'This Week' Transcript: Tragedy in Colorado

PHOTO:Aurora Police responded to the Century 16 movie theater, July 20, 2012.

STEPHANOPOULOS: This morning, a special edition of "This Week."

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's happening? Oh my God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got seven down in theater nine, seven down.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Colorado catastrophe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was the first time I saw something that was real, like a real-life nightmare.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got a child victim, I need rescue.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Twelve killed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Me and my kids, we are not going to die in here, I need to get them out.

STEPHANOPOULOS: 58 wounded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have taken a blow today, but we will get back on our feet and we will move ahead.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, 48 hours after the worst mass shooting in American history, as the nation mourns the victims and consoles the survivors, the search for answers.

OBAMA: If there is anything to take away from this tragedy, it's the reminder that life is very fragile.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Why do these tragedies continue? Can anything be done to stop them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you think we're angry, we sure as hell are angry.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We'll get to the heart of those questions, plus all the latest on the investigation, the killer, his innocent victims and a community shattered. Special coverage of the tragedy in Colorado, the movie theater massacre, begins now.

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STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning. In Aurora, Colorado, this morning, a memorial to the victims of that nightmare that unfolded early Friday morning. An all-too-familiar ritual of mourning and remembrance. President Obama will visit Aurora later today to console the families of those lost, as police piece together the maniacal plan of a cold-blooded killer and America responds to the horror. Our guests and experts are standing by to weigh in on what happened and why, and the policy debates about guns and violence that inevitably follow a rampage like this. And we begin in Aurora with ABC's Cecilia Vega. And Cecilia, this is a town hit so hard.

CECILIA VEGA, ABC NEWS: Yes, George, everybody reeling out here. Good morning to you in New York.

The president arrived at 4:00, but just before 4:00 this afternoon, we're told, he'll be meeting with the victims, who are still in the hospital. There are families of those who have passed away out here, as well as state and local officials. As for those victims, we now know all of their identities. The coroner releasing them yesterday. These stories are so tragic out here, stories of courage, men who jumped in the line of fire to protect their girlfriends. The youngest victim just a 6-year-old little girl. She came to this movie with her mother. That mother remains in critical condition today.

As for the shooter and the shooting, authorities spent the day, all day yesterday at his apartment here in Aurora, trying to get inside this building. They say this was a complex scene, a chilling scene inside the apartment of trip wires and booby traps, the police chief saying that this was setup to kill the first person who walks through the door. Authorities, again, authorities still aren't saying what the motive was. Holmes remains in custody here. His first court appearance is tomorrow morning, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, Cecilia, thanks very much. Of course, President Obama will be there later today. We want to get more on James Holmes now from our justice correspondent, Pierre Thomas, who has more on the investigation, and everything we're learning so far, Pierre, this was a cold-blooded, premeditated plan.

PIERRE THOMAS, ABC CORRESPONDENT: Cold-blooded, meticulous. He took months to amass his arsenal. He developed an execution plan that he put in place that worked to perfection, according to my sources. Also, the time and effort in terms of putting together that booby-trapped apartment shows the intensity and focus.

I was struck by one source today who said that this was really like a mad scientist, really like a villain in a movie.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And he was pulling in materials for a couple of months at least, getting lots of packages at home. We know he bought thousands of rounds of ammunition in addition to the guns, but you described him on Friday as having a clean skin, nothing in his background that would have tipped authorities off.

THOMAS: Only a speeding ticket. This man could buy guns anywhere in America anytime, and officials say nothing could have been done to stop that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But we are learning, as you say, a lot more about him. This was clearly – you described him as a mad scientist, a brilliant young man.

THOMAS: Brilliant. That's what made him so dangerous, officials say. One cop I talked to yesterday said, look, most criminals are stupid. This guy was thoughtful, brilliant, and we also have some new information about what they're finding at the apartment. We are being told by sources that they have found the computer, and also a poster of Batman.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He said I am the Joker. OK, Pierre Thomas, thanks very much.

Let's get more on this now with the mayor of Aurora, Steve Hogan, and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. Thank you both for joining us this morning. And Mayor, let me begin with you. We are just learning a little bit more about the investigation from Pierre Thomas right there. Do you have any other information about why this man might have done this?

STEVE HOGAN, MAYOR, AURORA, COLORADO: No, we don't have anything else right now. It's a very, very cold-blooded, calculated, isolated instance, and it's tragic, and it's horrible for those families, and it's hurt the community.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we heard from your police chief real rage.

HOGAN: Absolutely. Aurora is a great place to be. It's been tough for our citizens. Our responders were, first responders were fantastic, but it's clear that apartment was set up to kill the first person who walked in the door, and more than likely, that was a police officer.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Governor Hickenlooper, I heard you describe Mr. Holmes as a kind of terrorist. What did you mean by that?

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER, COLORADO: I think that if you look, his intent maybe wasn't political, but what he was, was, I mean, clearly, deranged, twisted, demonic in some way, and he wanted to create fear, intense fear. He wanted to create terror.

STEPHANOPOULOS: In the minds of the people in that theater, and of course across the community. Mayor Hogan, how is the community coping with all this as the loss sinks in?

HOGAN: Well, I think we're going to be starting that grieving process. We'll then start the healing process. Certainly the vigil tonight will help. There have been other vigils the past couple of nights that have been organized by others, and they are needed, they are desperately needed. You know, that – I can see that building out of my office. It's not more than five blocks away, and I see it every day. I know I'm going to relive part of this for months. Families are, the community is. So – but we've got to start that process. We can't – we can't let this guy win. We have to start healing, and we have to start creating a better Aurora today.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Governor, you talked about the response plan that was put in place that probably saved many lives. As the mayor said earlier, it's a miracle the killing here wasn't even worse.

HICKENLOOPER: Well, it's amazing. I mean, the state is heart-broken, and I think the country is heart-broken, and yet you look at the response, the first responders and Chief Oates of Aurora police has talked about this, and when they got these people to hospital, they had police there within a couple of minutes, they had ambulances within three minutes, and they had 500, 600 doctors and nurses and medical personnel all coming into these hospitals, to seven different hospitals. Between that and the heroism of people that really did stand in front of lie on top of others to protect and save them, it, you know, I don't even know how to express it, except to say that it was – for all the despair and anguish, there are these shining lights of caring people helping. One of the guys actually was talking about how when he was a kid, his mother always said, you know, whenever you see a disaster on TV, look for the caring people, and there always are so many caring people that are trying to give comfort. In a way, that kind of helps lift spirits.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Governor, I know you and members of your cabinet spent a lot of time at area hospitals yesterday, meeting with the injured and the families of the victims.

HICKENLOOPER: Well, we had our cabinet we sent out on Friday morning, so that at every hospital, we had to call those – act as ombudsmen, answer questions. So many people in that situation, loved ones end up in different hospitals, they don't know the condition of their boyfriend or girlfriend or their spouse or their child, so a cabinet member, so yes, sort of like the secretary of human services, you know, seeing that people were there, and they knew the right channel so they could get that information in real time back to people, which – the mayor and I went around yesterday and visited a number of families and victims, and I heard a number of times how grateful people were for that support.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Mayor, what kind of stories are you hearing from those who were injured and the other victims?

HOGAN: Well, certainly concern about their family. We saw some people yesterday who are still terribly injured and may not make it. Everybody's concerned about their family, but as the governor said, they understand the community cares. Our victim services people are getting out into the various hospitals, were contacting not only those who are still in the hospital, but those who are injured and are not hospitalized. It's just an impossible situation to understand, and we're still trying to – we are still trying to deal with all of it. You see people who were hurt very badly at 2:00 in the morning and are sitting up in their bed talking. You see other people who just simply aren't moving and are still facing serious, serious surgery. So it's just a terrible situation.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It certainly is, but as you can imagine, Governor, the debate over whether this could have been prevented has already began. You probably heard the comments of Mayor Bloomberg of New York, who made headlines on Friday with his calls for tougher gun laws. Other people, several in your state, saying that perhaps if someone else in that theater had a gun, the killer could have been stopped. Does it make you think at this point that you need to take another look at Colorado's gun laws?

HICKENLOOPER: You know, I'm sure that that is going to happen, but I look at this, this wasn't a Colorado problem, this is a human problem, right? And how we can have such a warped individual and no one around him be aware? You know, I worry that if we got rid all of the guns -- and certainly we have so many guns in this country, we do have a lot more than gun violence than many other countries -- but even if you didn't have access to guns, this guy was diabolical. Right? He would have found explosives, he would have found something else, some sort of poisonous gas, he would have done something to create this horror.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Right. And Mayor, to pick up on a point the governor just made right there, no one in the community seems to have had any, any inkling at all that there was something terribly wrong with this young man?

HOGAN: Absolutely not. He appeared to everyone to be very normal, an intelligent guy. He was a student, came here a couple of years ago from California. He was taking classes at the University of Colorado Medical Center. He just, by every standard, appeared normal. Clearly there's something wrong here.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Did he have friends?

HOGAN: There was something wrong with this individual.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Did he make connections? Had he put down any roots in the community?

HOGAN: He had friends. He had made connections. He had people he went drinking with on Friday nights. And all the comments to date are normal guy. Just something very seriously wrong here.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Boy, it's just so hard to wrap your mind around what could make someone like that snap, Governor?

HICKENLOOPER: It's inconceivable. But I think, I think ultimately, I mean, we'll get the experts and they'll -- I mean, he's alive. We're going to study the -- try to figure out what went wrong, but in the meantime -- and I think Mayor Hogan and his team have incredible at this -- the key is to bring out the natural resilience in the people not just of Aurora but of Colorado and the country. You know, part of what he as a terrorist was trying to do is make people scared of even going to the movies, right? You know, a number of -- my chief of staff, her daughter is in her early 20s, and she took a whole gang of kids last night to go see Batman, just as a political statement that they weren't going to give in to this. And I think that is part of what we have to do as a country is come together and lift up the victims and their families, but at the same time say, you know, this country is defined by freedom and the pursuit of happiness, and we're not going to let this guy ruin our lives.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And finally, Mayor Hogan, what do you hope to hear from President Obama today, and how do you want your town to respond?

HOGAN: Well, I think the president coming in is a wonderful gesture. He's coming in, really, to have private conversations with the families. I think that's totally appropriate. You know, as the governor's indicated before, he certainly could have come to the vigil, but that would have made the focus on the president, not on the community, and he was well aware of that.

I'm not so sure it's message to the community other than him coming here. It's more a message to the families and to the victims, and I think that's totally appropriate. I thank him for doing so. I wish he -- that were not part of what he had to do this day, but it certainly means a lot to Aurora to know that the president cares.

I talked with him on Friday. Personal conversation. Told him I deeply appreciated that phone call. We have had numerous other contacts literally from around the world. We know people care. We know in this time of instantaneous communication that people know what's going on. And there are still feelings for all of us as part of humankind.

And the city will go on. We'll get better. We're -- we're a great place. But, we need a little bit of time to grieve, and then start to heal, and it's just good to know that others care.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Gentlemen, we are grieving with you. Our condolences to you, your families, everyone in your communities. Thanks for joining us this morning.

HICKENLOOPER: OK.

HOGAN: Thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And for more on how law enforcement officials across the country are responding in the wake of this shooting, we're joined by Charles Ramsey, commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department.

Thank you for joining us, Commissioner. You had the first largest police department in the country right now. What kind of measures did you put in place after this shooting?

RAMSEY: Well, we certainly have special attention being paid to movie theaters and other locations where large numbers of people gather. But the issue for me, is that I can't put a cop in every movie theater from now on, or a shopping mall, or on a college campus or in a high school. And these are all locations where we've had mass shootings in the past, so we've got to find a solution beyond that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Have you seen any incidents at all?

RAMSEY: No, we haven't seen anything - fortunately we haven't. And incidents like this fortunately don't occur every day. But what does happen every day is gun violence on the streets of our cities across the country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So what do you think the solution should be, or at least the beginning of addressing and coming up with a solution?

RAMSEY: Well, you know, for me the question has been, you know, what will change as far as any gun control legislation in the wake of Aurora, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Ft. Hood -- I mean, the list goes on and on. And unfortunately, in my opinion, the answer is absolutely nothing. There will be a lot of talk, there will be a lot of discussion, there will be some debate. But this will fade into the background, like all those other instances that have occurred, unfortunately, and people will just go on and continue to be able to get their hands on guns and continue to inappropriately use those guns to commit violent acts on the streets of our cities.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Commissioner, how do you respond to those who have come out in the wake of this and said, boy, if someone else in that theater had a gun, the killer might have been stopped?

RAMSEY: Well, listen, the debate goes beyond just this one incident, but this guy had body armor from head to toe. You had tear gas in there, and unfortunately, many states, and I don't know about Colorado, but many states that authorize concealed carry have no provisions at all for people to receive training, marksmanship, proper handling of firearms, or whatever. So now you got two people randomly shooting in a movie theater. I don't know how that helps.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The other thing that -- coming out of this, is I was talking to Pierre Thomas about this earlier, background checks didn't turn up anything on James Holmes. He had a pretty clean record.

RAMSEY: And listen, gun control isn't going to totally stop this sort of thing from happening. But what I deal with is the day-to-day violence that takes place on the streets of Philadelphia. We had a person shot and killed in broad daylight yesterday. Overnight, we had another homicide as the result of gun violence. We had a party in North Philadelphia, where five people were shot; fortunately none killed.

This is a daily occurrence for me. And chiefs across the country. So this is not just one incident where people are able to get their hands on firearms, although I have an issue with people being able to buy ammunition and weapons on the Internet, for an example. I don't know why people need to have assault weapons. There needs to be reasonable gun control put in place. And we talk about this constantly, and absolutely nothing happens, because many of our legislators, unfortunately, at the federal level, lack the courage to do anything.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Last question, what precisely would you do if you were king?

RAMSEY: I would put in place some reasonable gun control laws. I don't think you ban all guns. That's not the solution. Most people are reasonable and legitimate gun owners. But why not have registration, why not have mandatory recording of any sale or transfer of a firearm that's done privately? Why not ban assault weapons and large capacity magazines? I mean, we don't need this stuff. And you have got to have serious consequences for people who commit crime using a handgun, and I mean very, very, stiff prison sentences.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Commissioner Ramsey, thanks for your time this morning.

RAMSEY: Thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we're joined once again by our senior justice correspondent, Pierre Thomas, ABC News legal analyst Dan Abrams, our chief medical editor, Dr. Richard Besser. I want to talk to all of you about the various facets of this case, beginning with you, Pierre. You heard from the commissioner right there, no incident in Philadelphia last night. Is that what we're hearing from law enforcement across the country?

THOMAS: So far, they're hearing that people are going to the movie, they're having a good time, no incidents. They were concerned Friday about copy-cats. But as this goes forward, there will be less concern.

The thing that struck me about all of this is that, we'll be having this conversation about another incident like this, probably -- it may take days, it may take months, but you have a situation in this country where there are so many weapons and obviously disturbed people.

Virginia Tech, 2007, mass shooting. Dozens killed. Ft. Hood, Texas, 2009, another mass shooting. Tucson, just last year.

STEPHANOPOULOS: All those shootings -- at the same time, you know, you also cover the homeland security, you cover the counterterrorism beat. Let's say at the start, no connection here, this is a person acting alone from everything we know. No connection to terrorism.

My question, though, is, as you have been reporting, Homeland Security officials are most concerned about a lone wolf like this perhaps going into a movie theater with a suicide bomb, a train station with a suicide bomb. How do they explain why that hasn't happened more?

THOMAS: Well, they're concerned about it. But what we see more and more are these disturbed people. The concern is that someone who might be associated with Al Qaida, influenced by Al Qaida, terrorist organizations might do something like this. But they are perplexed as to why groups like that haven't tried this, because it clearly would be effective. So they are scratching their head over there, they don't know why it hasn't happened.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, Pierre, let's go ahead to Dan right now. We know that Mr. Holmes is going to appear in court tomorrow for the first time. And he almost certainly is going to be facing a death penalty case.

ABRAMS: Absolutely. Remember, we're talking about 12 people dead, many more attempted murder charges as well. He'll have no chance at bail. Not just because of the crimes themselves but also because he remains a danger to society, based on the booby trapping.

Interestingly, on Tuesday, his attorney is going to get access to the movie theater. That's pretty unusual, that before the theater gets its back its own property, the defense team is going to get an opportunity--

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, why is that happening?

ABRAMS: I think they're trying to bend over backwards, to do everything by the book. Because I think they know that they have such a strong case against him already, that they figure, we'd rather err on the side of doing everything we can to make this clear that we're giving him any and all rights that he's entitled to.

STEPHANOPOULOS: This is clearly a disturbed person. The whole question of whether or not he has an insanity defense is going to be raised. But you say first, they have to hear whether he can even stand trial?

ABRAMS: That's right. Two separate questions. Right? Everyone is talking about, is he going to plead insanity? That's a question that comes a little bit later down the road. The first question is going to be, is he competent to stand trial? And that's a really low standard. I mean, he has to literally not be able to understand the proceedings to be incompetent to stand trial. He has to be able to communicate with his lawyer.

The real basics here, there have been cases were courts have determined that someone simply does not understand what's happening around them. Very unusual. I think that most people would say that would be very unexpected, but that's going to be question one in the legal proceedings.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And he seems to be pretty clear-headed from what we've learned in the moments after the shooting. But talk a little bit about an insanity defense. We don't know whether he's going to claim it right now, but what would that take?

ABRAMS: And I think a lot of people talk about the insanity defense as if people win in the insanity defense all the time. They almost always lose. He'd have to literally show he didn't understand right from wrong. Despite the fact that that's hard, as hard as it is, juries are very reluctant to accept that. They almost never accept the notion that someone who did this, with this much premeditation, with this much care, with this much malice, simply didn't understand what he was doing wasn't wrong. And that's why that sort of defense as a legal matter so difficult to win.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, let's bring in Rich Besser on this, as well. He is going to be examined by doctors presumably at some point. What would exactly they be looking for?

BESSER: I mean, clearly this is a disturbed individual. You don't do this if you are not disturbed. But you can't jump to a conclusion as to what his psychiatric diagnosis might be. You know, was he hearing voices? Was something--

STEPHANOPOULOS: That would be schizophrenia?

BESSER: Exactly. But we haven't heard anything so far that he was incoherent, that he couldn't talk to people, that he was what people would take to mean crazy. When they look back at people who do school shootings, the vast majority, almost 80 percent of people who do those kind of shootings, had inwardly -- inwardly directed anger and self-loathing that got turned outward. Very rare in depression, but most of those people were depressed. They weren't what you would call crazy.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And one of the first things you often hear about shooters like this, oh, they're loners, they kept to themselves, they had no connection to the community. You heard the mayor right there, we're going to learn a lot more in coming days, but he said this is a guy who had friends, he went out drinking, he put down roots.

BESSER: Often, their inward perception of what their life is like is not what other people are seeing. And so they're going to talk to his family, his friends, and get a picture of him. But for people to be making a diagnosis now that he was schizophrenic or something is absolutely premature. You don't want to go there.

ABRAMS: And even if he was schizophrenic, as a legal matter, that does not mean he is not guilty by reason of insanity. He could still be schizophrenic, and yet not determined by the law to be insane.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Rich, you also spent a lot of time at the Center for Disease Control in your time there, helping -- looking at traumas like this and helping communities cope. What's most important in Colorado right now?

BESSER: I think what's important is to realize that you don't have to have been in Colorado to have been traumatized by this. People across America have been traumatized. And you need to look at your friends, your family and yourself and see what impact. In particular, children can actually develop posttraumatic stress disorder from repeatedly seeing this. And so you need to pay attention to that, focus on people who can't go about their day to day activities, having trouble sleeping, having trouble eating. And make sure that they're talking about this and getting appropriate care. The closer you are to the event, the more likely that will occur, so Colorado is ground zero.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Rich, Dan, Pierre, thanks very much.

Much more on this when we come back. Our roundtable tackles the big questions all of us are asking.

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OBAMA: Our time here is limited, and it is precious. And, what matters at the end of the day is not the small things, it's not the trivial things, which so often consume us in our daily lives. Ultimately it's how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another.

ROMNEY: This is a time for each of us to look into our hearts and remember how much we love one another and how much we love and how much we care for our great country. There is so much love and goodness the heart of America.

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STEPHANOPOULOS: Campaign suspended for at least a couple of days. We're back now with our roundtable. Joined by George Will as always; Jennifer Rubin of the WashingtonPost.com, also CNBC's Kudlow Report; Jim Klein of Time magazine; former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, also the other of a Nation of Wusses; and Cookie Roberts, our own Cookie Roberts.

And boy George, as I said at the top, these rituals have become all too familiar. But I think the Wall Street Journal may have posed the question going forward best. How does a free society protect its from a twisted mind?

GEORGE WILL, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: Well, first recognizing that that is what the problem, is an individual's twisted mind. There's a normal human instinct, it's almost what makes us human, to try and explain things like this. And in the modern age, in the age of science and the social sciences, we try to explain these outcroppings of evil in terms of some defect in the social system, some prompting from society, which once isolated could be corrected. We wouldn't have these things anymore.

What makes these things scary: Columbine, Virginia Tech and this, is precisely the fact that there is no social motive whatever, discernible. The great killers of the 20th Century: Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao told us at nauseating length and in excruciating detail exactly why they were doing it. They had theories. The Unabomber had a theory. He wrote it out, that's how he got caught. Even the Oklahoma City bombers, they had a political motive of some sort.

The beginning of wisdom about this is to understand the randomness of it.

COOKIE ROBERTS, ABC NEWS: But, you know, at the same time that is true, there are some things, it seems to me, that you could -- there are warning signals. One is buying thousands of rounds of ammunition in a short period of time. And you know, on the internet -- the internet knows what size dress I wear, you know. I mean, everything is gathered, all of that information is available.

And at some point, when somebody is buying thousands of rounds of ammunition and 100 magazines -- 100 round magazine. I went on the internet yesterday to see about that, by the way, and it costs nothing. You can get it easily. And that should be some signal that the law enforcement authorities are told about.

JENNIFER RUBIN, WASHINGTON POST: I think that's certainly right.

But I wouldn't make the mistake that we can construct the perfect set of gun rules in order to prevent this from happening.

The Washington Post had a visual display of ten worst gun crimes in recent history, five of those were handguns, they weren't using these rifles. They weren't using these so-called assault rifles.

There are very disturbed people out there. And I think the leap to make this into a gun issue rather than a mental health issue, has a limited payoff. I think we saw with the assault gun ban that these instances didn't increase or decrease. Over the last few decades we have had a decrease in crime. But I think we have a mental health epidemic. And we have...

JOE KLEIN, TIME MAGAZINE: You got to do everything. I mean, you know, we really -- there's no reason -- the founding fathers didn't think that the right to bear arms included bazookas, assault weapons and all the rest. I think that there are reasonable limits to every last right we have. And I don't think that the right -- I think it's responsible to say that the right to bear arms does not include assault weapons.

Daniel Patrick Moynahan used to say that if we had the right to bear arms, we also had the right to tax bullets. And, you know, maybe we should go that way. Maybe it should cost you $1,000 a bullet if you want to buy ammunition through...

ED RENDELL, FRM. PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR: George, they're both right. Reasonable gun control laws aren't going to eliminate problems like this from happening, but they're going to reduce their frequency. No one in America should be able to have, no citizen, should be able to have an assault rifle, an automatic assault weapon. No citizen should be able to have a clip that has more than 10 bullets in it. Had the congress not, in an incredible act of cowardice, let the assault weapons ban s expire, the gun would have been illegal that he bought. And he bought it at a Gadner Mountain. They couldn't have sold it. And he wouldn't have had that 100 round magazine, 100 rounds.

George I take it this is precisely the debate you're trying to resist.

WILL: Well, there isn't a human itch in the modern age to commit sociology as soon as this happens and to piggyback various political agendas on a tragedy. I just think we ought to resist that.

Before locating this in some defect, for example, of America society, deal with Norway. That was where a young man on an island, killed 67 teenagers, that was not counting the eight he killed with a bomb in downtown Oslo. There are deranged people in the world.

(CROSSTALK)

RENDELL: That happened in Norway, but that happened in Norway once. It happens in America three times a year.

KLEIN: It never used to happen in Norway anymore. And there's another side to this, and it is the incredible pornographic violence that has crept into our culture in terms of the entertainment business. And that has now gone global. A movie like "Batman" is a global movie, which is why you're beginning to see -- you know people get these sort of -- weird ideas.

But you can't legislate entertainment, you can legislate guns.

RUBIN: Well, we have a constitutional right to bear arms as well. But I think it's a mistake even to look at this as purely a cultural phenomenon. When we had the Gabby Giffords terrible massacre, I spoke with Stephen Marder (ph) who is a renowned expert on schizophrenia. And there is a cross cultural phenomenon. There are just as many schizophrenics and twisted minds in Sweden and in Africa as we have here. What we don't have in this country is a system of recognizing, of reporting, of treating mental illness in an appropriate fashion.

ROBERTS: That's all completely true. And mental illness is a terrible problem in this country. And basically the way we treat it is to put people in jail. So it is -- that I couldn't agree with you more.

But it is also true that you can't do the kind of damage with mental illness that this person did or allegedly did unless you have an assault weapon.

RUBIN: That's not true. In Virginia Tech, he had two handguns. And he killed 32 people.

RENDELL: But they were automatic handguns. You don't know the difference. Do you understand in the old days, a revolver had six shots. You had to reload the six shots. Automatic and semi-automatic weapons -- this guy, police estimate, 50 to 60 rounds in a minute. No one should have that type of killing machine.

Come on, America. George is right. We shouldn't be having these discussions the day after, we should have had them two weeks before.

ROBERTS: Well, and it's also true that tragedies often are the scourge of public policy actions. The voting rights bill of 1965 came after...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Except in this case that doesn't seem to be true. And I want to bring this question to George -- I mean, to Joe Klein. First, let me put up this poll we had, this Gallup Poll showing what's happened to support for gun laws over the last two decades or so.

You see they have gone basically steadily down should gun laws be more strict, it's the dark green line right there, Joe. How do you explain that even though we have had all of those mass killings that Pierre Thomas talked about earlier.

KLEIN: I think it's in part because politicians stopped talking about this. In 1994, the Democrats lost the House. The mythology that evolved from that was that the National Rifle Association picked various congressional districts and defeated Democrats who supported gun control. I don't know if that's entirely true, but Democrats have checked out of this debate ever since, including the president of the United States. And so there hasn't been a debate about gun control since then.

ROBERTS: The truth is on assault weapons ban, it was Republican women that got that through congress. The Republican men voted for assault weapons -- 23 percent of Republican men voted for it. 67 percent of Republican women voted for it. And of course it was a one vote victory.

RENDELL: George, that poll is a little askewed. Right after Gabby Giffords, the poll on limiting magazines to ten bullets in a clip, 71 percent approval including majority...

(CROSSTALK)

RENDELL: And let me also say, what Joe said is correct. The NRA, part of it this is myth. But I ran in Pennsylvania, the second largest NRA state in membership in the country. I ran statewide three times. The NRA opposed me vigorously all three times. I won by 10 percent, 12 percent, and 21 percent.

RUBIN: Also, if people want to complain about the NRA, the smart thing for them to do is to organize, you know, get their own lobbying group that has same kind of clout.

WILL: You know, (inaudible) Aurora, Colorado, if very intelligent and farsighted and meticulous. I defy you to write a gun control law that would prevent someone like this with a long time horizon and great planning capability from getting the arms he wants. I just think this is a mistake.

A moment ago Joe made a statement, he gave us an theory, it's an empirical theory for which there is or is not evidence, which is that the globalization and coarsening of entertainment will cause or is causing -- I don't know what your point was -- things like this to happen more and more. These are testable hypothesis. Let's test them.

KLEIN: I think it's undoubtedly true that we're seeing more frequent incidents like this in this country. It's all part of a zeitgeist. I mean, you know, we're on a national sugar rush in this country. The internet is part of it. You know the entertainment industry is part of it. The irresponsibility about gun laws is part of it. I mean, it's all together.

RUBIN: Listen, we can make all of the declarative statements we want. There is no shortage of empirical data in criminology. In fact, it's one of the most researched areas of social science. When we had the gun law, the assault ban weapon, there wasn't a decrease, when we let it expire, there wasn't an increase.

We have had a gradual decline over the last 40 years in gun violence and all kinds of violence, in part, because of better policing, in part, because incarceration. So I think some of these statements that there are -- we're having more of these incidents, they simply are not true.

And I think, yes, we should look...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: But when we have them, they're more deadly, aren't they?

KLEIN: Somehow I don't remember these happening every month when I was a kid.

RUBIN: They are not happening every month.

KLEIN: They are happening every couple of months.

RENDELL: We're having more of them. And they are more violent. And they're more violent because we arm these people with weapons that are meant for combat only, combat only.

WILL: Let me just note how comforting this argument is, because we're all going to sit around and agree that if we got to together and had legislative majorities and passed particular laws that clever people will pass, this won't happen anymore.

(CROSSTALK)

RENDELL: That won't happen, George, we said it is going to happen with less frequency.

ROBERTS: And with less deadliness.

RUBIN: But we don't know that. Listen, this guy's apartment was booby-trapped. This person's apartment was booby-trapped to the hilt. Do we really think that he couldn't have constructed some type of weapon of some type of grenade that would have blown us up?

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: Why didn't they go to the authorities?

RUBIN: Well, that's a very good question. And I think a lack of connectivity and the lack of neighborliness, and the reticence to intervene when someone is behaving oddly and strangely is a societal problem...

(CROSSTALK)

KLEIN: I'm just shocked to hear a conservative like George Will making an all or nothing argument on this issue. People died from getting the polio vaccine, that doesn't mean that we should do away with it. If this can limit the number of gun incidents -- if some laws can limit the number of gun incidents, then we should have them.

WILL: No, conservative has, I think, a tragic view of life, which is that however clever the experts are going to assemble, and we heard a call earlier in the show for bringing in the experts, and how ever meticulously you draft whatever statute you wind up passing, the world is going to remain a broken place and things like this are going to happen.

(CROSSTALK)

RENDELL: Of course they are. But we can limit the frequency and limit the impact of them. He bought these guns, George, at Gander Mountain and Bass Pro. He didn't get them in the streets somewhere. This middle-class kid went to Gander Mountain and Bass Pro.

ROBERTS: And by the way, an AR-15 is $2,000, I've now learned, and somebody...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's also move on to the question about this young man as well. Generally, these are done by men, usually young, although, not always, who -- I think one of the most confounding things I heard from the mayor of Aurora is, he wasn't the typical the loner you would expect.

This was a guy having a life yet still having this completely secret world.

ROBERTS: Well, we don't know about him. And I thought Rich Besser was very smart in telling us not to jump to conclusions about him. Clearly, whether he meets the legal definition of insane or not, he's crazy.

And, I mean, somebody doesn't do this without being crazy. But why? And what set him off? And why Batman? And was he Joker? And all of that. I mean, those conversations will go on and they won't enlighten us.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, George, one of the other questions I have, though, and, you know, we deal with this all -- you know, we're doing it today, we're doing the whole show basically on this subject, does that somehow create the opportunity for people to say, there's a payoff here?

WILL: Well, obviously, if the payoff is to get on television, if the payoff is to get notoriety and publicity, sure. But that's no reason for not talking about these things.

But, again, George that is an empirical questions. There are ways of testing these hypotheses. Do we have copy-cat killers as a result of this? What are the motives? Why did Lee Harvey Oswald do it?

John Wilkes Booth told us. He jumped on the stage and said "sic semper tyrannus," he thought he was killing a tyrant. These are not -- most of these events are not mysteries.

RUBIN: You're right, George. These tend to happen with single men of a certain age, that is also the age at which certain mental illness begins to manifest itself, whether it's schizophrenia, whether it may be depression, it's aggravated in many instances by drugs or alcohol.

And I think it's aggravated in a societal sense because we live in atomized societies. This person lived alone. Now if he had had a roommate -- we don't think he had a roommate, I am sure he would have, you know, seen something that was a bit odd. His family didn't live in the same city as he did.

So all of these factors, I think, contribute. But they are -- as George said, you can study them, you can analyze them. We have a history. And it is simply not the case that we have had an increase in gun violence or crime. That's just factually wrong.

KLEIN: George is absolutely right when he says that we can't prevent these. But, there are certain restraints we can put on the ability of these crazy people to buy guns, to buy certain kinds of ammunition, and to buy other equipment as well.

ROBERTS: And then to report it. I mean, to me that is really the failure here. And that's where the public policy is pretty easy, it seems, to me, to be able to report somebody buying thousands and thousands of rounds in a short period of time.

KLEIN: Yes, this is no-brainer.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, we have take a quick break. Everybody, stand by. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Back now with more from our "Roundtable." I want to talk a little bit about the political impact here. We saw both campaigns suspend over the weekend.

But to begin, let me show a bit of what President Obama said a year ago -- a little over a year ago, at the memorial service for the victims of the Gabby Giffords shooting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At a time where our discourse has become so sharply polarized, it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we're talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: George Will, some said that was one of the best speeches of President Obama's presidency. He was calling for more civility in our public discourse. Others would say, boy, it didn't last long.

WILL: It didn't last long. No, I mean, on the run-up to Aurora that interrupted the campaign, we had seen an outpouring of negative ads, the sort that I don't remember. I mean, negative ads, they're run because they work, we all understand that. There's nothing inherently wrong with them.

But this year, it is a particularly brutal bombardment we're getting. And if anyone thinks that a month now we're not going to be back at it...

STEPHANOPOULOS: So nothing changes?

ROBERTS: I think nothing changes. And, you know, everybody calls for civility, and in theory, everybody wants it. And I think the voters do. But they're afraid it doesn't work and the other guy is going to be uncivil so they had better be uncivil. And, boy, are they.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Joe, you're talking about a lot of different reasons going into any tragedy, one of the things the president talked about a year ago was maybe our polarized political environment is also, you know, just creating a lot of anxiety out in the country, a lot of anger that may spark people.

KLEIN: I don't know, I think that when you go into the country, as I do, the vast majority of people are neither right nor left, they're somewhere in the middle. And when you look at the polling on most issues, there's a 60 to 70 percent majority in favor of a lot of, you know, sane policies, like gun control, like raising revenues and reducing budget deficits, like doing auto bailouts...

(CROSSTALK)

RUBIN: ... the America that chose it, because I think we don't. I think we're a polarized electorate, we see that in the surveys where maybe 47-47, and the rest in the middle sloshing around.

And this election, the reason I think why these negative -- very petty ads, I think it's not only that they're negative, it's that they're petty, why these have not worked is that the 47 and 47 are not going to change their mind. And the rest of people are having a life. They are out there in America. They have a summer vacation. They have kids. They have families. And they will get to the election when they get to it.

(CROSSTALK)

RENDELL: That may true, except the polls also show a great desire in the American people for us to do things, for us to accomplish things, for us to move on away from this polarization, way in the 60s.

KLEIN: Absolutely...

ROBERTS: Well, and the truth is, it's not just that people are uncivil. The governor makes a very good point, is that they're not getting anything done. And that is -- that gets very frustrating. What are we paying them for?

WILL: Say what you will about or against our political parties, they are magnificent market research mechanisms. They respond to every tremor of human desire and appetite. And let me tell you, if you don't like our parties, you don't like our country, because what they are doing is giving the people what they think, and they're not fools, what they think the country will respond to.

KLEIN: Well, that's one theory. There's another theory that perhaps the political parties are responding to their money givers more than they are to the general public. We have --

(CROSSTALK)

KLEIN: We had a poll in "Time" magazine. We asked people would you rather have a congressperson who compromises to get things done or sticks by his or her principles? Eighty-nine percent said that they would --

(CROSSTALK)

RUBIN: But they don't vote that way. When their politician doesn't do what they --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- because they've been gerrymandered into the (inaudible).

RENDELL: One of the big problems now -- George Will said it correctly -- he said we poll and we do this, we don't lead anymore. We don't lead. Our leaders don't get out there and stake out the moral high ground and say, America, we're better than this. We should do X, Y and Z. And if you don't like it, you can vote against me at the next election. But that's what I believe.

ROBERTS: And people claim -- people claim that they're desperate for leadership and that they want leaders.

RENDELL: Absolutely.

ROBERTS: Now whether they mean it or not, they'll punish somebody for leading, is another question. But they claim that they want that.

WILL: I'm going to lapse out of character and into cheerfulness for a moment.

(LAUGHTER)

WILL: I think until this campaign was interrupted, it had, beginning with the president's speech in Roanoke on July 13th, which galvanized Mitt Romney, we have two leaders. And we know where they want to (inaudible)

(CROSSTALK)

WILL: The speech was that if you build it, you didn't really build it. That kind of statement of the progressive vision, that, in fact, we're all social creatures in society. We're all involved in asserting propositions that no one denies. But it detonated Mitt Romney, who came out and suddenly -- you know, the greatest columnist America ever produced was Murray Kempton (ph).

He once said, the difference, the similarity between professional wrestling and American politics is the absence of honest passion. We had honest passion on the part of the president and on the part of Mitt Romney.

RUBIN: And we're always asking -- well, people are always asking for a campaign about first principles. We finally found them. We finally found a conflict of visions. Paul Ryan has been writing about it.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERTS: -- the basic argument about the role of government.

RUBIN: Right, how big should government be? How much of government -- how much resources should be devoted to government? How much we celebrate and protect individual accomplishment and merit? This is what a campaign should be about.

I hope we get back to it.

ROBERTS: The only problem is, that, of course, is that also becomes fraught -- because people think of government as evil. And then when they actually are asked (inaudible) --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Except when you spell out what government does.

ROBERTS: Exactly. And when you get to specific programs, they want them.

So, you know, you have to be very careful when you talk about just government as government.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Joe, 15 seconds left, any hope for a debate about first principles that makes a difference?

KLEIN: I thought so, watching the Republican primaries during the year. I don't know at this point whether we can. It would be really a wonderful thing to have.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. Well, thank you all very much. Illuminating discussion, very good discussion, on a difficult day, a difficult weekend. We're going to be right back to remember the victims of Friday's tragedy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: In memoriam today, we remember the lives cut short in Colorado.

Petty Officer 3rd Class John Larimer of the U.S. Navy, described by his commanding officer as an outstanding shipmate.

Alex Sullivan, who was celebrating his 27th birthday.

Rebecca Ann Wingo, a mother of two.

Two men who died trying to shield their girlfriends, Matthew McQuinn and Alexander Teves.

Navy veteran and father, Jonathan Blunk.

Aspiring sportscaster Jessica Ghawi, who just last month narrowly escaped another shooting in Toronto.

Micayla Medek, known to her friends as Cayla (ph), she described herself online as a simple, independent girl.

Gordon w. Cowden, a father who had taken his two teenagers to the movie.

Alexander Boik, preparing to start college in the fall.

Air Force Reserve Staff Sgt. Jesse Childress.

And the youngest victim, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, just 6 years old.

And now we honor our fellow Americans who serve and sacrifice.

This week the Pentagon released the names of nine soldiers and Marines killed in Afghanistan.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us.

David Muir will be anchoring from Aurora on "WORLD NEWS" tonight and I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA."

END

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