NOW with Alex Wagner | December 14, 2012
>> there may be more bodies in the elementary school . essential this is an unfolding tragedy. i want to bring in our panel here, and also joining us on the phone -- sorry. joining me today in set in new york city , the golden strip, michael eric dyson , host of nbc, melissa harris perry from the nation, and ari melbourne, columnist for the washington post and msnbc contributor jonathan capehart. this is, unfortunately, something that is tha has happened a number of times this year. an ongoing national nightmare, these shootings that take place. i guess my first question is an unfolding situation. certainly we are getting more details there. there may be more bodies in the school. we don't know yet. melissa , i go to you first as a mother when you hear about this, and, you know, the ages of these children here. we're talking about an elementary school . it is a moment, obviously, for self-reflection, but also a sense that when is enough going to be enough in terms of violence in this country?
>> we have to be careful because this is an unfolding event. we don't know what all the stories are, but essential as a parent -- but not just as a parent. for every one of us who sends, you know, our mom off for the day or our spouse off or our kids, you know, this idea that we live in such a contingent environment where at any point, you know, your child might be shot at a gas station or might be a victim of violence in a school, that is about the availability of guns, so let's just be really clear. you know, we live in a world where bad things happen in a ton of different ways. in the american context, the idea that someone you love or yourself could be the victim of gun violence , particularly if it's random gun violence , is because of the availability of handguns in this country, and it's hard to imagine being about any other thing.
>> also, there's the question -- michael eric dyson , we talked about institutional failure in a political context, but here you have schools, right, which are in and of themselves supposed to be a sacred place, that have become places where the students are victims effectively, and what does that do to essentially -- of national confidence? what does that do to a sense a sort of despair in the american -- in american society ?
>> well, the national psyche is bombarded by these kind of elements. melissa has already indicated, the arbitrary random character of that violence points to the fact that the ecology of violence in this culture breeds this kind of random assault upon the targets that are available when somebody gets pissed off, mad at work, but schoolchildren, especially, even more you think about synagogues, churches, and temples, which have been the victim where we've seen victims mowed down, but the school is the national, if you will, altar of our collective civic consciousness. everybody doesn't go to church. everybody goes to school, or mostly everybody does. this is where our national vult meets the widest possible population of americans, and it does say that we feel out of control. we don't know how to control it. we talk about it, but we can do some things. that is, talk about gun violence . talk about the ready accessibility to those guns and how those guns are distributed, how it's easier to get a gun license than it is to vote. that's the reality of america , and we have to be honest about it.
>> your assessment in the situation when you first heard about it, in terms of both the political side, the gun control question, the institutional side, the failure of an american sort of system in terms of protecting its own from a legal perspective. there are also a number of different sort of ramifications for this.
>> what we do know is it's a tragedy, as you are reporting. we don't know a lot yet about what happened. mr. dyson was talking about what it means when we have our schools attacked and people in our schools, our students, our children, it's obviously incredibly stressful and traumatic, and we have seen that in school shootings that we've had repeatedly. not speaking specifically to this incident because we don't know enough, but speaking more broadly, we do know that we have a lot of rules about keeping guns out of schools and gun-free zones. we know that we have mass incarceration because we have more people many prison than any other nation. what we don't have from a policy perspective, speaking broadly, is a lot of restrictions on the access points to the weapons themselves. i think you can say that as an observation about where the policy balance is without necessarily going further into what people worry about, which is, well, is that political? does that mean there's only one thing to do? no. there's more than one way to look at this from a policy perspective. there's no doubt that the access to the weapons is a part of the policy puzzle here, and if we're going to take it seriously, we have to look at that as well as the other issues, the mental health issues, the incarceration issues, and whether we are doing all that we can so that when we look up at a tragedy like this, we know that we've taken the policy steps that are possible.
>> jonathan , you live in washington d.c. , and i grew up in washington d.c. , and i remember actually going to d.c. public school system. i was in the d.c.p.s. for my entire life up until graduation, and i remember there was in the 1990s there was a lot of violence in the city, and there were metal detectors many schools, and it was optically an unpalettable thing. you are sending high school students through metal detectors . it was an open acknowledgment that schools were a place of violence. the fact that this is happening at an elementary school , i think, it takes that to another level in terms of where we have come as a society.
>> right. this gets to what i was going to say. this is not the first school shooting that we've had to endure. think about columbine and the school shootings here in new york city and washington d.c. , in chicago. places all over the country. it was students. people prone to students in the student body . this is a high school . this is an elementary school . this is apparently clearly someone from the outside coming in last night elementary school must be that, and this is what's so chilling about what's happening here today in connecticut.
>> clint, i want to go to you before we have to go to break, but in terms of the reverse 911 call, do you have any details on how that happened, that we know that the first 911 call was made at about 9:40, 9:41. the school then seemed to alert students who might still be home or were not yet at school or their parents about what was happening. do we have any more details on that?
>> no. you know, that's been a very -- that's been a very good system for the schools, for colleges to be able for parents to subscribe to that service to let everyone know. in america we have about 285 million guns, so the gun problem that's not going away, but today in china a man with a knife stabbed 22 children and a teacher in an elementary school in china today , so this is -- the gun violence may be unique to america as far as acting out on our schools, but violence against children, against schools, again, 22 children stabbed in china today . in 2010 28 children and two teachers were stabbed in china, so this level of violence, both in china situations were in elementary schools . we have to deal with the overall concept of violence because it can, obviously, be done with handguns, as we saw today with knives as china was today.
>> clint making a very important point that this is not simply about guns and gun control , but a cull toor of violence that is, unfortunately, international. we are expecting a news conference from connecticut state police at 1:00 p.m . eastern. we will bring that to you live ahead, but, first, we are going to get a live update from wnbc's jonathan dietz, more breaking news after the break. [ sniffs