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U.N.: Almost 3.6 Million Ukrainians Have Fled to Poland; Uvalde Cops Made "Wrong Decision"; Zelenskyy Rips Kissinger Over Suggestion Ukraine Cede Territory; Poland Has Accepted More Than 3.6 Million Ukrainian Refugees; How Society Can Stop Mass Shooters. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired May 28, 2022 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Michael Smerconish.
No, this is not Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This is Warsaw Poland. Of course, we'll continue to keep you advised of all the events pertaining to Uvalde and the tragedy in Texas, but I'm here joined by the United States Ambassador to Poland, Mark Brzezinski.
Thank you so much for being here, Mr. Ambassador. I'm privileged to be here. I wanted to come here today and shine a light on exactly what's going on in this country, visa vie, the humanitarian outpouring toward Ukrainians in need.
The longer that I'm here, the more folks that I speak with. I can't help but believe that they've borne the brunt of Nazism, the Holocaust, communism. They see themselves in the Ukrainians.
MARK BRZEZINSKI, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO POLAND: Michael, (INAUDIBLE), welcome to Warsaw.
SMERCONISH: Thank you.
BRZEZINSKI: And thank you for coming to Poland. Thank you for coming here to bear witness for Poland.
This is 1939. This is an invasion by a foreign occupier, a cruel repressor. And what you're seeing in Poland here, what you're bearing witness to is the Poles doing what they wish they had done in 1939 and fight back. And that's why you see the young people organizing on social media, getting into their cars, going to the border to rescue Ukrainian refugees coming across the border. This is the only country in world history, which has had a national policy to put every arriving refugee into someone's house or home, a whole new bar.
SMERCONISH: I was at a global expo facility two days ago, 2000 people, women and children. I met a four-generation family from Kherson. They -- they have Russian invaders still there. Literally, Ambassador, and I know you've heard the story so many times, they left only with the clothing on their backs. And there they sit today with no idea as to when they'll be able to go back.
BRZEZINSKI: And imagine, Michael, 3 million refugees came into this country over the last 70 days. I served as U.S. Ambassador to Sweden for four years. The Swedes are rightfully proud for having brought in 1 million refugees over 20 years.
This country, Poland has brought in 3 million refugees over 70 days. And they're again, putting them in -- every arriving refugee into someone's apartment or home. And it's working. But there will be capacity issues.
SMERCONISH: Do you have concern that at home folk's attention span, especially now with the tragedy in Texas will be diverted? I bet you've seen the polling data that suggests that as the economy worsens, as inflation continues, Americans say, we want to help Ukraine, but we're also worried about ourselves.
BRZEZINSKI: Of course, and we have to be worried about ourselves, and there are many disasters and challenges that we face. But what do we face as Americans here in Poland and Ukraine? It is a collision between democracy and authoritarianism.
And I'm so proud to work for a president, President Biden, for whom I think this is his finest hour. He's invested decades in learning about this challenge. And I think Congress has reacted to that by passing legislation authorizing 40 billion plus to support Ukraine, the devastation there, and the countries supporting Ukraine, because we cannot fail, we cannot allow Putin to win and take over a country because that sets a precedent that big and strong countries can bully weaker countries. That is a terrible precedent going into the 21st century.
SMERCONISH: For God's sakes, this man cannot remain in power. The President said those words in your presence. He was here to see you, and of course, to see the Polish representatives, just a few blocks from where we're located. Should he have walked that back?
BRZEZINSKI: I was so proud of how President Biden represented America when he came here, because he did two things. First of all, our president showed empathy. No one shows empathy better than Joe Biden. And the refugees at the stadium and who met him felt it, too. He conveyed to the polls.
There are things actually we could do that could make matters worse. So we all have to stay unified and on the same page, and what he conveyed and what he generated with our Polish allies and with others was a unity of purpose and a shared definition of the challenge and how we're going to approach it. He accomplished his mission in Poland.
SMERCONISH: OK, you're literally the diplomat. So I respect that you're not answering me directly when I say should he have walked that back? You know that a current issue that confronts the administration in the Pentagon is whether to give Ukraine the long-range weaponry that they desire. What thoughts do you have on that?
BRZEZINSKI: That we are going to support the Ukrainian people as they fight the Russian oppressors until they win. And the way we define win is by throwing the Russians out of Ukraine, and they're going to. And there's no ifs ands or buts about that.
There -- I'm not going to get into the details of how we're supporting the Ukrainian people fight against the Russians. But I can tell you that we are and it's working. The Russians are -- who are occupying Ukraine are rightfully scared.
SMERCONISH: Secretary Kissinger still makes headlines, still -- and I guess --
SMERCONISH: -- rightfully so, right?
SMERCONISH: Sort of in a league with your father.
SMERCONISH: So, you know, that this week, he said that Ukraine perhaps needs to cede territory in order for there to be a resolution of the war. What are your thoughts on that?
BRZEZINSKI: My thoughts are, Michael, that when Poland was joining NATO, there were people who said that shouldn't happen. And I will say to you, I am not sure the Poles would have reacted as positively and in such a humanitarian way to the Ukrainian refugees if Poland was not safe and secure and feeling that way as a member of NATO. I'm not sure they wouldn't have otherwise just closed their doors saying, we see your problems, we feel your pain, but we're under threat ourselves, because they're in NATO, they feel safe. And I feel that mindset has to be taken with regard to supporting the countries of Central and Eastern Europe today. We're doing that.
SMERCONISH: You know, something that speaks to the level of commitment, Ambassador, that you're referencing, I was in the National Stadium, which is over my right shoulder --
SMERCONISH: -- as you well know, yesterday to watch the intake process. I was amazed that Poland is giving to Ukrainian refugees every benefit of citizenship, save one, and that is the right to vote.
BRZEZINSKI: Yes. Ukrainian refugees arriving into Poland are essentially Polish citizens in the sense that they have a place to stay, they have a personal number, which is like an official registration.
SMERCONISH: Social security?
BRZEZINSKI: Like a social security number.
BRZEZINSKI: They have the right to pursue employment, they are putting their children into the schools. And the schools are ramping up here with Ukrainian educators and the like.
Most importantly, there's a national embrace here that says welcome. And the Ukrainians feel that way. And that is why they are staying here and not going beyond going to Germany, to Ireland, to Sweden. They are staying here because they feel comfortable.
And quite frankly, it sets a new bar in terms of how to treat refugees, because this tragically will not be the last time there is a massive movement of refugees from one country to another. The Poles have set a very good model.
SMERCONISH: Within a block of where we are, there's a tribute to solidarity. Am I wrong when I'm putting President Zelenskyy in a league with President Lech Walesa?
BRZEZINSKI: No, you're not. They're freedom fighters, and they are willing -- both were willing to risk their lives for the freedom and independence of their people.
There's a building right behind me surrounded now by modern buildings, but it's the building with the spike that you might be able to see over my shoulder, that's the Palace of Culture. That building, every Pole will tell you is what the Soviets created to show that Poland is an occupied country, an occupied state, a vassal state. Zelenskyy is refusing to allow Ukraine to be that state, and America and Poland are supporting them. It's important that President Zelenskyy has told U.S. officials, there are two militaries he works with who will not flee, the Polish military and the U.S. military.
SMERCONISH: Well, things just haven't changed. I mean, it was Lech Walesa standing up to -- in the height of the Cold War to the Soviet Union. And now it's President Zelenskyy, supported by the polls and the United States, to Putin and to Russia.
BRZEZINSKI: Well, that's true, but things have changed. I was a Fulbright scholar in this country 30 years ago, and it wasn't a member of NATO. Today, as U.S. ambassador, there are 12,600 American military personnel here. We have patriot systems in this country. We have F- 35s, we have Abrams tanks, and the Poles are buying hundreds more.
Things are changing to make sure Central Europe is safe and secure. But we have to expect a long term struggle here. It would be great if Putin left Ukraine next week. I'm not sure that he will.
We have to be prepared for a long term struggle. And I know that we are because I know my fellow Americans understand what is at stake here. This is a collision between democracy and authoritarianism. SMERCONISH: I hope that you're right, and that we hang in in terms of our support and our attention and follow the lead of the Poles because it's a remarkable story. And I've been privileged just in 24, 48 hours to see it.
BRZEZINSKI: We're so pleased you came to Poland, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Thank you.
BRZEZINSKI: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Thanks, Mr. Ambassador. I appreciate it.
BRZEZINSKI: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: I'm going to turn my attention to the tragedy in Uvalde and we'll talk about what transpired in Texas. Yes, we've got a gun problem. We also have a shooter problem. Oh, social media.
Katherine (ph), can I do it while the ambassador is with me? Give me something from social media that we can respond to in real time. I take tweets and I take Facebook comments and Twitter responses, what do we have? Can you put it up for me?
Russia is the largest country in the world. What more territory do they need? Let's call it what it is, land invasion and genocide.
You want to respond to that?
BRZEZINSKI: Absolutely. Putin is insulting his own people. He thinks the people of Russia wants some kind of resurrection of Czarist Russia, that includes Kyiv and Odessa.
Is that what Russian young people want? Is that what Russian business people want to be disconnected from the west, not able to travel, not able to study abroad, but instead to have some reflection of old Czarist Russia? It's ridiculous and Putin has degraded the opportunities for his own people.
SMERCONISH: Said beautifully.
OK. I'm Michael Smerconish. I'll be back in Warsaw right after this.
BRZEZINSKI: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: I'm Michael Smerconish. Welcome back to Warsaw.
Turning our attention now to the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas. I want to talk about the timeline, I want to talk about the latest information, and do so with John Curnutt, the Co-Founder and Assistant Director of ALERRT.
John, you heard yesterday, Steve McCraw as he spoke of the difference between an active shooter and a barricaded subject. Of what significance is that distinction?
JOHN CURNUTT, CO-FOUNDER & ASSISTAND DIRECTOR, ALERRT: Thank you for having me. Appreciate it.
So, there's terminology that kind of describes the type of situation that we're dealing with and you know, what actions we should take. An active attack is something that's ongoing. We use terms like driving force to kind of help people understand decision making under stress. So if there's active killing going on, we go in there quickly to stop that.
But there's also another clock that has started ticking, and that's the one that we're up against. And that's also people that have been injured prior to our arrival. And once we got on scene, trying to make contact with and stop the attacker, when those people are injured, that's still a driving force for us to act quickly. We have to act quickly so that we can save their lives. They need to be taken to a higher level of medical care.
SMERCONISH: There seems to have been an inordinate amount of time that went off the clock while there was sufficient manpower, there was sufficient law enforcement on scene, but they were in a holding pattern. What reaction do you have to that?
CURNUTT: Well, we understand how things can get very chaotic and get off script, if you will. And there's a difference between training and in reality, so we try to make training as realistic as possible so that we can put people in uncomfortable situations and test their decision making and their capabilities. And there's two words, really, there's capabilities, the skill set that they need to have, but the capacity to perform when it matters and that's kind of a mindset issue.
How does this work when we apply it in realistic conditions? So, if we don't put ourselves in those conditions in a training environment often enough, and high intensity focused training often enough, then it's very difficult to say that we're going to do things as quickly as we need to or as we would like to when we are starting met -- when we're met with gunfire and all the chaos of the actual event takes place.
SMERCONISH: Is law enforcement -- are members of law enforcement, in this case, being too harshly judged?
CURNUTT: Well, I don't think anyone's going to be a bigger critic of them than themselves looking back on this. But we are held to a high standard and rightfully so. People's lives are at stake. So we do have to push to get training and equipment under good leadership, all of that really has to be in effect for the things to happen the way people want them to happen. But that is all what we're talking about here. Why did it take so long to get to that point? OK, so how much training have we done? How much have we really pushed ourselves outside our comfort zone in our training to be able to perform like that on game day?
One of my favorite analogies to use is professional sports. One of my favorite players, Steph Curry, he's the greatest shooter that the game has ever known and he still shoots 50 percent from the three, he has all those records. In training, he was documented one time that he shot over 103 point shots without missing, that's incredible.
But in game time, it's a little bit different. He's still really good. He still practices all the time. These are analogies that we try to make to imply that we have to train more, we have to train harder, more often, in order to be able to perform as close to perfect as we'd like to be.
SMERCONISH: I know that you spent 18 years as a SWAT officer yourself, so as you look at the data that is now known to the public what is drawing your attention? What are you most confused or concerned about?
CURNUTT: Well, obviously that somebody like that would get a rifle and go and do something like this at that place. Obviously there was a door that was left unsecured. Obviously that he was able to get into the interior classrooms once he did get inside the building. And then obviously, when the doors closed and locked and we can't get in, we have to have special training and equipment to be able to defeat that door quickly. We have to get in there and stop this attacker.
There are people in there that are already injured, they need medical attention. They need to be evacuated to a higher level of care. And it's up to us to arrange that meeting.
We have to do more, but we have to train more. And we have to have more support. And we'd have to have more time and more equipment so that we can be more capable.
SMERCONISH: I hate to be an armchair quarterback, and I consider myself to be very supportive of law enforcement, but the idea that this was now a barricaded situation is out the window when you hear more gunfire, right? I mean, initially, there's a lot of gunfire, more than 100 rounds that go off, and now law enforcement respond, they're not sure what the situation is. But the moment they hear more gunfire, shouldn't they have been through that door?
CURNUTT: Yes, there is a need to get in there and stop this person. Now it's easy to say that when the doors closed and locked and round, you're flying through the door and you're getting hit by those rounds. You may not be able to get through that door so you find another door. You find a window, you create a hole where there isn't a hole. You find a way.
You have to get in there. You have to stop this. What's happening in there is active and we're there to stop it. SMERCONISH: John Curnutt, thank you so much. I really appreciate your expertise on an important subject.
CURNUTT: Thank you. Have a safe and reverend Memorial Day. Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Social media is a little bit hard for me to do while we're in Warsaw, but here's some. Smerconish, lots of good guys with guns outside the school. NRA wrong again.
Terry, it's like I said to my guests just a moment ago, I hate to be the armchair quarterback and to be disparaging of law enforcement in this regard, especially when you see that film footage of the family members who are outside who are saying, hey, why aren't you going in? For me, the big unknown, because I understand that they say, well, we didn't believe it was an active shooter, we thought now it was a gunman who barricaded himself in.
OK. But the moment you then hear additional gunfire, you got to be through that door. And that didn't happen in this case.
I neglected to mention the survey question of the week. I'm asking this, Henry Kissinger has now entered the conversation. He says that we ought to be ceding territory or that Ukraine ought to be ceding territory to Russia if that's what it takes to bring about a resolution. Put that up on the screen so that everybody can see today's survey question of the day.
Make sure you're going to smerconish.com and casting a ballot on that. Do you agree with Dr. Kissinger when he says, if that's what it takes for there to become a peaceful situation in Russia, then let's get to it.
When I come back we'll talk more about the situation in Ukraine and the support, the amazing support that the Polish people are providing to Ukrainian refugees.
SMERCONISH: I'm Michael Smerconish. Welcome back to Warsaw.
Radoslaw Sikorski, I'm privileged to have as a guest. He has served as Poland's Minister of Defense, Foreign Minister and speaker of parliament.
Mr. Sikorski, you know that our former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, Dr. Kissinger, said this week that he thinks Ukraine needs to be prepared to cede land to Russia, if that's what it'll take to bring about peace. What reaction do you have to that?
RADOSLAW SIKORSKI, FORMER POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER: Dr. Kissinger is a great man, but I disagree with him on this, both as regards substance as its form. The Obama administration advised the Ukrainians not to fight in Crimea, that didn't stop Putin, it emboldened him. If he'd been confronted for his annexation for his rally into the Donbass, maybe we wouldn't have this war now. He needs to be defeated in the Donbass because otherwise we'll find him in a few years time on the nature border.
And also, remember, Ukrainians have politics too. And such advice, even when well-meant, it should be given in private, because Mr. Zelenskyy also has rivals, and it's his people who are being raped, kidnapped, deported and murdered. And it's very difficult to make such deals in a democratic country.
SMERCONISH: Does this end by negotiation? Or must it take the outright defeat of Vladimir Putin to bring about peace?
SIKORSKI: Remember, Putin wants all of Ukraine. He denies Ukraine the right to exist. He doesn't believe Ukraine is a separate nation and on occupied territory. They're actually exterminating Ukrainian culture, Ukrainian elites, the very notion of Ukraine. And so, I don't see that the Russian red lines and the Ukrainian red lines meet at any point.
It would be good for Putin to lose so that Russia, the broader leads learn that neoimperialism is costly and doesn't work.
SMERCONISH: You know that right now the Biden administration and the Pentagon are trying to make a final decision as to whether to supply Ukraine with long range weaponry that they so desperately are requesting. We're, of course, all mindful of the United States' unwillingness to backfill Poland with F-16s so that they could supply the MiG-29 fighters. What do you think the U.S. should do relative to the long-range weaponry?
SIKORSKI: Well, first of all Ukraine is a democratic member of the U.N. in good standing. It has been invaded without giving provocation. We are absolutely now right to sell or donate any kind of equipment that Ukraine requires for its self defense.
But I agree that Ukrainians should not be attacking Russian territory and they've been very carefully about that. So I think we could supply them those weapons provided they undertake -- not to use the MiGs in Russian territory.
We should also deter President Putin from making nuclear threats. Remember, Ukraine gave up a huge arsenal in the 1990s for Russian assurances of security which are clearly had been broken. So I think the U.S. should persuasively tell President Putin that if he were to try to use tactical nukes the U.S. has the option of giving Ukraine their nukes back.
SMERCONISH: I worry that the lesson many countries will take away from this conflict is that it's good to have nukes because if Ukraine still had theirs Russia would not have invaded and -- but for the nukes that Russia possesses I'm convinced that NATO and other nations would be handling Russia in an even more aggressive fashion.
SIKORSKI: The lesson is also that if you give up a victim's territory like the western parts for -- Czechoslovakia to do in 1930 you don't end the war, you encourage the invader to ask for more.
SMERCONISH: Mr. Sikorski, I'm in Warsaw in part to shine a light on the humanitarian efforts and the generosity that the Polish people have shown toward fleeing Ukrainians. I know this is something very important to you. Can you speak to that subject as a Pole? My impression is that Poland having been through Nazism, the holocaust, the occupation and communism see themselves in what's going on in Ukraine.
SIKORSKI: It's older than that. The Russians have been invading us for about 500 years. So we feel Ukraine's pain. We feel that they are fighting our fight and that the least we can do is to protect their women and children.
Yes, it's -- it's -- the outpouring has been genuine and lasting. I mean, in this house that you're seeing I've had two families, 10 people. Now we have another family, three people. And it is like that all over Poland.
We should help them to win this fight. President Putin should be stopped as far away from the borders of NATO and the European Union as possible.
SMERCONISH: And finally, Ambassador Brzezinski was my guest here moments ago and I briefly discussed with him some polling data from the United States that says Americans are supportive of Ukraine but when the American economy is headed in a downward direction they become more concerned with their own situation.
My final question to you is, "What would your message be to Americans watching this now?"
SIKORSKI: Well, war always cost but if at the price of some pain now we define Russian imperialism and send a very strong message to China that recovering so called renegade provinces is very expensive and had -- had better not be tried then I think on the whole we would save ourselves money.
SMERCONISH: Radoslaw Sikorski, thank you so much for being my guest. I'm very appreciative.
SIKORSKI: My pleasure.
SMERCONISH: Thank you, sir. A little hard to do social media from Warsaw but let's give it a try, Catherine. Are you able to put something up for the screen? There we go.
What part of the United States is Kissinger willing to give up -- says The Shizzle.
I'm not sure if I'm more impressed with your screen name or with your commentary. Don't forget today's survey question at Smerconish.com -- asked, do you agree with Henry Kissinger that Ukraine should be prepared to cede territory to Russia to help end the invasion?
[09:35:03] When I come back to Warsaw I'll turn my attention to what's going on at home, the events in Uvalde. And we'll talk about some of the commonalities shared by so many of these mass shooters. We'll do that in a moment.
SMERCONISH: Turning our attention now back to the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas. I'm joined by Dr. Jillian Peterson, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at Hamline University, also author of the "Violence Project."
Doctor, I read your book. I read your book. There is a line in it that says, "The monsters aren't going away. There are more and more of them." You say "the monsters." Aren't them -- oh, sugar. OK. Well, we don't have our guest. We're going to have to go to break. We'll make our connection and then we'll come back to Warsaw.
SMERCONISH: Welcome back to Warsaw. That is today's survey question of the day at Smerconish.com. "Do you agree with Henry Kissinger that Ukraine should cede territory to Russia to help end the invasion?"
Make sure you're voting at the Web site. I'll give you the results at the end of the hour.
I'm joined now by John Lynch. He's a founder of Corporate Aid for Ukraine. You've been my Sherpa for the last 24 -- 48 hours. You're an American. You came 30 years ago. You never went home. How come?
JOHN LYNCH, FOUNDER, CORPORATE AID FOR UKRAINE: I originally came in 1991 at the fall of communism. It was supposed to be a one year program to kind of help capitalists and get started and fell in love with Poland. You understand why now.
SMERCONISH: Now, I do. I mean -- you said to me you've got to come see this incredible outpouring and now I've seen it. Describe.
LYNCH: Yes. So we were all following the news before the war. People in Poland were more skeptical than America, kind of more rather expecting the war. And then when it happened tens of thousands of Ukrainians headed to the Polish border, the place they found safest to come.
And, of course, there was no plan for taking so many refugees so the Polish people got into their cars, drove to the border, took Ukrainians into their homes. And this is an incredible outpouring of support for Ukraine from the Polish people as we've talked about on this show. And just -- I felt -- never felt more proud of the Polish nation in the 30 years I've been living here. SMERCONISH: And you said to me yesterday and others said to me yesterday as I was touring the Global Expo and then the National Stadium don't lose sight of the fact that what you're not seeing are those random acts of kindness that the Polish people undertook on their own without an NGO, without any government oversight. They just drove to the border and brought people back to their homes.
LYNCH: Yes. I wrote the article called "Ten Million Volunteers," about the ragtag fleet of complete uncoordinated activities to help Ukrainian people. And myself, my company, we sponsored a small home outside of Krakow to put up people. Almost everyone I knew took people into their homes.
So there's just -- it was incredible. I think amongst the worst bit of humanity of what's happening by Putin in Ukraine you saw the greatest piece of humanity, probably one of the greatest in history.
SMERCONISH: And maybe the reason, John, is that behind us is a gorgeous city but a city that 85 percent of it was destroyed in World War II. We Americans see the footage on television of what has taken place in Ukraine. These folks have been there. They understand it. They learned it from their parents and from their grandparents.
LYNCH: Yes. The one thing you learn when it comes to Poland, if you live here like I do for a long time, is World War II is not history.
LYNCH: It's living in people. Everyone's grandmother or grandfather told the stories. Everywhere you turn, like on the tour we had of Warsaw, every building has a little sign reminding us on terrible things that happened there.
So people grow up not in a cynical way but in a cautious way. You need to be careful about certain neighbors that we have here in Poland. And as soon as that happened to the Ukrainians, the Poles just didn't have to think about it. There was no coordinated effort to step up and help the Ukrainians.
SMERCONISH: It's, to me, reminiscent of what we saw with solidarity in this country and the movement and Lech Walesa.
LYNCH: Yes, absolutely. Lech Walesa is, you know, the living legend here in Poland. What he did to -- gathered the Polish people up to feel brave is exactly what Zelenskyy is doing there. All of us watching here feel the same thing. This man -- I remember at the very beginning the U.S. offered to evacuate him and he says, I don't need a ride, I need arms.
SMERCONISH: John Lynch, thank you for telling me I needed to come to Poland. I'm very appreciative.
LYNCH: Yes, it's a real pleasure. It's great to --
SMERCONISH: Thank you.
LYNCH: -- great to be here with you.
SMERCONISH: I'm back in Warsaw right after this.
SMERCONISH: I'm Michael Smerconish. Welcome back to Warsaw.
I want to turn our attention again back to the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas. I'm joined now by Dr. Jillian Peterson. She's a professor of criminology and criminal justice at Hamline University, and author of the book "The Violence Project." Dr. Peterson, I read your book with great interest. You say, "The monsters are not them, they are us." What does that mean?
JILLIAN PETERSON, CO-FOUNDER, THE VIOLENCE PROJECT: I think we have a tendency to think of the people who do this as these just completely evil psychopathic monsters. And, of course, they're doing monstrous things but that prevents us from realizing that before they do this they're a kid in our classroom, they're a relative, they're a neighbor, they're a coworker. These are people who are in our communities who we see every day that do these monstrous things. So in order to recognize the warning signs we have to be willing to realize that these are insiders. They're not scary outsiders.
SMERCONISH: You and your co-author you wrote to all the alive, known, obviously incarcerated mass shooters. Five wrote back. What did you learn from them?
PETERSON: We were interested in understanding what they were thinking, what was this build over time, what were they thinking in the days, weeks and months leading up to this.
And we were able to uncover this kind of common pathway that they went through where this sort of suicidality and self-loathing and hopelessness and isolation turns outward, and it's whose fault is this, whether they pick a racial group or kids out of school. Who do I blame?
They get radicalized online. They study other shooters and then they go out and they're able to purchase firearms very easily. Then they do this act as a final act. It's meant to be watched and witnessed, and they plan to either die doing it or be incarcerated the rest of their lives.
SMERCONISH: Speak to a parent who has a troubled son or a relative who has a troubled nephew, someone who now in light of these events is thinking of someone, worrying about someone. On one hand they don't want to be so disruptive to their life with a false alarm. And on the other hand they're not sure if they have someone on their hands who could be the next mass shooter.
PETERSON: Yes, it's really difficult. We talked to mothers of perpetrators who told us, "I was actually worried about my son, but I didn't know what to do. What was I going to do? Call the police and say my kid might do something, arrest him?"
So I think it's about making sure families know where those resources are. We have a Web site called Off-ramp.org. It has crisis intervention resources, suicide prevention, mental health resources. A lot of this is getting connected with the school or with the workplace or with a place of worship and asking for help and trying to get the person you're worried about connected with the resources that they need.
SMERCONISH: And in your book you offer things that need to be done. For example, for the individual mentoring, you know, being involved in the life of a young person. What are some of the things that you lay out?
PETERSON: We lay out over 30 different solutions, things we can do as individuals, as institutions and then at the societal level. So things from early childhood trauma screening to building crisis intervention teams in schools, training ourselves in suicide prevention, to tackling online radicalization and holding social media companies accountable for the hateful rhetoric that's on their platform, and then of course the incredible easy access to firearms where a high school kid can go out on his 18th birthday and buy an assault rifle.
SMERCONISH: Dr. Peterson, is there a copycat effect to all of this? We only have 30 seconds left together. Tell me how worried you are that there's Buffalo then there's Uvalde. What next?
PETERSON: Yes. There's a social contagion aspect to this. So when you have one big shooting you tend to see two or three more right on its tails. People feel emboldened by the amount of media coverage these get and they want to be known in the same way. So it's truly is a concern and something that we should be looking out for.
SMERCONISH: Dr. Jillian Peterson, the book is called "The Violence Project." Thank you so much for being here.
PETERSON: Thank you for having me.
SMERCONISH: Here are the results from today's -- wow, pretty decisive outcome and a lot of voting. Thank you for that.
Today's question, "Do you agree with Henry Kissinger that Ukraine should cede territory to Russia to help end the invasion?" Ninety- three percent of 25,030 who cast ballots today at Smerconish.com say no. I have to say there has been a pattern. Every time we've asked a survey question that pertains to Ukraine the response from our audience has been one of total solidarity and total support and that continues today.
Can I just say that I've had an extraordinary opportunity here in the last 24 -- 48 hours to see behavior on the part of the Polish people toward Ukrainian refugees that needed to be seen to be believed? I've watched all the footage but to come and watch the generosity and the humanitarian outpouring has really been special to me. So a pleasure for me to have been in Warsaw. Look forward to seeing you when I'm back in Philadelphia next weekend.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. It's Saturday, May 28th. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Boris Sanchez in Uvalde, Texas.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christi Paul. Boris, I can't get over what I'm seeing behind you. Help us understand what it's like there in Uvalde this morning.
SANCHEZ: The memorial behind me, Christi, at Robb Elementary School continues to grow seemingly by the minute.