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Biden Reacts to Colorado Shooting that Killed Ten People; Ten Killed in Colorado Rampage Ranged in Age from 20 to 65; Grocery Store Attack Adds to Colorado's Tragic History of Mass Shooting. Aired 1- 1:30p ET

Aired March 23, 2021 - 13:00   ET



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines in this country once again. I got that done when I was a senator. It passed. It was a law for the longest time. And it brought down these mass killings. We should do it again. We can close the loopholes in our background check system, including the Charleston loophole. That's one of the best tools we have right now to prevent gun violence.

The Senate should immediately pass -- let me say it again. The United States Senate, I hope some are listening, should immediately pass the two House-passed bills that close loop holes in the background check system. These are bills that receive votes of both Republicans and Democrats in the House. This is not and should not be a partisan issue. This is an American issue. It will save lives, American lives. And we have to act. We should also ban assault weapons in the process.

I'll have much more to say as we learn more. But I wanted to be clear, those poor folks who died left behind families and it leaves a big hole in their hearts and, and we can save lives, increasing the background checks like they're supposed to occur and eliminating assault weapons and the size of magazines. We don't know all the details yet on that but I'll be talking to you more later today or in the next couple days about what else we know.

May God bless you all and those families who are mourning today because of gun violence in Colorado and Georgia and all across the country, we have to act. So there's not more of you, there's fewer of you as time goes on. Thank you so much.

REPORTER: Will you introduce a new gun legislation, Mr. President?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN RIGHT NOW: All right. President Biden wrapping up remarks after this horrific shooting yesterday in Boulder, Colorado.

Let's talk now with our CNN Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins and our CNN Political Director David Chalian, who's with us as well. He Praised, Kaitlan, the officer, Eric Talley, in this case, a hero and he made an emotional appeal for gun reform, and specifically for assault weapons. He talked about background checks. And yet, you know, what will actually be done?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That remains to be seen because those House bills that he was calling on the Senate specifically to pass, we know do face an uphill battle. What we had heard in recent days before this second shooting had even happened was that there were going to have to be some major changes before we actually believe they could get through the Senate.

And so not only was he saying that but you heard President Biden saying there he didn't want to talk about the motivation of the shooter yet, that was still being investigated, but he said he didn't need to wait for any other details on what happened in Colorado to call on Congress to act further. He was saying this, saying he hoped senators were listening to what he was saying.

And, Brianna, he was not just saying to pass those House bills that we saw recently passed but he also said, quote, we should ban assault weapons.

So the question that we were asking before is whether or not President Biden was going to push lawmakers to move quickly, whether anything will actually come out of this. Because, of course, it's often a conversation we unfortunately have after a mass shooting has happened, but whether it actually goes anywhere is another question.

But this White House has felt like they have momentum in some of these areas. And so whether or not this actually changes this and makes it a legislative priority for them to do now, not something that they had kind of had on their list, but further down their list while dealing with the pandemic response, that's going to be the big question here.

And President Biden said we will hear from him again, maybe today on this, or in the future days on what he wants to see happen on Capitol Hill. But he was saying that he doesn't feel like he needs to wait for any other details to call on Congress to pass laws like that.

KEILAR: You know, David, this is perhaps one of the issues that is the most hopeless when you look at it in Washington. You look at how Congress responds to this, where Congress is on issues that actually poll pretty well when it comes to gun safety. And yet it would be hard for President Biden to muster the votes that he needs, just to keep Democrats together.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: And he knows it all too well, right? He kind of acknowledged it, Brianna, in his remarks when he said this, where he was contrasting, he can't speak to all the details of the investigation yet but this is something he can speak to because of how well he knows this issue. You talk about hopelessness around this, or the intractability of this issue over the years.

Remember how involved Joe Biden was back in the early '90s in passing through the Brady Background Check Bill, in shepherding through the assault weapons ban of 1994 that has since expired that he just called for to have passed again by the Congress.


He lived through all those times, Barack Obama, when he served as vice president, to come out as president and have to address yet another mass shooting, and was even tasked with some of the executive order proposals from the Obama administration, Biden sort of oversaw that process.

He is all too familiar with how much Congress has refused to act on this issue over the years. And now, with a Democratic-controlled House, a Democratic-controlled Senate, and a Democratic-controlled White House, granted narrow majorities, will we see an actual different result out of Congress here or not.

KEILAR: Let's listen to that moment, just going back to the past, a few years here, when President Biden was tasked by president -- then- Vice President Biden was tasked by President Obama. It was supposed to be a show of what a priority it was to be able to address gun violence. Let's listen.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The fact that we can't prevent every act of violence doesn't mean we can't steadily reduce the violence and prevent the very worst violence. That's why I've asked the vice president to lead an effort that includes members of my cabinet and outside organizations to come up with a set of concrete proposals, no later than January, proposals that I then intend to push without delay.


KEILAR: That, by the way, Kaitlan, was five days after Sandy Hook, when we saw, you know, dozens, almost a couple dozen small children killed. And yet that was not the impetus for moving this forward.

COLLINS: And that has kind of been something that everyone in Washington references when there have been mass shootings that have followed. They've said, well, if you couldn't get something done after little kids were killed in that shooting, so tragically, then how could you ever do anything else? You know, that has kind of been this opinion that you've heard from a lot of people here in the Capitol, whether or not this changes really remains to be seen, as David was just noting with the power dynamic, and how that's changed here in D.C.

And, of course, when President Obama was speaking there, that was when Vice President Joe Biden was -- or when President Biden was vice president and he was tasked with coming up with those measures, a lot of them were pretty modest and later on people who were top aides to the vice president at the time said that he wished the White House had gone further, that they had pushed harder and that they had done more in the wake of that instead of kind of taking their time to come up with these modest proposals and, of course, we know the reaction they got on Capitol Hill. And that staff, one of those staffers who talked about that, is Bruce Reed, who works for President Biden in the west wing now. So, of course, they've got these experiences of when they've been through this, they've seen what the aftermath has looked like when it comes to Capitol Hill. And so whether or not that changes what they're specifically going to call for beyond calling for those House passed measures and a ban on assault weapons, like President Biden just did, remains to be seen. But we do know they have those experiences and it's certainly part of it.

KEILAR: You know, one of the lessons that came out of that Sandy Hook period, David, was that one of the lessons that came from folks who just wanted even some very moderate gun safety laws was that there can't be a grace period after something like that happens because the emotional reaction of it dulls rather quickly. We've seen that. A country that moves on from this, even as Americans say in polls that they want some of this legislation, some of these measures passed through.

You know, is there anything that the Biden administration is currently taking away from that, or, you know, even as they address this issue, do they expect that they can't really push forward on this?

CHALIAN: Well, I mean, you heard, right in his very first response to this horrific shooting in Colorado, it wasn't just a response offering thoughts and prayers, though he did that too, obviously, Brianna, as sort of the consoler in chief, but he made sure to put in this call to Congress for action as well.

To your point, proponents of gun safety measures, of gun control measures, have long said that you can't just stop in the moment at thoughts and prayers, that you must absolutely have that call to action to stop this.

I mean, I think it's why we also saw the statement that we did just prior to the president's statement from former President Barack Obama, who bemoaned how often he had to come out before cameras as president to deliver a statement on a mass shooting, and here he is four years past his presidency.


And he's still issuing statements on this, trying to motivate the action, the break in the politics that has been so completely solidified and calcified against actually tackling this problem.

KEILAR: Kaitlan, thank you so much. David, thank you so much, such an important issue we're discussing on this day after this shooting in Colorado, where we now know the names of the victims and of the man that police suspect of firing the shots that killed ten people.

One survivor spoke to ABC News about just trying to keep her son's head down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH MOONSHADOW, EYEWITNESS TO COLORADO GROCERY STORE SHOOTING: When we had gotten out of the store, there were people laying in the street. I tried to run for him and my son pulled me back and said that we had to get away.

I just tried to focus on my son. I was mostly focused on like just making sure that he stayed as close to me as possible and that he didn't stand up too far because I just didn't want him to be too tall and become like a moving target because we couldn't tell exactly where the shooter was.


KEILAR: Investigators say they still do not have a motive.


MICHAEL DOUGHERTY, BOULDER COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Why did this happen? We don't have the answer to that yet and the investigation is in the very early stages and the investigators are working hard to determine that, that information will come.

The investigation is really in its early stages and we're going to work incredibly hard to see it through to completion. That completion is likely more than a year from now. But between now and that day when justice is done for all ten of these victims, I can promise you we're going to work together.


KEILAR: Let's get now to Boulder and CNN's Lucy Kafanov who is there. We do have some breaking details coming in, Lucy, because police searched the suspect's home. Did they find anything of interest?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Police did find other weapons when they searched the home. We know that the search warrants were signed at about 10:00 P.M. local last night. By 10:15, they were at the house.

We understand according to a senior law enforcement source that the weapon used in yesterday's shooting was an A.R.-15 style pistol. It was modified with an arm brace but we don't know more details about those other weapons that were found at the house.

We do know that the suspect was injured during the incident. Take a listen to what authorities had to say about that.


CHIEF MARIS HEROLD, BOULDER, COLORADO POLICE: He suffered a leg wound. It was a through and through wound to his leg, midsection of his leg.

REPORTER: Was that from one of your officers who --

HEROLD: We're not sure at this time. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KAFANOV: So we know that he was injured. He was taken to the hospital. We also just learned that he was booked at the Boulder County Jail, so no longer in the hospital. And he's been charged, of course, with ten counts of murder in the first degree.

We are also getting new details from the brother of the suspect who said -- he told CNN that he believes his brother was suffering from mental illness and that he was bullied in school for being Muslim. He said that the bullying included making fun of his name, which may have contributed to him being anti-social. Again, this is according to the brother of the suspect.

We also learned that in 2014, the suspect felt that he was being followed and chased and became increasingly paranoid. In fact, we were told that he even placed duct tape over the camera on his computer to supposedly block anyone that might have been following him.

But, again, authorities have not released any information about the possible motive. We know that this is going to be a complicated investigation that's going to continue to unfold. But we can confirm now that the suspect in this horrific massacre has been booked in the local Boulder County Jail.

KEILAR: Lucy, thank you so much for that, Lucy Kafanov in Boulder.

And now for more on the lives that were lost there, the city's police chief explained how well she knew Officer Eric Talley, talking about how he made a decision to join the force a little later in life.

CNN's Stephanie Elam has been tracking the story. And, Stephanie, Officer Talley clearly had an impact on the police chief and this community.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is no doubt about it. When you listen to her speak about him, that she talks about the fact that he had a career, he didn't need to become a police officer when he did at 40 years old in 2010 but she said he had a higher calling to do just that.

At this point, as we're learning more about him, take a listen to how the police chief in Boulder, Maris Herold, how she talked about Officer Talley and all that he did for the department.


HEROLD: This officer had seven children, ages 5 to 18.


I just had that officer's whole family in my office two weeks ago to give him an award. And so it is personal.

He's a very kind man and he didn't have to go into policing. He had a profession before this but he felt a higher calling and he loved this community. And he's everything that policing deserves and needs.


ELAM: And you can just really hear the emotion in her voice as she spoke about him. Also pointing out that Officer Eric Talley was one of the first people there, the first police officer to respond shortly after those 911 calls came in, the 51-year-old running inside to do what he could, and really putting his life on the line to save other people's lives.

We also know, through our affiliate, KUSA, that his father had said that he was looking at becoming a drone operator, looking to transfer to something a little bit more safe for a career, as he is the father of seven kids, very young ages, as you heard her just mention right there.

And at this point, we also know that his police cruiser is parked in front of the police station in Boulder, and it is now becoming a makeshift memorial there in Boulder so people can come by and remember all that this officer did, just really selflessly putting his life on the line.

And as we look at that, I also want to let you know that we're starting to learn more about some of the other victims and get their stories as well and one of those people is Nikki Olds, she was 25 -- I'm sorry, Rikki Olds, and she was 25 years old.

And her uncle, Bob Olds, letting us know about her, that she was what he says, a strong, independent young woman, raised by her grandparents, that she was a manager at this grocery store, the King Soopers there where she worked, and was really an energetic and charismatic person, according to him. He also said, and this is a quote, that she was a shining light in this dark world.

So, Rikki Olds, one of the young people that we know about now, losing her life when all she was doing that day, Brianna, was going to work and performing her job, other people, 2:30 in the afternoon, picking up a few things, just supposed to be a normal day that they could get back to their lives and now they're gone.

KEILAR: You know, Stephanie, as I'm hearing you report this, I just wonder, can you count how many times you've covered a story like this? Have you lost count?

ELAM: I don't, I don't know anymore, and it makes me sad. It makes me sad to even sit here and think about that, Brianna, that there's been so many times we've had to go out and cover these stories and talk to people who are devastated. Their lives will never be the same because of this, and they're still in shock and you think about them.

And sometimes they happen close to where you've grown up so you think about it in that way and other times it happens far away, but it's still the same, the root of it, the pain of it is still raw and it's real. And I can feel it every single time and I think about these people often and my -- you know, my heart bleeds for them too that they're having to deal with this today, because I'm sure they can't take it all in at this point.

KEILAR: Yes, you lose count. You don't forget it but somehow it just -- it's so much, you know, it's -- Stephanie, thank you so much, Stephanie Elam, live for us from Los Angeles.

And moments ago President Biden urged gun reform after the country's seventh mass shooting in seven days, but is there an appetite for this on Capitol Hill? There are intense conversations happening now as senators talk about gun control.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Thoughts and prayers are not enough, and yet thoughts and prayers is all we have heard from my colleagues on the other side.


KEILAR: And old data may be a setback for what would be the country's fourth COVID-19 vaccine. Why public health officials are publicly doubting AstraZeneca's vaccine trial results.



KEILAR: Colorado has a tragic history of mass shootings from Columbine in 1999 to the Aurora Theater shooting in 2012, to March 2021 in Boulder just yesterday.

For my next guest, stopping the cycle is very personal. Joining me now is Colorado State Representative Tom Sullivan. His son, Alex, was celebrating his 27th birthday when he was shot and killed in the Aurora Theater shooting in 2012. Thank you so much for being with us.

And I just wonder as you're watching this happen, not far from where you lost your son, what are your reflections on this?

REP. TOM SULLIVAN (D-CO): Well, thanks for having me. And, I mean, I just think back, it takes you back to that day and it takes you -- I can see everything playing out and I know -- I know what comes next. I know what last night was like for people. I know, you know, what today is going to be like.

You know, you're starting to hear the names and you're going to start to show, you know, the pictures of, you know, someone's brother or sister, and people are going to start asking those people, you know, what was he like or what was she like? And, you know, you're going to have to try to -- you didn't know that you were supposed to remember the last time you talked to them.

I mean, you didn't know that, you know, a 25-year-old son, you needed to recall the last thing you said to him because you weren't ever going to see him again.

[13:25:02] And that's what these families are going to be dealing with, their families and their friends.

KEILAR: And only someone in your position knows who has been through this years before and reflects on this knows that. And this is -- I mean, I will say when I think of you thinking of them and their daily experiences, this is -- it's a terrible club to belong to and there's so many members of it, when you think across the United States and the shootings that we've seen.

You know, when you look at the intransigence of what is happening at the federal level to address this issue, despite the fact that there are polls that show Americans want some issues -- you know, a big majority of Americans want these issues dealt with. Where are the solutions to you as a state representative? Where do you see the solutions coming from?

SULLIVAN: Well, I mean, we need the federal government to be involved in that. That's why after, you know, Alex was murdered, my daughter and I hooked up with, you know, New Town Action Alliance, Moms Demand Action, the Brady people, and we walked the halls and we did interviews and we did press conferences and all of that kind of stuff. But that became kind of apparent that, you know, I needed to go home and start the work here.

And we've made a lot of progress here in Colorado. You know, in 2013 we passed background checks. We limited high capacity magazines. We made people actually have to pay for their background check. We actually made people come in and show some kind of proficiency on a concealed carry permit. And we continue to defend those.

And two years ago, we passed an extreme risk protection order bill, you know, in the first year that I got here I'm going to be later this afternoon we're having a committee hearing on lost and stolen firearms. That's already passed out of our Senate and we're getting the hearing in the House side. We're doing that kind of stuff and we've continued to do that work in the hopes that federally they get on board with that stuff because that will make it much easier for our work to be done.

I mean, on our high capacity magazine limit, you just have to drive, depending upon where you live, you can drive into Wyoming and get yourself a high capacity magazine. So we need the federal government to help us out in a lot of these.

KEILAR: And what about -- you know, we're learning some details -- it is early on but we're learning some details about the shooter and there's indications of potential mental health problems. That appears to be what is being said. And in so many of these shootings, as you are well aware, that is also one of the issues. What more needs to be done on that?

SULLIVAN: Well, also, I mean, if he had the mental health issues, he also had easy access to fire arms. There's no -- we can't do anything to stop, you know, someone who's over the age of 21from going and buying what -- you know, what they want, when they want. Even here with background checks, our background checks in the state of Colorado sometimes vary between 10 to 15 minutes to two or three days.

So, you know, we have to, you know, do something about that. That's why we're looking, you know, possibly about doing a waiting period. The rest of the family needs to know, your friends need to know if you're having these experiences that maybe, you know, now is not the time for you to go out and purchase a firearm, or if you have them, your friends should be able to come over and talk to you. I mean, that's why our extreme risk protection order has been so effective.

We had 113 petitions filed in the state of Colorado last year. We know from history, from the other states that have done it for over 20 years, that for every 11 petitions that are filed, we save one life. It's tragic to think, but we saved ten lives last year by the enactment of the extreme risk protection order and we just lost ten yesterday. So we have more work to do.

KEILAR: You know, Representative, for you being in this position where you understand very much what's at stake, having lost your son, you're coming up here on almost ten years later and I wonder, you know, how are you doing? And what do you think -- you know, what are your reflections on the last ten years?