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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 5/24/22

Guests: Ade Osadolor-Hernandez, Richard Blumenthal, Cedric Alexander, Fred Guttenberg


Texas Governor Greg Abbott confirming 14 children and one teacher dead after a gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Senator Richard Blumenthal joins THE BEAT to talk about the elementary school students targeted in the mass shooting. Cedric Alexander joins Ari Melber to talk about gun access and reducing licensing and training for potential misuse, or criminal use of those weapons. Fred Guttenberg whose daughter Jaime was killed in the Parkland school shooting join Ari Melber to talk about his thoughts about the mass shooting in Texas.


MATTHEW DOWD, MSNBC POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: You cry with people. Hug if you have another child, you're your child, and try to get up and see the sunrise tomorrow, because even doing that is going to tough.

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: Matthew Dowd, Frank Figliuzzi, Julian Castro and John Heilemann, thank you so much for being here.

Our breaking news coverage continues now in THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER.

Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you so much.

Our breaking coverage as mentioned does continue. Here we are together on another mass shooting day in America.

Today's shooting is the deadliest of the year. 14 children and one teacher killed in an elementary shooting here in Uvalde, Texas, where second, third, and fourth graders were evacuated amidst today's horror. The 18- year-old suspect opened fire at 11:30 a.m. Texas Governor Abbott says police killed him in response.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: He shot and killed horrifically, incomprehensibly, 14 students and killed a teacher. Mr. Romas, the shooter, he himself is deceased and is believed that responding officers killed him.


MELBER: Abbott says the suspect allegedly shot and killed his grandmother before going on this school shooting rampage.

We're going to show you live pictures of the area. At this moment, the police chief says families of the deceased are still being notified. This horrific and grim process that's played out in America's school shootings before. This particular mass murder comes just after the Buffalo rampage which was previously the deadliest shooting of this year. Americans mourning once again.

We can also tell you that President Biden will address the nation tonight as the country continues reeling.

We will bring you the facts as well as perspective in this hour of coverage. We begin with former assistant FBI director Frank Figliuzzi who has been covering this for us at MSNBC and Jim Cavanaugh, retired ATF special agent in charge. And we have other experts and people who care about these issues lined up.

Jim, your understanding of what happened?

JIM CAVANAUGH, RETIRED ATF SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Well, there are some reporting from Tom Wheeler that maybe the police were involved in the chase of the suspect that wound up at the elementary school. They haven't been able to confirm all those facts, but there's also reporting that his grandmother may have been killed.

That's significant because a lot of times these things do start with some violence domestically. Young people sometimes kill their parents, and then they go somewhere like a school to shoot it up because these are the most significant places in their life.

So we don't know, Ari, if the police might have been called when there were shots fired at the grandmother's house and then became in pursuit of the suspect who then went into the elementary school. Was it his intent to kill the children all along, or, you know, was it just a manic response to, you know, a murder spree while he's being pursued by officers?

A lot of that is still an open question, but the, you know, the horror, the vulgarity of the crime is displayed in the front of America today. I mean, all these little children massacred, probably with a rifle and a handgun, which is what the reporting is, by an 18-year-old in Texas.

MELBER: Frank, let's listen a little bit more to the main source we've had thus far, which is Governor Abbott. Here's a bit more of what he said in his remarks.


ABBOTT: We're in the process of obtaining detailed and background information on the subject, his motive, the types of weapons used, the legal authority to possess them, and conduct a comprehensive crime scene investigation and reconstruction and identify and interview all witnesses and provide victim services and other support as needed.


MELBER: How does that process play out, Frank, where the crime scene is established and the shooter reportedly dead?

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: Well, based on what Jim is saying, if this reporting becomes accurate and confirmed, this changes the equation in the sense of processing a crime scene because now you have an extended, expanded perimeter and crime scene. It may have started somewhere else, perhaps with shooting a family member, as we may be hearing now, and that extended to a chase.

Maybe shots fired during the chase. Maybe shots fire in the front of the school, as some have said. And then we need to know far more about how the subject ended up in the school, ended up shooting children, how that played out. But you've got a large crime scene here.

Now the Texas Rangers, extremely professional investigative organization, I'm sure they will play a role here. I've already seen FBI jackets in the media coverage, so we know at least the FBI is on the scene. I'm certain they'll offer their resources as well.


And they'll also offer resources to forensically examine the devices of this young man to see if he was planning this violent act or whether it simply happened because of an altercation at home. But, you know, I know for most people the law enforcement vernacular doesn't mean much, it may not seem important, but Jim used the word spree. That's a different animal than, say, an active shooter or mass shooter.

A spree is a continuous event with multiple deaths and it means a lot to profilers. So all of this playing into the early nature of this and the need for more facts.

MELBER: You mentioned more facts and I told viewers the president will speak tonight. We're looking at flags lowered at the White House, Jim. They had the flags lowered about 10 days ago when we had the Buffalo shooting, which was the deadliest shooting.

I'm going to put on the screen for context because we go through this process and the facts matter. We'll tell everyone everything we're hearing from authorities about today's mass shooting. But this is the larger context of the data. Every one of these points on this chart is another life taken and ruined and another family grieving, and the rate -- this is a CDC data as a rate per 100,000, which gives you a very clear sense.

All variables under control that the rate is going up, Jim. How does that figure into what we're facing as the nation mourns again this deadliest shooting of the year?

CAVANAUGH: Well, Ari, you're exactly right. We have 400 million guns in circulation in America. Think of that number. We have more guns than we have people. And, you know, I think really we talk about the big lie, the election lie that the election was stolen. The original big lie was that if there are any gun laws passed, that the government is going to take everybody's guns away. And we live with that lie for the last 40 years. It was pressed by the gun lobby.

It's always been a lie. It's always going to be a lie. That's never been a feasible thing. It's never been a reality thing. It's never been in any law that the Congress has ever passed since 1934 with the National Firearms Act, the 1968 Gun Control Act. There was always amnesty for current gun owners, even the assault weapons ban in the '90s, all currently held weapons were grandfathered in. There's never been a law like this.

This is all fear mongering to beat any reasonable legislation that can give just the citizens a little more safety.


CAVANAUGH: That's a big lie, too, and people accept it because they want to accept it because they can then push back and not have any gun law at all. So we could make some good gun laws, but the Congress is frozen. The gun lobby has got a knife at their throat. They will not pass the gun law.

MELBER: Jim and Frank, walking us through this, having been through this process before, both on the investigative side and law enforcement, and covering it here. We will indebted to you throughout our coverage here.

I want the thank both of them as we turn to Morgan Chesky, NBC correspondent on the scene. Morgan?

MORGAN CHESKY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ari, good evening. We just arrived in the community of Uvalde and we are just across the street where this horrific tragedy took place at Robb Elementary School. I can tell you an incredibly wide perimeter has been set up around this site of yet another school shooting, and there is a heavy police presence here as they continue to gather evidence in what will become a lengthy investigation.

About a quarter mile from where I'm standing, Ari, is a civics center that has become the really emotional epicenter of this town. It's become a reunification site for these students who sheltered in place for hours inside this school behind me to be reunited with their parents, who were able to get in touch with them within the last several hours. We heard an update from officials within the past hour as well as that gutting update from Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

Fourteen students killed here, Ari. One teacher killed. And in case you're wondering just how tightknit this community is, when I arrived here, I parked in front of a home, made sure it was OK with the homeowner, introduced myself, and he said, by the way, that teacher who was killed in Uvalde is my niece.

These stories are only going to continue to come out in the days ahead here, but this is an incredibly painful place to be right now. We do know that crime scene investigators are going through this school as we speak. We anticipate another update from authorities here.

We're trying to piece together the timeline, Ari, on when this began, about 11:45 a.m. this morning. That's when Uvalde Police were dispatched to the school, hearing reports of an active shooter, and that's when we're told this 18-year-old gunman who is from this community, entered the school with a handgun and potentially a rifle and began to open fire.


We do know according to a local hospital here that there were at least a dozen others injured. Two individuals were medevacked to San Antonio. That's the nearest and major metropolitan area to Uvalde about 90 miles east of where I'm standing. It was a woman I believe in her 60s and a 10- year-old girl. Both are in critical condition.

Meanwhile, the gunman who opened fire is deceased. However, we do not know his motive at this point in time and we hope to find out much more in the coming hours and days ahead. But this is a community, Ari, of just about 15,000 people. You can only imagine the pain that everyone is feeling here tonight.

MELBER: Yes, Morgan, before I let you go, just tell us a little bit more about that. You mentioned, of course, what we've learned from the scene there. We had our updates from the authorities, but what neighborhoods are here? What kind of town is this? What is the nature of this community that's facing this here in Texas?

CHESKY: This is a hard-working community on the edge of the Texas hill country. We are about an hour or so away from the border. We do know that folks here in Uvalde are very proud of their community. This is a place that, you know, people think they're safe, and I think that's something that could be said, Ari, for every single place where one of these shootings almost takes place.

People feel safe until they're not, and now they're faced with the unfortunate fate that so many others are. You know, I played high school football against the team from here growing up, and I got to tell you, you cover these stories as a reporter, and to have it hit so close to home, it absolutely changes the lens with which you view these tragedies. And it's different. It's different. Ari?

MELBER: Yes. Understood. And I appreciate you sharing that and the fact that you know people in that community, and this is the test for everyone around the country as we process these kinds of stories as a nation.

Morgan Chesky, thank you very much.

We turn to a little bit more from Governor Greg Abbott's update. We've got pieces of this. I want to tell viewers a lot of the initial information here has come directly from the governor's office. The police briefing was very short. It was essentially kind of a status update and saying that they'll bring more information as they go, the grim process of this that Nicolle Wallace and others mentioned earlier.

And our coverage is that according to the local police, they were still trying to get in touch with all parents. They're still dealing with that aspect of this unfolding breaking news tragedy, the shooter killing 14 elementary school students and a teacher.


ABBOTT: There is swift action being taken by local law enforcement as well as the Texas Department of Public Safety. They obviously now know who the shooter was. And the shooter is no longer alive. It appears that two responding officers were struck by rounds but have no serious injuries.


MELBER: That's on the authorities' response side of it. Again, Governor Abbott giving that major, main briefing. The authorities on the local police side provided a small amount of information. We have a little clip from that.


PETE ARREDONDO, UVALDE CHIEF OF POLICE: Families are being notified and we're providing services to them as the district should. We do want to keep all the families in our prayers. I hope you do as well, and we also want to respect the privacy of the family. The crime scene is still being worked on, and again we'll notify the parents and the families as soon as we have some news for them.


MELBER: We are now joined by former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro who also served in the Obama administration.

Thank you for making time for us today.


MELBER: What's on your mind as you watch this here in your home state?

CASTRO: That as a country we're going through this again. We saw this a decade ago in Newtown at Sandy Hook. So many people felt a decade ago like the shock, the disbelief that this could happen in the United States of America and also back then, including a lot of policymakers, a resolve to do something about it.

I think the saddest part of this today of course is the loss of life of these children and of the adult who passed away, but also the sadness that we have not done what we should have done by now to try and prevent something like happened today in Uvalde.

Governor Abbott put out a statement that I think Nicolle a little while ago played or read on the air, and the governor's statement was fine for its words of condolences to the family, but didn't talk at all about prevention, about trying to make sure that something like this doesn't happen again by taking steps that all of us know can make it less likely to happen again.


And so there's a profound sadness for the loss of life and the injury. There's also a sadness for the fact that this is who we are now as a country. And it's not who we should be.

MELBER: Right. I mean, as a factual matter, this is a very regular and routine part of living in the United States in most parts of the United States. Routine doesn't mean good or bad. It just means constant. We have some more of that data coming up in the program, but with regard to the public and political debate and whether this should be treated like terrorism or something that people might see as avoidable or possibly preventable loss of life that then the government acts to deal with or not, here's what a major conservative Republican figure Kellyanne Conway is saying.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, FORMER TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: I really hope people don't speculate, don't jump to the usual political conclusions, don't call for these sweeping massive changes while people are grieving, and it sounds to me like it may not even have been reunited with their children yet?


MELBER: Mr. Mayor, your response?

CASTRO: The BS NRA playbook. To suggest that, oh, we can't talk about this yet, let's not talk about changes while the grieving is happening. No, we've had enough of that. We need to take the emotion and the anger that all of us rightly feel as parents, as community members, just as human beings and channel that into change that's going to make these types of situations preventable.

Chris Murphy, in his speech on the Senate floor today, I think had it right. He talked about this quiet endorsement of these types of events by the inaction, especially of Republicans in the Senate and in state legislatures and governor's mansions all over the place, and that's what's happening. There's a culture of this stuff that has developed and there's a quiet endorsement, as he said, by the inaction. That's not who we want to be as a people.

MELBER: Yes. And I notice you saying and I've heard others mentioned that it's important for the nation to understand this. People can turn away. They can turn away from news and information. They can turn off TVs. They can decide how much of this information they want to take in and in what way. But as a daily grind of life this is very much the reality, just as they're still grieving, mourning, and doing services for all the innocent people gunned down in Buffalo, which was the deadliest shooting of the year until today. And now there's a new one at 15 instead of 10.

I want to put on the screen for our viewers and for you, Mr. Mayor, the comparison. There is violence in every society. Most societies do not through policy bring violence to absolute zero. But on the screen, other wealthy Western democracies, which are thus similar to us in so many ways, have such a smaller share of gun related killings, which is to say, the United States, similar to these nations, has far more killing, homicide, and murder because of the availability of guns.

Is there a public safety consideration here, Mr. Mayor, that can be governed, that can be addressed, even consistent with certain parts of the Second Amendment under the current president that aren't changing? For example, there has been an individual right to guns being found by the Supreme Court, but that doesn't mean that states and the federal government can't regulate who has access based on criminal record and other background checks, et cetera.

CASTRO: You're right, I mean, people are going to own guns in our country, as the Constitution has been interpreted by the Supreme Court in a case called Heller a few years ago. And since then -- so there's going to be gun ownership, individual gun ownership. And the question is, how do we smartly regulate that to allow for that Second Amendment but at the same time make sure that guns don't get into the hands of people who are going to commit these types of crimes?

And that's where we have failed. That's where especially Republicans have failed because they have been in the pocket of the National Rifle Association.

Ari, just to give you an example of that, there's an NRA convention this weekend in Houston, and Governor Abbott is set to speak at that NRA convention. And I have no doubt, unfortunately, that he was going to go there, had this not happened, and he may well still do this, going to go to Houston, speak at the NRA convention, and brag about how many gun owners there are in Texas and how many guns are bought every year, and that this is the most gun friendly state in the United States.

Here's the thing. They have been telling a lie about gun ownership and usage.


They keep saying that if you just have more guns and more guns that it's going to make us safer. We're not safer here in Texas. In fact, we're less safe because of that.

MELBER: Now, you mentioned that, the role of the NRA, the upcoming convention, and Governor Abbott, and we did play without comment the initial statements he made so people have the facts because he is in his role, the chief executive of a state dealing with the emergency response. We've played Governor Abbott several times here in this hour as well as previously.

Since you bring it up, and we did want to get to this at some point, it is also factual to look at what he has said to the citizens of Texas in the context of the NRA, which is a political organization. I'm going to put up on the screen something he posted a few years ago, as you mentioned, as we approach another NRA gathering, where responding to data about gun sales, I think we have this, he said, quote, "I'm embarrassed. Texas is number two in the nation for new gun purchases behind California. Let's pick up the pace, Texans." And he directly invokes the NRA afterward.

Mr. Mayor?

CASTRO: I mean, this is the culture of quiet endorsement that Senator Murphy just spoke about, and it's not even quiet. It's bragging. It's this kind of throwing the finger at folks who suggest that we should have commonsense gun reform by going over the top with this kind of stuff.

It's also embarrassing to me that we live in the state of Texas where the governor will say he's embarrassed, that we're not number one in terms of gun ownership but won't say that he's embarrassed that we lead the nation in the number of uninsured people, people without health insurance in our state. That's what is going on in Texas. He has spent the better part of his time in office making it easier for anybody to own and to carry a gun in Texas and telling Texans that would make it safer, we would see less of these incidents, and that's not true.

We saw this in Sutherlin Springs, a church that where 26 people were killed and injured a few years ago, maybe four years ago. We see this today in Uvalde. We saw it in El Paso in 2019. Having more guns does not mean that we're going to see this less, it means that we're going to see more of it, especially when you make it easier and easier for anybody over the age of 18 to get their hands on a gun.

MELBER: Yes. Mr. Mayor, please stay with us. As I mentioned to viewers, we have been covering this from multiple angles. We've talked to people in law enforcement, we talked to people who faced this here, someone who's been a mayor in this very state. But we're going to bring in for an additional perspective, Ade Osadolor-Hernandez, a National Advisory Board member for Students Demand Action, which is working on the gun violence issue in the United States. And with both of our guests here, there was reference to -- by Mr. Castro to an impassioned floor speech that concluded just in the middle of the last hour from Senator Murphy. Let's take a listen.


SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): I'm here on this floor to beg, to literally get down on my hands and knees and beg my colleagues. Find a path forward here. Work with us to find a way to pass laws that make this less likely.


MELBER: Ade, what's on your mind, and what are you working on as you look at this happening in your state?

ADE OSADOLOR-HERNANDEZ, ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER, STUDENTS DEMAND ACTION: Right. Yes, I'm part of the Latinx community, and for me this is extremely frustrating and enraging. For too many years Latinx communities have had carried some of the heaviest burdens of gun violence, dying from gun violence every day and race disproportionate to their white peers. Systemic inequities are real and they have been affecting the Latinx community for generations.

There's no place for guns in schools. There's no reason why 14 kids should have lost their lives and a teacher as well. This is extremely frustrating, and I think we need to do better. We need to do better, we need to implement laws and policies that will save lives, going to care populations. And I'm with the Latinx community today.

MELBER: And Mr. Mayor, your response to that as well as just some of the other data we want to share and mentioned to viewers, that we are tracking all the facts we're getting about this horrific elementary school shooting with 14 students and a teacher killed. But it fits into a larger question about how things work in this nation. So some statistics we have here, 40 percent of U.S. adults say they live in a household with a gun. 30 percent of adults own a gun.

So that speaks to the widespread permanence of this in our life, but 48 percent of Americans also say, Mr. Castro, that gun violence is a big problem, and 53 percent of Americans also say they would prefer stricter gun laws. Mr. Mayor?


CASTRO: There's no question that the American people support some commonsense gun reform, starting with universal background checks. And it looked like right after Newtown that we were going to see, when Senator Manchin and Senator Toomey got together, some sort of compromise, and the Republican Party basically coming to the table to say, enough of this, let's enact even the most basic measures. And that didn't happen.

And then the question becomes, OK, this is another punch to the gut. And not only that, we see these types of incidents more and more and more frequently. It's part of who we are in the United States. It's part of our culture. Do these politicians, especially these Republican politicians who have stood in the way in the Texas legislature and in Washington, D.C. of change, do they have the moral courage to buck the NRA, to buck those political contributions, and now to have that conversation about compromise?

Even if it just starts with universal background checks, and then let's see where we go from there. I think it's very fitting that you have on a young voice for a change because if there's hope in our democracy that we're going to change this, it's a young generation of Americans who had had enough of being afraid in their schools and having to look around the corner and to do these drills and to grow up like this is normal when it shouldn't be.

They are demanding change, and I think that as they get older and older and more politically engaged and more powerful, that they're going to help make that change.

MELBER: Ade, your response to that? And when you were in school do you recall this awareness, these drills, other students having to prepare for that, for the idea that there might be shootings?

OSADOLOR-HERNANDEZ: Yes, absolutely. It was something that shouldn't have to be a thing. It is, like I said, extremely frustrating and deeply saddening to see that this is still happening. We need to start funding community-based gun violence intervention programs, we need to start implementing policies that will reduce gun violence, we need to pass extreme risk laws, we need to create permanent state and local offices dedicated to gun violence prevention.

MELBER: Mr. Castro?

CASTRO: Yes. All of that. We need these commonsense policy changes and, you know, what I've seen, Ari, in the time that I have been in politics, followed politics here in the state of Texas, I was on the city council and then served for five years as mayor of San Antonio, have watched this issue at the national level, I actually have seen progress. I remember a time 20 years ago where even Democrats in Texas and across the nation would not stand up and speak out against the NRA.

They would kind of cower, even if they believed in commonsense gun reform. They really wouldn't make it much of an issue. They wouldn't put it on their literature. They wouldn't talk about it at town halls to voters. They wouldn't run on it. Now everywhere from here to Florida to -- across the country, to leaders like Chris Murphy, Democrats are pretty united that we need commonsense gun reform. That was the first step.

I believe, unfortunately, that the more we see massacres like this and what happened in Buffalo and Atlanta and Pittsburgh, in El Paso, and so many other places, so many that you can't even count them or name them anymore, that that is getting us closer to change, and it's getting harder and harder for these Republican politicians to hide behind kind words that offer condolences but don't offer any real solution or moral courage to make the changes necessary to prevent these kinds of occurrences in the future.

MELBER: Julian Castro and Ade Osadolor-Hernandez, thanks to both of you for your perspectives and your thoughts at this difficult time.

I want to give folks an update before we bring in another expert. If you did get home and you did turn on your TV and you're tracking what's going on here, 14 children gunned down today in an elementary school in Texas along with one teacher. A shooter reported dead, and we have been reporting out the facts of this case, what we're learning, parents being informed.

Some of the images you see on your screen, this grim, terrible, tragic routine -- I use that word deliberately as I did earlier in our coverage. This routine facet of American life today. We see mass shootings again and again in our nation. It is especially hard to stomach when we see innocent children gunned down as victims, specifically targeted. And you see the stats here from December 2012, Sandy Hook, 20 first graders killed.


Today, about a decade later, a reminder that children are in the crossfire of this policy debate over guns and this very real public safety epidemic, where guns are so easy to get and use, including in our schools. In this year, 2022, 134 children killed from gun violence. Governor Abbott was also speaking to parents today. At the press conference.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): When parents drop their kids off the school, they have every expectation to know that they're going to be able to pick their child up when that school day ends. And there are families who are in mourning right now. And the state of Texas is in mourning with them for the reality that these parents are not going to be able to pick up their children.


MELBER: I'm now joined by Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, which is mentioned went through exactly this kind of school shooting crisis. Thank you for joining me tonight.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Thank you very much for having me, Ari.

MELBER: Senator, violence is violence, homicide is homicide, and murder is murder. This will be adjudicated in the courts. But as I mentioned, it's no secret that something even deeper happens every time we see someone march into a school and kill the children. What do you say to the parents? Is any of this better dealt with or preventable?

BLUMENTHAL: Ari, as I watch the scenes, I relive what happened at Sandy Hook, just about 10 years ago, and I've kept as friends, these families who lost children and I know they still have a hole in their hearts, there's still a place in their homes and in their lives that will forever warm. And I know these families will feel the same way. And I want to be able to say something to them. But there are no words for a parent, as I am a parent. And I think of my own children this age. But we also know that inaction is complicity.

And I approached one of these parents on the evening that she lost one of her children, I said to her when you're ready, I think we can try to do something about gun violence. And through her tears, I'll never forget this moment, she said to me, I'm ready now. And I hope some of these parents will know that there are many of us who grieve with them, who mourn with them, to feel this hole that will forever be with them, having lost children this age, but we also are committed to act and there are actions we can take that are common sense, honor these children with that.

MELBER: We don't know the identities. We don't know the individual parents in Texas, but we do know it's a very pro-gun state. There may be parents who have guns here, there may be people in the community who are skeptical of any gun regulation. What do you say to them tonight? Is there a possibility here of parents talking to parents looking at this specific horror of a school shooting like today, as distinct from perhaps the wider debate over guns?

BLUMENTHAL: What I'd say to them very emphatically, Ari, is that there are common-sense actions we can take to separate dangerous killers from firearms. Actions that are consistent with the Second Amendment, as judged by the Supreme Court, and consistent with gun ownership by law-abiding people. And those actions would separate, for example, someone like this shooter from a gun when he shows that he is going to kill himself or others.

There are universal background checks. There's the repeal of the immunity, the sweetheart deal with gun manufacturers that benefits the manufacturers alone, and other actions that are common-sense steps that we've advocated for years. In my case, I've advocated for decades, and I hope that they will join this movement because law-abiding citizens should continue to own guns consistent with the Second Amendment.

I hope that we can come together as a Congress, but I would simply say to all my colleagues in the United States Senate if this tragedy doesn't crystallize, your sense of obligation, then you are in effect putting guns above children. We have to stop this senseless violence.

MELBER: You mentioned in your conversations with parents, you and the other Connecticut senator here drawing on what is a grim marker for the state and what has not been done since then. It was then-President Obama discussing that type of gun violence against children.



BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: High schoolers at Columbine. And from first-graders in Newtown. First-graders. And from every family who'd -- who never imagined that their loved one would be taken from our lives by a bullet from a gun.


MELBER: Final thoughts, senator, tonight.

BLUMENTHAL: I think we have to translate that kind of emotion into action. Honor with action and it is a club that no one wants to join. It's a club of the survivors, the families who have carried with them this pain, but they are so courageous and so strong. They came to Washington and advocated for common sense measures, the Sandy Hook family and others, whether it's parkland, or the other survivors and families from the countless shootings that we've seen.

But here's the point to keep in mind, Ari, no community is immune. We focus on these massacres, but the day-by-day shootings in Hartford and in New Haven and all around the country and cities and rural and suburban community, more than half the gun deaths are suicides. Again, red flag statues separate people from firearms, when they're dangerous to themselves or others.

There are these common-sense steps that we can take. We don't know that any of them would have prevented one shooting or another but we know we can save lives. And I hope that the anger I feel it, and the grief, which I share, will also motivate people as they feel it across this nation to finally demand, really demand out of anger and grief that the Congress act finally, to fulfill its duty because the inaction is complicity.

MELBER: Senator Richard Blumenthal thank you for joining us tonight. Our coverage continues now, we're reporting on this horrific mass shooting at a Texas elementary school. 14 children dead, one to teacher, as well as the shooter. The nation reeling from what was the deadliest shooting of the year just 10 days ago in Buffalo, however, where a shooter killed 10 people at a grocery store. That suspect citing racist replacement theories, and inspiration. Today's rampage at an elementary school is now deadlier.

So, it's the plans what was the deadliest shooting because today 15 innocent people gunned down dead. Now if you feel like this is happening more, if you see more gun violence around you and think this is getting worse. You're right. The facts show that is true. Active shooter standoffs went up 50 percent last year. Today's school shooting is the deadliest. But attacks with multiple fatalities are quite common over 200 so far this year that we're living through.

The scene today, all too familiar across the nation, as well as across Texas, which has faced some other very grim days like today. Mass killings in 2019 in the state that killed seven and then 27 people in a single day. Now authorities need more time to fully investigate this incident. But overall, the data shows easy access to guns makes it easier for criminals to use them for murder, rather than self-defense or hunting. Many gun safety laws do not stop all gun sales they don't even try to.

What they aim at is to keep guns out of the hands of would-be criminals for example through licensing or background checks. But Texas Republicans have pushed to end even those narrow safety rules. It is now today easier to get a gun than drive a car in Texas. Last year, a new law from Republicans ended licensing, testing, training, or even a local background check.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lawmakers in Austin passing House Bill 1927 allowing anyone 21 and up who was illegally allowed to buy a handgun, no license needed. In Texas, the law eliminates not only the license but also the written test, the training, and state background checks.



MELBER: I'm joined now by MSNBC. law enforcement analyst Cedric Alexander, who was a member of Obama's police task force. Is there a link between new efforts to ease gun access and reduce licensing and training to potential misuse, or criminal use of these weapons?

CEDRIC ALEXANDER, LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST, MSNBC: Well, it might be too early, Ari, to be able to draw some real analysis around that but here's the issue --

MELBER: Well, let me just be clear. I mean, not today, as I said, they're still investing today. But in the aggregate, do you see a link?

ALEXANDER: Well, what I do see is this -- is that we got too many guns that are out there. So regardless of whether they've made -- they make easily for people to assess, to become in possession of them, because they've eased the laws in some states, not just Texas, by the way, but in some other states as well to where you can now purchase a firearm, no training, no written tests, no, nothing, just be a legal citizen.

I mean, it certainly does not ease the issue that we're confronted with, it's in this nation. And what we're confronted with is an abundance of guns, more guns than we have people. The problem is here, as far as I'm concerned, and you're talking to somebody who's been in this for 40 plus years, in -- here's what I would say to the number of guns that are out there.

It's not just the gun shops who are selling them, they may be doing it very well, legally, they understand what their constraints are a problem is, we have so many guns that are out here on the street now that are stolen from vehicles, stolen from homes. Over 50 percent of these guns that are used in many of our large cities across this country for violence, or guns that were taken, from stolen from someone else. Because we have --

MELBER: I guess I'm going to point you to the question, though, and then you can build on it. The opening question is, do laws that eliminate licensing, testing, background checks, do you think they make the nation more or less safe?

ALEXANDER: Well, it didn't make us any more safe. But you cannot single that out in and of itself. Because even before we've had these laws, Ari, that became more relaxed, we were dealing with what we're dealing with right now today, if we go all the way back to the school shooting in Connecticut, we go all the way back to Colorado and all shootings in between. It just makes it easier for people to go out and -- and be in possession of guns. But the fact of the matter is this has been a long- standing issues with gun in this country, long before it became even more relaxed. It certainly is not going to --

MELBER: Let me, let me -- again, to be guided by data. I'm going to put up and then for your response. You mentioned, yes, there's a long-term problem. But as we've shown earlier in the program, it's getting worse. I think we have CDC data that I showed earlier about the actual rate. Here, the U.S. gun death rate, from CDC firearm homicide rate, do we have that? Which we're going to put up in a moment, and then it goes to the point because there it is. So as mentioned, there are certain states that are making it easier and reducing the control at the front end of the sale.

And we're seeing the homicide rate increase, and we're seeing the mass shooting rate increase. And I take your point, and I respect your extensive background in this. That's why you're on here as an expert. But I want to make sure that we're talk -- not you know, talking past each other with regard to whether a policies that put more guns in the hands of more people with less controls, do or do not affect it. Now, some earlier guests spoke to that. So, you see you'll -- I want to give you back to mic and your time to speak on it. But that's sort of part of the question because Texas is a place where it is easier.

ALEXANDER: It is easier, and it is easier in another states. And I would agree with you. To the fact that if you look at that chart 2019, you see that huge uptick. But you saw an uptick along the way going back as far as 20 -- 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, we're now getting into these states that are making it easier for these guns to be assessable. And we see this huge uptick. Yes, we can draw some (INAUDIBLE), we can draw some reasonable conclusion to say that, yes.

These -- being able to possess these guns is a lot easier. But I think we - - my point is I agree with you, 100 percent, Ari, but my point is here, we got to go and look at the curve when it really starts to go north. Because the uptick was there. It was already in motion. We have so many guns that are available. That are outdoor on the street and become more available now. Someone can go out and purchase it and all they need is just their driver's license.

So, I agree with you. But there is clear if you look at that chart there is clearly a huge uptick that just continues for the last several years even before these laws came in place, such as in the state of Texas, Texas and those states don't help the situation any.


But you can. But I, I myself do not blame that solely on this uptick in violence, we have other variables that I think we have to take into consideration around this whole issue. And when we talk about mental health, this issue always comes up when there's gun plays, such as this mental illness. Some of this may be all of this may not be a lot of visits driven by hatred. But today, I could be in my right mind. But tomorrow, something can happen in my life that triggers me to go off and triggers me to go do some, but there were no real clear indicators.

We got 300 million people in this country, we got 700,000 police officers. There's no way they're going to keep tabs on every case that is out there of someone who may act out violently. They try to get in front of it as much as they can. But laws such as what we see in Texas, certainly we can say they're not helpful. But we got to dig deeper than that. Because these issues started years ago, in this country, with these gun laws that we have. In the availability of guns that are out there on the streets every day, we got to look at this a lot deeper, because if we don't, we're going to be having this conversation again next week and then next week, and then next year.

MELBER: And you talk about availability, we showed earlier some of what the governor has said today, which is in the context of the news and the information Texas putting out. And what he said in the past to his citizens, encouraged them to be number one in gun sales. Now that is lawful. It's commerce. Some states going to be number one.

But when you look writ large as the United States in this growing gun culture, and what you just referenced a large stockpile and availability of guns, it's really quite striking and has gotten more pronounced. Look at this, Americans are four percent or so of the population of the world. And own 42 percent of the world's guns. The Times reporting on research that shows the availability of guns drives, in particular, these horrific mass shootings. Your thoughts?

ALEXANDER: And in their lives, much of the problem, that's a large percentage of guns for our country, our size. And the type of harm that we're doing. There's nobody else around the world that I'm aware of no other country that has had -- that is being played with the kind of gun violence that we're seeing and we're seeing it more frequently. And we're seeing it becoming more and more dangerous. And this is not happening, just not every now and then basis area, we go back, we report this so often.

We're doing this now, every week, every other week, every other day. And it's not going to stop until our Congress, quite frankly, do something very different than what they've been able to do in the past. And they got to help this country and they got to create some gun laws that's going to certainly protect those who -- of those of us who believe in the Second Amendment, it is part of our Constitution. But how do we begin to take the guns out of the hands of people who may become in possession?

But we also got to look at this statistic, 50 percent of the guns in this country that are used in violent acts are usually taken or stolen from somewhere there, somewhere else. So, for me as a gun owner, I need to make sure too, that I prioritize the safety and securing of my weapon whenever I can because that data is up there.

And that's one of the variables that we don't talk about, along with other social variables that might be driving this huge uptick over the last number of years in the type of violence that we're seeing. We haven't seen the end of this if we're not going to do anything different.

MELBER: Well, this is always a tough story and a tough time to do this. Like we've drawn on your expertise and tried to have a detailed back and forth which hopefully, is useful to some aspect of this, on a grim day as the nation mourns. Cedric Alexander will continue to colloquy. We appreciate you joining us.

ALEXANDER: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Thank you and we will be right back.


ABBOTT: We're in the process of obtaining detailed the background information on the subject. His motive, the types of weapons used. The legal authority to possess them, and conduct a comprehensive crime scene investigation and reconstruction and identify and interview all witnesses and provide victim services and other support as needed.





SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): The 14 Kids dead in an elementary school in Texas right now. What are we doing? What are we doing? Why do you spend all this time running for the United States Senate? Why do you go through all the hassle of getting this job of putting yourself in a position of authority? If your answer is that as the slaughter increases as our kids run for their lives, we do nothing. What are we doing? Why are you here? If not to solve a problem as existential as this.


MELBER: Senator Chris Murphy speaking late in the day we're joined now by Fred Guttenberg whose daughter Jaime was killed in the Parkland school shooting. Your thoughts tonight.


FRED GUTTENBERG, GUN SAFETY ADVOCATE: Chris Murphy, you are my hero. Just over four years ago, my daughter killed in a similar shooting, and I want to remind you that my son was in the shooting as well. Heard the bullets that killed his sister. And I want you to remember that because it's not just about those who get killed today. It's about all of those who survived and are going to be impacted by what happened today. But gosh, Ari, I have had it. We have -- for four-plus years since my daughter died.

I've been gentle with these people. I've been debating these people. I've been arguing over what this all means in terms of the Second Amendment while since my daughter died, we've gone from 300 million weapons sold the streets to 400 million, plus ghost guns. And they stand around and they want to debate. Let me tell you something, since this is happening in Texas, and I saw Governor Abbott on an earlier segment here. He is responsible. Senator Cruz, you are responsible.

Lieutenant governor, you are responsible because you had all pushed this notion that we need more guns and more hands of more people who we know nothing about it. And this is the predictable outcome. The shootings are preventable. But they are also predictable. And the next one is going to happen as well. If we do nothing. I apologize to my language. I -- I'm just -- I'm shaking.

MELBER: Nothing to apologize for I think people can understand the intensity that you feel while no one would claim to understand what you've been through. You mentioned some of the senators. I have a statement put out here from Leader McConnell, who says that he's quote, heartbroken by reports of the disgusting violence directed innocent school kids. The country is praying for the children. He says families, teachers, and staff, and the first responders on the scene. I got about two minutes left. Fred, you mentioned Senator Murphy, your response to Senator McConnell.

GUTTENBERG: He probably put out the exact same statement after my daughter was killed. Mitch McConnell is the common theme and doing nothing on gun violence. There is no person more significance in the failure to do anything in the Senate than Mitch McConnell. And so, his statement he can shove it up is you know what, it means nothing. Don't put out a statement, Mitch, walk into Senator Murphy's office and tell him you want to be the one to change this today.

MELBER: I hear you loud and clear. When we look at this as people and we are still people trying to live together in this pluralistic society on nights like this, and the president is going to be speaking here, just over an hour from now. What else would you say to the family is going through it, to the parents going through it, to people that are, as you mentioned, the horrific collateral damage, personal emotional community in addition to the 15 killed.

GUTTENBERG: I'm sorry. I -- after my daughter was killed, I had hoped to be able to make some change faster than we did. And I'm sorry that you now have to bury your children and your loved ones, plan funerals, write eulogies, put a hug a child who did survive and now has to live without a sibling. I am sorry. I am here for you. There is an army of people are here for you. Ari, I said the same thing earlier on Nicolle Wallace's show.

If there's any of these families that are listening to the segment now and they want to talk if you would please connect them to me because I will help them through every next day. But they are going to be OK. And I want them to know that and they will get through it. And they will be there for those that they love. Because that's what we have to do. But the next few days and weeks are going to be tough. And I just want the message to go out there that if any of those families are listening if they would please reach out to your show and connect with me. I -- that would be OK.

MELBER: Fred, appreciate your condolences, your offer, and you going through, what is this -- this grim part of this process. Fred Guttenberg thank you. We will talk again hopefully under better circumstances. The special coverage here on MSNBC continues now.