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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 07/20/12

Guests: Danny Coulson, Salina Jordan, Bob Herbert

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, GUEST HOST: Thanks, Thomas. Thanks to you at home for being with us for the next hour. Rachel has the night off, but we have an important day of news to try to understand. Now, we`re awaiting a live news conference by officials in Aurora, Colorado, which we will bring you when it happens. Chances are you woke up this morning to find out that a midnight showing of the biggest movie of the year, something went horrifically wrong. At 12:30 a.m. Mountain Time, police in Aurora, Colorado, outside Denver, begin receiving multiple calls from the Century 16 movie theater. Witnesses say a man entered theater 9 from a side door near the front of the auditorium not long into the showing of the new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." The man was dressed entirely in black and he was wearing a gas mask. At first, the moviegoers, some in costume, thought the man was just part of the show. But then the intruder threw a small canister into the crowd and it made a hissing sound and the smoke started filling the theater, packed with some 200 people. Then the sound of gunshots as the man started firing indiscriminately into the crowd. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) JENNIFER SEEGER, SHOOTING EYEWITNESS: Everybody knew it was real at that point. It was straight chaos. You know, everybody was starting to scream and run. And, at that point, he went from here to here with a gun in my face at that point. That rifle was in my face. And I honestly didn`t know what to think. I instinctively jumped forward and ducked inside the middle of the aisle and just tucked in a corner. And after that, he was shooting people behind me. I had gun shells, you know, falling on my head, burning my forehead. All I smelled was powder. And it was just really terrifying. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Me and my friends were standing there like, clueless. What should we do? Should we stay here or go out there where they`re shooting? Everybody is going to the exit. So, we`re like, OK, look, we`re going to go to the crowd. TANNER COON, SHOOTING EYEWITNESS: After the gunshots stopped, everyone tries to race for the exit at the top of the theater. I went to the row above me. I was four rows from the top, went to the row above me. And I tripped and slipped on some blood and landed on a lady. I shook the lady, told her we need to get up, you need to go, and there was no response. So, I presumed she was dead and hurried and got myself out of there with my friends. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It seemed like he was reloading whatever weapon he had. That was a time where we realized we need to run, we need to run. We just ran down the stairs and we just ran out the theater. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw people outside the theater covered, faced covered in blood, backs covered in blood. It was a terrible sight to see. (CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s shot. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s blood right there. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw a lot of people running back in, and then as we were leaving, we saw a lot of people crying. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some people, they had bullet holes going through their stomachs. A little girl, she had one it looked like it was going through her stomach and then blood coming down her legs. There was a cop just holding her and she looked lifeless. (END VIDEO CLIPS) HARRIS-PERRY: As you have just seen and heard, the stories are indescribable. Survivors trying to flee the theater described slipping on a floor that was slick with blood and greasy with popcorn butter. Some of them say they had to crawl on their bullies to stay below the smoke and gunfire. Some tried to drag each other from the smoke-filled chaos. One young man made it to the door of the auditorium and says he was about to close the door behind him when he saw the shooter approaching, dressed in a bullet-proof vest and still wearing his gas mask. The young man said he held the door closed as the gunman banged on it for about 10 seconds. Afraid the shooter would start firing again through the door, and the young man said he let the door go and managed to run out of the theater. Ten people did not make it out of the theater. They died at the scene. Two more died at area hospitals, 59 others were injured, many of them critically. Among the dead is Jessica Redfield (ph). But we are now going to go to the press conference and Police Chief Oates. DAN OATES, AURORA POLICE CHIEF: Thank you for being here. I`m Daniel Oates, the police chief here in Aurora. And I think it would be best by I introducing our governor, John Hickenlooper to make some remarks. Governor Hickenlooper? GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), COLORADO: So this has been a long day and I appreciate how long a day it`s been for all of you in the media. We are seeing the community rise up and do the things that great communities do. We`re dealing with this. Seventy casualties, not 71, there was a double reporting there, but the stories that are going to come out of this of how in a remarkably short time the police force in Aurora responded to this situation. Their efficiency in making an apprehension, the ability of our hospitals in remarkably short order to take care of al of these casualties, in an incredible system -- not to say -- I`m not saying it was all perfect but as this story is told, it will be remarkable. As of 3:30, we still had 30 patients in hospitals, 11 still in critical condition. You know, this is -- it`s an act that defies description. You can`t connect emotions that we commonly think of. I mean, everyone I`ve talked to all day is filled with an anger that can`t find focus. And I think the challenge for all of us as a community is to recognize we have to move past that. Obviously there`s going to be a level of accountability to this. Individual is clearly disturbed. Either we will or we will not know exactly the roots of that, of how deep that disturbance is. We know how deep it is but where it came from. But we are clear that we are going to rise back and lift ourselves above this. I visited several of the families in the hospital and we`re going to have obviously some -- when you have that many people that have been injured, you`re going to have people with lifetime disabilities. And we`re already as a community beginning to come together., within three hours, we had $125,000 of matching gifts so as they raise money this is through one of the hospitals but all the hospitals are going to participate in this, to make sure the victims of this senseless act of violence that -- again, there just aren`t words. We want to do everything we can to make sure the victims are brought back in every way and supported in every way that we can. We`re not going to let this community be defined by such a -- you know, if I had more sleep I might have a better vocabulary. Anyway, I do think that the first responders were unbelievable, and their ability to work together and coordinate. Our support from the federal government has been incredible. Secretary Napolitano called me from Homeland Security earlier this morning and wanted to do everything she could. She was a little late because President Obama called me before that. But not until after he called Mayor Hogan. He called the police chief. He called -- the whole country recognizes that this is something we don`t accept, we can`t explain at this point. But we`re not -- we`re not going to just let it happen to us. We`re going to -- we`re going to push back. I also -- Mayor Hogan`s not here. His leadership has been remarkable. And in times like this, you see, you know, what is the true quality of people and how can they deal with situations that, you know, there`s no training, there`s no way you can prepare for something like this. I think the way he`s handled all the integration of the different efforts between the federal and the state, the county and the local, it really is a remarkable skill. He`s been able to keep everybody focused together. No one`s pointing fingers. Everybody`s moving forward to the next step. All right, this has happened what do we do next? So in that sense -- and Chief Oates is unbelievable. I don`t think I`ve ever done this but I think you should all give Chief Oates a hand. (APPLAUSE) HICKENLOOPER: So now, I`ll give it back to Chief Oates. OATES: OK, thank you, Governor. I want to point out that standing behind me are quite a few of our elected city officials and our state representatives. Congressman Perlmutter is also with us. Also joining me here is special agent Jimmy Cone of the FBI and special agent Andrew Traver of ATF. And our federal partners have been absolutely tremendous in supporting us. I want to start by saying how proud I am of the men and women of the Aurora Police Department and fire department and Mike Garcia from the fire department, the chief of the fire department, is also here with us. OK. We got to straighten out some numbers. There are a total of 70 injured in this event, and as of this time, 12 dead. Still the number is 10 in the theater and the last of the bodies were removed from the theater a little after 5:00 this afternoon. I want to correct one thing. I think earlier today I said the others were all hit by gunfire. I now know a handful of the people who were brought to area hospitals were not hit by gunfire but suffered other injured as a result of the chaos and trauma in the theater. And I can`t tell you how many that is but it`s a small number. Nearly everyone was shot. Little information about our subject and the weapons he obtained. In the last 60 days, he purchased four guns at local metro guns shops. And through the Internet, he purchased over 6,000 rounds of ammunition, more than 3,000 rounds of 223, ammunition for the assault rifle, 3,000 rounds of .40 caliber ammunition for the two Glocs in his possession, and 300 rounds for the 12 gauge shotgun. Also through the internet, he purchased multiple magazines for the 223 caliber assault rifle, including one 100-round drum magazine, which was recovered from the scene. I`ve been asked, was the weapon automatic or semiautomatic. I can`t answer that question now. Even if it was semiautomatic, I`m told by experts that with that drum magazine, he could have gotten off 50 to 60 rounds, even if it was semiautomatic, within one minute. And as far as we know, it was a pretty rapid pace of fire in that theater. This evening at 4:00, members of the police department and the many supporting agencies that have provided victim service advocates to support us met with approximately seven family and friends -- 70 members of family and friends who have not had an accounting of their missing loved ones. We met with them for approximately 90 minutes. We discussed all our efforts to identify the 10 bodies in the theater. And did the best we could to deal with their grief and anguish. We are hopeful that sometime in the next hour we will get a confirmed list of the ten deceased and we will begin the agonizing process of meeting with those families and confirming what has happened to their loved ones. I can`t emphasize enough the support of all our colleagues in local law enforcement in handing that extraordinarily difficult task. We`re also aided by our own police department psychologists. Aurora Public Schools has made available two high schools for tomorrow beginning at 9:00 a.m. for professional grief counseling and other resources, including the resources of aurora mental health and the red cross. Those two schools will open at 9:00 a.m. Superintendent John Barry was with us to meet with the families. And the support of the superintendent and the Aurora Public Schools has been absolutely tremendous. In addition, I`ll talk a little about the Paris Street location. We evacuated five apartment buildings including the apartment building of the subject. Those evacuees have been staying at central high school, again, with the support of Aurora Public Schools. With regard to the Paris location, it is a very vexing problem how to enter that apartment safely. I personally have never seen anything like what the pictures show us is in there. I`m a layman when it comes to bomb stuff. I see an awful lot of wires, trip wires, jars full of ammunition, jars full of liquid, some things that look like mortar rounds. We have a lot of challenge, to get in there safely. We decided this evening to postpone action on that until tomorrow sometime. All our folks were pretty well taxed and we needed a break and we`re also, with the help of the federal government, we`re bringing in some extra resources to consult on exactly how to deal with that problem. We`re hopeful that we will address and resolve that problem tomorrow. Unfortunately, this means that the families that were evacuated have to spend an evening in the evacuation center. We are at this time allowing families, one by one, to go back into four of the five buildings to retrieve necessities like medication and those kinds of things. And, again, our hope is that we`ll resolve that tomorrow. With regard to the investigation, I can tell you, we know a little bit more about our subject. We know he recently left the University of Colorado Medical School neuroscience program on a voluntary -- it was a voluntary separation. We know he hails originally from Riverside, California and attended U.C. California, Riverside campus. Neighbors report to us that he lived alone and he kept to himself. I have the same cautions about the social media. One of the things modern investigators do is watch what appears on the Internet to see what clues we can find and we know you do that too. OK? And in the era of blogs and everything else, we just caution you that everything you read may not be true. OK? With regard to our theaters in Aurora. We are -- there are four theaters in Aurora that show this movie. Until further notice, we will have some extra security at those theaters out of an abundance of caution. I will tell you, I`ve been getting phone calls from some colleagues around the country asking about this. And I told them I don`t know what you should do at your theaters but that`s what we`re going to do in Aurora for a while. We are fully staffed in all our districts. We`re on 12-hour shifts because of the demands to support the crime scene and the new event on Paris. And thanks to the Arapahoe County SWAT team and the Denver Police Department SWAT team. If we have any demand over the days for those assets, since we are fully taxed, we will turn to our colleagues to help us. The Aurora town center will be open tomorrow. They`ve been wonderfully cooperative with the Aurora Police Department. I have a new tip line. If there are further tips that anyone wants to call, it`s the crime stoppers number, 720-913-STOP, or 720-913-7867. We`re also offering a general information line for the community. Not for the press. I think the press knows how to reach us. This is for the community if they have questions. The general information number is 303- 739-1862. Our suspect is now in Arapahoe County jail. I just got a call from the sheriff. He asked me if I wanted his picture released. I said no. So I won`t be releasing his picture for investigative reasons. He will be arraigned or have first court appearance 8:30 a.m. on Monday in Arapahoe County district court. There has been an overwhelming outpouring of support for our families, for or victims, for our community, for our cops, for our firefighters, for our EMS people, for our investigators, by this entire community. We`ve received concern and condolences -- just remarkable. Our community restaurants started pouring pizzas and food into our station houses here. Just to show support for our police department. And it`s just absolutely wonderful. I have an announcement on behalf of the city, Sunday at 6:30 p.m., there will be a prayer vigil right here in front of the Aurora Municipal Center. We know the governor and the mayor will speak and there will be an appropriate moment for reflection for our community. Finally, I want to offer a huge thanks to our coroner, Michael Doverson (ph), for all he has done, to help us with the crime scene today and to expedite the recovery and identification of the bodies which is so, so important to our community. And in terms of the next press briefing, we expect to be able to brief you tomorrow afternoon right here at 2:00 p.m. I will take questions. REPORTER: Any sign of a motive at this point? Has he said anything about why he did this? OATES: If we have information about a motive, we will not share it with you. We`d let that play out in the course of the criminal prosecution. REPORTER: He`s talking to you though? OATES: I won`t talk about his admissions. Yes? REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) that perfectly legal? OATES: My understanding is all the weapons he possessed, he possessed legally. And all the clips he possessed, he possessed legally. And all the ammunition he possessed, he possessed legally. Yes? (INAUDIBLE) OATES: No, I won`t discuss how he got in. That`s part of our investigation. As much as I`d like to be cooperative with you folks, the most important thing is that there is justice for these victims. And that justice will occur in a courtroom. So whenever I say no here, it`s because there`s a higher reason and that is to make sure he is prosecuted correctly. Yes, ma`am? (INAUDIBLE) OATES: No, I can`t. (INAUDIBLE) OATES: I gave a description this morning of his appearance. He was dressed all in black. For those of you who don`t have this -- entirely in black, wearing a gas mask, a ballistic helmet, a tactical ballistic vest. Tactical means places to put all kinds of gear and clips. In addition, it was bulletproof, or bullet resistant. He was wearing ballistic legging in case he took a round in the legs. He was wearing throat protection and groin protection, and he was wearing black tactical gloves. So that`s what he looks like in the theater. REPORTER: Chief, can you tell us if the devices that (INAUDIBLE). OATES: I don`t know enough about -- those of you who were here this morning know I reported that he released, it appears, two devices that set off some sort of smoke and/or chemical irritant. I don`t know enough about them right now to answer any questions. Yes? REPORTER: How this has affected the community on a personal level (INAUDIBLE) OATES: Our cops went through a lot. As I told you this morning, they rushed people out of that theater, into police cars. I`ve heard some compelling stories. One of the things we`re working on is how we`re going to deal with our own trauma. And we spent some time today with our three department psychologists and somehow in the next couple of days when this is -- when this has slowed down, one of our highest priorities is to deal with our own officers and how they cope with this event. And that`s really al I have to say about this. Anything else? Yes? REPORTER: Where did he get the armor? Standard military issue? Police issue? OATES: I don`t know where he got the armor. REPORTER: What about the mask? What kind of mask/ OATES: It was a gas mask is what I know, OK? REPORTER: Can you talk about the families that are evacuated (INAUDIBLE) OATES: You know, I apologize, I don`t now how many families are evacuated. There are a total of five apartment buildings. They`re roughly the same size. Three story buildings were anywhere from six to 10 units on a floor so you can do the math. REPORTER: Tell us about the body armor that the police officers were wearing. (INAUDIBLE) obviously SWAT was not -- but they got there really quickly. OATES: The officers who responded were wearing a regular uniform equipment including ballistic protection. We had a lot of people out last night. Because it was a Friday night and we have a special summer initiative under way where there`s extra officers on the street. So, we were fortunate we had about 25 officers there like that. And as I said earlier, in the end, somewhere between 150 to 200 officers and deputies fairly quickly thereafter. (INAUDIBLE) OATES: I`m sorry? REPORTER: How long do you believe he had been planning this? OATES: I have no way to answer that question. And if I knew, I wouldn`t. (INAUDIBLE) OATES: I was asked if he had an attorney -- yes, he has an attorney. And the question was, I`m sorry, was -- REPORTER: You mentioned that (INAUDIBLE) off-duty security at the theater -- OATES: Yes, and we usually work off-duty security at the theater on weekends. This was a Thursday night. And we were not there. But we were there within about 90 seconds. REPORTER: How are you getting (INAUDIBLE)? OATES: Oh, I`m doing just fine. Yes, sir? REPORTER: I wanted to ask you about his appearance. What was his (INAUDIBLE)? OATES: I have some information from my detectives on his demeanor since his arrest but I will not share it with you. One more question. REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) bullets go through the adjacent theater? OATES: I don`t know how many bullets went through the adjacent theater. I know enough went through that one person was hit. OK. That concludes this briefing. Tomorrow morning, tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 p.m. Thank you very much, folks. HARRIS-PERRY: That was a news conference from authorities in Aurora, Colorado. As you could see, obviously, the chief and we heard from the governor earlier, everyone there is working extremely hard. They`re very exhausted. Joining us now is Danny Coulson, former deputy assistant director of the FBI who created and commanded the bureau`s elite hostage rescue team. Mr. Coulson, thank you for being here. DANNY COULSON, FMR. FBI DEPUTY ASST. DIRECTOR: Yes. Good evening. HARRIS-PERRY: So, we just heard from the chief of the Aurora police who has been making quite an impression on me, certainly, and many of us over the course of this trauma today. What do you know as the latest from what he`s saying, what do you make of what the chief just said to us? COULSON: Well, I think we`re even underestimating the enormously successful response of the police department. I think there`s a really good chance that this man was going to do another one. If you look at active shooters, they generally go there to engage in their mayhem and then be killed by police or commit suicide. He didn`t do that. He was still well armed, he went back to his car, and oftentimes the active shooters will go to another target. So, the fact they responded with the swift manner that they did, they may have stopped further carnage than we already have seen here. And you couple that with the response of the emergency people, they came, the medical people, and we cannot forget the response of the employees and management of that theater. If you look at the videos, they`re getting people out of there very rapidly. So, there was some planning or very good management and leadership shown there to get people out, which is exactly what you train people to do. And I think -- it was a horrible day, a horrible tragedy, but if you`re looking at the performance of the theater, the police, the medical people, and the patrons, they did a heck of a job, which you don`t see often. It was very well done. HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, Mr. Coulson, you made a great point there. Obviously, speculation on our part, but the shooter did go back to his car. We know that he was, as we just heard from Chief Oates, he was very heavily body armored -- which suggests he wasn`t looking to die by police. He certainly did not turn the gun on himself. So, there`s reason to think even though it`s just speculation at this point, that there might have been more violence. And, you know, oftentimes in these cases, local police are criticized for their slow response or being caught off guard. That doesn`t seem to be the case here. Is there something about this chief of police or this community that says something about their readiness, some kind of lesson for other localities? COULSON: I think this is -- I think this is marvelous. I have watched him now two press conferences. He handles himself beautifully. He refuses to answer questions he should not which many chiefs don`t do. They say too much. He shows great reserve and shows great passion for his people. This must be a great city. I have not been here. I know the SCC of the FBI who was there. I saw him on TV today. He`s an outstanding man, too, and also a former commander of the hostage rescue team. So, there`s a lot of talent there today and this chief, this mayor and this governor should be proud of the performance they got to see today. Ands I`m an outsider. I`m not involved in this thing at all, I just see it from a professional` point of view and I`m impressed with the chief and the whole department. HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I, too, have been impressed. I think many of us have been. Danny Coulson, former deputy assistant director for the FBI, thank you very much for joining us tonight. COULSON: Thank you. HARRIS-PERRY: Both President Obama and Mitt Romney publicly stated that today was not a day for politics, but it was a day for leadership. And that is part of this day, and that is next. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that moment, I just remember thinking I`m not going to die in here. Me and my kids are not going to die in here. I need to get them out. I need to get out. And all I could think was if I could stand up, he`s going to shoot me. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS-PERRY: We`re back. And joining us now is Salina Jordan. She was at the Century 16 in Aurora at the time of the shooting. She was in the theater number eight. The shooting occurred in theater number nine. Salina, thank you so much for joining us this evening after all you have been through today. SALINA JORDAN, SHOOTING WITNESS: No problem. HARRIS-PERRY: So, you know, we just had an opportunity to hear from the police chief, to hear from the governor of Colorado. There`s a lot of emotion. Tell me about your experience. JORDAN: Most of the time, it was just like, I was confused as to what was happening. Basically, like, my friends had to tell me, hey, this is really happening. Like, snap out of it. We got to go. I was just oblivious to everything. It was just, no, it`s not happening. HARRIS-PERRY: You sound very hoarse. Is that from talking since it happened or was that from yelling and screaming in the theater? JORDAN: It`s from yelling and screaming in the theater, outside the theater, from talking all day long. It`s just from this morning until now, basically. I haven`t given my throat a rest. HARRIS-PERRY: You were in theater number eight which was right next door, a multiplex. Is that correct? JORDAN: Yes. HARRIS-PERRY: So, how long did it take to realize that what was happening was not something on the screen, was not part of the movie? JORDAN: One of the guys, he ran in, he said, they got a gun outside, they`re shooting, they`re shooting. And then like a minute or two after that, the alarm sound goes off and they say, there`s an emergency in the theater. So once everybody started swarming, it`s like, OK, this is real. Let`s go. We got to go do something. HARRIS-PERRY: Salina, you were there with friends? JORDAN: I had one friend with me, yes. HARRIS-PERRY: Have you talked to other people who were there also since you left out of the theater? JORDAN: I talked to them on Facebook. But, like, I haven`t been able to get in contact on the phone with any of them. But like a lot is happening on social media, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, even. Like every social media network. HARRIS-PERRY: Tell me some of what is happening there? Are you having an opportunity to share your experiences? Are you trying to piece together what happened in all of the chaos? JORDAN: I`m sharing my experiences, but like, when I get a break from doing the interviews, it`s like, so this really happened. This happened, this happened, but why? Like I keep asking myself why did he do it? What is his motive? You know? HARRIS-PERRY: Is -- now, my understanding is that Aurora is generally a pretty peaceful, pretty calm and safe place. Are you surprised or shocked that this happened there in Aurora, Colorado? JORDAN: I am. In the two years I lived out in Colorado, I haven`t heard anything like this. Like people keep telling me about Columbine, Columbine, Columbine, but that was what, 13 years ago? Then, I go to the movies to see Batman and then this random guy comes shooting the place, the next theater over from me. But yes, it`s usually just peaceful. You can walk down the block any time of night and not be worried. HARRIS-PERRY: Salina Jordan, you were in the theater in Aurora, Colorado, where 12 people were killed earlier this morning. I greatly appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. And best luck. I really hope that Aurora goes back to feeling like a calm and safe place for you. JORDAN: Thank you so much. HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks. In his remarks about the tragedy in Colorado today, President Obama referred to the victims of deadly violence all over the country. The national crisis about which Mr. Obama was speaking is up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS-PERRY: At exactly 5:26 Eastern Time this morning, just as he was starting his day in Palm Beach, Florida, President Obama learned from his homeland security adviser, John Brennan, that there had been an incident in Colorado just outside Denver, a mass shooting. The president had a long day of campaigning ahead of him with two events planned in Florida today. But at 5:26 a.m., all of those plans changed. Within a few hours, Mr. Obama took to the microphones to address the nation from Ft. Myers, Florida. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Even as we learn how this happened and who is responsible, we may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this. Such violence, such evil, is senseless. It`s beyond reason. But while we will never know fully what causes somebody to take the life of another, we do know what makes life worth living. The people we lost in Aurora loved and they were loved. They were mothers and fathers. They were husbands and wives, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, friends and neighbors. They had hopes for the future. And they had dreams that were not yet fulfilled. And if there`s anything to take away from this tragedy, it`s the reminder that life is very fragile. Our time here is limited and it is precious. And what matters at the end of the day is not the small things. It`s not the trivial things which so often consume us and our daily lives. Ultimately, it`s how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another. (CHEERS) (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: About two hours after President Obama addressed the nation from Florida, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney made a statement of his own from New Hampshire. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our hearts break with the sadness of this unspeakable tragedy. Ann and I join the president and first lady and all Americans in offering our deepest condolences for those whose lives were shattered in a few moments, a few moments of evil in Colorado. Our hearts break for the victims and their families. We pray that the wounded will recover and that those who are grieving will know the nearness of God. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: This is one of those strange and difficult moments that sometimes happens during presidential campaign where politics and real life tragedies collide. Mitt Romney and President Obama both took the extraordinary steps today of pulling all of their campaign advertisements that had been airing across Colorado and they both made the point today that right now, in the immediate aftermath of this tragedy, right now is not the time for politics. It`s not a time for national campaigning. But it should be noted that not everybody shares that view. Shortly after President Obama made those remarks in Florida today, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence put out this statement that was entitled, "We don`t want sympathy from the president or other elected officials. We invite Americans to join our campaign to hold politicians accountable to act." The Brady Center which has long argued for tighter gun laws across the country argued today that now is the time to have this conversation as a nation. Quote, "We are insistent that our elected leaders take action to prevent future tragedies. Political cowardice is not an excuse for evasion and inaction in this life-and-death issue." Also speaking out was Democratic Congresswoman Caroline McCarthy of New York. Congresswoman McCarthy`s husband was killed during a mass shooting on a commuter train in New York back in 1993. And today, she put out this statement that read in part, quote, "The shooter should be brought to justices and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, but we as a nation should also not continue to ignore avenues to prevent tragedies like this from happening in the future." Congresswoman McCarthy, like the Brady Center, arguing that now is actually the wrong time to put aside politics. Now is precisely the time to have this conversation as a nation. Also pressing that case today was mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg. New York City has been absolutely wracked by gun violence this summer. During the first week of July alone, there were 62 different shootings across the city, and that was in just one week this month -- a 28 percent spike in gun violence from the same time last year. So Mayor Bloomberg appeared on local radio station here in New York today and he offered this reaction to the events in Colorado. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK CITY: Soothing words are nice, but maybe it`s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they`re going to do about it. This is a real problem. No matter where you stand on the Second Amendment, no matter where you stand on guns, we have a right to hear from both of them concretely, not just in generalities, specifically, what are they going to do about guns? Everybody says, isn`t it tragic? We look for the guy, as you said, maybe re -- trying to re-create Batman. So many murders with guns every day, it`s just got to stop. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: Michael Bloomberg, in addition to being the mayor of New York City, is also co-chair of a group called Mayors Against Guns. And this afternoon, a group of 32 national and pro-gun organizations put out this joint statement. "Today`s mass shooting is the price paid in death, pain, and suffering by families and communities for an out-of- control militarized gun industry that prides itself on selling increasingly lethal products to virtually anyone with little concern for the inevitable tragedies that result. Gun violence is preventable. It`s long past time for policymaker at all levels to act." For its part, the NRA had this two-sentence response to today`s events. Quote, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and the community. NRA will not have any further comments until all the facts are known." Both President Obama and Mitt Romney were in agreement today that politics should not be part of the conversation right now. Politics should in no way color of reactions to this hor -- excuse me -- horrific incidents in Colorado. But politics is about policy and it`s about what we do as a country to deal with the problems that we face. They may not want politics to intrude here, but as the story continues to develop, they may not have much of a choice. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS-PERRY: They were just teenagers, a couple of kids. One was 16 years old. And one was 17. Last night, they heard gunfire behind them. And because it seemed like the smart thing to do, they ran. They heard gunfire and they tried to put distance between the bullets and themselves. They ended up here in "The Chicago Sun Times". Teen boy dead, another critically wounded in West Englewood shooting." Jamauri Askew, 16, was pronounced dead at the scene. His friend was critically injured. Now, I know their story because I happen to have a family connection to the school where one of them is an honor student. Otherwise, I might never have heard about these two kids, two more people gunned down in America last night. As they responded to the horrific shootings in Aurora, Colorado, both President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney reflected on themselves as fathers. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) OBAMA: I`m sure that many of you who are parents here had the same reaction that I did when I heard this news. My daughters go to the movies. What if Malia and Sasha had been at the theater as so many of our kids do every day? ROMNEY: I stand before you today, not as a man running for office but as a father and grandfather, a husband, an American. (END VIDEO CLIPS) HARRIS-PERRY: So whether it`s Chicago or Colorado, in times of tragedy we seek to pull our loved ones close to us. It`s very reasonable, very human impulse. Faced with our vulnerability, we are reminded to tell our kids, our spouse, our parents, our friends, that we love them. The president and Governor Romney also reminded Americans that this is a moment when we can find comfort in our religious faith. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) ROMNEY: Our prayer is that the comforter might bring the peace to their souls that surpasses our understanding. The Apostle Paul explained, "Blessed be God who comforteth us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble." OBAMA: May the Lord bring them comfort and healing in hard days to come. I`m grateful to all of you and I hope that as a consequence of today`s events, as you leave here, you spend a little time thinking about the incredible blessings that God has given us. (END VIDEO CLIPS) HARRIS-PERRY: This call for prayerful reflection is important, even the nation that values and institutionalizes the separation of church and state, when we feel helpless, prayer is something we can do. When we have no words to express our grief, religious texts give us something to say. When we feel all hope is lost, faith gives us a way to hold on until tomorrow. These are not trivial feats and these acts of faith can keep communities from descending in despair. As we acknowledge the importance of personal faith, in the face of tragedy, there`s another kind of faith that Americans will need in the coming days -- faith in one another and in the American experiment in self-government. Among this nation`s great contributions to the world has been our distinctive associational life. Even in the 19th century, Alexis de Tocqueville noted that Americans have an irrepressible tendency to get together to solve problems, to promote goals, even to seek victories. He identified the constitutional protection of free assembly as key to the American national character and praised our collective civic life at the foundation of our democracy, writing, "There is no end which the human will despair through the combined powers of individuals united into a society." But in recent decades, associational life has declined precipitously. Harvard researcher Robert Putnam has mapped our growing disassociation since the 1980s. We`re less likely to join bowling leagues, and PTAs, and even local political parties. With this decline comes a lack of solidarity, trust, and tolerance -- an afraid social fabric is bad for our politics. With little trust in each other or our leaders, the rugged self reliant American individualist finds himself standing alone and isolated in a moment my colleague, Chris Hayes, has dubbed "The Twilight of the Elites". If we react without faith, the Colorado massacre can make the problem worse. It is understandable why in the wake of random terrifying acts of violence, we may want to scoop up our families and fall to our knees in prayer and it makes sense why we may want to do so behind locked doors and drawn curtains, shut out the suddenly scary and unpredictable people around us. But that is the impulse we must resist by consciously cultivating our civic faith. If the experiment of self-government is going to survive, we must be willing to trust one another even when trust feels foolish. Now, there are comments and policies that can make communities safer and if we are responsible, we will move towards enacting them. But no wall will be ever high enough to act on our vulnerability. A good society can never merge from virtuous but isolated citizens. Democracy requires that we find a way to trust one another, in our neighborhoods, in our schools and, yes, even in our movie theaters. Joining us now is Bob Herbert, the former "New York Times" columnist, got a conversation with Marion Wright Edelman, and he`s now a distinguished fellow at the Demos Center for the public policy and advocacy. Bob, thanks for being here. BOB HERBERT, DEMOS: Hi, Melissa. HARRIS-PERRY: So, I started this in part about a conversation about the shootings in Chicago, not because the Colorado shootings are not clearly the focus of our energy and attention and our grieving today but because this violence feels almost ordinary in so many cities. HERBERT: It does. I was in Chicago a few years ago to cover the fact that about three dozen school-age children have been killed over the course of one school year in Chicago and it just continues to go on and on. It`s not just Chicago, it`s Philadelphia, it`s north, it`s Camden -- HARRIS-PERRY: It`s New Orleans. HERBERT: Yes. You know, since Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther king were murdered in 1968, more than a million Americans have been killed by gun violence. That`s through homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings. This is an insane level of violence. And, you know, the frustrating thing is that we have these terrible stories, like the one you`re covering tonight, and really in another 24 or 48 hours, we`ll be on to something else and nothing really will be done about this. HARRIS-PERRY: You know, part of it we`ll have to do collectively, we`re going to have to have are faith in one another, and I know that that might seem tough. I was listening to chief of police Dan Oates out there and we are talking about how people in the community have come together. But how do we figure how not to turn on each other, how not to start putting up everywhere that we go -- a metal detector? How do we find a civic faith in one another? HERBERT: It requires leadership. And I`m not sure where that leadership is going to come from, because it`s not going to come from -- I don`t think, from our elected officials at the highest levels of government. So, maybe, you know, you`re talking about civic faith. Maybe it has to come from the local level. But you have to have people out there making the case like you`re talking about this evening and bringing in their friends and neighbors and relatives and that sort of thing to say, we need to make a stand. We need to get together. The sort of thing that Tocqueville talked about, in which I think America once had, but we seem to have been losing. HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, because, you know, obviously in this case, the assailant was very quickly picked up. You know, the police department acted swiftly. But in so many cases of gun violence, we just don`t even know who the perpetrators are in part because people in communities don`t trust police officers enough to talk about what they`ve seen. HERBERT: Oh, exactly right. I mean, if you go into the streets, especially some of our urban areas, there`s just a breakdown of trust that is almost complete. I mean, citizens don`t trust police, police don`t trust the citizens, you have people who are afraid to blow the whistle on perpetrators. It`s a really terrible scene. HARRIS-PERRY: Now, both Mitt Romney and President Obama today said that this is not a time for politics and yet we had other folks coming out immediately and saying, actually, no, this is exactly the time to talk about policy. Is there -- what would be the galvanizing thing that would allow us to actually have a conversation about gun violence? HERBERT: You know, I just don`t. We`ve had Columbine. We`ve had Virginia Tech. We`ve had the terrible shooting involving Gabby Giffords. We have the story today and nothing seems to galvanize either the media or the public at large. So I`m not sure that there`s going to be an event that would do it. I think it really gets back to civic leadership and I think it has to come from local levels. Someone has to step forward, make a stand, and stay with it. HARRIS-PERRY: Now, you said the level of violence is insane. I`m always worried about in these moments we want to say, is this one person is insane, this one person is mad or crazy. And this person may be, I don`t know. HERBERT: Exactly right. Right. HARRIS-PERRY: But it feels like there is something more going on. HERBERT: This gun violence in America is really part and parcel of the character of the United States. I mean, we have 100,000 people who are shot every year. Three people are killed every hour, which means that three people are going to be killed by gun violence over the course of just this television program. So this is something that goes far beyond just, you know, a wacko with a gun or some insane individual. HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And so we have 12 people who died last night. HERBERT: Yes. HARRIS-PERRY: This morning. But also, 12 who died in Chicago in the last seven days. That number is just so hard for us to fathom, I think. HERBERT: It`s really horrifying and so many people are young people, so many are children, small children, you know, including in the movie theater in Colorado. HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, thank you so much for being here, Bob. It`s one of those really tough days. HERBERT: It`s really horrible. HARRIS-PERRY: Really hard. Thanks so much for being here. Bob Herbert, former "New York Times" and now with Demos. That does it for us tonight. I`ll see you tomorrow morning on my show, "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY" at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. MSNBC`s coverage of the Colorado shooting continues now with Chris Jansing, reporting live from Aurora. Good night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END