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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript

Interview

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CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: Good afternoon for this special edition of State of the Union. I'm Candy Crowley also in Newtown, Connecticut. Just moments ago Connecticut police wrapped up a news conference. They said there has been misinformation about the shooting investigation on social media website, including claims of quotes from the gunman.

This morning, Connecticut's Governor told CNN the gunman got into the school literally by using his assault weapon to shoot his own entrance into the building. Connecticut's medical examiner says the semiautomatic rifle found at the scene Friday was the primary weapon in the massacre.

President Obama will be here in Newtown in a few hours to thank first responders and meet with the victims' families. He also will speak at an interfaith memorial vigil at 7:00 pm Eastern.

Joining me now, two Connecticut lawmakers Senator Richard Blumenthal and congressman and senator-elect Chris Murphy whose congressional district includes Newtown.

So let me start just with the past couple days for you all. I know you have talked to some of these families who understandably don't want to be out in public except for when they choose to. We did see one father go out.

Can you tell us as silly as this may seem how are they doing, how are they holding up? What's sustaining them at this point?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, D-CONN.: I don't think that one word or one sentence or one description will fit all of them. They are as diverse probably as they are human beings. But I can tell you this community has demonstrated its strength and resilience and resolve in coming together. We were just at a church service this morning, which was so moving in its statement of grief but also coming together and bonding and staying strong.

I don't think I will ever forget the cries of grief and pain that I saw at the firehouse on that day and as a parent, as a person just the unspeakable sadness that pervades this town still and will go on for quite some time.

CROWLEY: Congressman you said that you're -- and soon to be senator elect -- we said this is part of your district and people have asked me to describe it. I said if you ever had a train set that ran around your Christmas tree, the village inside it would be Newtown. It just is that kind of a village.

So you must know people here who must be deeply affected, the most directly affected and what are you taking from them and what do they need?

REP. CHRIS MURPHY, D-CONN.: You know, this is the quintessential idyllic New England community -- small town, prides itself on its closeness. There's a Labor Day parade here that happens that the whole state comes to, the biggest in the area, every community group and every school has a float in it. And the closeness of this town makes this grieving even worse, because everyone knows one of the young little boys or girls that was killed or one of the adults.

But I frankly think it will be one of the things that actually lets this community heal, because there's a closeness, because everyone is so tight knit I think that you're seeing these acts of humanity just sort of pouring and spilling over in the last few days, that's going to continue here after the lights leave. And the closeness of the community hurts so much, but I think it's also going to help us heal.

CROWLEY: It does, to have people who understand what you're going through because they're kind of going through the same thing even if they're not directly involved the parents of the children or relatives of the adults who died.

I just want to tell our listeners, we're looking at some live pictures now of what's going on around Newtown and, of course, there will be the vigil tonight with the president. When you look at this from the point of view of the congressman that represents the district or the senator who represents the state, do you feel a sense of helplessness like what can I do? Because in effect, the one thing that would help, you can't do?

BLUMENTHAL: The sense of helplessness is very real, but at the same time, I'm hearing from people here in Newtown, particularly people in law enforcement, you know, I come to this issue and this place with a career in law enforcement 30 years as a federal prosecutor, United States attorney, as well as state attorney general for 20 years and my colleagues in law enforcement say to me you have to do something about assault weapons, high capacity magazines, both very instrumental in this crime. And so there is a sense of helplessness but also a sense of mission that citizens on the streets, in the churches, are saying to me, we need to do something. It is a call to action.

CROWLEY: And do you feel that same call to action? Because we've had a lot of these. I mean there was a young girl that died in Tucson in the Gabby Giffords shooting, there were a lot of people that died, but there was a 9-year-old I think that died in that. We had a baby that was killed in the Aurora theater. And this is sort of horrific beyond imagination because there's so many young people. But we've heard this before. And there is -- you know, there are already people saying wait a minute, can we just not do anything just as a knee-jerk reaction, we need to think this through.

MURPHY: I mean, the tipping point on these issues whether it's taking on assault weapons or providing more comprehensive mental health or addressing the sort of culture of violence that prompts somebody to do something like this, frankly the tipping point should have happened a long time ago. But if this is the tipping point, then we're going to go down to Washington and prompt a conversation that's long overdue.

You know, a young man grabbed us in his church we were in sobbing saying, don't let this happen again. And I think our job here is to not set expectations too high, right. This is complicated. And so we can't solve it with legislation. But there are certainly going to be lessons learned.

CROWLEY: And isn't that in the end sort of the balance you have to take, in that a person without a history, a criminal record or mental health record of any sort, that would suggest some kind of violent tendencies, can get guns. Some of the strictest gun laws in the country are here in Connecticut and these guns so far we know were purchased legally.

There is a limit to what anybody can do to stop this sort of thing?

BLUMENTHAL: We are never going to be able to take guns out of the hands of every deranged person, but we can do something. And I think there is renewed focus on this issue. I think that this incident, horrific and horrible as it is, almost unspeakable in its inhumanity and cruelty, will spur and transform the national discussion about it and perhaps lead to more action and at the very least perhaps doing something about the high capacity magazines.

CROWLEY: And for our viewers those are the things you can attach to an adult weapon and they just fire off 100 rounds in just a minuscule amount of time. They just do enormous damage. A lot of them jam, as we saw in Aurora, did not happen this time, that's what he used apparently was this high-capacity magazine.

So one of the things you all think could be done is a ban or a limitation of some sort on these high-capacity magazines.

What about an assault weapons ban?

MURPHY: Listen, I think it's clear that nobody needs to have ammunition that dispenses 30 rounds in a number of seconds. But it's also clear that nobody that has deep-seated mental health issues should be in a waiting line to get services.

And so I think for us, you know, right now our focus is on the victims and helping people grieve here. We don't even have the full police reports to understand exactly what happened inside but once we do, I think there are going to be -- I hope some pretty easy policy lessons that can finally, finally start to bring us together.

CROWLEY: And what about just briefly in the minute or so we have left, what about school security? In Connecticut, is a relook under way? Because in the end, a doorbell or a pass, yes, will -- somebody -- I mean that's just not going to work, clearly.

And so what is the answer? Is the answer to have policemen at the doors of elementary schools? Is that going too far? But would anything go too far if it would have stopped this?

BLUMENTHAL: I think there will be a time, at least for us, sitting in Newtown in the midst of this grief and sadness, to be more specific about what we can do, what we should do as a nation. My colleagues are calling from all over the country literally to not only wish us well, but say we need to do something.

And I think all of those specifics will await a time when maybe we can give it the sensible, thoughtful, hopefully effective attention it deserves.

CROWLEY: And just as a final question, do you hear that from people who formally thought we don't need more laws, we need to enforce the ones we have? Has there been a change of thought?

MURPHY: Yes, I think it's way too early. I mean, right here, to be honest, you know, there are people who are coming up to us and saying make sure this doesn't happen again, but that's rare. Most people right now are just simply trying to deal with the tragedy.

And so, you know, the families here I think want us to make sure that they have everything they need. The community has everything we need. And we'll figure out where this community wants us to go from a policy standpoint in the coming days.

CROWLEY: Senator-elect Chris Murphy, Senator Richard Blumenthal, thank you both for being here. Not a part of public service that is anything you look forward to. Thanks for being here.

When we return, a survivor of the Aurora shooting on guns and grieving.

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