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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Connecticut Elementary School Shooting; Gun Control a Topic of National Conversation

Aired December 16, 2012 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer. Fareed Zakaria GPS will not be seen this weekend as CNN continues its live coverage of the elementary school massacre right here in Newtown, Connecticut. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Over the past two days, we've seen a father try to put his immeasurable pain into words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBBIE PARKER, FATHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM: My family is one of the families that lost a child yesterday. My daughter, Emilie, would be one of the first ones to be standing and giving her love and support to all those victims because that's the type of person that she is.

As the deep pain begins to settle into our hearts, we find comfort reflecting on the incredible person that Emilie was.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We've also seen parents trying to find words to express their gratitude and their relief.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT LICATA, FATHER OF TWO SANDY HOOK STUDENTS: We're very lucky that all the children, my son included, had presence of mind to react appropriately and they basically ran right next to the guy, out the door.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: There will be more words. There will be more stories today as Newtown and the rest of the nation try to make some sense out of this tragedy that took the lives of 20 children.

I'm joined this hour by CNN's Soledad O'Brien -- Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you Wolf.

And here's what we know right now. This morning Connecticut's Chief Medical Examiner will be performing autopsies on the gunman, Adam Lanza, and on his mother as well who was killed at her home. The results of those autopsies we're expecting to be released at a news conference that'll be held a little bit later today. Also, today, President Obama will be in Newtown.

He's going to speak at a memorial service. Before that service this evening, he'll be meeting with the members of the victim's families and also the first respondents as well.

We know that the names were made public last night. Twelve girls, eight boys killed in all, either six years old or seven years old. Six adults were killed at the school as well. They were all women.

The medical examiner said that the primary weapon in the massacre was a semi-automatic rifle that was found at the scene and that every victim that he examined, which was 7 victims, had been hit more than once; one hit 11 times.

The governor of Connecticut told CNN that the gunmen penetrated the school building by literally shooting his way into an entrance with his assault weapon -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Soledad.

The day before a gunman massacred 20 school children in their classrooms, all ages 6 or 7, first graders, right here in Connecticut, lawmakers in Michigan passed a bill that would allow people to carry concealed weapons in schools despite the objections of the state's school boards.

In Illinois, a federal appeals court struck down a ban on carrying concealed weapons. And, in Florida, officials announced that they would soon issue their millionth concealed weapon and firearm license.

As the country absorbs another mass shooting, President Obama used his weekly Saturday address to repeat his call for change.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Any of these neighborhoods could be our own so we have to come together and we're going to have to take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this from happening, regardless of politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: But that will be a tough sell for gun control opponents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE DULAN, ATTORNEY, MICHIGAN COALITION OF RESPONSIBLE GUN OWNERS: The simple facts are guns exist. They are essentially 1800s technology. Even semi-automatics came into being in the late 1800s. They're easy to make. They're not going anywhere. They last several human lifetimes with minimal maintenance. So since guns exist, and we know for a fact that the only way to stop an evil person, like the person you were discussing earlier in the show, is to shoot him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Joining us now from the Time Warner Center in New York is Democratic Representative Jerry Nadler of New York who says the time for more strict gun control is right now.

Congressman, thanks very much for coming in. When the president says we need "meaningful action" right now, what do you want him to do?

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Well, I want the president to take the leadership and use the bully pulpit of the presidency to lead a crusade for meaningful and strong gun control legislation.

You know the United States -- and he's the only one who do it really. We know the gun lobby has strong support in Congress because people -- members of Congress are terrified of their alleged political power.

But the president can lead a campaign and can make it -- and can direct the moral opprobrium of the country at members of Congress or Senators who refuse to support strong gun control legislation.

And we know it -- we've heard all the nonsense ...

BLITZER: Just -- Congressman, sorry for interrupting, but how disappointed are you that, in his first term, this was not a high priority for him if not a priority at all?

NADLER: I don't want to get into that. What I care about is what happens now. The president had a lot of things on his plate. He had a depression. He had an obstructionist Congress.

What's important is what happens now and if the president steps up and leads a crusade and we save God knows how many lives by getting something done, that'll be great. That'll be a monument to his administration.

BLITZER: You've been in congress for a long time. So what's realistic? What do you think? What kind of legislation can be passed by the Senate and the House, the president would sign it into law that is realistic given the opposition?

NADLER: Well, I think we can get laws to ban automatic weapons. No hunter needs an automatic weapon to shoot at birds or a deer or whatever. We can ban high capacity ammunition clips that have no use except by the military or for mass murder.

We can pass legislation to limit gun trafficking so no one -- so a gun shop can't sell more than a specified number of guns at a time, one or two at a time. And we can pass -- we can ban the gun show exception which, at a gun show, unlike at a gun store, you can sell anything. You can sell an automatic rifle. You can sell high capacity clips to anyone without a background check.

No one in his right mind thinks that people with mental health problems or people who are on the terrorism list or people who are felons should be able to get deadly weaponry.

And let me just say, I know that there will probably be people on this show later or maybe there were who will say that guns don't kill people, people kill people and, you know, you should arm more people they'll stop the crooks.

But the fact of the matter is, there was a maniac on Friday who attacked an elementary school in China with a knife, not a gun. Twenty-two children aren't -- you know, were injured. Nobody died.

We have 9,146 murders with guns in the United States or deaths in the United States a couple years ago. Germany had 158, Canada 173. The United States has 15 times more than anybody else in a population base in any other industrialized country.

There's one reason and one reason only and that's our insane attitude toward guns. This has got to stop. And the NRA should stop. They won't, but we should stop them from being enablers of mass murder.

BLITZER: The NRA being the National Rifle Association ...

NADLER: Yes.

BLITZER: All right, Congressman ...

NADLER: And we even know ...

BLITZER: Thanks very much for your perspective.

NADLER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Jerry Nadler, member of the House of Representatives.

Let's get a different perspective. Right now, joining us from Philadelphia, John Lott, he's the former chief economist at the U.S. Sentencing Commission. He's the author of "More Guns, Less Crime."

Mr. Lott, thanks very much for coming in. I'm going to give you chance to respond. The United States has a lot more murders, you just heard from Congressman Nadler than all these other industrialized countries. He says it's because there are so many guns that are easily available out there.

JOHN LOTT, AUTHOR, FORMER CHIEF ECONOMIST, U.S. SENTENCING COMMISSION: Well, you look at the murder rates in these other countries, whether it be Germany, that he just mentioned, or others and they had even lower murder rates relative to the United States before they had the gun control laws.

When Britain, other countries, Ireland, Jamaica, other places imposed gun bans, murder rates went up. Americans have seen that in places like Chicago and Washington, D.C.

Every place in the world that we have crime data, both before and after a gun ban has gone into effect, every single place has seen an increase in murders after the ban has been put into place.

And, many times, it's been a several fold or more increase in murders. And there's a simple reason for that and that is when you ban guns, it's basically the most law-abiding citizens who turn in their guns not the criminals.

And rather than making it more difficult for criminals to commit crime, you actually make it easier.

BLITZER: What do you say to the legislation that the congressman would like to see passed, tightening up some of these restrictions, making it more difficult, for example, for mentally ill people to go out there and buy semi-automatic weapons?

LOTT: Wolf, I guess I wish you would have challenged him a little bit on claims about automatic weapons and some of the other things he was making. You know that these aren't involved in any of these types of cases that we're talking about here.

But the point is we've tried a lot of these laws already in the United States. We had the assault weapons ban. There's no study -- no academic study by an economist or by a criminologist that's seen then when the assault weapons ban sunset that there was any increase in murder rates.

You can go through politicians from Dianne Feinstein to Chuck Schumer and others who are predicting huge increases in murders and robberies after it sunset. Murder rates are lower now. Robbery rates are lower now than they would have been otherwise.

Even when the Clinton administration paid for academics to go look at the impact of the original assault weapons ban in 1994, they did not find any statistical evidence that it had improved crime rates in any way.

And, you know, so we're talking ...

BLITZER: The -- let me interrupt for a second, Mr. Lott. Hold on for a second, but ...

LOTT: Sure.

BLITZER: The Bushmaster, the -- is a semi-automatic rifle that apparently killed all those kids and the teachers in the school.

LOTT: Right. Semi-automatic and he was saying automatic. There's a big difference between machine gun and something essentially the same as a hunting rifle. Look, regular civilians ...

BLITZER: Why -- tell me why do people need a semi-automatic Bushmaster to go out and kill deer?

LOTT: Look, most hunting rifles are semi-automatic rifles, OK? People use semi-automatic rifles ...

BLITZER: Is a Bushmaster a hunting rifle? But is a Bushmaster a hunting rifle?

LOTT: Right. The inside guts of it, in terms of how it functions, is a hunting rifle. The outside of it is what people get upset about, but whether -- when you talk about using an AK-47 in one of these attacks, it's not the type of gun that militaries use around the world.

This is a civilian version. You know -- you know -- you've been working on this long enough. You know that these are civilian versions of these guns.

Look, when it's civilians, it's very important for them to have semi-automatic weapons for defense. If you had a single shot gun and you had two criminals attacking you or you missed the first time you fired at a criminal, you'd be in a lot of trouble at that point.

So if you want to go and talk about the banning the vast majority of guns, which are semi-automatic, fine, we can go and talk about the costs and benefits of doing that.

But here's the big thing that nobody's talking about and that is all these attacks are occurring in places where we ban guns. You know you go and look at the Aurora, Colorado, shooting.

BLITZER: All right ...

LOTT: There were seven movie theaters within a 20 minute drive of that -- of where the killer lived. Only one of the seven had postings banning concealed handgun permits.

He didn't go to the movie theater that was closest to his home. He didn't go to the largest movie theater. He went to the only one that banned guns.

Whether it's the Portland mall shooting earlier this week or these others, every single one of these cases banned guns and ...

BLITZER: Mr. Lott ...

LOTT: Yes.

BLITZER: I'm going to interrupt you because unfortunately we're out of time. You've made your case. You've made your point. We heard earlier form Congressman Nadler. I suspect this debate over guns in the United States is only just beginning right now especially. The president will be on his way here to Newtown in a few hours. I suspect he's going to get involved much more assertively in the second term of his administration than he did in his first term.

We'll continue this conversation with you. John Lott is the author of, "More Guns, Less Crime."

When we return, comforting their flock, my interview with members of Newtown's clergy, members of the clergy who will be with the president tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. MATTHEW CREBBIN, NEWTOWN CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH: In this time, I think that's all the clergy are trying to offer care to, whomever, it doesn't matter. That's why we're standing here today really because we know that what's important is that we're united in our care for this community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Heartbreaking images here in Newtown, Connecticut, as we continue our special coverage. Soledad O'Brien is with us this hour. She'll be with us next hour as well.

We're watching what's going on awaiting the President of the United States. He'll be coming here in a few hours for an interfaith vigil that will be taking place. We'll have live coverage throughout the day and into the evening.

Meanwhile, a somber candlelight vigil was held last night right here in Newtown to try and being the healing, if that is at all possible.

I sat down earlier in the day with Rabbi Shaul Praver of Congregation Adath Israel and the Reverend Matthew Crebbin of the Newtown Congregational Church.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're here with Rabbi Shaul Praver. He's the rabbi at Congregation Adath Israel here in Newtown; also, Reverend Matthew Crebbin of the Newtown Congregational Church.

And both of you, Rabbi and Reverend, you've both been spending a lot of time with family members. How's that going?

RABBI SHAUL PRAVER, CONGREGATION ADATH ISRAEL: It's a really tough day in Newtown and it's the worst tragedy that I've seen in my life and it's very hard to console a parent that just discovered that their children were amongst the victims.

BLITZER: And, Reverend, you've met with parents who've lost kids. REV. MATTHEW CREBBIN, NEWTOWN CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH: Yes, well both Shaul and I were there yesterday in the firehouse with the families during that whole process.

And it was just indescribable in terms of the grief and the waiting and trying to be present to them and also to many of the folks that were providing emergency services and police officers and others, you know, who, themselves, you know, were feeling just the loss and sorrow of the magnitude that was happening.

BLITZER: Rabbi, is there one moment yesterday when you were in the firehouse with these families that stands out that you'll never forget in your life.

PRAVER: Yes, there's some very unshakable images and that's when the news game from the governor that the children did not make it and the wailing of the parents and just sort of the groping and trying to reach for something intangible. It was horrific, a terrible scene.

BLITZER: You were there too?

CREBBIN: I was there too. It was, from my perspective, the (inaudible) was holy ground and, as people have talked to me and asked me about it, I typically tell people it was holy ground and I honor the holiness of that place and space and the people that were there as best I'm able.

It's something you never want to have to be in a room like that every again, but, in the tragedy, there is this sense of the holiness of it, just unmitigated loss and tragedy and honoring that and honoring those families in their grief.

PRAVER: We need to have a culture of peace and that so many of the young games that we have as children at very young ages is about war and killing.

And that we can make -- we're an intelligent country and we can make -- excuse me, we can make wonderful games that have to do with peace-making and diplomacy. It doesn't any intelligence to pull a trigger and blow somebody's brains out.

BLITZER: So what you are suggesting? That the shooter in this particular grew up in a culture of violence?

PRAVER: Yes, that our entire civilization is too inundated with the culture of violence, that there can be an incentive and a fun game that has to do with learning about other people in the world and dealing with grievances through active diplomacy.

BLITZER: So many people have said to me, Reverend and Rabbi ...

CREBBIN: Yes.

BLITZER: How can God allow something like this to happen? What do you say? CREBBIN: One of the things I first say in this moment is that's -- this is not the moment to answer that question, at least not to the families that are in grief.

I think there are answers. There are answer from my tradition that speak to suffering and how suffering can be transformative. Now, as a Christian, I understand that there are ways in which we can transform and be transformed by -- in the midst of suffering.

But that -- to be honest with you, that's not an -- that's not a question that I try to answer today because people don't need to hear what becomes an over simplistic answer to something that is so deep and profound.

BLITZER: What will be the central message that you tell your congregants tomorrow morning?

CREBBIN: I will be preaching a message that even in the midst of darkness, there is light. It's tragic that we are in the midst of the season for us, as Christians, which is Christmas time and Advent. And it's a holy time for us.

But we also know that, in the midst of a season that so often we associate with joy and merriment that it's also a season of darkness and, in fact, the Gospel of John tells us that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.

So I'll be preaching a message that promises, even in the midst of these dark times, that we know that the light of God is with us and that we can be sustained in that and we can see that light in each other and draw from that light that is a part of our faith.

PRAVER: The most important thing we can do as a reaction to this is to thrive. I set my banquet in the presence of my enemies. The enemy is the horrible event and the banquet is the continuing thriving in life.

I lived in Israel for 10 years and I saw the way that the Israelis would, you know, pick up and go right to the spot where something terrible happened and the message was we carry on and we will carry on.

We have great schools in Newtown. This was an isolated incident. This event doesn't define us. We will continue to have great schools and be the great community.

Matthew and I are great friends and all of the clergy are great friends. And we will recover.

BLITZER: Rabbi, Reverend, thanks so much.

PRAVER: Thank you.

CREBBIN: Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: This just in, the Connecticut State Police, they will hold a news conference some time in the next hour. We, of course, will bring that to you live when it happens. We're expecting new information from the Connecticut State Police on this entire killing and what happened.

When we return, much more that's going on, including the healing process.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBBIE PARKER, FATHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM: As we move on from what happened here, what happened to so many people that it not turn into something that defines us, but something that inspires us to be better, to be more compassionate and more humble people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: In the wake of Friday's shootings, students at Sandy Hook Elementary School are bound to have lots of questions that can be very challenging for their parents to answer.

Joining us this morning from Time Warner Center is Dr. Susan Lipkins. She's a psychologist who specializes in school violence and with me here in Newtown, Connecticut, School Safety Consultant Ken Trump. Nice to have you both with me.

Susan, if I can, I'd like to start with you. How do you possibly reassure children, those children who are here in Newtown, those children who experienced something horrific and even children who are not here, but across the country that their schools are safe when we know the reality is something terrible happened?

DR. SUSAN LIPKINS, CHILD PSYCHOLOGIST: The most important thing is to talk to the child at their level, to get them to talk, to draw, to play out everything that is in their minds so that you understand what level that they are at, and, at that point, you have to reassure them.

The most important thing is for the parent's demeanor to be calm, not to be anxious, not to be constantly watching the news and to feel secure in themselves because the children will model the feelings that they're getting from their parents.

O'BRIEN: When I talked to some of the parents here whose children were literally able to get out of their classrooms, they were going to go for psychological help. What about people, again, who were not necessarily immediately involved in this situation? How will they deal with the PTSD, would they even experience PTSD just by being near or even not so close to the situation?

LIPKINS: It is possible that they will experience many of the symptoms of stress and maybe post-traumatic stress. That will happen for the first couple of weeks and eventually it will die down and if it does not, then you seek professional care. We would be looking for children and adults who have problems sleeping, who have psychosomatic symptoms like headaches and stomach aches and who may refuse to separate or do normal activities. It's really important to try to get back to your normal routine and to get back to school as quickly as possible for children across the country.

O'BRIEN: So, Ken, let's talk more specifically about the school. We now know that the shooter was able to basically, you know, shoot his way into the school. Is it possible to make a school safe without having it be behind bars, essentially?

KEN TRUMP, SCHOOL SAFETY CONSULTANT: We don't need to teach kindergartners to throw backpacks and pencils at an armed intruder or to have a metal detector at a door. What we need to do is focus on the fundamentals of safety: building relationships with kids, knowing what's going on in your community with your families, having some basic security measures, like we saw at the school with camera buzzer intercom, making sure that your staff is trained. Really, the first and best line of defense is always a well-trained, highly alert staff and student body, it's not technology or equipment, it's people behind it.

O'BRIEN: But it sounds like they had all of that. That school security system had been put in place by the new principal, she is now dead. They were very aggressive in knowing their school and knowing their students.

TRUMP: There are some situations, unfortunately, that we are not going to be able to prevent. But what we expect as parents is two things. Number one, schools to take some steps to reduce the risks. The security measures, the relationships, the training of your staff, the lockdown drills and number two, being prepared to respond when an incident happens. If we saw a principal and a psychologist run to the gunman to try to save their kids. And that's something I don't know that we can train people to do, but it's something I know that's very much in the hearts of most of our educators today. We do the best that we can and we reduce the risks, we train people to respond effectively to minimize our losses and we plan for the worst and prepare and pray for the best.

O'BRIEN: There have been gun lobbyists who have both written and been on television shows talking about how if in fact people inside the school had been armed, that the end result could have been less horrific than what they are experiencing here now. You've, obviously, been in the security business for a long time as it relates to schools. Have you seen any evidence of that?

TRUMP: We have school resource officers, police officers who are in our schools across the country, not all schools, but some, and we certainly support that. But teachers want to be armed with backpacks and with books, rather book bags, computers, technology. They don't want to have to have bulletproof backpacks and being trained to shoot at the targets coming in. Teachers want to teach, we need to give them the equipment, and we need to not politicize his issue at a time when we've lost kids. O'BRIEN: Susan, we know, certainly, that this young man, the shooter, as we have been calling him, was obviously disturbed. There are some descriptions by family members, as well. A lot of details still yet to be known about him. How in fact do you -- how in fact can you deal with someone who is considered to be disturbed and possibly dangerous and yet we know that mental health resources are hard for families to get to. We know that guns are readily available in this country. How do you, how do you stop that intersection, which is, obviously, a deadly intersection happening?

LIPKINS: It seems to be impossible. And in many ways our mental health system is broken. We need community services so that people can be reported. That there is a 24/7 hotline for people who are unstable and, for example, that the principal might have reported the incident that happened a couple of days before and have somebody to investigate. We don't have those services now. And that is something that we need to develop.

O'BRIEN: Dr. Susan Lipkins and Ken Trump, thank you both for talking with me this morning. We certainly appreciate your insight. And as Wolf mentioned just a few moments ago, we're waiting for this news conference that Connecticut state police have been doing a terrific job consistently coming out here to update us. We are going to carry that new conference live right her on CNN. When it starts, we are expecting it sometime between 11:00 this morning Eastern time and 11:30.

Ahead, we'll take a closer look at this killer and also try to answer the question that many are asking, which is why. That's straight ahead. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Memorials like the one you're looking at right here dot many of the corners in Newtown, Connecticut. They've been set up where people leave votive candles or notes or flowers or dolls or Teddy Bears. This town is hurting. People here are experiencing a very, very deep grief and it is a grief that we are sure the president will talk about as he makes his way here to talk to family members and first responders and take part in a vigil that will be held tonight. We want to get to Dana Bash, she is in Washington, D.C., with a check of the headlines this morning. Dana, good morning.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. Well, there is a potential breakthrough in stalled fiscal cliff talks. House Speaker John Boehner is offering something he and other Republicans oppose. Raising tax rates on the wealthiest Americans. That's a condition President Obama has insisted must be part of any deal to avert the fiscal cliff, which is a little more than two weeks away. The president wants tax hikes of incomes above $250,000. CNN is told that Boehner proposed that the increase starts at incomes of $1 million in exchange for the president agreeing to more significant spending cuts.

And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is recovering from a concussion. She sustained the injury after fainting during a bout with the stomach flu. Clinton is being monitored by doctors who recommend that she take the week off. As a result, she will not testify at this week's much-anticipated congressional hearing on September's deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

And on the note of talking about the State Department, President Obama does appear set to nominate Senator John Kerry as Hillary Clinton's successor. And joining me now for more on this, is CNN's foreign affairs reporter Elise Labott. The biggest, you know, open secret in Washington, that once Susan Rice took her name out of the running John Kerry would be up there.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John Kerry made no secret for the last kind of several years, actually, that he would love the job. And on Capitol Hill, you know, that Senators have said that he would be easily confirmed. BASH: That's right because of Republicans and Democrats see him as somebody who would be good at the job and, as you said, he's lobbied for it. But what is going to be interesting, Elise, this coming week is we talked about that the hearing is going to happen on Benghazi, Hillary Clinton is not going to be there, but John Kerry is the Senate foreign relations chair. So, he is still going to chair that hearing.

LABOTT: That's right. Secretary Clinton taking the week off to recuperate. Her deputies Bill Burns and Tom Nides will be testifying for this independent advisory board on the events in Benghazi. That it will also be a closed briefing on the hill by members of this advisory board. Now, it gives John Kerry kind of one last chance to show some leadership before he heads over for his confirmation hearings. You know, John Kerry really, although Susan Rice might have been the president's first choice, I think now the administration is coming around to the idea that Senator Kerry is very wildly respected internationally on his own right. He has done a lot of kind of missions on behalf of the administration. He's very close to Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Pakistanis. He's also, you know, very -- with the administration's policy of engagement early on in the administration he tried to reach out to Syrian President Bashar al- Assad. I think now he is regretting that, of course.

BASH: We'll see what happens in the days ahead, whether the president waits to nominate him because of what happened in Connecticut, but we assume it will happen this week. Thank you very much, Elise.

And now we'll go back to Soledad in Newtown, Connecticut. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: All right, Dana, thanks very much.

We're going to talk ahead this morning about the very difficult job for law enforcement in this case. Finding a killer amid a school full of children.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LT. J. PAUL VANCE, CONNECTICUT STATE POLICE: On and off duty troopers responded to the school and with Newtown police immediately upon arrival entered the school and began a complete active shooter search of the building. That included checking every door, every crack, every crevice, every portion of that school. My main objective was to evacuate as quickly and efficiently as possible any and all students and faculty in the school.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our special coverage here on CNN. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Newtown, Connecticut. We expect fairly soon the Connecticut state police to hold a news conference right here in Newtown. Now, you're looking at the microphones being set up right now. Connecticut state police will be going there updating us on the investigation. President Obama also will be here in Newtown later this afternoon to thank first responders, to meet with some of the victims' families. He'll also speak at this evening's interfaith vigil starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll have live coverage, of course, of the interfaith vigil. We learned today the results of this morning's autopsies of the gunman and his mother as well. More information on that coming up.

When Newtown police stormed into Sandy Hook Elementary School here in the small community, it illustrated a shift in the tactical approach that law enforcement has taken in light of the Columbine shooting, some 13 years ago. Joining us now for a closer look at how law enforcement is dealing with it, what has, unfortunately, become a tragic and sad chapter in America's history, is the former FBI profiler Tom Fuentes, assistant former -- assistant director of the FBI Tom and Jim Johnson, he is the chairman of -- the national chairman of the -- the -- he's first of all, the Baltimore County police chief and he is chairman of the national law enforcement partnership to prevent gun violence. Gentlemen, thanks very much for coming in. Chief Johnson, let me start with you. The notion of quickly going into a situation like this rather than studying it from the outside. This is a relatively new tactical move, right?

CHIEF JIM JOHNSON, CHAIR, NATIONAL LAW ENFORCEMENT PARTNERSHIP TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE: Well, certainly over the last ten years law enforcement has entered into the active shooter scenario where we do not wait. When we have sufficient personnel and equipment and tools, we make an entry to stabilize the situation.

BLITZER: You know, the other -- there's very disturbing element in this, Tom, is that, you know, we're seeing more of these young men, they're dressed in military clothing, if you will, armored vests. They're dressed in black and they go in and they start killing people. Is there a connection, in your mind, what they call copycats as far as these mass killings are concerned?

TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Well, Wolf, in the past we've looked at copycats as someone following a national live event. Somebody else has killed a group of people, so they're going to do it. But we also have copycats that are emulating what they see in movies or what they've done in video games for many years. So, in those situations they're seeing, you know, the Rambos of the world dressed up in full battle gear with assault rifles and shooting a lot of people. And so, if they're trying to prove their manhood, so to speak, in their delusional world, that may be their way to say that they're strong and powerful and they're going to prove it to the world by carrying on as if they're in the Special Forces operation or something.

BLITZER: Chief Johnson, do you agree with that assessment?

JOHNSON: I do. In fact, I do. I think America can do a lot more on this issue. The National Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence in this case, we know that over 40 percent of all guns are acquired outside of dealer sales. We know that there needs to be a limit on high-capacity magazines. And more than anything else, I think America is becoming more educated and more aware of the facts and circumstances that have lead -- have led to this, frankly, national public health crisis here and this gun violence that we're experiencing across this great nation.

BLITZER: We earlier, Tom, had a debate here. We heard from a congressman who wants tighter gun restrictions and other individual says the more guns out there, the safer all of us will be. This debate has been going on, as you guys know, for a long time. All of our viewers know for a long time. I suspect it is now going to intensify. Tom, realistically, what should be done in the short term to deal with this problem?

FUENTES: Well, in the short term, we need to talk about it. We need to get, you know, our Congress to talk about, the president to pursue it, state legislatures to actually pursue it and not treat this like it's the third rail of politics and nobody can bring it up because they won't be elected. And, you know, frankly, the congressmen that have just gotten elected to the next term are already planning their re-election for two years from now. So, there's a fear among them to take this issue on and end their political careers by trying to take on the powerful gun lobby or some of the misinformation that has been produced out there about gun safety. And I know the chief agrees with me. I was a street police officer for six years before joining the FBI. When I was a 21-year-old rookie cop, we were taught you don't fear the bullet out there that has got your name on it. You fear the tens of thousands of bullets that are addressed to whom it may concern. And that is what we've had in these mass shootings. Is that someone goes in there, he has -- with the exception of this shooter shooting his own mother, the rest of the shootings, why would he be targeting five and six year olds and at that particular school that apparently, he had no connection to. So, we're seeing this tremendous amount of gun violence and, again, as a former street cop and an agent for 30 years, law enforcement officers fear going to a domestic disturbance, because they know people are going to be highly emotional, probably drunk and armed at the same time. You have that concern making traffic stops. So, the issue of officer safety, community safety and now the safety of our own children is at stake and has been at stake. And the chief is correct, this is a health issue as much as any other type of issue.

BLITZER: Very quickly, chief, give us a final thought.

JOHNSON: Well, certainly, I think America is ready for change on this issue. Let's address this 40 percent of gun sales that are outside of that license dealer. Let's take a look at high-capacity magazines. If you choose to own a gun, if you have the right to do that, you're a legal owner, lock the guns up. Lock those guns up. It's happened in Baltimore County. This is a lesson we have learned. Lock the guns up.

BLITZER: Chief Johnson, thanks very much. Tom Fuentes, as usual, thanks to you, as well.

We'll take a quick break. When we return, saying good-bye.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just a tragic, tragic situation for the teachers, the principals and those angels, that's all I keep thinking about are those angels.

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LAURA PHELPS, MOTHER OF 2 CHILDREN AT SANDY HOOK: I mean, when things happen to your children and to other people's children, I mean I can't look at my children's faces now without seeing the faces of every one of their schoolmates.

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