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Connecticut school shooting reignites gun control debate
Written by Chris Wallace / Published December 16, 2012 / Fox News Sunday
Special Guests: Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas
This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Sunday," December 16, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST OF "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": I'm Chris Wallace.
A deadly grade school shooting in Connecticut leaves officials, parents, and the nation searching for answers.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old.
WALLACE (voice-over): We’ll have live reports from the scene, with the latest on the investigation and the victims. We’ll talk with police, parents, of some of the children who attend the school. And with the state’s long time senator, Joe Lieberman.
(on camera): Then, will there be a new push on Capitol Hill, for tougher gun control?
(voice-over): We hear the same calls after every mass shooting. But, will the horrific nature of this crime change the debate? We’ll ask Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, and, Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert. We’ll also look at what we can do better to protect or children, when we talk with Ronald Stevens, one of the nation’s top experts on school safety.
(on camera): And our Sunday panel weighs in on a crime of mass violence, that is becoming much too familiar.
(voice-over): Our special school tragedy coverage begins right now on “Fox News Sunday.”
WALLACE: And hello again from Fox News in Washington.
Our hearts are broken. That’s how President Obama responded Friday to the slaughter of 27 people, 20 of them, little children, as he spoke to and for the nation. Today, we’ll try to make some sense of the senseless act of violence, at Sandy Hook Elementary School. We’ll talk with our guests in a moment.
But, first, here’s the latest from Newtown, Connecticut: Authorities say all of the children, first graders, 6 or 7 years old, were shot multiple times. The six adult victims were all women. Police say they have good evidence about the suspect, Adam Lanza, that may explain why he carried out the massacre. And, President Obama will speak at a vigil Sunday evening, at the local high school and meet with the families of the victims.
For more on the investigation we turn to Fox News correspondent Mike Tobin in Newtown -- Mike.
MIKE TOBIN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris.
People here are flocking to the churches, once again, to mourn and try to comprehend the incomprehensible, as we learn more of the horrible details of what happened here.
TOBIN (voice-over): Details from the medical examiner, gruesome. Lives ended with multiple gunshot wounds at close range. Many of those lives just getting started, eight little boys and 12 little girls, 6 and 7 years old.
DR. WAYNE CARVER, CHIEF CT STATE MEDICAL EXAMINER: I have been at this for a third of a century and my sensibilities may not be the average man’s but this is probably the worst I have seen, the worst that I know of any of my colleagues having seen.
TOBIN: Six of the victims at the Sandy Hook Elementary School were staff. The principal, Dawn Hochsprung, said to have been killed while lunging at the gunman. Guidance counselor Mary Sherlach also rushing toward the shooter when she was killed.
At the other known murder scene, where Nancy Lanza, the mother of the shooter was found dead, police found evidence they hope will explain the motivation of the gunman.
LT. PAUL VANCE, CONNECTICUT STATE POLICE: The secondary crime scene we discussed with the female located, deceased, did produce some very, very good evidence in the investigation.
TOBIN: That gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, reports say she had a disorder Asperger’s syndrome. His aunt said Lanza was troubled and needed to be homeschooled.
MARSHA LANZA, AUNT OF ADAM LANZA: He was different. He was quiet, nice kid, good kid. I mean, he was definitely challenged the family in the house.
TOBIN: In Newtown, Connecticut, makeshift memorials grow where hearts are broken.
People draw on the bonds forged in small town America, for strength to endure the sadness, left by innocent lives, taken violently. And they hear the stories told by parents, like Robbie Parker about the last time he saw his 6-year-old daughter, Emilie.
ROBBIE PARKER, FATHER OF DECEASED SANDY HOOK STUDENT: She told me good morning and, asked how I was doing and I said I was doing well and she said she loved me and I gave her a kiss and I was out the door.
TOBIN: Federal agents are now fanning out to gun stores and ranges across Connecticut, following leads and trying to piece together a timeline of what led up to this tremendous loss of life -- Chris.
WALLACE: Mike Tobin reporting from Newtown, Connecticut -- Mike, thanks for that.
Now, let’s bring in Fox News correspondent Molly Line who has been finding out more about the victims of the shooting rampage -- Molly.
MOLLY LINE, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Chris, all across this small community, people are just beginning to come to grips with their grief, and are coming together, joining in prayer, and mourning.
LINE (voice-over): The small makeshift memorials are everywhere -- flowers, balloons, and hand-written signs, some topped with Christmas decorations -- a reminder of celebrations that for many families in this tightly-knit community of Newtown will never be.
MONSIGNOR ROBERT WEISS, ST. ROSE OF LIMA PASTOR: One of the mothers told me that on Thursday, he asked her what dying was about, you know? And then the next day, he died.
LINE: Monsignor Robert Weiss is accustomed to comforting the bereaved but he’s struggling with the monumental loss of 20 children.
WEISS: The hearts of this whole town are just broken.
LINE: Prayer vigils helped some cope with the tragedy. Parishioners gather together to mourn those lost to Friday morning’s violence. Residents we spoke with said people move here because this is a safe place, a small town where neighbors know neighbors.
Dana Kowalski lives near the elementary school.
DANA KOWALSKI, NEWTOWN RESIDENT: I’m numb, still. I can’t believe this happened. You always hear it happening but never here in your backyard.
LINE: Over the next several days, there will be dozens of funerals and memorial services here and, then the daunting task of trying to return to some sense of normalcy.
WEISS: What’s next is going to be about for the children who survive this and how are they going to walk into the school, how are they going to keep moving forward, how are they going to feel safe? Who will they’re going to trust?
LINE: Many here know this is an enduring loss and the path forward will be a long one -- Chris.
WALLACE: Molly, thank you.
It is a parent’s worst nightmare, you get a call, your child’s school is in lockdown. So many families in Newtown got that call Friday, calls that led to relief or despair.
Joining us now, is Robert Licata. His son, Aidan is a first grader, saved by his teacher and ran to safety. His daughter was also unharmed.
Also joining us, Joe and Lynn Wasik, as well as their daughter Alexis, who is in the third grade at Sandy Hook.
Two days later, Robert, how is your family doing?
LICATA: You know, we are taking it day by day, minute by minute. It’s -- what both our son and our daughter saw is incomprehensible. We are trying to make sense of a senseless act.
We speak to him. We make sure we understand what he is feeling. We try to explain things that can’t be explained.
And, we take stock in our faith and in our community, our neighbors and our friends, who have been just tremendous.
WALLACE: Lynn and Joe, and, little Alexis, I see in front of you -- does Alexis want to talk about it? And if so, what are you telling her?
WASIK: It -- as far as talking, we are breaking it to her slowly, we’re not trying to pry too much. If she is forthcoming and telling us stuff, we’re allowing it -- you know, letting her come out slowly. We’re not prying into her, you know, what happened. We don’t want to do that.
WALLACE: Robert, your son, Aidan, is in the first grade and I understand the gunman burst into his classroom and was confronted and shot his very brave teacher -- we’ll talk about her in a minute, Victoria Soto. What did he do after that?
LICATA: We’re -- we’re finding out more and more, every day, but he basically, the children witnessed the shooter, coming into the room and shoot his teacher and continue firing, the children acted on instinct and what they were taught, which was to run.
And, they did. They just ran up to the main road, 100 yards away. My son and several of the other students were extremely brave in what they did and, acted with the courage that I don’t know if I have. And, again, they just ran and were fortunate enough to meet a woman who was -- is another hero in the WALLACE: And I understand --
LICATA: -- he just ran.
WALLACE: I understand that Aidan not only ran out himself but waited for his friends to make sure they were safe.
But, tell us about Victoria Soto, because we understand, it is coming out that this 27-year-old, first grade teacher actually tried to persuade the gunman not to shoot and put herself in front of the gunman and lost her life trying to save her children. Tell us about her.
LICATA: You know, I -- the school year was relatively knew, my wife knew her a little bit better than I did, but I did -- but I did meet her on one occasion and my wife spoke very highly of her.
LICATA: She was a very caring, compassionate young woman. And, not only did she love her kids, they loved her, in return. She was very special. And, we’ll always remember her.
WALLACE: And Lynn and Joe, there were other remarkable acts of bravery, none greater than the principal, Dawn Hochsprung. And we understand when she heard the gunfire, she ran towards it, not away from it, and apparently lunged at the shooter trying to save the students and ended up losing her own life.
Tell us about Dawn.
LYNN WASIK, MOTHER OF SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: Dawn was phenomenal, I had sent here just about every morning. Alexis is part of the before and after-school program at the school and every day I would see Dawn. It was always -- Dawn has got an infectious smile and she just -- was just so caring and she got down to the children’s level. She participated with -- in so many activities with the children. And, she dressed up when they had a sock hop and went in and danced with the children and this year, if they sold 3,000 books, she dressed up as a book fairy.
And she just -- she just was such a wonderful, wonderful, warm person. And, there’s no words to describe the loss that we have all as a community felt, and not only her family.
WALLACE: Robert, you know, Aidan knows some of the families who lost children in this, some of them were his classmates in the first grade class of Victoria Soto. In this sense, is it bittersweet that you have Aidan and you have your older daughter, who was also at the school, Caylin (ph) and, so many of your neighbors don’t?
LICATA: Yes. It is a small community, right? So, all of the children know each other from preschool. They go to church together. They have play dates together.
So, it is bittersweet. My wife waited for news of our son for over an hour after we got the call and when he didn’t come out, we never thought that we would -- he was gone, and -- but he could have very well have been one of those that were affected. We feel very blessed.
And it is bittersweet, because we do, while we feel blessed that we still have our son and our daughter, we mourn for our friends and neighbors, who weren’t as fortunate and lost their children.
WALLACE: And, Lynn, finally, and I guess this is the hardest question, how do you make sense of this?
L. WASIK: There is no sense. There is absolutely no sense to this. And it is -- I think I’m still very numb. And just like Robert has said, we’re blessed with having our daughter here with us today, but how many families and friends and everyone within the community didn’t go home with their children Friday night.
And it is just very, very heart-wrenching and there is no -- there’s no way to make any sense of anything, what this person has done, not only to families, but to a community, to a nation, and it’s just -- it’s just unfathomable. You just don’t -- who would have ever thought here in this little town of Newtown, of 20,000 some-odd people, and that’s why people are here, it is a small community, it’s a wonderful community, where people are -- they come together.
And, as we were coming through town, there is a banner that says, we will -- we will be strong, as a community. We will remain strong. And, we will always be here, for anyone and everyone, within our community and, within our school.
WALLACE: Lynn and Joe and Alexis and Robert -- we want to thank you all, so much, for sharing your stories. And, just know that our prayers and the prayers of the nation are with you. And all your neighbors in Newtown, thank you so much.
LICATA: Thank you.
J. WASIK: Thank you.
WALLACE: Friday’s mass shooting is the worst in Connecticut history, the second worst ever in this country. Cold numbers only magnified by the fact so many of the victims were little children.
Joining is now is Joe Lieberman, who has represented Connecticut in the Senate for 24 years.
Senator, thanks for coming in on this difficult weekend.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Chris.
WALLACE: What do we do?
LIEBERMAN: You know, as Lynn said, there’s no answer. I mean, this is evil. We have been through this before, too many times -- Columbine, Gabby Giffords, Aurora, the movie theater. Virginia Tech.
I think we need a national commission on mass violence. Not to be in place of anything else, the president or Congress or state governments might want to do. But, to make sure that the heart break and the anger that we feel now, is not dissipated over time, or lost in legislative gridlock.
I’ve got to tell you, this reminds me of the days and weeks after the terrorist attacks against us of 9/11. And, at one point, John McCain and I turned to each other and said, we can’t let this just go. We’ve got to create a national commission to investigate exactly the questions we’re asking about Newtown -- how could this have happened and is there anything we can do to try to prevent it from happening again?
WALLACE: But, you know, there were reforms after 9/11 and after the commission, and the way that the intelligence community and FBI shared information.
WALLACE: It wasn’t just, let’s wallow in our grief. Let me ask you a specific --
LIEBERMAN: No, but I want to say, quickly that that is exactly what I don’t want to top. I don’t want to us wallow in our grief. I want us to ask, what can we do as a society to make sure young men like Adam Lanza get mental help before they become shooters and killers? What’s the role of violence in our entertainment culture today and stimulating a vulnerable kid like this and what can we do to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of --
\WALLACE: OK. Let me ask you about some of those specific questions. Back in the ‘90s, you supported the Brady Law which called for a five-day waiting period.
WALLACE: You supported the assault weapons ban.
Then, in 2000 you and Al Gore campaigned around the country and lost and a lot of people took as a lesson, part of it was states like Tennessee and West Virginia, the fact that you were pro-gun control. And, quite frankly, since, Democrats have been scared of touching that issue.
Is it time for Democrats to push for stricter gun control?
LIEBERMAN: It’s time for Democrats, Republicans and independents to say -- acknowledge two things: one is the strongest conceivable gun control laws won’t stop all acts of violence. But, also, to acknowledge that the stronger our gun control laws are, the fewer acts of violence including mass violence that will happen in our society.
So, as a result of the Brady Law, and it still exists, if you go into a licensed federal firearms dealer to buy a gun, you have a background check and it’s a thorough one. But, if you buy a gun from somebody who is not licensed, or at a gun show, you don’t have to be checked at all. That’s a loophole we ought to close.
Assault weapons, these were developed by the U.S. military, originally, as weapons of war. And, I think we ought to restore that assault weapons ban, because, not to take anybody’s guns away from them, they have now. But, to stop the manufacture and sale of those weapons now because, look what Lanza did to these poor kids.
WALLACE: Now, let’s talk about a couple of other things -- mental illness.
WALLACE: This is obviously a disturbed boy and many of these other cases.
WALLACE: Holmes in Aurora, disturbed. The entertainment industry, you know, there are some statistics about kids will have watched thousands of acts of violence on videos, on games and movies and TV, by the time, you know, they are 10.
Specifically, what kind of thing can we do about that?
LIEBERMAN: That’s why I think we need a national commission, I spent enough time on this question of violence, and the entertainment culture, to reach this conclusion, that the violence in the entertainment culture, particularly with the extraordinary realism to video games and movies now, et cetera, does cause vulnerable young men, particularly, to be more violent. It doesn’t make everybody more violent. But, it’s a causative factor in some cases.
We’ve got to ask the entertainment industry, what are you going to do to try to tone that down --
WALLACE: Voluntary, or would you pass a law?
LIEBERMAN: In our society we try to do it voluntarily. But I think we’ve come to a point where we have to say, if not, maybe there are some things we can do to tone it down. There is a better ratings system now than used to be on video games and violent movies but they are still out there.
When it comes to the mental health system, I think we really have got to ask ourselves, first, off, this is like the slogan that we use in Homeland Security -- see something, say something.
We’ve got to ask parents, friends, school officials, if you see a child, a young person, that really looks like they are potentially -- real troublesome, get them mental health help and we have to ask ourselves, as a society, is there enough mental health help available for these kids?
There is no cure -- violence is as old as Cain killing his brother Abel. But God didn’t accept that as a given, and said, if I may, to Cain, where’s your brother? And Abel -- Cain says, am I my brother’s keeper? And God says, yes, I hear your brother’s blood crying out to me from the ground.
And I think we’ve got to continue to hear the screams of these children, and see their blood, until we do something to try to prevent this from happening again.
WALLACE: Senator Lieberman, thank you. Our sympathies go out with you as you head back home today --
LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Chris.
WALLACE: -- to your home state of Connecticut for the vigil tonight. Thank you, sir.
LIEBERMAN: I’ll be there.
WALLACE: Up next, with yet another mass murder, new calls for gun control, is now the right time? As our coverage of the school tragedy in Connecticut continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedy like this, regardless of the politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: That was President Obama, Friday, suggesting it is now time to reopen the national debate on gun control.
As horrific as this shooting is, we have been here before as a nation and there has been little interest in the last decade in tightening gun laws.
Joining me now, Dick Durbin, the Senate’s number two Democrat, who is in his home state of Illinois.
Senator, how do you read the president’s comments that we just played? Is it time for a new push, tighter gun control?
DURBIN: Well, first, let me say the nation is in mourning and reflection and prayer over what happened at Newtown, Connecticut. There isn’t a parent or grandparent across America that didn’t visualize some child they love being in this terrible situation and subjected to this kind of violence.
But let me tell you, Chris, we need a national conversation. Joe Lieberman called for a commission. I’m open to these ideas. But we need a national conversation about safety. I would go beyond Joe and say, let’s add that issue of school safety into the conversation as well.
But gun control is part of it. We need to sit down and have a quiet, calm reflection on the Second Amendment. Are there guns that really shouldn’t be sold across America? Military assault weapons such as the one involved in this horrific incident in Connecticut?
Are there high ammunition clips, high capacity ammunition clips that have no value, whatsoever when it comes to sporting and hunting and even self-defense? The person could buy body armor, take that body armor and use it to protect themselves as they kill innocent people.
Can we have a thoughtful, calm, reflection on these things? And do it in the context of our Second Amendment? I think we need to.
WALLACE: The president as we have in that clip, mentioned regardless of politics, and the fact is, that we have that slaughter of people at the movie theater, in Aurora, Colorado, just in July. At that time, you said you supported a ban on assault weapons, you assault weapons.
DURBIN: I did.
WALLACE: You also said back at that time, there is zero chance that Congress will pass that. It’s not just Republicans. Quite frankly, as I pointed out to Joe Lieberman, your party has been afraid, because of politics, to push it for the last decade.
DURBIN: Chris, there’s plenty of blame on both sides, politically and there is also a responsibility of the people across this nation. I would appeal to the hunters and sportsmen, I know them from Illinois. They are my friends. They are good people. They love their families and hate what they are hearing about Newtown, Connecticut.
But, they have been largely quiet. This conversation has been dominated in Washington by you know and I know, gun lobbies that have an agenda. We need people, just ordinary Americans, to come together, and speak out, and to sit down and calmly reflect on how far we go.
I’m going to be holding a hearing after the first of the year, in about two weeks or so, on this constitutional question. That’s the starting point.
The Supreme Court raised questions about the Second Amendment, what are the protections? What are the responsibilities? Let’s spell this out and let’s try to do it in a thoughtful way and move forward together. That’s what we need.
WALLACE: But let’s deal with some of the arguments against new gun laws. The fact is that Connecticut, Senator, as you well know, has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. Nancy Lanza, the mother of the shooter, had bought and registered these guns legally.
What more can we do?
DURBIN: Well, listen -- why in the world would anyone, even Nancy Lanza, need a military assault weapon, designed for the military, that has the capacity to fire off hundreds of rounds?
Heartbreaking to hear this coroner speak about these poor little kids, whose bodies were riddled with bullets. For goodness’ sakes, can we stop for a moment and reflect on this? I’m all for sport and hunting and self-defense. This goes way beyond that.
WALLACE: And finally, Senator, what about those people who say -- and our next guest, Congressman Louie Gohmert, is one of them -- that the real answer is not fewer guns but more guns so that if a person like this comes into a movie theater or a mall or a school, somebody is there who can take him down?
DURBIN: I just -- I honestly think that that argument just doesn’t hold water. When you think about it, are we talking about arming teachers, arming principals? Is that going to make us a safer America? I don’t think so.
Too many people are harmed by firearms, their own firearms that are accidentally misused or turned on them. I don’t happen to buy that approach.
But I want to sit down and calmly discuss all of the options. I think we need to do this as a nation. That’s the only way we can move forward and make sure that there is a lesson to be learned in Newtown, Connecticut.
WALLACE: So, let me ask you, after Aurora, you said there was zero chance Congress would pass a new law. Do you still say zero chance?
DURBIN: No. I think that what happened in Newtown, Connecticut, may at least lead some to finally decide to sit down and to have this conversation. I really think we may have a chance, because of this terrible tragedy. That’s what happened after 9/11. It can happen after Newtown, Connecticut, as well.
WALLACE: Senator Durbin, thank you for joining us today, sir.
DURBIN: Thank you.
WALLACE: The core of the debate goes to a basic constitutional provision, the right to bear arms, does this tragedy change or limit that?
Joining me now, Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas.
GOHMERT: Great to be with you, Chris.
WALLACE: Attorney General Holder spoke out about the shooting on Friday. Let’s take a look at what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We need to discuss who we are as a nation, talk about the freedoms that we have, the rights we have and how those might be used in a responsible way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: What do you think about his comments about our rights and our freedoms, being use in a responsible way?
GOHMERT: Well, I think coming from him, that is really important to note coming from a man who is over a department that forced the sale of guns to people that would bring them about the death of people like Brian Terry and, there should be national outrage about Mexicans, our neighbors, 200 or more, that have killed by the guns that his department have forcibly -- are forced to be sold.
So, he’s right. And really, Senator Durbin is right.
But the conversation we have got to have has got to have everybody open-minded. I mean, we all react emotionally, that’s why we have all shed tears and our prayers will continue to go to the people in Connecticut who have lost loved ones.
WALLACE: All right, after the movie theater shooting that we’ve referred to in July, in Aurora, Colorado. You said that what we need is more people carrying weapons, so that if a shooter comes into a movie theater with a gun, somebody can stand up and defend him and defend other people.
Question -- and this is the question Dick Durbin had -- do we really want folks at movie theaters and shopping malls and schools armed?
GOHMERT: Once we have this actually open dialogue about the situation, Chris, you find out that -- and John Lott has done some great investigation and study into this. Every mass killing of more than three people in recent history has been in a place where guns were prohibited. These -- except for one, they choose this place, they know no one ill be armed.
You know, having been a judge and having reviewed photographs of these horrific scenes and knowing that children have these defensive wounds, gun shots through their arms and hands as they try to protect themselves, and, hearing the heroic stories of the principal, lunging, trying to protect -- Chris, I wish to god she had had an M-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out and she didn’t have to lung heroically with nothing in her hands, but she takes him out, takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids.
WALLACE: I understand the right to bear arms and the Supreme Court has made it clear that the founders meant what they said when they put the right to bear arms in the Constitution, but let me ask you the question Dick Durbin asked. Why do people need these semi- automatic weapons?
I was reading about the Glock he had and the Sig Sauer he had, five bullets a second. There is the Bushmaster. I mean, these were created for law enforcement. These were created for the military. Why does the average person -- I can understand a hunting rifle, I can understand (inaudible), why do they need these weapons of mass destruction?
GOHMERT: Well, for the reason George Washington said a free people should be an armed people. It ensures against the tyranny of the government. If they know that the biggest army is the American people, then you don’t have the tyranny that came from King George. That is why it was put in there, that’s why once you start drawing the line, where do you stop? And that’s why it is important to not just look emotionally our reaction Chris is to immediately say let’s get rid of all guns, but that’s why you do that as a judge, you react emotionally, but you use your head and you look at the facts.
And the face facts are that every time guns have been allowed, concealed-carry has been allowed, the crime rate has gone down. Washington, D.C. around us ought to be the safest place in America and it’s not. Chicago ought to be safe. It’s not, because their gun laws don’t work.
WALLACE: Congressman, thank you. Thanks for coming in today. We will see where this debate goes from here.
GOHMERT: Thanks, so much.
WALLACE: Up next, we’ll talk with an expert about what can be done to make our schools safer and then our Sunday panel as we continue our special coverage of the tragedy in the classroom.
WALLACE: That is Newtown, Connecticut, and a sign outside a store, that says what we are all feeling.
The Sandy Hook school shooting has forced parents across the country to confront some questions, is my child’s school as safe as it should be? What more can be done? Joining me now from Calabasas, California is Ronald Stevens, director of the National School Safety Center.
Mr. Stevens, the Sandy Hook Elementary School had recently installed a new security system, the doors were locked, at 9:30. You had to be buzzed in to get into the school. But, police say the shooter forced his way in, so I guess the question is, what more can a school do?
RONALD STEVENS, NATIONAL SCHOOL SAFETY CENTER: It is a tremendous challenge for school officials, because, school campuses are not designed to be fortresses, to be defended, they are places of learning. And so, the expectation for schools is that they would take reasonable steps. And when we look at the compassion and care and sacrifice of the administrators and teachers, that is probably one of the most significant factors. But, once again, if you have an armed intruder, who is intent upon getting onto the campus, they will use whatever means necessary. And this is not an uncommon situation, where they defeat some of the best systems that are in place.
WALLACE: I was fascinated, Mr. Stevens, by how much security -- and I didn’t realize this, a lot of our public schools already have. Let’s look at some of those security measures that are already there. 92 percent of public schools lock or monitor their doors, 61 percent use security cameras, 63 percent use electronic notification for a school emergency.
What are the big gaps you still see out there, sir?
STEVENS: One of the biggest gaps that I see is that schools so often are held to account for not supposed to ever be letting these kinds of incidents occur, and yet the schools reflect so much what is going on in society. We want schools to take steps that are appropriate, but there are limitations and until someone is able to control the human mind and these choices that are made by deranged individuals, it is going to be very difficult.
And so I think this national conversation that we’re talking about has to go beyond schools and into communities and into homes, into the entire area, to bring together the best ideas and all of the people to see what else we might do to keep our campuses safer.
WALLACE: You heard what Congressman Gohmert just said. Do we need armed guards inside schools? Do we need a teacher or some kind of personnel, the principal, who knows and has a -- how to fire and have a weapon with them?
STEVENS: I wish we didn’t have to have armed guards in the schools and yet the kinds of things that are happening now, has been one of the chief items that has encouraged the presence of school resource officers all across the country. But, even on the best of days, to assume that the officer will always be in the right place at the right time at the right moment is difficult. You look at Red Lake, Minnesota, that had officers at the schoolhouse gate, as well as metal detectors and yet, the assailant comes in and takes out the officer, walks right through the metal detectors.
There are things that oftentimes simply go beyond the scope and control of school officials. But these are some of the challenges that we face.
WALLACE: Finally, one thing that seemed absolutely clear from what happened at Sandy Hook, is that they had done a lot of training. There had been a lot of safety drills. And it sure seemed, in terms of the response in the classrooms and evacuating the kids from the school, that sure seemed to make a big difference in saving lives.
STEVENS: Well, it absolutely did. And we’re probably a lot better at crisis response than we are at crisis prevention. But, to have those drills in place, to have worked with administrators, staff, the first responders, and the students, I think is a remarkable tribute to what school officials had done there. But, my take is, we have got to continue to focus more on how we address this whole deal, the crisis prevention at the outset, in addition to simply good crisis response.
WALLACE: Mr. Stevens, we’re going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you so much for talking with us, sir.
STEVENS: My pleasure.
WALLACE: In a holiday season shattered by gunfire, a grieving nation asks why and what can be done.
Next, we’ll hear from our Sunday panel, about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was -- it was great to see them, but at the same time we had a lot of friends that couldn’t find their kids. And, you know, personally I have a good friend that lost her daughter, so this is a very bittersweet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: That is the parent of a 4th grade boy who got out safely, expressing the anguish of all of the moms and dads at Sandy Hook Elementary.
And it is time now for our Sunday group. Brit Hume, Fox News senior political analyst. Nina Easton of Fortune magazine, Bill Kristol from the Weekly Standard and Liz Marlantes of the Christian Science Monitor.
Well, let’s start with the list of just some of the mass shootings this year, 2012, put them up on screen. April 2nd, a nursing school dropout killed 7 people in Oakland, California, July 20th, James Holmes, kills 12 in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, August 5th, a white supremacist kills 6 plus himself in a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, just this Tuesday, Jacob Roberts kills two, plus himself at a mall outside Portland and Friday, yes Adam Lanza, kills 27 plus himself in Connecticut.
In fact, there were 13 -- 13 -- mass shootings, so far this year.
Brit, what is going on? And what do we do about it?
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well certainly we do seem to be experiencing a wave of these things, and it is exceedingly alarming. Yet, this one, the other day, stands out, and I think has had a greater effect on people’s feelings and emotions, than any of the others, because of the scale of it and because the victims were little children. And so I think just looking at it from a Washington perspective, the political impact over this is likely to be greater.
The hard thing to do in commenting and reacting to this is, that so much of the information we have gotten so far turned out to be off base, that one hesitates to draw any conclusions based on what we think we know, because there is so much we thought we knew and turned out to be not true. And it seem to me we are remarkably early in this process in finding out what really happened here and why. And it will be a while before it’s possible to really make any intelligent observations about what kind of steps can be taken to prevent this.
WALLACE: Nina, President Obama talked about taking meaningful action. But he also talked about taking action after the shooting of Gabby Giffords in January of 2011 that killed 6 and wounded 1 and he never did. Do you think -- we talk about this -- the impact of this, some people are comparing it emotionally to a 9/11, after the massacre of these children and, now, quite frankly, given the fact that the president never faces re-election, that he might actually push for gun control
NINA EASTON, FORTUNE: I think this is the tipping point. He spoke on Friday, not just as a president, but as a father, and I had just left my daughter’s elementary school concert. And I think back to the shooting in the Colorado mall, my sons, my teenage sons were talking about seeing The Dark Knight that night, my nephew lost a friend that attended Virginia Tech. Keep in mind this is the second- worst school shooting. Virginia Tech was even worse.
I think it is important for the president at this point, to take a look -- and it has to be done in a bipartisan way, and I agree with Senator Lieberman, it has to be a commission, an urgent commission. You have got to look at how to take the word "mass" out of "mass murder." And the bodies -- 6-year-old bodies with 3 to 11 bullets in them. We have to figure out a way. And it’s not easy, it’s not just about gun control -- I’m not arguing that, but when you can go online and order a magazine with 100 rounds of ammunition for $299, something is wrong.
I think it has to start there. It also has to look at the warnings that were in place, in all of these situations, the mental health issues, privacy issues, there’s a lot of issues that go into this. But I do think gun control has to be part of it.
WALLACE: Bill, let’s look at this from the Republican point of view. Will Republicans -- should Republicans change or modify their strong opposition to gun control, especially -- not the right to bear arms but, especially on the question of these weapons of mass destruction? You know, as I say, the handgun that could fire five bullets in a second, the magazines 100 rounds. Should Republicans consider giving on that issue?
KRISTOL: I think Republicans and everyone else should take a serious look at what might work. And I think the speaker could well ask the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee to hold hearings, but hold serious hearings, about what would work. Don’t do something symbolic like the assault weapons ban, which did no good and made everyone feel good and ended up evaporating and couldn’t be sustained even in a Democratic -- wasn’t restored when the Democrats controlled everything in 2009, 2010.
So I’m totally open to having serious -- and there’s a lot of social science research on gun control. I don’t think it’s very favorable to most efforts of gun control, and I think -- but everything has to be on the table, too. Is it sensible to have gun- free zones? Maybe elementary -- maybe the money would be better spent having security guards than having, you know, new background checks in a case where this -- the purchase of the guns in this case passed background checks.
Connecticut’s a pretty liberal state. I believe the Democratic Party controls all the branches of government in Connecticut. They chose not to ban the things we’re talking about, I guess, right? They could have, couldn’t they?
EASTON: State laws are useless. I mean, you can order things online now. I mean, it’s, sort of...
WALLACE: He did buy them in the state...
KRISTOL: I’m just saying, let’s have an honest debate. Let’s have a debate about privacy laws and mental health. But I do think the Republican Party shouldn’t be in the position of saying you can’t even discuss this, and I think the speaker could easily ask, since they control one house of Congress -- Senator Reid could do this on the other side, and so they’d have serious hearings about the legal issues and the public policy issues.
WALLACE: You know, Liz, I’m sure that some of our listeners, though, listen to this talk about Joe Lieberman calling for a commission or Bill Kristol calling for hearings -- and I don’t mean this in any belittling way, but they think we’ve heard this all before and that just means we’ll have -- you know, some documents and we’ll have some hearings and nothing will happen?
And maybe nothing should happen, but, you know, that people will sit there and say "more of the same?"
KRISTOL: And that’s -- that is possible. And I think -- I agree with Nina, that this feels a little bit like a tipping point. And one of the phrases you keep hearing is that people are fed up. There is this -- there seems to be this desire for action, not just a commission or a report or a debate, a national debate. There seems to be a stronger desire for let’s find some concrete steps, maybe, that we can take right away, even if they only make a slight difference.
And so maybe that will affect it. I also wonder if the politics of this might change. I mean, we’ve seen -- you know, over the last few decades, Gallup has shown that support for gun control has actually really fallen off pretty dramatically. But you wonder if, you know, in the wake of this past election, the Democratic coalition seems to be changing somewhat. You wonder if Democratic politicians may not see this as such a third-rail issue as they had, as you said, with Lieberman after the 2000 election and in recent years.
WALLACE: You know, Brit, one of the things that I value most about you is, when everybody is rushing in one direction, you’re a contrarian and you say, "Wait a minute."
HUME: Well, we don’t know what happened here, really. We really don’t, you know, and what happened inside that home. We don’t know why, for sure, this woman seemed compelled to buy all these weapons, if indeed that’s what happened. We don’t know much about this young man. We need to know all that before we make -- start making any policy prescriptions.
We also need to try to find out as best we can what influences within the culture have created this -- may have helped to create this wave of violence. Perhaps there’s been a desensitization to violence. You see it on the screen...
WALLACE: I was going to say there’s no perhaps. There has been. I mean, I see my kids playing these games where there -- you know, there are soldiers...
HUME: Look, I’ve played a lot of guns when I was a kid and we saw a lot of cowboy Westerns and so on, so this is not...
HUME: I don’t disagree with you. I’m just saying we need to -- that needs to be part of it. And of course there’s a mental health component to this as well.
So there’s a lot in this, and if we’re going to do, you know, an investigation, it shouldn’t focus on a single issue. It should focus on all the things that may have contributed to this so we get a better picture of it.
WALLACE: But what about the argument that, you know, if you have the commissions and you have the hearings, nothing happens?
HUME: Well, that’s not necessarily the case. I mean, you have commissions and hearings and sometimes things do happen. I mean, we had a big commission after 9/11 and things did happen. So it will depend, I think, on the extent to which the political atmosphere has been changed by the national horror at this massacre. And it may well have.
WALLACE: Bill, you get the final word.
KRISTOL: You know...
WALLACE: You get the final word.
EASTON: Sorry. I was just going to jump in -- it has to be seen in the context also of this incident and the context of all these other incidents and what -- and the commonalities are there were warnings; it involved mentally unstable people and semi-automatic weapons. And I think that’s what you’ll find is common in all of these murders.
WALLACE: A perfect storm. A perfect storm.
WALLACE: Thank you, panel. See you next week.
And don’t forget to check out "Panel Plus," where our group picks right up with the discussion on our web site, foxnewssunday.com, and we’ll post the video before noon Eastern Time. And make sure to follow us on Twitter, @foxnewssunday.
We’ll be back in a moment with a tribute to acts of sacrifice and courage in the face of evil.
WALLACE: Too often, we let events like the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary be defined by the shooter. But there’s another way to look at it, the bravery of the school principal who ran to the gunshots, giving her life to try to protect her students; a first- grader who ran out a classroom door but not before grabbing his friends.
We want to leave you today with those images, those memories, of our strength and goodness standing up to evil. And we’ll see you next "Fox News Sunday."
UNKNOWN: The community has come together. Certainly, all the first responders have come together, counselors. It’s amazing how -- the immense amount of family has shown here in the town of Newtown.
UNKNOWN: I have great faith and love for this community. I know we are a good and gentle place.
UNKNOWN: In the coming days and in the coming weeks, I will pray that you all embrace one another, that you lift one another up.
UNKNOWN: By being here, you speak eloquently to the nation about the importance of your faith in community, in embracing each other, not just by your physical presence but by all of your emotions.
The countdown is on. We'll be joined by Clinton Campaign Manager Robby Mook about their plans for the final week.
Sunday: With three weeks to go and with early voting underway, we’ll have an exclusive debate between former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump supporter, and Congressman Xavier Becerra, a Clinton backer, about the race.