'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, July 20, 2012
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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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
Givingfirst.org, 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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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-
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
REPORTER: He`s talking to you though?
OATES: I won`t talk about his admissions.
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.
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.
OATES: No, I can`t.
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
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
Anything else? Yes?
REPORTER: Where did he get the armor? Standard military 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
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
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.
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
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
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.
REPORTER: I wanted to ask you about his appearance. What was his
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
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
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
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
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)
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
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?
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.
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.
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
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,
(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
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
(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
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
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
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
(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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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