A new PBS documentary is shedding light Adam Lanza, the man behind the horrific shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. Frank Koughan, writer and producer of "Raising Adam Lanza," talks with Soledad on "Starting Point" this morning to talk about what he learned from interviews with family and friend, and shares some of the biggest revelations of Lanza's life.
It has been exactly one-month since the massacre in Newtown, CT where 20 children and six adults were gunned down at the Sandy Hook Elementary school. The fate of the school building itself is a delicate subject which was debated at a public forum last night.
The shooting has also sparked a national debate over guns and gun violence, with Vice President Joe Biden vowing to deliver recommendations by Tuesday to President Obama on curbing gun violence. Newtown was part of the district of then Congressman Chris Murphy.
This morning, Murphy, a newly-elected Connecticut Democratic Senator joins “Starting Point” to explain how Newtown residents are coping since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. He also explains why he thinks the National Rifle Association is out of step with American opinion on guns.
For the first time since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School Sandy Hook students will be returning to class on Thursday. Hundreds of students who attended the school in Newtown are expected to travel to Chalk Hill Middle School in nearby Monroe. The new facility is about seven miles from the original Sandy Hook school has been renamed as Sandy Hook Elementary and transformed to resemble an elementary school. Also, the new school has been outfitted with rugs and furniture similar to those from the old school and student desks and classroom decorations have been transported to the new location including the school's pet turtle. Clinical psychologist Julian Ford has worked to train mental health professionals in Newtown and this morning he weighs in on the Sandy Hook students returning to school.
When helping the children and parents of Sandy Hook feel comfortable with the return to school Ford says the most important thing for people “is knowing that past is not prologue.” He adds, “what’s happened is a terrible tragedy but now the community, the children and the families get to begin back on the path that they were on.” Ford goes on to say, “Even though nothing will be quite the same it’s wonderful that they have a chance to go back to a school where so much is familiar.”
Ford says the parents of the returning students should be calm and confident and even though they feel the impact they should know the children going back to school is the right thing to do. He adds that adults tend to associate objects from the past with a “replay of what’s happened and expecting that things like that will happen again in the future even though there isn’t that much of a likelihood.” Ford says children on the other hand are “really focused on the present moment so they go back into the classrooms and see the familiar objects and the desks very similar – for them it’s going to signify ‘ok I’m back in school...this isn’t Chalk Hill, this is Sandy Hook…I’m back with my friends, I’m back with my teachers.’” He says that resolve is what the children “need in order to have the sense of security to go back and dive right back in.”
This morning, the surviving children of Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut return to school for the first time since a gunman took 20 of their friends, and their innocence. Their new school building is a former middle school in the neighboring town of Monroe. School staff and volunteers have been working to re-create as much of the original classrooms as possible. The surviving teachers decided to rename the new school "Sandy Hook Elementary."
“Starting Point” speaks to a mother who can explain what it's like for parents and students returning to school after such a tragedy. She has also sent her child back to school after a mass shooting tragedy. Lori Haas's daughter Emily was shot twice but survived during the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting. Lori is now the Virginia organizer for the Coalition to End Gun Violence.
Lori reflects on the road to recovery Emily has faced. “It’s been a journey. There’s no denying that,” she says. “There’s ups and downs in the recovery, in the aftermath of a mass shooting. There's times when you have to deal with your post traumatic stress disorder and it may flare up at different times, it may recede at different times.”
Emily has since finished her degree, gotten married and is teaching school herself. Her mother says she and “the injured students stuck together quite a bit and were helpful to each other, and spent time together and a lot of time together, frankly, at the school, so that was a good for her.”
An attorney in Connecticut has withdrawn a request to sue the state for $100 million in the wake of the Sandy Hook School shooting after facing strong disapproval from people across the country. The New Haven attorney represents the family of a six-year-old girl who witnessed and survived the shooting. The lawyer says the state failed to take steps to protect the children from harm. After this statement Pinsky received a flurry of comments on his Facebook page blasting the lawsuit and accusing him and his client of trying to profit from last month's tragedy. This morning the attorney Irving Pinsky joins “Starting Point” to discuss why he dropped the suit and his plans to file again sometime within the year.
Regarding the outpour of disapproval on filing the lawsuit Pinsky says, “It’s a natural reaction to get that backlash.” He adds that he was doing his job which is to save the evidence and that he “can’t wait for the attorney general to get their evidence or the police to get their evidence. As a lawyer I’m looking for different evidence then they are. So I had to go in early and that was not made clear to the public because there’s so much of the fog of disaster.” On the topic of where the backlash was stemming from Pinsky says, “I didn’t have any problem with the people of Newtown… but out of 340 million people in this country if that you’re going to have all kinds of people including some crazy people who are going to start issuing death threats left and right” and labeling him a “greedy lawyer.”
Legally Pinsky says “this shouldn’t happen. A crazy young gunman shouldn’t be able to walk into a school and start doing this over and over and over.” While it has been reported that the shooter shot through the glass to gain entry to the school, Pinksy argues the glass was supposed to be bulletproof. Pinksy adds, “It had to be assumed that this was going to happen eventually somewhere.” He goes on to say, “I cannot tell you for sure at this point…I cannot tell you beyond a reasonable doubt…that this would have happened or should have happened or they should have known.” He says regardless his job is to follow the evidence, “authenticate it, make sure it credible…and if the evidence shows that there’s no case – I don’t bring a case.”
Pinsky says his mission now is to “stop this from happening again,” although he says it is going to happen again even though he does not want to admit it. He says his lawsuit aids the process to “get higher standards for security in the schools.”
A New York based newspaper has sparked outrage this morning after its decision to publish a map pinpointing the addresses of people with gun permits. Published in The Journal News, which is based in White Plains, New York, the map shows homes where public records indicate someone living there holds a gun permit. It was part of an article called "The Gun Owner Next Door," and the newspaper says the information shown came from public records. It has readers online furious. Blogger Christopher Fountain is one of those readers, and he decided to strike back by posting the home address of most of the leadership and staff of The Journal News.
Fountain, who is a gun owner, says that The Journal News defended publishing the gun permit owners' addresses for safety purposes, but Fountain disagrees with the correlation between gun ownership and gun violence. He tells "Starting Point" that he decided to post the journalists' information because he felt that the newspaper "was bullying gun owners by conflating ... West Chester County gun owners with a horrible incident in Newtown, Connecticut ... one has nothing to do with the other." He adds, "I felt that they were using this to harass gun owners ... so I harassed them back."
Fountain's blog, "For What It's Worth", can be found at christopherfountain.wordpress.com
In the wake of the tragedy at Newtown, Connecticut, many all over the country have been up in arms renewing gun control debate. The National Rifle Association addressed it in a statement on Friday and on the Sunday shows.
Doubling-down on its controversial statement following the mass shooting in Sandy Hook Elementary School, the group's CEO, Wayne Lapierre, did not budge on his assertion that all schools should now have armed police. Richard Feldman is the former Political Director for the NRA. He's now the President of The Independent Firearm Owners Association, and joins “Early Start” live from West Palm Beach, Florida this morning.
Dana Bash asks Richard Feldman if he was surprised that Wayne Lapierre did not advocate banning high capacity clips. Instead of answer directly, he answers that we all need to “take a little step back and start being nicer to one another” in this country. “Let’s lower the rhetoric. We’re all Americans. We’re all in this. And we all want to resolve the problem. No one wants to see the kind of horrific massacre that occurred last week.”
Feldman also suggests there are several ideas as to how to combat the issue other than gun control. “There are many things that we can do as a nation, without Congress, without regulation. We can go ahead and harden those schools. We can put ballistic doors into our schools. It only costs money.”
The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary has been raising a lot of questions about media coverage of the tragedy and the general tone of journalism today. This is especially because the victims, and many of the affected, were six and seven year olds who attended the school. The coverage has also led to painful questions about gun legislation and questions about how exactly one should go about covering a tragedy and if certain coverage is good or bad for the victims and the town. This morning host of CNN's Reliable Sources Howard Kurtz and Daily Download Editor in Chief Lauren Ashburn join “Starting Point” to discuss the coverage and its impact on the victims and gun laws.
Ashburn says, “It wasn’t until I saw President Obama get a tear in his eye that that was almost a signal to journalists everywhere that it’s ok to show your emotion.”
On the topic of gun legislation CNN Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein says, “It doesn’t meant that you’re necessarily going to pass legislation. There are lots of barriers to that but I think you’re going to have a more robust debate than we’ve had in the last few years about what the options are.”
Kurtz says the possibility of new gun legislation is unknown but “I do think… journalists all thinking about their own kids – all deeply affected by this. For some reason this cut to the core.” He adds, “That’s why I think that emotions will help power a debate. It’s a debate where we have to be fair and we can’t push and agenda.”
On Tuesday, after the Winthrop Eagles Men’s Basketball team lost to the 7th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes their coach took the opportunity to focus on a much bigger loss. Coach Pat Kelsey gave a fiery post-game speech talking about the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting and asked for change. In his speech Kelsey said he did not vote for President Barack Obama but challenged the president, the Speaker of the House, parents, teachers, rabbis, priests, coaches and everyone to step up because “this has to be a time for change.” This morning, Men’s basketball Winthrop Eagles Head Coach Pat Kelsey joins “Starting Point” to discuss his passionate speech about the Sandy Hook victims.
Kelsey says the national change that he wants to see from leaders is very similar to his business. He says, “The fights not in the locker room – the fights on the court.” Kelsey says that while he and his coaching staff might argue behind the scenes when the team takes the court they are all on the same page. On the same token he stresses that bipartisanship amongst politicians is important.
Kelsey says moving forward he plans to invest more time in looking into issues like gun control and mental health as well as talking about “the deterioration of the core values of what it means to be an American…right and wrong.” He adds that for “a massacre of these proportions to happen under out watch is scary,” referring to the shooting in Newtown.
On the topic of leadership Kelsey says every parent can set a positive example for their children. He goes on to say, “everybody in a leadership position and everybody to some extent is a leader, whether you’re a parent, whether you’re a boss of a company... Set a positive example of the right ethics, the right values, the right way to carry yourself.”
Today children in Newtown, Connecticut are headed back to school today to a different world than the one they left last week after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. Students at neighboring schools are receiving counseling along with teachers and administrators who are expected to discuss the tragedy with students in an age appropriate manner, according to the teachers' union. Classes however for the young children of Sandy Hook Elementary are not resuming just yet. A new facility in neighboring Monroe, Connecticut is currently being prepped for their arrival. This morning Principal and Founder of Capital Predatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut Steve Perry joins a special edition of “Starting Point” to weigh in on the Newtown Massacre which occurred less than an hour’s drive away from his own school.
Perry says in the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy, one of the first things he did was ask his colleagues if they were ok. He says that knowing this was important, “because the teachers have to feel good before they can go in and make the students feel good.” Perry adds that while it’s important to get back into the flow of the regular curriculum it is also important to, “take a couple of minutes to pull together some kids and have some conversations.”
Perry stresses the importance of listening to the kids because he says, “A lot of kids have fatigue over this. It’s freaking them out. They can’t sleep and so they’d actually like us to pump the breaks and talk about something different.”
On the proposal of arming school faculty with guns Perry says that is, “absolutely absurd.” He adds, “You could have had Navy [SEALS]… there are schools that have absolute substations … police substations in them but that wouldn’t have saved these children.” Perry says the “deranged” shooter “shot his way into a school. There’s not much you can do about that. It was a secure school.” He says, “Our children are frightened to go back to school because we have this lawlessness… in our country because so many children are afraid somebody’s carrying a gun.” He urges gun rights advocates to, “step back and realize that not everybody thinks that carrying a gun is cool.”
Starting Point airs weekdays from 7am to 9am ET on CNN. Check in often to join the daily conversation.