out, and they want to talk and have a personal conversation, if they would just reach out, to your show, and you would make that connection? I would really appreciate it. Because I, and an army of survivors, around this country, we are there, for that community, now.
COOPER: You - you speak a language of loss that many people, sadly now, too many parents, know, this is a particular kind of loss.
GUTTENBERG: Yes. It's violent. Anderson, I'm a father, who hopes his daughter died instantly. Because, if she didn't, that means she suffered. That's the reality of loss to gun violence.
And I am a father. Because I know the details, I live with my daughter's final seconds seared in my head. I was on the phone, with my son, convincing him, to run, because he wanted to turn around, to find and save his sister. Now, while I was on the phone, with him, he heard the bullets that killed his sister.
So yes, gun violence is different. And maybe that's why the failure - and I'm going to call them out, it's the Republican Party, in the Senate. Maybe that's why the failure, to do anything, is so despicable, so evil.
It's maybe that's why the news that the Texas Governor, Lieutenant Governor, the Texas senators, are all attending the NRA convention, this Friday, hurts so much. Because they have every opportunity, to change direction. They've had every opportunity, for years. But they haven't.
And so, listen, I just want to say this. My friend, Senator Chris Murphy, has been heroic, today.
I have hope that someone, in the Republican Party, or all 50 Democrats, will band together, and finally do something. Because, the failure to do so, only means, the next time, there's a really good chance it's going to be someone they love.
COOPER: You have - you have gone to Congress. You have sat in, correct me, if I'm wrong, in Ted Cruz's office.
COOPER: I guess, talked to him. What - what did you--
COOPER: --what did you say?
GUTTENBERG: Listen, Ted Cruz, he should resign, you know? After the previous instances that have happened in Texas, he has minimized, he has made excuses. He has blamed everything, but the gun.
And he has sat with me, where I have told him, I have no issue with the Second Amendment or legal lawful gun owners. I have an issue, with the ability of those, who intend harm, to themselves, or someone else, to get weapons.
And he knows doing something about gun violence is not an affront to the Second Amendment. He knows doing something about gun violence isn't - doesn't involve people, walking into people's homes, and removing all of their guns, OK?
He knows all that. But he shares the lie, because he is supported by a profit-making lobby. I have no faith in him. I have no faith that he will be the one, to do the right thing. I certainly hope he will. But I'm not counting on it. But there are others, who, I think, might.
And I do hope, in this moment - I saw Mitt Romney, putting out some messages of alarm. I've spoken to Mitt Romney. And I've heard Mitt Romney, after I spoke to him, say, "We're not going to do anything about guns, in this body." I hope, today, Mitt Romney changes his mind.
COOPER: Fred Guttenberg, I appreciate your time, tonight. And thank you for being with us.
GUTTENBERG: Thank you.
COOPER: Next to precisely the question of what if anything, lawmakers might be able to agree on, this time, to help prevent tragedies. We'll be joined by Connecticut Senator, Richard Blumenthal.
We'll be right back.
COOPER: Shortly after returning, from his trip, to South Korea and Japan, tonight, President Biden, spoke to the country, about today's mass murder. Here's a portion of what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Beautiful, innocent second, third, fourth graders. And how many scores of little children, who witnessed, what happened, see their friends die, as if they're on a battlefield, for God's sake. They'll live with it the rest of their lives.
There's a lot we don't know yet. But there's a lot we do know.
There are parents who will never see their child again, never have them jump in bed and cuddle with them. Parents who will never be the same.
To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away. There's a hollowness in your chest, you feel like you're being sucked into it, and never going to be able to get out. It's suffocating. And it's never quite the same.
And it's a feeling shared by the siblings, and the grandparents, and their family members, and the community that's left behind.
Scripture says - Jill and I have talked about this, in different contexts, in other contexts, "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." So many crushed spirits.
So, tonight, I ask the nation to pray for them, to give the parents and siblings the strength, in the darkness, they feel, right now.
As a nation, we have to ask: When in God's name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God's name will we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Connecticut senator, Richard Blumenthal, spoke tonight, on the Senate floor. He joins us now.
Senator Blumenthal, you heard this speech that your fellow senator, from Connecticut, Chris Murphy gave, on the Senate floor, tonight. He asked repeatedly, what are we doing?
How would you answer that question?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): We need to vote. We need to make our colleagues face this crisis, this tragedy.
If they are unable to step forward, and vote, now, they are putting guns above children. Vote for commonsense measures, like background checks, red flag statutes, ghost guns ban, domestic survivors' protections, safe storage laws. We know what will work. We can save lives.
But here is what the President's message, so heartbreakingly revives. It's the memories that I have, of Sandy Hook, when I saw parents, knowing that they would never see their children.
Again, tonight, the families of those 18 children, will be going home, maybe they're home now, and look at that tiny bed, where their children slept, just last night. And it will hit them with such searing grief and pain.
And I hope my colleagues, as I said, on the Senate floor, will have in their hearts, not just thoughts and prayers, but a different resolve, a sense that this time must be different. Because, they cannot put guns above children.
There are measures we can take that are consistent with the Second Amendment, and with the rights of gun ownership, of law-abiding citizens.
COOPER: But do you really believe it will be different, this time?
BLUMENTHAL: It may be different, this time. But if it isn't? People need to be uncomfortable, in the sense that they may lose their jobs. Because, America is on the side of gun violence prevention. 90 percent of the American people are repulsed, they are abhorred, by this kind of violence.
And so, the American people need to be mobilized. And gun violence needs to be put on the ballot, this November. And I believe it will be. Because, there is now a movement. There's a real grassroots movement that is born of Parkland. You just heard Fred Guttenberg, so powerfully talk about the need for action.
And that movement has grown, in the state legislatures, where action has been taken. For example, almost 20 of them on red flag statues. It has grown across the country, in a political way that, I think, will eventually have effect, and cost my colleagues, hopefully, their jobs, if they fail to do the right thing.
COOPER: Is there anything, the President can do, in your mind, to stem mass shootings?
BLUMENTHAL: He has begun taking action, in the executive branch. Community Action, funded by the federal government, to intervene with groups of citizens, to help prevent gun violence.
He has issued regulations on ghost guns that will bar them. He has moved forward, to appoint an ATF Director. I hope that he will appoint a Office of Gun Violence Prevention, in the Department of Justice, with specific responsibility.
There is more action that the President can take. I believe his heart and mind are in exactly the right place. He wants to move forward.
Not so many of my Republican colleagues, who remain in the grip of the gun lobby. The NRA continues to intimidate and threaten them. And they are enabled, and emboldened, by that gun lobby.
But, I can tell you, I will never forget the Sandy Hook families, who came to Washington, and worked so hard, with such strength and courage. And then, when we failed to act, shouted, one of them, from the galleries, "Shame! Shame on you!"
COOPER: Senator Blumenthal, I appreciate your time, tonight. Thank you.
We'll be right back, with more coverage, of the tragedy, in Texas.
COOPER: Earlier, we showed you some of what President Biden said, tonight, about the mass shooting, in Texas, about what it's like, being a parent, whose child has been killed, and how it's like having a piece of your soul, ripped away.
We're joined by someone, who knows that firsthand. Tony Montalto is his name. He's the President of Stand With Parkland. His daughter, Gina, was killed, on a mass shooting, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, in 2018.
Tony, thank you so much, for being with us, tonight. Obviously, I'm sure, your thoughts, tonight, are with the parents, of these children.
Can you talk a little bit about what you remember, about the day, the shooting at Parkland, and what you went through, as a parent, what they are going through, tonight?
TONY MONTALTO, DAUGHTER GINA KILLED IN MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HS SHOOTING, PRESIDENT, STAND WITH PARKLAND: Well, it's a horrible feeling, to find out - well, first of all, there's the waiting, the waiting, for the reunification, which is terribly painful. And then, there's the worst news that a parent could hear.
When we heard that our beautiful 14-year-old daughter, was murdered, at her school, it's devastating. It devastated myself, my wife, my son, and our entire family. It's something you never get over. The best you could hope for, is to find a way, to work around things.
COOPER: And for you, what has that road been, to work around things?
MONTALTO: Well, the road has been to, to work with my wife and my son, to make sure our family is OK. And then, once we were able to breathe, our group of families came together, to form, Stand with Parkland, the National Association of Families for Safer Schools.
And what we do is promote a uniquely inclusive, and non-partisan approach, to protecting America's schools, using the school safety triad, securing the campus, better mental health screening and support programs. And finally, if you choose, to own one responsible firearms ownership.
All three of those things failed our families, on that terrible February day.
COOPER: What is your message, to parents, in grief, tonight, in that waiting phase? MONTALTO: In the waiting phase, is just pray for the best, and prepare for the worst. There's nothing else you can do.
But we want those parents, to know, while it's not enough, we hold you, in our hearts, and we will remember your - the loved ones that were taken today. Both, the students, and the - and, I believe, it was one teacher, as well.
MONTALTO: We need to remember them.
We heard the President come on, and say he's sick and tired of things. And I agree with him.
But I think there's some more pragmatic things, we can do, to start moving things forward. And some of them, Senator Blumenthal, who has worked with us, previously, has mentioned, which is the red flag laws.
For those, who aren't familiar, with red flag laws? If someone's deemed a threat to themselves or others? They're put through a due process period, and then the weapons are removed. And they're removed until they are able to get help, and prove that they're not a threat, to themselves or others.
We passed one, here, in Florida, sadly, after the shooting that took Gina, and her classmates, and her teachers. And it's been used over 5,000 times. And despite what the NRA said, and the extremists, the sky hasn't fallen. People still hunt. People are still able to protect themselves.
We've seen it protect people, again, over 5,000 times, in just under five years. These things do work. We've seen almost 20 States put those in. We have a federal bill, introduced by senators Rubio, and Senator Scott, S.292 that will provide federal dollars to States that either have red flag laws, or pass red flag laws.
This is a great place. Because, when we look at it? What red flag laws do is they keep firearms in the hands of responsible owners. Let's not make this a Second Amendment issue. Let's make it about prevention. And red flag laws are about prevention.
Another bill that could move forward, on the federal level, that was introduced, again, with bipartisan support, is the EAGLES Act. The EAGLES Act is named, after the mascot, in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
What this bill will do, is provide additional funding, to the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center, so they can continue to investigate ways, to prevent school shootings.
And then, take that knowledge, and bring it into our local school districts, where they will teach them, how to look for signs, of trouble, for kids that are exhibiting troubling behavior, and then get them the help they need, before they resort to violence.
We have to get serious about prevention. And behavioral threat assessments are one of the ways that we can be proactive in prevention.
COOPER: Well, Tony Montalto, I appreciate your efforts, and I appreciate you talking to us, tonight. Thank you.
MONTALTO: Well, thanks.
And let's remember that both President Bush and President Biden have supported red flag laws. Let's see Congress actually at this time. Let's see the great people, we've worked with, on both sides of the aisle, find a way, to get it done.
COOPER: Yes. Appreciate your time. Thank you. Wish you the best.
We'll be right back.
MONTALTO: Thank you.
COOPER: Bit more detail, we are getting now, about the actions of law enforcement, in today's shooting.
According to a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson, Border Patrol agents, who responded, in Uvalde, Texas, entered the school building, and faced gunfire, from the shooter, who was barricaded inside.
Risking their own lives, the spokesperson said, these Border Patrol agents, and other officers, put themselves, between the shooter, and children, on the scene, to draw the shooter's attention away, from potential victims, and save lives. Again, this is according to a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson.
On- and off-duty Border Patrol agents, arrived on the scene, to assist, with transferring students, safely, to their families, and providing medical support, said that spokesperson, as well.
CNN's coverage of the tragedy continues, with Don, and "DON LEMON TONIGHT."