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Hospitals Left in Shambles after Pandemic; Rep. Don Bacon (R- NE) is Interviewed about Gun Reform; North Korea Conducts Weapons Test. Aired 9:30-10a ET.

Aired March 24, 2021 - 09:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Well, new this morning, a year fighting this pandemic has left hospitals across the country on the brink. That is according to a new report from the Health and Human Services inspector general. It finds medical workers are burned out, suffering trauma and, in some cases, PTSD. Also it found wide frustration over the vaccine rollout.

Our Kristen Holmes is digging through the report. She joins me from Washington.

What stands out, Kristen.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, there are some seriously disturbing findings in this report. HHS surveyed more than 300 hospitals over their COVID-19 response. And this is really meant to serve as a snapshot of what a year of dealing with this virus actually looks like.

And I want to go through some of the findings because you can see a health care industry in crisis here.

The first is what you mentioned, medical staff burned out or suffering from PTSD. And one thing that really stood out to me here was administrators just talking about all of the death that the frontline workers were being exposed to, including among their co-workers, that leading to high than normal turnover rate, which sometimes affected patient care. And this was interesting, an erosion of public trust in hospitals. People seeing or hearing from their community, can hospitals actually keep us safe because of the virus?

Now, frustration over the vaccine supply. That's something we've talked about a lot. But I want to get to the next one here, which was patients delaying routine care, which meant screening for serious diseases, including cancer, diabetes, any kind of cardiac issues. This was leading to people getting diagnosed very late in very late stages and could mean an impending health crisis. Now, this is just some of the findings here and the hospitals are

trying to work through ways to help them get through this. Best practices. They're also outlining ways the government then can help them.

But one thing to really note here, it's very clear here, the U.S. government, the country, is going to have to prepare if there is any kind of other global health crisis because they weren't in this case and it seems to have left hospitals really, as you said, on the brink.


Kristen, thank you for going through that. I hope there's a lot of focus on our caregivers, health care providers for the months and years after this, especially those suffering from PTSD.

Thank you very much.

Well, this just in to CNN.

President Biden will soon announce the release of $81 billion to states immediately. This is for schools to help return children to in- person learning. This announcement is a big part of the president's promise to reopen the majority of schools in his first 100 days. The money comes from and makes up about two-thirds of the $122 billion set aside for schools in the latest stimulus.

Well, just days after the nation saw its seventh -- seventh mass shooting in seven days, two gun safety bills that passed the House now face major resistance in the Senate. With me next is a House Republican who voted against those bills, but has proposed a different gun bill. I'll ask him about both.



HARLOW: This morning, the push to expand background checks on gun sales in the wake of the seventh mass shooting in America in seven days. Many Republican senators and at least one Democratic senator, West Virginia's Joe Manchin, are push back at two House bills that expand those background checks.

One of them would require expanded background checks on gun sales between private parties at gun shows and on the Internet. The other would close a loophole that currently allows some commercial gun sales to go through before a required background check is complete.

Let's talk about these with Republican Congressman Don Bacon of Nebraska.

Good morning, Congressman. Thanks for the time.

REP. DON BACON (R-NE): Thank you, Poppy.

HARLOW: Let's start big picture. Since you have been in Congress, there have been more than 550 deaths from firearms in your state, in the state of Nebraska. And since 2009, according to Every Town, there have been 245 mass shootings in the United States, more than 1,300 people killed in them just since 2009.

Do you believe gun violence is a public health crisis in America?


BACON: I surely do believe it's a problem. We have way too many murders. And, you know, my heart goes out to all the victims of Colorado. It's heartbreaking. And I do think there's measures that we can take to improve public safety. I don't think the two bills that Speaker Pelosi passed really amount to much. I don't think they'll really be helpful. But there are legislative things we can do.

HARLOW: So let's talk about each of them separately and then I want you to have a chance to talk about what you support because you, just a few weeks ago, put forward legislation in the House that would go after straw purchasers of guns, right, people that are buying guns for other folks and a lot of those other folks shouldn't have them.

But you did vote against, just a few weeks ago, H.R. 8 in the House, and that's a bill that would mandate background checks for private sales between private parties or guns sold on the Internet. Why is that a bad idea in your mind?

BACON: Well, right now all commercial gun sales do have a background check. And I find that this bill, it really hinders private citizens the most. If I have a gun and I want to sell it to my neighbor or I want to sell it to various family members, I've got to do a background check. So I think it really hinders law-abiding citizens more than anyone. And I can guarantee you, criminals are not going into -- and buying guns legally. They're stealing them or they're using straw purchases. So I don't think it impacts the criminal, but it does impact law-abiding citizens.

HARLOW: Well, actually, what it doesn't do, it doesn't impact sales between family members or loaning a gun to a family member, for example, or law enforcement or even in -- in a situation that puts someone in imminent danger. It doesn't do any of those things. And, in fact, it could --

BACON: It depends on the family member.

HARLOW: Congressman, it could have prevented, according to, it could have prevented the 2019 massacre in Odessa, Texas, that, as you know, killed seven people, injured 22 people, including a 17-month-old girl, because the shooter in that case bought the gun from a private seller.

Why is it not helpful to background check in private sales? Help me understand that.

BACON: Well, first of all, I would say that some family members are exempt, but not all. I just -- it hinders law-abiding citizens the most. I do believe on commercial gun sales you should have the background check.

HARLOW: Respectfully -- respectfully, Congressman, Seth -- Seth Ator, who -- who carried out the Odessa shooting in 2019, wasn't a law- abiding citizen. In Fact, in 2014, he failed a background check to buy a gun from a licensed seller.

So wouldn't he have failed the background check again if it was mandated in the private sale?

BACON: I'm sorry, you came in broken, Poppy.

So you're saying there was someone that bought a gun illegally? Well, he should have been prosecuted. If someone is illegal in buying a gun --

HARLOW: No, he -- he -- he didn't. OK, he -- he didn't buy it illegally. He brought it -- he bought it in a private sale and background checks are not required in private sales, and that's what H.R. 8 changes. That's what I'm asking you. Why do you think that's a bad idea if it could have prevented the massacre in Odessa?

BACON: There surely could have a potential impact here or there. But the vast amount of private citizens would be impacted by this. It puts a lot of onerous weight on their shoulders. And I do think -- and I do think the commercial sales, it's the right thing to do. But I think I saw it where it was maybe 1 percent impact on --

HARLOW: I'm sorry, Congressman, but here or there. I mean tell that to the lives, the families that lost seven loved ones in Odessa or the 17-month-old that was shot.

BACON: Well, the -- if those who are doing the gun violence should be held accountable. I want to protect law-abiding citizens and not put onerous weight on their shoulders. But those who are guilty of gun violence surely should be prosecuted.

HARLOW: Shouldn't someone selling a gun have a -- have a lot of weight on their shoulders? I don't know if it's onerous for them to know who they're selling it to.

BACON: Well, they should. It is my responsibility to know who I'm selling a gun to. But I shouldn't have to do it to my neighbor, if I know them. It's onerous weight on the First Amendment rights of the 99.9 percent of our citizens who are law-abiding. And so the weight of legislation should be against the criminals, not against law-abiding citizens.

HARLOW: Let's move on to H.R. 1446. This is the other House bill that you voted against. What that would do is it would close the Charleston loophole, which is that after three days if a gun seller doesn't complete a background check, if for some reason it gets caught up in paperwork, it doesn't come through, right now that gun seller legally has to sell the gun to the person. And what this bill would do that you voted against, extends that to ten days. It says let's wait a little bit longer. You have ten days and a maximum of 30 days to get that background check through. [09:45:04]

This is how the white supremacist, Dylann Roof, as you know, got his gun and then carried it into that church in Charleston and murdered nine people during Bible study.

Why is it a bad idea to close that loophole?

BACON: Well, the facts are that this would not have stopped Dylann Roof from buying that gun. Subsequently, as they -- after they've researched it.

I could maybe support a longer timeframe, but it wasn't just 10 days --

HARLOW: That -- that's actually -- Congressman, that's -- that's actually not the -- the fact. I went through all of the data on this. That is not a proven fact.

BACON: Well, I've seen the corrected data saying he wouldn't have -- he would have still had it.

Here's the problem. It's not just ten days. It's another ten days if they don't have the first ten done. And, like I say, it goes to 30 days.

HARLOW: That's only a month.

BACON: So if you're (INAUDIBLE) waiting and you want a gun --

HARLOW: That's only a month, Congressman, and we're talking about lives. So many lives lost. Is a month not worth waiting?

BACON: So if you're -- if you're an abused woman and you're -- and you want to get a gun to protect yourself, you have to wait 30 days. I don't think that's good. That's not good for you. That's also abridging your First Amendment -- or your Second Amendment rights.

HARLOW: So you don't necessarily -- I hear you, and violence against women is -- I mean, you -- you strike at my heart when you say that. I -- I understand what you're saying. But I can also tell you that FBI data from just 2018 shows that 90 percent of NICS background checks, right, what that woman would be going in and going through a NICS background check, they go through in minutes.

So, yes, there would be some exceptions where it may take up to 30 days. And we don't want any woman to be in danger.

BACON: But, exceptions, Poppy --

HARLOW: But I am saying that the data that --

BACON: You just said -- you said the same word I said, exceptions, and we feel that women have been murdered waiting to get a gun. (INAUDIBLE).

HARLOW: I hear you. I hear you. I hear you. But I also hear a -- the -- and I just laid out for you the case of Dylann Roof.

So my question is, do you think that it is a bad idea to make a law that extends it by ten days, possibly up to 30 days, to make sure you know everything you need to know about the person you're selling the gun to? That's the fundamental question.

BACON: They -- I could make a case for the ten days if the data backs it up. But then, like you said, it's not just that. They want to go to 30 days. They want to keep extending ten at a time. And by the way, when that happens, your registration or application for the background check expires and many states have to go in and reapply.

I just -- I think it's -- again, it's an onerous weight on law-abiding citizens. I'm going to go after the criminals and I want to protect law-abiding citizens' Second Amendment rights.

HARLOW: Congressman, thank you for having this discussion with me. Thank you.

BACON: You're welcome.

HARLOW: Before you go, I do want to ask you this because you served this country bravely for -- for decades, for 30 years overseas. Many tours in the Middle East and Iraq. And you hear a lot after all of these mass shootings and after Boulder that Americans should not buy weapons of war. And I heard that yesterday from the former police chief of Aurora, Colorado.

Listen to what he told me.


DANIEL OATES, FORMER POLICE CHIEF OF AURORA, COLORADO: Why aren't we demanding more of the folks who actually set gun control policy in this country, our elected leaders? It's a weapon of war, and I think most police chiefs in this country would agree it doesn't belong on the streets of America.


HARLOW: What do you think? Do we need another assault weapons ban?

BACON: Well, I surely would want to ban M-16s, but that's not what we're talking about. The actual weapons of war are not being used. It's really a pseudonym or it's (INAUDIBLE) --

HARLOW: What? An AR -- AR-15?

BACON: AR-15 is not used -- an AR-15 is not used by our military. And that's misleading by many people in this debate. The fact that the AR- 15 is popular --

HARLOW: I'm asking you if you think an AR-15 is akin to a weapon of war or what was used here, a Ruger 556.

BACON: My view, as a weapon of war -- a weapon of war is an automatic weapon. It's a machine gun. That's what our Army uses, our Marines use. And an AR-15 is not. It's a -- it's a rifle. And, by the way, the AR-15's the most popular rifle in America.

HARLOW: With a -- with -- with -- with a magazine attached to it that just keep -- they can just keep firing bullets -- with a magazine attached to it that can just keep firing and firing and firing.

BACON: Ninety-five (ph) percent of law-abiding --

HARLOW: Is it semantics, Congressman, that we're talking about here?

BACON: Well, it's -- it's -- it's -- it's dishonest to say that the Army or Marines are using AR-15. It's not the case. It's a mislabeling.

HARLOW: That's not what I said. I -- OK. I think the viewers know that is not the point I was making. It was the Aurora police chief who called this a weapon of war.

BACON: Well, we're talking weapons of war. It's not a weapon. What it is, it's the most popular rifle in America and 99.9 percent of Americans that own them are law-abiding citizens.

HARLOW: What do they need them for?

BACON: Surely --

HARLOW: What do they need them for?

BACON: You know, we're -- we're a country of free people. And you're allowed to have things you want. If it's -- if it's legal. And this is 99.9 percent law-abiding.

HARLOW: For what? For what? But for what, Congressman? I'm -- I'm asking.

BACON: Should you -- should you be challenged -- Poppy, should you be challenged on what you own and why? It's your right. You -- you --


HARLOW: Yes, if I owned an AR-15, I would want -- I would want -- you'd -- of course you could ask me why I owned it and for what, especially when so many people are dying. I think it's a legitimate question.

BACON: Ninety-nine point nine percent of the people that own them are law-abiding people. I know principals who own them. I know so many people that would not -- that are the most law-abiding people you know. Why should their rights be infringed?

HARLOW: You know, my --

BACON: We should go after the criminals, not law --

HARLOW: You know, my job here, neither of these bills in the House, neither one would confiscate any weapons. I want to be very clear. But my job in this chair is to ask the people in power like you what you will do to protect people that are murdered, and to protect people who are terrified, like Mason Alexander, who we had on the show yesterday, who said this to me.



MASON ALEXANDER, WAS ACROSS THE STREET DURING MASS SHOOTING IN COLORADO: It's a hard situation to deal with. I'm not -- you know, I'm not an elected official. I'm not a politician. But, you know, I am an American and living in America right now is incredibly difficult. I mean something needs to be done.


HARLOW: They just want something done.

BACON: Well, I support legislation that would go after criminals. I think that's most important.

First of all, those who do commit these crimes, they should be held accountable to the maximum extent. But there are gun law violations that happen that are not being held accountable. And I'll give you an example. The number one factor for gun violence in Omaha, according to our police (INAUDIBLE), is when somebody illegally buys a gun and gives it illegally to someone else.

Those guns are being used in crimes. But very seldom are those people being held accountable. And that's why I support more stringent sentencing of straw purchases. And I have (INAUDIBLE) that with (INAUDIBLE) those that we can do that have an impact.

HARLOW: Congressman, I'm sorry, we're losing your signal. Come back on the show. I appreciate you having this dialogue with me.

BACON: Thank you.

HARLOW: We'll be right back.

BACON: Thank you.



HARLOW: Just days after North Korea conducted its first weapons test since President Biden took office, senior administration officials are saying it is not as concerning as what they saw previously.

Joining me now is CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

Barbara, I mean this is interesting that a U.S. official tells CNN North Korea launched short-range projectiles, not ballistic missiles, saying this is a key distinction. Are they not worried? BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, militarily

significant, maybe not so much. The word is that they may have been cruise missiles which perhaps don't go that far, don't pose that kind of threat. So the U.S. clearly, and the South Koreans, trying not to get too rhetorical about the whole thing, trying to keep it all calm.

But it is Kim Jong-un's first weapons test that we know of since Joe Biden took office. So why did Kim do this? You know, the speculation is that clearly he is breaking his silence, sending a message to the Biden administration he is still out there, his weapons program is still out there and he still wants to be a contender in the region.

What we've learned that's also so interesting is the Biden administration actually had discussions with the Trump team about North Korea recently. They talked about what the Trump team thought about maybe where there was still room for diplomacy with North Korea.

The talks are described as very productive, very good, but it's an indication that the Biden team reaching out to the Trump team to find out where everything stands and really the bottom line to find out if there is still room for diplomacy with North Korea and if they can achieve any kind of diplomatic breakthrough on its weapons program.


HARLOW: It would be a big deal if they can.

Barbara, thank you very much for the reporting at the Pentagon.

Still ahead, the debate over gun control playing out in the nation's capital. Will the president and Congress act in the face of the seventh mass shooting in seven days?

We're live, next.