tv CNN Newsroom With Jim Acosta CNN May 29, 2022 1:00pm-2:00pm PDT
you are live in the cnn "new "newsroom." i'm jim acosta. president biden shining in uvalde, texas. summer plans turned to funeral plans. where just days ago children were full of life. now life-sized poorly stands silently in their place. the president and first lady laid hands on those photos today, the children and two teachers lost at the hands of a gunman inside robb elementary school. the town of just 16,000 people is overwhelmed with loss.
the bidens attended mass at sacred heart catholic church where an influx of funerals is imnenlt. they are meeting privately with the victims' families this afternoon. so many of them want an answer to an excruciating question, would their loved ones be here today if police had acted sooner? the justice department is stepping in saying it will conduct a review of the law enforcement response as a top texas official admits the decision not to breech the classroom even as the children were calling 911 begging for help was wrong, period. cnn's arlette saenz is in uvalde. the president visited the site of that school memorial today. >> reporter: yes, jim, certainly an incredibly emotional day for president biden and first lady jill biden as they are here on the ground in the community of uvalde, texas, grieving with the community in the wake of that horrific massacre at the elementary school right behind me. at this moment president biden is meeting privately with survivors and family members of
the victims lost, 19 children and 2 teachers gunned down. the president first made the stop here at the memorial at robb elementary school taking in each of the photos, the crosses representing each of the lives lost. he and his wife spent some time looking into the eyes of these children in those photos to fully take in the moment and the experience of what these families are enduring at this time. even while the president has been here with the goal of offering comfort, he has also been pushed by members of the community to do more. here at the elementary school, one demonstrator shouted at both the texas governor and also president biden telling them to act, and the president faced more demonstrators as he left mass at sacred heart catholic church.
take a look at both of those moments earlier today. >> president biden, we need help. we need help, president biden! >> do something! do something! >> so you heard those chants there, do something, and president biden very explicitly mouthing the words, we will. of course there are so many questions of what that action will actually be. the president himself has said
there's little more he can do via executive action on gun control. the white house insisting that it is time for congress to act. and when you talk to people here, one person i spoke to said they want to see more gun laws, they want to see more resources devoted to mental health, and they are waiting to see answers from their elected officials to try to prevent future tragedies like this. right now at the moment the president trying to offer those words of comfort. he's expected to spend roughly three hours, possibly more, with the families as he is grieving with them, as they are experiencing these gut-wrenching losses of their young, young children. >> arlette, you can just hear the pain in the voices of those people in the community pleading for the help of the president of the united states. arlette saenz, thank you very much. joining me now joaquin castro. thank you for being with us. as you know the president is meeting with the families of the victims today. you were in uvalde yesterday. i know you met with some of
them. what did you hear from them? >> jim, obviously just unimaginable pain and grief and suffering and a few things. first they want to find out why it took law enforcement so long, by some estimates, over an hour to take out the shooter. and i don't think we've seen that in any other situation like this, perhaps ever, where it took law enforcement that long and they're wondering why their kids and why uvalde, texas. also, they're concerned about their kids who still have to go back to school next year. they don't want to go back to robb elementary. they want the state and the federal government to work together to make sure that they can go to a different school, a new school. so i hope that president biden and governor abbott will work together with the legislature and the congress to make that happen. and just, you know, just an incredible suffering that these people are going through, and
they want change in gun laws. they want gun safety and gun reform. people kept telling me i don't know how it is that in texas an 18-year-old can't buy beer and cigarettes but they can walk no a gun store and buy an ar-15. that makes no sense. and over the years as the republican party in texas has been overtaken by this gun mania and nra mania, greg abbott has made it easier for dangerous people to get dangerous weapons in their hands. >> and, congressman, the justice department is going to conduct a review now of the law enforcement response in uvalde. i know you've been calling for the fbi to investigate. is it enough what the justice department is saying they will do at this point? >> well, i'm glad that the justice department is listening, and they're going to do a review of the law enforcement response. like i said, i think everybody was shocked that it took an hour for law enforcement to go in there and finally take out the shooter. and, by the way, it wasn't just
local law enforcement. there were local, state, and federal law enforcement officers there all of whom waited a significant amount of time before going in. because now you see people starting to blame each other. and so, look, i hope that they do a thorough and comprehensive report because that's what the families deserve. >> and, congressman, have you gotten any indication just in your inquiry that you've launched as to what was going on with that delayed response? we heard what law enforcement officials said, that some of them didn't want to get shot and so on. have you been able to figure this out? >> i wish that i could say that i have more answers than what all of us have been privy to, but i don't. i'm just as mystified and disturbed as everyone else. >> and what did the fbi say when you asked for them to, i guess, launch an inquiry. >> well, they said right now they were working independently
but in partnership with dps and local law enforcement to figure out what happened, that they would come up with a comprehensive time line. they were in the process of reviewing all of the video footage from the school. apparently the funeral home across the street, which he shot at, also had video footage. they're in possession of all the body cam footage that the different officers had on them. so they're reviewing that. they're reviewing the viewer's social media, his cell phone. they believe, and i think it's been reported, that he was in touch with somebody in germany. i believe they told me it looked like he may have been in touch with london as well. and so they're gathering all of that information to try to make sure that they're able to give an accurate accounting of what happened and why it happened because god knows we've already gotten two or three or four different versions of the facts so far from state officials. >> that's exactly right. and earlier we heard this moment when a uvalde resident was
shouting at the president before that same person was shouting at governor abbott. let's listen to that. >> please, help! we need change! >> i mean, congressman, you're just hearing people shouting, pleading with the president of the united states, pleading with the governor of texas, for hem on this. you can hear the desperation in their voices. >> yeah. there's just a lot of visceral anger, visceral emotion, and that's right, people should be upset, obviously. you've got to make sure that ultimately that that energy and that anger is directed at the people that have been standing in the way of gun reform. remember, democrats in the house of representatives in congress
passed hr-8, universal background checks, supported by 90% of americans. we passed that over a year ago and it's been sitting languishing in a senate where republicans won't let it get through. now i will say this, democrats could get rid of the filibuster to be able to pass gun reform. either you get rid of the filibuster and pass it with democratic votes or you have to convince these republicans who have been slaves to the nra that they have to change their tune and finally decide they're going to do something on gun safety and gun reform. >> and speaking of new gun safety measures, kamala harris, the vice president, called for an assault weapons ban. the president has talked about an assault weapons ban. there was one in the united states in the mid-1990s to about 2004. after it expired, mass shootings went up after they had gone down during the course of that ban.
how do you make it happen? how do democrats make it happen? >> i think if legislators from both parties, folks the republicans have been staying in the way of this -- because you have over 200 democratic sponsors on the bill in the house of representatives -- if they listen to the american people, that ban is supported, that policy change is supported by over two-thirds of americans because they see what these weapons of war do on the street. there's a physical element to this. these folks can fire off 15 or 20 rounds and injure or kill 15 or 20 people in a matter of seconds with an ar-15 before you even have a chance to turn around. you have to do one or two things, get the ak-47s and ar-15s and semiautomatic handguns off the street, or you have to ban high-capacity magazines so it accomplishes the same thing and you can't shoot 20 people in five seconds. >> all right. congressman joaquin castro, i
know we're going to continue this conversation. thanks for making time for us this evening. we appreciate it. >> thank you. coming up, protesters gather outside the nra convention in houston after back-to-back shootings. we'll head there live and get reaction from an nra board member next. miss allen over there isn't checking lesson plans. she's getting graded on her green investments with merrill plus. still got it. (wstle blows) your money never stops worki for you with merrill, a bank of amica company.
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"the new york times" has published a visual depiction of how many times in the last decade the united states has witnessed a mass casualty event in which the perpetrator was legally able to purchase a gun. i have it right here on the desk. uvalde, buffalo, boulder, atlanta, dayton, el paso, virginia beach, thousand oaks, pittsburgh, las vegas, orlando, roseberg, oak creek. all mass shootings where the gunman was able to buy the
weapon legally. judge, thank you for being with us. for years your group has blocked new gun safety laws and pushed for the most relaxed rules on firearms. isn't some of this blood on the nra's hands? >> let me first say, jim, thanks for having me on the show. i don't believe the supposition of your question is accurate. i know while i'm not a spokesperson for anybody, i followed the issue closely and the nra and other organizations, even myself as a state senator in kansas have worked to tighten the laws. i think it's important to understand -- >> no, no, no, sir -- i hope you understand i'm going to have to cut you off when you start saying things that just aren't true. the nri has not worked to tighten rules. that's just not the case. the nra for years, for decades, has pushed for the most relaxed rules possible in this country and that's why we have mass shooting after mass shooting.
please if you could answer the question i asked you at the beginning of the interview. isn't this blood on your hands? >> i'm not the one that pulled the trigger and neither are the members of the national rifle association. i think buffalo is a great example where the alarms were going off in new york and all the officials did was hit the snooze button. he could have been processed through care and treatment action. he was a danger to himself or others. he already threatened mass shooting prior and nobody did anything. >> well, if he's a troubled young man -- if he's a troubled young man should he be able to go out and buy an ar-15 assault rifle or style assault rifle which is what happened in buffalo, which is what happened in uvalde? your group is holding its convention in houston where you are right now just a few days after the massacre in uvalde. we saw donald trump dancing on stage at the end of his remarks. >> he was not. i was there.
he was not dancing. give me a break. >> how is any of this at all appropriate? we're showing it on stage right now. he's doing a little jig there. people are waving their nra hats, the celebratory atmosphere right after a mass shooting where all of these kids are gunned down. how is that appropriate? >> i think what you're doing is just telling part of the story there because at the beginning of the speech he did do a very memorable memorial for the victims and he did make comments that were appropriate, but that's not the part that seems to be getting out. >> right, but why even have the convention? why not cancel the convention out of some measure of decent si? why not have some decent si for these kids? they just lost their lives. couldn't you postpone the convention, have it some other time? >> the timing was almost impossible to address that question the way you want us to.
vendors were here and set up. the contracts were already entered into. we were able to do that in 1999. >> mass shootings, i suppose. i want your reaction to what the survivors of tuesday's school shooting told cnn. let's listen. >> do you ever want to go back to school? >> i don't want to, no. i don't want anything to do with another shooting. and me and the school. >> are you scared it might happen again? >> mm-hmm. and i know it might happen again probably. >> i have the fear of guns now because i'm scared someone might shoot me. >> what do you say to these children who say they're afraid somebody is going to shoot them if they go back to school? >> well, i say to the children
we all pray for you and want to lift you up in prayer, that we want to hope that you get through this without the consequences that we see so often in victims of domestic crime. i practiced law for 25 years and have been a judge in criminal cart for over 14 years and now i'm doing family law, so i do think i understand what's in the best interests of children. i've been doing thousands of cases. i deal with domestic violence every day and let me say that there are other issues -- >> can they bring an ar-15 into your courtroom? can people bring in ar-15 into your courtroom? >> we can work together. >> can people bring an ar-15 into your courtroom, judge? >> well, we do have -- well, of course not. that's kind of a loaded question. >> why not? >> of course not. >> let me ask you this. nra supporters keep saying -- >> it's also important to remember bringing a firearm to
school in texas is a felony, also. >> well, people don't seem to have much trouble if they want to unleash that kind of destruction to do just that. nra supporters like yourself keep saying that the answer to all of this is good guys with guns. the 19 good guys with guns failed in uvalde. the cops were there in the school. the officer was mia and none of that help. >> i think the issue of law enforcement is a separate question from with a we're talking about today. their performance has left something to be desired. gave an enlightening press conference just the other way. i'm sure you're aware of it, too. >> with these mass shootings it keeps coming back to the ar-15 and similar models. why do people need an ar-15 anyway? >> you know, it's just a
semiautomatic rifle. if you want to be prejudiced about the way it looks. i was aware of what happened in the '94 semiautomatic firearms ban and there were rifles of similar function that just didn't look as ugly, they weren't black guns like a ruger mini 14 and the ruger mini 14 was appropriate and the other was not. >> i do want to ask you about the assault weapons ban. how is it an 18-year-old can buy an ar-15 style rifle and have 16 rounds of ammo like we saw with him in uvalde? >> well, he did not have any prior convictions. he didn't have any prior issues that would have kept him from purchasing one. it's my understanding from the news that he purchased it through a firearms dealer, passed the background check. he didn't have any prior convictions. >> right, but should an 18-year-old have an ar-15?
what's he going to do with it? >> should an 18-year-old have one in the army? >> they have military training in the army. the 18-year-old in uvalde did not. he turned 18 and he went out and bought an ar-15. >> the fact is that these kinds of issues are far more complicated than whether we remove something from the public. >> you can't buy a beer if you're 18. you can't buy a pack of cigarettes. >> it is more complicated. you want to know why politicians seem to go to gun control because it doesn't cost them any money. fixing the mental health system in this country costs money. i was around in the senate and before i lived in topeka when i watched them shut down the state mental hospitals and turn everyone out into the streets hoping the community based mental health would work and
they wonder why they don't show up every day to take their meds. this kid was troubled. >> we have troubled people all over the world. there's mental illness all over the world. we're the only country who has these mass shootings over and over again. let me ask you, do you think the issue here -- >> there have been several other mass shootings all over the world. >> not to the level that we have in the united states, come on. you take issue with how wayne lappier has run the nra. this may price people but in 1999 he testified that he was in favor of background checks to include gun shows. let's watch. >> we think it's reasonable to provide mandatory instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show. no loopholes anywhere for anyone. >> he says no loopholes. >> i'm aware of that. >> he says no loopholes. >> i'm aware of that. >> how does the nra have that position when an overwhelming majority of americans support
universal background checks? why are you standing in the way of what the overwhelming majority -- >> if you would let me answer -- you know, if you would just not put words in my mouth and let me answer the question that would be appreciated. the reality is it's the states that are the soft hole in the background check system. they don't report felony convictions. they don't report involuntary commitments when people are found to be a danger to themselves and others. states that have millions of convictions sitting in a database to pour for their employees to input it into the system. the system is flawed because the state's input it flawed. >> is the system flawed because your organization stands in front of just about any reasonable piece of gun control legislation that comes through congress? don't you feel any responsibility in all of this? >> if i could explain -- if i could explain, the reality is
we've worked in congress to have these systems in the individual states improved. the act that was passed during the trump administration to try to get the states to get their records up to snuff. and the reality is we're not. >> we're still having mass shootings. >> if they don't put the system in the system there are background checks and instances where shooter -- >> over and over and over. we have these mass shootings. isn't it finally time to say that your way doesn't work? it just doesn't work. >> the way we're doing it doesn't work but the way we're not making it work is making the background system work effectively because the states will not do their share of the job. the federal government and ncic over in west virginia do a great job compiling the records, doing the background checks and making sure that individuals are barred from purchasing firearms but then, of course, they're not
prosecuted for their attempt. maybe we should start prosecuting convicted felons because we get thousands of them every month -- >> we hear that all the time and you have 18-year-old kids shooting up shopping centers, schools and everything. they're not felons, they're just kids and they have access to an ocean of guns in this country. it's an ocean -- we're swimming in guns. >> there were over -- well, we do have per capita a high number of firearms in this country. the vast majority are not ar-15s that you're complaining about. there's very little difference functionally between that and any other semiautomatic firearm that's been around for over 100 years. >> why do they use them to shoot up shopping malls and supermarkets and schools? the ar-15 is the weapon of choice? they're used to hunt people. >> i guess you'll just have to ask them.
i don't know why. people buy things -- >> why don't you commit here, sir, that you will help get some semblance of gun safety sanity here in washington? could you make that commitment right now to do everything that you can? >> i would be happy to sit down and talk with just about anybody that won't insult me, the reality is that there are talks going on right now in washington as i understand it in the senate. >> well, we need action. our children are dying, sir -- our children are dying, judge. that's all the time we have. but i just have to say, you know, i think that you and your organization, honestly, i'm 51 years old, this has been going on for decades and it just seems to me that the nra needs to look into your souls and see what can be done for these kids. these kids who keep dying over and over again.
thank you for your time. thank you, sir. >> you bet. coming up, demanding change. i'll talk to the uvalde man among the onlookers today shouting for leaders to do something on gun violence. an i. that's why we b build technoloy that helelps everyone come to the table and do more incredible things. ♪ ♪
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>> please, governor, help uvalde. we need change. we need change, governor. >> just painful to watch. the outrage continued directed at president biden. >> president biden. we need help! we need help, president biden! >> you can just hear the desperation in those voices. and joining me now is ben gonzalez, the uvalde resident you heard shouting the words at president biden and governor abbott. ben, you live less than a mile from the school, you attended fourth grade there. three of your kids are in the same school district as robb elementary school. why was it important for you to speak out today? am i feeling this right? it feels like desperation i
heard in the voices of the people there. >> good afternoon, thank you for having me on. i never intended to reach out like this or get an interview or anything like that. it was never my intention. being there at the scene and seeing two leaders that can make such a huge difference in our community, i was just overcome with emotion and it just came out. >> yeah, take me back to that day. i know one of your sons, he knows some of the victims. tell us, you know, what your family is going through, what other people you know are going through. >> so the community, as everybody knows by now we're a small tight knit community and everybody knows everybody in some way, shape or form. my son, my 8-year-old son, he played football with some of the kids that were there at the school and it's just everybody
is just heartbroken. it's just heartbroken. you never think this is going to happen in your community. we're here and the families deserve to mourn. we, our community, needs to mourn for now and heal. but we are going to need change. when the dust settles, 21 families were destroyed and so many more families are just damaged forever. and we need change. we need some sort of change. we need help. our community needs help. >> as a parent who has kids in the district, the justice department will file this investigation into the police response at the elementary school. children were calling 911 begging for help as these officers were waiting in the hallway. you heard the department of public safety saying on friday they made the wrong decision. i can't imagine how people are feeling about all of that.
>> it's just devastating to hear that when you put all your faith and you back up your community pd and law enforcement. we've been going through a lot. there's a lot of things going on before the shooting, and you try and support local pd because they take the oath to protect us. if they fail to protect, it's devastating and heartbreaking and it's easy for a lot of people to sit here and say if i was there i would have gone in. i mean, i wasn't there, but had my son been in that building or somebody that i know or any children, i would have ran in and so many people would have. parents and families running in there. bystanders running in to get their kids and other children out, help, and it's just a huge letdown. at the end of the investigation if it comes out they could have
done more it will be huge letdown for the families. >> a lot of the kids don't want to go back to school now. >> no. i don't blame them. i know a family member that was in there. i can't imagine what he saw in there. it was a massacre. these poor, defenseless children had no chance because ar-15s you could just go and buy at 18 years old, you can just go and buy it. it's crazy. you can't buy a pack of smokes but you can buy an ar-15 with however many rounds of ammo. my son had just toured robb elementary days before, touring the school because he was going to go to 2nd grade there. my first thought was when i went to robb in fourth grade i lived less than half a mile from the school. i walked and rode my bike. i had a great time doing that.
i had many memories. i can't wait to teach my son to get to school responsibly and walk across the road properly. i was so ecstatic because he would be so close to my home. now we don't know what we'll do next year. every family in uvalde county, we don't have many options here. >> ben gonzalez, i hope there are some answers for your community very soon. you deserve it. it's been through too much. ben, thank you very much for your time, we appreciate it. >> thank you, sir. please get our message out to the politicians. we can come together. we don't need to be so far on the opposite end of the spectrum. we can meet in the middle and make change happen on so many fronts. it's not just one issue. it's not just the gun issue or mental health, it can be both and it is both. and please don't forget about uvalde. our families need prayers, many,
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uvalde, there have been two more mass shootings. cnn's nadia romero joins me. what do we know about the incidents so far? >> reporter: jim, gone are the days we talk about these incidents only happening in big, metropolitan areas. let's go to taft, oklahoma. it's a town about 45 miles outside of tulsa, oklahoma, and there police say that one person is dead. seven people were shot. and this happened at a memorial day festival. police were expecting about 1,500 people to be out early this morning to enjoy the memorial day holiday. but it ended up in a shooting. no one is in custody but there is a press conference happening right now where we're hoping to learn more about that investigation. and now let's head to chattanooga, tennessee. this shooting happened late saturday night just about a mile or so from the tennessee aquarium. so a populated area. and police there tell us that six people were shot, two of them with life-threatening injuries.
and, jim, police say all the people that were involved in the chattanooga, tennessee, shooting were young people, teenagers or early 20s. and weep just looked up numbers from the gun violence archive. they tell us there have been about 220, jim, mass shootings, so four people or more shot, so far this year and we've yet to even reach halfway through this year. jim? >> and, nadia, the shootings are putting americans on edge, obviously. you are tracking a third incident in new york that could have ended very differently. can you tell us about that? >> reporter: jim, last night in new york at barclay center there was a boxing match. a lot of people were inside this arena to see this happen. people thought they were inside of an arena when there was an active shooter. you have to take a look at this chaotic video that unfolded. take a look. >> there's guns? >> reporter: so you can see
people there were running and yelling trying to find a place to hide or get away. the new york police department telling cnn there was actually not a shooting, but they say it was a sound disturbance that people thought was gunshots fired. jim, tennis star naomi osaka was in there. she tweeted people were yelling there's an active shooter and people were trying to hide and barricade themselves in rooms this is where we are in our country right now that people are so fearful of going out being at a weekend festival to celebrate the holiday, to go to a grocery store or school shooting. this is what that fear looks like now. jim? >> we're all starting to think maybe we're next. that's the sad state of affairs right now. nadia romero, thank you very much. we believe there's an innovator in all of us. that's why we build technologyy that helps everyone come to the table and do m more incredible thing. ♪ ♪
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the uvalde school massacre has left millions of americans profoundly shaken and the shock of this has many parents asking what do we say to our kids? 2014 top ten cnn hero who helps children and their families cope with grief shares some advice. >> the tragedy that we all just experienced in texas has resulted in a traumatic event that has impacted not just texas
families, children around the world may experience some type of stress response. it could trigger previous crisis that they may have experienced. and it's really important for adults to observe the reactions that their children may have as a result of this event. having sleep problems, eating problems, having anxiety and worries, they may be more clingy to their parents. they may even have a fear of going to school. hug your child. ask them questions about their feelings. don't provide more information than what they are asking. help them to understand that things happen sometimes and we have no answers. keep some type of structure and routine in their lives so that they can feel safe. we all need to learn from this experience how we can best help
our young people to grow up to be healthy individuals psychologically, emotionally and physically. we can get through this crisis. we can get through together supporting one another so that hopefully we can prevent something like this from ever happening again. >> and to learn more about the help she provides through her grief center go to cnn.com heroes right now. has the largest and fastest 5g network. but, they don't. they only cover select cities with 5g. and with coverage ofof over 96 of interstate highway miles, they've got us covered. (vo) when it comes to safety,
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"newsroom." i'm jim acosta in washington. the justice department will review the police response in uvalde, texas. this is significant as texas officials and law enforcement are under intense scrutiny for the way officers responded. a top texas official admitting the decision not to breach the classroom was wrong, period. right now president biden is in uvalde meeting privately with families who lost loved ones in this horrific attack. he and the first lady placed flowers at the memorial site and attended mass at a church that will host far too many funerals in the coming days. 19 children and two teachers gone. this small town of only 16,000 people forever changed. cnn's arlette saenz is in uvalde. arlette, the president is once again offering comfort after yet another mass shooting in this country. >> reporter: this is something we've seen president biden do time and time again. but today he is here in the comm
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