CBS' Norah O'Donnell: “The AR-15 has been used in six of the deadliest mass shootings in this country”

Former Homeland Security adviser Fran Townsend: School shootings “ought to be at the top of the list of homeland security threats”

From the February 15 edition of CBS This Morning

Video file

JOHN DICKERSON (CO-HOST): Welcome, Fran. What are investigators trying to find out from the shooter?

FRAN TOWNSEND (CBS NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST): Well, they want to understand both his mental history -- we know that there was this report from a video blogger on YouTube back in September identifying Cruz to the FBI. Difficult -- when I say identifying, he identified the comment. He was interviewed. The video blogger asked if he knew him. He said, no, he didn't know him. This was reported to YouTube and they took it down but it points to a host of issues, John. So, for one, when we think of homeland security, we think of terrorism issues, we think of natural disasters. We don't think of school shootings. And, you know, right now when you think of this, we’ve had -- this is the 18th school shooting this year. Last year this time we had seven.

GAYLE KING (CO-HOST): Should we rethink homeland security? Because it sure feels like terrorism to me. It hurts as badly, it's just as terrible. Do we need to rethink what homeland security really means?

TOWNSEND: I think that's exactly right, Gayle. Imagine for a moment, if the shooter had been a Muslim.

KING: It would be a different conversation. 

TOWNSEND: We’d be having a different -- that's exactly right. And how wrong does that feel, right? And so, we -- this ought to be at the top of the list of homeland security threats because we have an obligation to protect our children. And we need to deal -- even though it's a difficult political issue, it's time for people to put that aside and really say we're going to deal with it.

NORAH O'DONNELL (CO-HOST): I'm also interested in the assault rifle that he used, an AR-15, which can cost about $2,000, that's a lot for a 19 year old working at a dollar store. But also the AR-15 has been used in six of the deadliest mass shootings in this country. Aurora. Newtown. San Bernardino. Las Vegas. The Pulse shooting in Orlando. Sutherland Springs. Do we need to have some changes at the ATF and others about who can buy this type of weapon?

TOWNSEND: Look, Norah. You know better than anybody, there has been these debates in Washington about putting these restrictions. The NRA says that's a slippery slope, you begin down that path. People ought to remember that this was, the AR, the assault rifle was really intended for military use, right  I think of that from my time in government as being a weapon used by the U.S. military overseas. We understand that law enforcement, people in uniform have an absolute need for it. But this is a debate -- look, we had an assault weapons ban, it expired. And the politicians in Washington don't seem to be willing to continue to have that debate.


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