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State of the Union

President Biden Visits Robb Elementary School In Uvalde; Briana Ruiz And Her Son Daniel On His Escape From Robb Elementary; President Biden Visits Robb Elementary School In Uvalde; Interview With Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL); Interview With Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). Aired 12-1p ET

Aired May 29, 2022 - 12:00   ET



BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Why would someone hurt my baby? Why would someone hurt her baby?

We'll see if President Biden has answers.

For now, we'll turn to Dana Bash live in Uvalde for CNN's continuing live coverage.


DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Hello. I'm Dana Bash in Uvalde, Texas. And welcome to a special live noon edition of STATE OF THE UNION.

What you're looking at right now are live pictures of President Biden and the first lady, Dr. Jill Biden. They just landed here in Uvalde, and what you see is the president meeting with local officials.

He is expected to go from there, the airport to meet with grieving families here today, trying to bring some comfort to a community traumatized, absolutely traumatized by the loss of 21 innocent people, 19 of them children, as young as 9 years old. They were murdered in their classroom.

This is a community just trying to understand not only that, but why 19 law enforcement officials waited an hour outside the classroom as the children made desperate 911 calls for help.

The president lands here as lawmakers in Washington and around the country are renewing calls for action again, but it is unclear whether the president and those in power will be able to get anything done.

As we watch pictures of the president, I want to bring in Arlette Saenz.

Arlette, you are also here in Uvalde. You were over at the school at Robb Elementary waiting for the president to arrive as he set to meet with grieving families. And, Arlette, unfortunately, this is the kind of meeting that this president has had all too often in his career.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right, Dana. President Biden as vice president and now as president has gone into these types of communities time and time again, but it certainly, this would be one of the most difficult meetings he will be having later today when he meets with the families of those who lost those 19 children and two teachers here in that horrific massacre on Tuesday.

Now, the president has just arrived at an airfield in Uvalde. He is meeting with local officials, including State Rep Gutierrez, as well as Governor Abbott, he's on hands there to greet the president.

And then his very first stop here in Uvalde will be right here behind me to the memorial at Robb Elementary School. He and First Lady Jill Biden will come to spend time here, really, an area where the community has been gathering over the course of the past few days. Now, later, the president will attend mass and he will also meet privately with those families. The White House allotting several hours for the president to speak with them, as they are hoping that he can offer some type of comfort to these families in this gut-wrenching time -- Dana.

BASH: Arlette, thank you so much. And we'll be getting back to you throughout the hour as the president comes to where you are.

And moments ago, I spoke with Briana Ruiz and her son, Daniel, who just visited the memorial where I am here to pay respects to his fallen friends, including his cousin, 9-year-old Ellie Garcia.

Daniel is just 9 years old. He climbed through a broken window to survive Tuesday's shooting.


BASH: Briana and Daniel, thank you so much for telling your story.

Briana, I'll start with you.

What was it like as a parent? I mean, I can't even imagine. I have a son who's just a year older than Daniel. Waiting those terrifying moments where he came out?

BRIANA RUIZ, MOTHER OF ROBB ELEMENTARY SHOOTING SURVIVOR: It was terrifying. When I got the call from my father with what was going on, I had literally just left his school because he had an awards ceremony.

And usually, I -- when he has things like that, I'll take kids out of my school early and he asked me that day if I could, but I had errands to run, so I had just turned to him, told him to stay and I told him he was going to be okay.

When I got there, that's all I could think of was that I should have taken him out, and it -- it was scary. Where I was at, I was by the funeral home, and I know the layout of his hallway.


When they started pulling children out of the classes, I saw all the classes that surrounded his area and my cousin's area as well.

Once I saw all those children coming out and I saw that they weren't, it was a numbing, really, that I got. Just because I could feel something was very off and just knowing he was still in there, the shooter was still in there, it's -- it was terrifying, one of the worst experiences ever.

BASH: I can't even imagine. And then describe what happened when you finally saw Daniel.

RUIZ: When he came out, it was over an hour later. He was actually one of the last ones from the back of his class coming out.

There was a student that was struck in his classroom, and when I saw her -- I mean, she was just covered in blood because he had broken her nose with a stray bullet. When I saw that and I recognized the girl was in his class, it sent a more terrifying chill through my body because I saw all his friends running out and I still hadn't seen him.

And finally towards the end, when him and another friend came running out together, it -- it gave me back, like, I couldn't catch my breath, you know? But I ran straight to him and I just held him, and I remember somebody trying to get him out of my arms, but I just -- I kept holding him until I walked him myself to the funeral home.

I grabbed him and a friend of his because his friend was very panicking too, and I held both of them together because they've been in school together since, what, pre-K? So I mean, they've known each other since literally they were 4 years old, and his friend was just going on about his teacher getting hurt, about how the other student almost died because she got hit with a bullet, and it -- they were just terrified.

BASH: Daniel, you climbed out through a window with broken glass.


BASH: And you had glass in your arms? In your hand. But you're -- physically you're okay.


BASH: Can you tell me about what happened in that classroom?

DANIEL: We were just, like, nothing really, but he just shot, like, four bullets into our class, but like, her nose broke and then our teacher got shot in her leg and her torso, but she's all right.

BASH: He was never in your classroom, because your teacher, right, your teacher locked the door and broke the key.

DANIEL: Mm-hmm.

BASH: Did you see his face?

DANIEL: Yeah. BASH: Through the window?

DANIEL: Mm-hmm.

BASH: That must have been -- I can't even imagine -- terrifying. What were you doing when you were in the classroom?

DANIEL: We were about to do something until we heard the first two gunshots, and then she locked the door and then she just, like, dropped on the floor. But everyone was telling her to wake up, didn't know if she was okay.

BASH: Telling her to wake up because she had been shot?

DANIEL: Mm-hmm. They thought she was like, passing out because she was like, shot.

BASH: And were you hiding under desks? Where were you in the classroom?

DANIEL: I was hiding under a table next to the wall. It goes to the end of the wall, like the start of the wall, and this is like, a very big table, but I could still see his face.

BASH: Through the window? Do you think he saw you?

DANIEL: I think he did, but at the same time, a lot of people were blocking him. So I don't really know. But I could see him like he's like staring at people in front of me.

BASH: You were all just, I'm sure, trying to stay very quiet?


Not easy, in any situation. It must have felt like you were there for so long. Was anybody in your classroom calling 911?

DANIEL: My teacher was trying to, but then, like, as soon as she was about to press the call button, he showed up to the window, so she really can't. But someone called them, but they were like, she tried to call them, but they didn't, like, pick up. So she had to text them.

BASH: How do you feel about going to school? I know it's summer, but how do you feel about going back in the fall?

DANIEL: Nervous.

BASH: Are you -- are you -- are you able to talk about things with your mom?


BASH: Yeah?

How do you think -- how do you think Daniel's doing? As a mom -- I mean, obviously, it's a silly question because we know the answer, but are you able to talk things through? We talked to a lot of mental health professionals that say talking is so important.

RUIZ: It is, honestly. That I do know because that's personally what I'm going to school for is counseling.

I do talk to him. I do remind him of how important it is to talk to me, and the good thing that I do have with all four of my children is we have an open relationship, so they know whether they're sad or if they think they're going to make me upset or anything like that, they do talk to me. They have that trust in me and confide in me about many things.

And he -- the first night, he really didn't want to talk about it, obviously, which I mean, it was okay. I told him, you need to cry it out, you're scared, it's okay.

He hasn't really stepped foot into his room since the incident. He was a real big gamer kid. He hasn't done that either just because it scares him. I am working on getting him, you know, counseling and therapy long-term because I know it's something that affects him.

He does have a lot of night terrors. He does talk and scream and cry in his sleep and I'll ask him, do you remember, like, you know, what you were saying yesterday? And he'll be like, no.

BASH: You don't remember any of that?


BASH: When you have night terrors, you wake up and your mom asks, you don't remember?

DANIEL: Uh-huh.

BASH: Your cousin Ellie, what should we know about your cousin, Ellie?

DANIEL: She used -- she liked to play basketball. She would only like, when my little brother was at school, like her mom would pick him up and then when she would get there to their house, she would call him, like, to come in the car and stuff, because she was here to pick him up.

BASH: You guys were pretty close? Yeah, I know. Close to a lot of the people in there.

Well, I just want you to know that you are such a brave person, such a brave person. I'm sure it doesn't feel like that right now, but you really are. And it's really remarkable that you came to tell your story and to talk about the heroics, heroics of you and your teacher and your classmates. Thank you so much, Daniel.

Briana, thank you as well. Thank you.


BASH: And we're now looking at live pictures of President Biden arriving at the Robb Elementary School where 21 people were murdered, were gunned down on Tuesday.

He's arriving to meet with grieving families to pay his respects at a makeshift memorial that's there, just like it's here in the town square with so many people, hundreds -- probably thousands of people have come, not just from the community but from all over.

And as we wait to see the president come out of the car, I want to go to the scene there.

Arlette Saenz, you were there with the president earlier. Arlette, you have covered president Biden for so many years. You have covered so many, unfortunately, so many of these instances where he can relate to people who are part of a club no one wants to be in, which is a club of people who have to bury their children.


SAENZ: That's right. And the president so often points back to his own personal losses, having lost his young baby daughter and wife in a car accident and seven years ago, beau Biden to brain cancer. And here at Robb Elementary School. My eyes are set on his, the so-called Beast, the vehicle that he rides in.

So we'll let you know as soon as he's out and about to approach the memorial. Of course, he's here with his wife, First Lady Jill Biden, a long time teacher and educator. This is also a very personal moment for her as well.

I actually see the first lady. She has now stepped out of the motorcade and will soon be meeting her husband to walk over to the memorial site where you'll see 21 crosses for the 19 children and 2 teachers who were lost. Now, I don't know if you can see this on camera just yet, but the president is holding a large bouquet of flowers and he and his wife are beginning to approach the memorial.

BASH: Yes, we do, Arlette, and as we watch, I want to bring in the Uvalde County commissioner.

Commissioner Ronald Garza, thank you so much for joining.

And as we watch, I want to say, when the president approaches to the memorial, we'll give him a moment, but as a lifelong citizen of Uvalde, somebody who represents the people here, what does this moment mean to you?

RONALD GARZA, UVALDE COUNTY COMMISSIONER: Thank you for having me on the network, Dana. I -- this is great. I'm awe of the president coming here. I think he's got a good heart. He knows what it is to lose children at a young age.

BASH: As you're speaking, I want to say, what we're looking at right now is the first lady and the president laying flowers at that enormous, enormous memorial and in fact, let's just watch for a moment.

(INAUDIBLE) BASH: So we were watching the president just have a moment of silence. You saw him come across himself, like we were saying to Arlette, we've seen so many moments with the president. Now when he was vice president, when he was senator where he has this unfortunate connection with people who grieve the way that these parents are grieving.

Obviously, they're very different because this is a place where kids are supposed to be safe in this school, and I know you went to this school.


BASH: You have -- your family all went to this school.

GARZA: Yeah, we have strong ties to Robb Elementary. My dad's second teaching assignment, 1965, 1970, was a schoolteacher there. I was a student. My kids, my grandkids, we are emotionally devastated here in Uvalde.

We're passing through a valley but we're only passing. We're going to get through this.

BASH: And you see the president and the first lady talking to two individuals. They're members of your community. Is that the school superintendent?

GARZA: Dr. Harrell, our superintendent and one of the parents.

BASH: And I really felt this the entire time I've been in Uvalde and you feel this every day because this is your community. It's remarkable how much everybody knows one another. If you didn't have a family member who was murdered in this school, you know somebody who did.

GARZA: That's right.

BASH: The fact that this is such a close knit community makes it even more painful, but in a way, brings more support. That's certainly something I've observed.

GARZA: Yes. The terms close-knit has been mentioned a lot of times here. We have two tenants, tenants that lost their children in this shooting, one little girl, Jailah Silguero, cute as a button. I would see her there at the apartment complex riding her bike and I would say hi to her and she would always say, hi, Ronnie.


That was her expression. Then, I would say, Jailah, how was school today? It was good. Do you like school, Jailah? Yes, I like school. OK, Jailah, you got to like school to be successful.

Yes, tight knit. Very tight knit community here in Uvalde.

BASH: I believe that the governor is there. We can't see him right now, but what would it mean, what does it mean for this moment to be a rare moment of at least physically bipartisan coming together, if not yet or maybe ever politically coming together?

GARZA: Unfortunately, it's going to take an incident like that that happens in our community, hopefully to bring people together, to bring our leaders together, for them to reach across the aisle and to hopefully get things done. Talking about it is not going to get us anywhere, because after this is gone, everybody leaves and we tend to forget. But I'm optimistic that our leaders are going to come to some kind of consensus.

BASH: We get to see just a few seconds ago, the governor hugging the principal of the school.

What does it mean to the people here? I was speaking to the uncle of Ellie Garcia, a 9-year-old who was killed, and he said, I'm certainly grateful that the president is coming to our community, but really wish that he wasn't coming here under these circumstances, which seems to be a very logical thing to say, but do people have an extra feeling of comfort that the commander in chief, that the president of the United States is here to console them?

GARZA: Yeah, in my opinion, I think President Biden making an appearance here is good. It's in order. I welcome his visit. And I think that's what we need. We need the leader of the free world to be here, and sympathize and empathize with us.

BASH: I want to bring in David Axelrod, a CNN contributor but an aide to President Obama and then Vice President Joe Biden.

And, David, you have the unfortunate experience of being in the room for scenes like this, scenes of unimaginable grief with then President Obama and Joe Biden when he was vice president. Talk about what it's like, if you can even articulate, if there's even words to explain what it's like in these moments.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, well, first of all, Dana, I wasn't in the room when the president or the vice president visited with families but I certainly heard a lot about it. And, I mean, it's devastating for the families and devastating for the officials as well, and for Joe Biden in particular who knows the pain of loss so intimately and so devastatingly. It had even deeper meaning.

But I remember when Newtown happened and President Obama texted me or emailed me and said, this is the first time I've cried in the Oval Office, and he was thinking as a parent. When you come to these scenes as elected officials, you know, you're there in your official duty, you're representing the country but you're also thinking as a parent and you're thinking as a grandparent as many of us have, and to have to try and console people who will never see their children again is an awful, awful thing.

It's important, and it's necessary to bring the grief of the country and the soul and support of the country, but it's hard, and it's particularly hard, Dana, because it's hard to explain how such a thing could happen and hard to explain how we don't really mobilize to do anything about it, to prevent it from happening again. I think those frustrations were felt by both president Obama and vice president Biden and now president Biden.

BASH: Yeah, I just want to say, as you were talking, I want to note the incredible power of that memorial where the president and first lady were going from child to child, from picture to picture, from person to person who were gunned down senselessly in their own school. It's just -- it's too much to bear to watch those images.


But this is happening at a place where there is a lot of sorrow, but that's also a lot of tension about what happened, why it happened, and how to prevent that in the future and Arlette, you're there at Robb Elementary School, and I know there was just an incident, not an incident but something happened with the few people there and Governor Abbott.

Can you explain it?

SAENZ: Well, so, as Governor Abbott was coming to join president Biden at this memorial, you started to hear some of the onlookers shouting, asking specifically for the governor to help, saying that their children are not safe and that they need help here in Uvalde county.

In fact, even just now, I heard one of the onlookers saying the same thing to President Biden, saying they need help here in this county after this tremendous, tremendous loss that so many families are enduring at this moment. I can tell you a little while ago, I can see President Biden and the first lady holding hands as they stood in front of these wreaths taking in the photos of some of these young children who were gunned down.

One little girl in the first communion dress, another photo of a boy in a t-shirt. And it is just, for the president to come in and take in this moment, this is what he and his advisers wanted was for him to come and see firsthand the loss that this community has felt and also try to offer some type of comfort to them in any way that he possibly can.

Now, after his stop here at the elementary school, he's going to be attending mass at sacred heart Catholic Church. Of course, President Biden attends mass every Sunday but this is a very different type of Sunday as he'll be in the pews with the communities, praying with them after this devastating loss. He'll then have the meetings with the families where the White House has really cordoned off several hours for him to be speaking with the families, hearing their concerns, and also trying to offer that type of comfort.

But it's very clear that while there is a lot of debate in Washington about what can be done to prevent the next type of tragedy like this from happening today, the president's focus is on offering solace and comfort to this community during this unimaginable pain. BASH: Yes, of course. That's why he's here, but, David Axelrod, the

fact that you have people who were there, members of the community nearby and parents asking, pleading with the governor, pleading with the president, when are you going to do something so children aren't dying? I'm obviously paraphrasing but that's the gist of it to gun violence,

And this has been a question that has vexed Washington, and real people in the real world, like here in Uvalde, don't understand why it is so hard for legislators they elect to come together to find some way to mitigate this.

AXELROD: Dana, I think most Americans are struck by the Groundhog Day nature of this, these things happen one after another after another. We grieve, we hear thoughts and prayers, we elect officials to come and try to provide comfort, but cannot get together on any approach to gun violence in this country, which is so much greater than any other country of our wealth in the world. Eleven, 12 times greater homicide deaths in this country.

And so, when people say, well, it's a mental health issue -- well, yes, this man had a mental health issue, but we're not 11 or 12 times more beset by mental illness in our country as in these other countries. We do have 46 percent of the world's privately held guns, and only 5 percent of the world's population.

And so, there has to be some approach to this gun issue, and frankly, I think it's interesting that the president in his address to the nation the day of this tragedy on Tuesday and to this moment has not been prescriptive on what he thinks Congress should do and that says to me, he's not terribly confident about their ability to do it.

BASH: Right.

AXELROD: So this is a recurring nightmare, and I would hope and, you know, I would love to see our elected officials get through this and produce something for once.

You're a student of Congress. I'm not very hopeful. I grieve for these parents and I grieve for the next set of parents who are going to face this set of circumstances because elected officials don't have the courage and wherewithal to come together and try to find common sense solution.


BASH: I have an elected official here, a local elected official, the commissioner here in Uvalde, Roland -- Ronald, excuse me, Garza.

When you see what looks like members of your community screaming, pleading with the governor, pleading with the president, to do something, what do you hear on a local level? I understand that there's not much you can do on a local level when it comes to either the gun issue or the social issues that lead to this. What's your reaction to that? GARZA: You know, Dana, I'm a good listener, and I hear both sides of

the story. You know, groups saying we need more gun control. The other group saying it's not a gun problem but a people problem.

BASH: What do you think?

GARZA: Personally, I think -- and this is just my opinion, that when it all -- when it's all done and said, you know, it's the individual that goes to purchase that automatic weapon. You know, it makes it hard for people to defend themselves when a shooter is there with an automatic rifle, with so many rounds of bullets, it makes it just that much harder for the victims, that much harder for law enforcement to do something, to -- it just makes it that much harder.

BASH: Speaking of law enforcement, let's talk specifically. I know we should be talking about the future, but there are a lot of unanswered questions here in your community about what happened that day, what happened on Tuesday.

Why there were 70-plus minutes that went by with the -- these 9 and 10 years olds frantically doing what they were supposed to do, quietly using their cell phones, calling 911. I can't imagine the fear that they had to do that, but they were so desperate, so terrified. And there were these grown-ups in the hallway who didn't come in.

What are you hearing about, are there -- is there any regret? Is -- I'm sure there's a lot of guilt. What are you hearing from the law enforcement community?

GARZA: From the law enforcement community, I'm like you. You know, this is all coming to light. We're learning of this, and it's very frustrating.

And I think people here are very frustrated with the time lapse. Why didn't they move in fast enough? It's a difficult situation to be in law enforcement's uniform, shoes, and to be there, to actually be there.

You know, I can say all I want to, but until you're there, and -- I'm not defending them, you know, by any means, but until you're there, you know? And I feel for the students. You know, the students were apparently trained to hide under a desk, to be quiet, you know?

BASH: And call 911.

GARZA: Yeah, call 911, you know? And yet, we have this carnage here, but I keep going back to the automatic weapons. You know, I'm not a gun owner, but I know people who own guns, who are gun enthusiasts.

BASH: A lot of gun enthusiasts in this town.

GARZA: Yes, and I see their point of view, and I respect their point of view.

But one gun enthusiast told me yesterday, he said, look -- he said, let's raise the age level. Is that the answer? Maybe not. You know, I think that's one of many

answers. We're talking baby steps, but we've got to do something.

BASH: Yeah, which is one of many things that they're debating here.

Arlette, I want to go back to you on the scene. The president is still there. He is in the point?

SAENZ: Yeah, he is just entering "The Beast" to go into this next location. You heard from the onlookers shouting President Biden, we need help, we need change. Our children are not safe in these schools.

The president seemed to acknowledge them. Kind of hopped up the step in the motorcade and waved but ultimately, not going to come over to the people who were gathered here today. But it is clear that there is frustration and that people in the community want to see some type of changes to ensure that their children can remain safe in schools.

Now, from here, the president should be departing at any moment. He will be heading to Sacred Heart Catholic Church to attend mass services there today as he typically does on Sunday. There will be a very small contingent of reporters allowed in, which is a rarity, actually, for when the president attends his personal mass.

There will not be cameras or audio, but it is expected that there will be some type of reporters on hand to witness what that scene, that moment is like as the president is celebrating mass with the community. He is about to depart at this very moment, as you'll see right behind me.


A very emotional moment as he went picture by picture, cross by cross, taking in the scene here where so many members of the community have come to honor those who had been lost in that horrific massacre.

BASH: Yeah.

SAENZ: Of course, the president now has a very difficult task ahead of him at the end of the day meeting with the families trying to offer some comfort but families who have so many questions about how something like this could take place.

BASH: So many questions.

And as you just mentioned, I just want to reiterate, Arlette, what was happening behind you is the president is departing Robb Elementary School, departing that memorial that sprung up with the beautiful pictures of the 19 students, ages 9 and 10, the two teachers, who were gunned down on Tuesday.

David Axelrod, this next stop for the president is mass. One thing that struck me and has been a comfort to me as I know it has been a comfort to the community is the deep, deep faith of so many people I've spoken to here in Uvalde. That's another connection that the president has with them. AXELROD: Without question. I mean, I think it's faith that allowed him

to survive the tragedies that he's gone through in his life. He's a person of deep faith. This is an important element of his life, and I think this is another point of contact with the community.

I just want to go back a second if I can, Dana, on the issue. What's going through the president's mind? In 1994, he was the co-author of an assault weapons ban that lasted for ten years and then was allowed to expire.

And we have a young man here who's 18 years old and a few days after his birthday bought two military-style assault weapons, one which he used in the assault on children, and this isn't even on the table now, the sale or ban on the sale of assault weapons.

That is not even possible in today's political environment, and what must the president think, having worked so hard on this issue in the past, and now facing this wall of opposition? To even measures like the universal background check which has the support of 90 percent of Americans who cannot get it through the United States Congress, the United States Senate.

So, think about the -- what he is feeling now as he greets these people, these families who are going through the sense of loss that he once knew and knowing that he can't really answer their question as to why. Why can't we get something done?

BASH: No, he can't. No.

AXELROD: It's really -- this must be a day of terribly, terribly difficult emotions for him because of all of his experiences.

BASH: Yeah. Per usual, very well-said, David Axelrod, Commissioner, Arlette, thank you so much for that.

We're going to get back to you as we monitor the president's movements here in Uvalde, and he is, as we talked about, going to do something he has done so many times before. He's going to meet with grieving families. We'll talk about that and more. We'll be right back.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION live from Uvalde, Texas.

Some lawmakers say they are making progress on a compromise plan to address gun violence. We talk with a Democrat and Republican about solutions to gun violence in the United States and where they might be able to find common ground starting with the Democratic whip in the U.S. Senate.


BASH: Here with me now is the number two Democrat in the United States Senate, Dick Durbin. Thank you so much, sir, for joining me.

So, what is the latest on negotiations? Yes or no, is anything actually going to get done this time?

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL): Well, Dana, I can't say for certain, but I can tell you, I sense a different feeling among my colleagues after Uvalde.

Of course, 10 years ago, it was Sandy Hook, and Parkland, and so many other instances. But it just is so compelling to see the photos of these young boys and girls, and to picture your own children or grandchildren captives of this madman as he's killing them off one by one in that school, and realize, it is time for us to do something. America is sick and tired of political excuses.

BASH: You are in charge of counting the votes in the Senate. You have done many bipartisan deals over the years with Republicans.

What is realistic right now? What's most likely to be part of any compromise, for example, a national red flag law, raising the minimum age to buy a gun to 21?

DURBIN: Well, I can tell you that what I want to see done is not likely to occur because of the word compromise, which you mentioned earlier.

The question, I think, the real challenge is whether the Republicans will step forward and show courage, political courage, in a very tough situation. There will be some. And I will do everything I can to encourage that.

We, as Democrats, have a different view of the issue. We have to be looking for that compromise that makes things better.

BASH: So, what is that? Of course, we have known that there are different views on this issue for decades now. But there are areas of compromise.


DURBIN: Well, there are some.

BASH: There have to be if you're hopeful. So, what are they?

DURBIN: Well, you mentioned a red flag, a person who has demonstrated the kind of conduct that is threatening or worrisome, to alert law enforcement officials early, to deal with this whole straw purchasing issue.

We lost a policewoman in Chicago, Ella French, last year to a straw purchase, a gun purchased by someone without a criminal record, handed it over to a criminal, and killed this wonderful policewoman and seriously injured her partner.

That sort of thing, enforcing straw purchasing, these are all small, but important and lifesaving steps. How many of those can we bring together on a bipartisan basis? I think there's a --

BASH: Vice President Harris called for an assault weapons ban yesterday. Do you see any chance of that happening?

DURBIN: Well, when we had one, there was a reduction in crime, mass shootings with these weapons. That expired years ago.

And, unfortunately, in the meantime, there's been a dramatic increase in purchases of these weapons. The AR-15 that was used by this individual in Uvalde, there are now 20 million of those owned by Americans across the nation, just to put it in perspective.

So, we have got to be realistic about what we can achieve. But there is absolutely no excuse, in my mind, for a military assault weapon to be sold to an 18-year-old with a backpack of ammunition, who walks in and kills these innocent children. That's just unacceptable anywhere in the world.

It's unforgivable that, as American leaders, we let this occur here.

BASH: Senator, I know you feel strongly about that. You feel strongly about background checks and other more comprehensive gun measures.

But you also are making it pretty clear you know the reality. But if you look back at what we saw happen in the U.S. Senate, for example, after the Pulse nightclub shooting, Democrats actually defeated two Republican proposals because they didn't go far enough.

Are things different now? Are you at the point where you're willing to take half-a-loaf, or are you still waiting for the whole loaf?

DURBIN: Well, I think, last week, it was discouraging that, after the terrible incident, Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate leader, came to the floor and said, we're going to offer a bill on the floor, open to amendments.

It was my bill, a bill on domestic terrorism, just reporting the statistics on it. And so we called that bill for a vote on Thursday and said, this will be our opportunity to bring the best ideas forward, and let's vote on them.

You know, Dana, because you have been around for a few years this is extraordinary in the Senate, basically, an open rule approach. Not a single Republican would vote for it to give us a chance to proceed to the subject matter.

We have got to have a more accepting situation where both sides are willing to understand we have to have compromise if we're going to get anything done. And the American people are sick and tired of political excuses.

BASH: Yes, and I understand the procedure on that.

But, just looking forward, people like your colleague Chris Murphy says we basically have to pick a couple of things and claim victory because of the reality that we're living in right now. We -- he was speaking as a Democrat.

DURBIN: I'm in touch with Chris. And I'm going to continue to be.

My Senate Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over these issues. Senator Cornyn, who is also meeting -- a Republican of Texas, also meeting with Chris Murphy, he's on my committee.

I said to Chris and I offered to Senator Cornyn, if you can make progress between you, if you can move us forward, don't worry about the committee jurisdiction. Do the right thing and do as much as you can do. And let's join together, if we can, on a bipartisan basis to show the American people that what happened in Uvalde was not in vain. That sadness and tragedy in that small town has been felt across America.

We have to respond to it with something positive that shows America we care.

BASH: Well, it does sound like you have a different tone in your voice, Senator, a little bit more optimistic than I have heard you on these issues in the past.

So, we will see. And we will definitely be in touch as you're in touch with the negotiators in the Senate.

Thank you so much, sir.

DURBIN: Thank you, Dana.

This has been a powerful program this morning. I'm glad to be a part of it. Sorry for the circumstances.

BASH: Thank you, sir.


BASH: My next guest is a Republican lawmaker who changed his mind about what should be done to prevent mass shootings.


BASH: Here with me now is Republican Congressman, Air Force veteran and pilot in the Air National Guard Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.

Congressman, thank you so much for joining me this morning.

You now support universal background checks, red flag laws, raising the minimum age to buy a gun, banning high-capacity magazines.


How did your thinking evolve?

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): So a lot of that happened around Vegas. So, I woke up the morning after the Vegas shooting, and we heard the audio from that. And I had shot a bump stock before. I knew that was a bump stock. And so I called for banning bump stocks.

And, at that point, it's like, OK, this is getting out of hand. What are the things we can do to make a difference? I mean, obviously, there's going to be some fundamental disagreement.

And it's like, well, why should somebody be able to buy a gun at 18, particular a long gun, at 18, when, as of recently, they can't even smoke cigarettes until they're 21?

It's just the right thing to do. The problem is, everybody is scared to inaction. They're frightened of the loudest voices. And 90 percent of Americans are begging that we do something.

BASH: Is that the reason why you think so many of your fellow Republicans aren't where you are on those issues?


I mean, I have talked to a bunch that are where I am, but they won't say it -- or they won't come out and say it, because, again, it's -- I have experienced this, whether it's talking about Donald Trump, January 6, or the guns issue, is, yes, once you make something that's outside of the cultist position, or outside of that, like, tribal position, you're going to get a bunch of attacks that say, you're crazy, it's my right, the Second Amendment -- even though we all believe in the Second Amendment. We just believe that there are reasonable things to do about it.

And, look, if you look at this shooting, you look at -- you look at Buffalo, you look at Parkland, and all these others, there are people taking these guns, these ARs, under the age of 21. Can we stop all of it? No. Can we mitigate it? Certainly. And we should be doing that now.

BASH: Governor Greg Abbott says this shooting shows the need for more laws addressing mental health. Texas Senator Ted Cruz wants to reduce the number of doors in schools, install bulletproof glass, put armed cops on school campuses.

Is that enough to stop mass shootings if the U.S. doesn't also do something about access to guns?

KINZINGER: Yes, I mean, look, ultimately, I do think it's a hard issue, because people have to make a decision to go and do a mass shooting.

But if we think that just hardening schools or reducing -- basically turning schools into military camps is going to be the answer, even if it does work, which it won't, but even if it does, that's not the kind of country I want to live in, right?

I got a kid that's 4 months old now, will be going to school someday. I don't want to have to have a military ID to check him into the front gate of his elementary school.

And so, look, any -- what you're seeing right now, Dana, is all these people that are -- these politicians that are scared to death to talk about the gun issue. They know that this is an issue, but they're scared to talk about it. So they launch into this thing about mental health.

We all agree that mental health is a problem. First off, I'd ask, have they actually put any more money into mental health, people like Ted Cruz? Highly doubt it.

But, secondarily, at the same time, why is an 18-year-old buying an AR? So, it's not an if or that. There's always the old saying too about the way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Typically, I agree as well. But there were 150 good guys with guns at this shooting that didn't do anything until basically Border Patrol SWAT showed up.

We have got to take handle of this, man. This is insane.

BASH: Congressman, you do still oppose a ban on the kind of assault weapons that were used in this shooting.

Can you explain why private citizens need weapons of war?

KINZINGER: Look, I have opposed a ban.

Fairly recently, I think I'm open to a ban now. It's going to depend on what it looks like, because there's a lot of nuances on what constitutes certain things. But I'm getting to the point where I have to wonder, maybe it's -- maybe somebody to own one, maybe you need an extra license. Maybe you need extra training.

And so the question is, is it a ban versus an additional certification? But, yes, I got to tell you, I mean, that 99.9 percent of people that own ARs, we all know, are not going to walk into a school and do this. But the problem is, for those who support the Second Amendment, like me, we have to be coming to the table with ways to mitigate 18-year- olds buying these guns and walking into schools.

My side is not doing that. My side is not coming forward with reasonable ways to defend an amendment that we think is very important. And so I'm looking at this, going, fine, if people are going to put forward solutions about certifying maybe who can buy an assault weapon, I'm certainly open to that.

BASH: Wow. So that is another change that sounds like you're willing to make.

Congressman, I want to turn to the topic of January 6. You are, of course, a member of that committee. The House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, says he will not comply with the committee's subpoena to interview him as it currently stands.


Are you considering holding the sitting House minority leader in contempt of Congress?

KINZINGER: You know, that's -- that's a -- that's a big deal.

Obviously, there are things we can do, including whether it's with ethics or other things. Trust me, every day, we're talking about what to do when these members -- if these members don't comply with the subpoena. And so we will see.

But I'm going to tell you, ultimately, it says way more about him than us if he doesn't come in, because, look, he has information, and we want to talk to him.

This is the House that he wants to be the speaker of, by the way, and he's saying, you don't have a right to talk -- well, look, I'm not going to be here next year in Congress, but I guarantee, if he is speaker, there's going to be people that are like, wait, you didn't even bother to comply with a subpoena.

Kevin McCarthy has no respect for the institution anymore, for the process. All he wants to do is be powerful, and it's not even be powerful through normal means. It's through really kissing up to Donald Trump. I mean, that's more on him than us.

BASH: Adam Kinzinger, we're going to have to leave it there.

Thank you so much for joining me this morning.



BASH: Thank you so much for watching STATE OF THE UNION today. We are closely following President Biden's visit here in Uvalde, Texas.

The news continues next.