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Asa Hutchison, NRA's Wayne LaPierre, David Keene Give Press Conference; NRA Recommends Armed Guards at all Schools; President Speaks at Daniel Inouye's Funeral.

Aired December 21, 2012 - 11:30   ET



FMR. REP. ASA HUTCHISON (R), ARKANSAS: Armed, trained, qualified school security personnel will be one element of that plan, but by no means the only element.

If a school decides for whatever reason that it doesn't want or need armed security personnel, that, of course, is a decision to be made by the parents and the local school board at the local level.

The second point I want to make is that this will be a program that does not depend upon massive funding from local authorities or the federal government. Instead, it will make use of local volunteers serving in their own communities.

In my home state of Arkansas, my son was a volunteer with a local group called Watch Dog Dads, who volunteer their time at schools to patrol play grounds and provide a measure of added security. President Clinton initiated a program called Cops in School, but the federal response is not sufficient for today's task.

Whether they're retired police, retired military, or rescue personnel, I think there are people in every community in this country who would be happy to serve if only someone asked them and gave them the training and certifications to do so.

The National Rifle Association is the natural, obvious choice to sponsor this program. Their gun safety, marksmanship and hunter education programs have set the standard for well over a century. Over the past 25 years, their Eddie Eagle Gun Safe Program has taught over 26 million kids that real guns aren't toys. And today, child gun accidents are at the lowest levels ever recorded.

School safety is a complex issue with no simple, single solution, but I believe trained, qualified, armed security is one key component among many that can provide the first line of difference as well as the last line of defense.

Again, I welcome the opportunity to serve this vital, potentially life-saving effort. Thank you very much.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do either of you feel like any -- KEENE: As I indicated at the outset, this is the beginning of a serious conversation. We won't be taking questions today. But Andrew Arulanandam, our public affairs officer, is here. We will be willing to talk to anybody beginning on Monday. A text of the speech by Wayne and Asa Hutchinson's remarks are available at

I want to thank all of you for being with us. And I look forward to talking to you and answering any of your questions next week.

Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: One question. One question, Mr. Keene.



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": All right, so there you have it. A lengthy statement from the National Rifle Association, the NRA, making the case for armed police officers in every single school in the United States, elementary school, middle school, junior high, high school.

Wayne LaPierre, the head of the National Rifle Association, saying there needs to be armed security this week after that horrible tragedy at the Newtown elementary school. He comes forward with this proposal, police officers, protective plan, in his words, for every single school in the United States.

Then you heard Asa Hutchinson, the former Republican Congressman, a former official of the Department of Homeland Security, saying that they are getting ready to gear up to help schools all across the United States get armed guards in every single school.

He didn't make a case for any significant gun control, as the president of the United States did the other day when he asked Joe Biden, the vice president, to come up with some ideas on how to strengthen the laws to deal with gun violence in the United States.

You did hear Wayne LaPierre make the case that there should be greater restrictions on violent video games, maybe some better mental health issues, but he didn't say anything about high-capacity ammunition clips, military assault-type weapons, or background checks.

We have all of our reporters standing by to get some reaction to what the NRA has just announced. Jessica Yellin is joining us from the White House. Dana Bash is up on Capitol Hill. Jeffrey Toobin is with us also. Tom Foreman is over there. And Don Lemon is with us as well.

Jessica, let me go to the White House first. What do you think the White House is going to say about the NRA's proposal, there should be armed police officers in every single school to try to prevent what happened in Newtown, Connecticut, last Friday morning?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, so far there is no response from the White House, but we can expect that this is not the kind of proposal that they are looking for from the NRA. The White House has made it clear they are open to talking about a lot of ideas, but they are looking, first, for some gun control measures and some cooperation on that front and some other mental health measures. You heard what Wayne LaPierre suggested was a database of all mentally ill people in the United States, and I can't see the president going for some sort of collection system of anybody who qualifies under who knows what definition for mental illness.

Back in -- I'd point out in 1989, there was a school shooting when the NRA, at that time, said that they would work with members of Congress to try to curb some gun laws and just take some of the more aggressive assault weapons off -- out of circulation. They ultimately did not come to terms, come to an agreement, but there was some effort to participate then. Clearly, there isn't now. And so it does not look like the NRA will be partnering with the vice president in his effort.

If I could add, Wolf, he pointed out that the president is not funding safe schools programs. What's happened here at the White House is they defunded programs that were not effective, but there is a $410 million for safe schools programs currently. And you know all budgets have been cut.

Also, he said that violent crimes in the U.S. are up. FBI statistics show that violent crimes in the U.S. fell for the fifth consecutive year last year. We have more data on that -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Jessica, stand by.

Tom Foreman is over at the NRA news conference that just concluded.

Just a statement, a statement from Wayne LaPierre and then separate statement from Asa Hutchinson, no questions, no follow-up questions. There will be questions they point out starting next week.

Tom, remind our viewers, the National Rifle Association, it has four million members. This is a very powerful lobbying organization, not only here in the nation's capital but in state capitals all over the country.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, and that actually may be a more important part of all of this. One of the things the NRA has often done is they have often talked about the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms. That's one of their big cornerstones. But another one is the Tenth Amendment, which is state's rights essentially. They say, in many cases, these are local issues. And you do have to bear in mind, no matter how much national sentiment there may be in the country about gun laws right now in reaction, a lot of that is driven by very, very strong reactions in largely Democratic areas.

State by state, the reaction is somewhat different, and the NRA, well aware of that. They put a lot of money and a lot of effort into governors' races, legislative races, state initiatives, and they have had a successful record for many years. They know that gives them a lot of power in the overall fight, Wolf. You have to know part of the message was also to all those state organizations out there to say the NRA is going to stand up and engage this fight. They have been what they would say is "polite and quiet" for a while, but now they are going to get right back in it, as they have for a long time, Wolf. And that state influence, all those Republican governors out there and all those legislatures, which Republicans control, can have a tremendous influence on this debate -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Tom, stand by for a moment.

Very, very busy here on this Friday just before Christmas. The NRA, the headline out of this statement from the -- Wayne LaPierre, the executive director of the NRA, the headline being that the NRA wants there to be armed police officers in the every single school in the United States. And they say they and their members are willing to help make sure that there are armed police guards in every single school. We're going to continue our coverage of this.

Also, the president, he's getting ready to speak at the funeral services for the late Senator from Hawaii, Daniel Inouye. We will have coverage of that.

Later this afternoon, the president will formally make the announcement of John Kerry as his next Secretary of State, succeeding Hillary Clinton. We expect that announcement from the Roosevelt Room at the White House around 1:30 p.m. Eastern. CNN, of course, will have live coverage of that as well.

Plus, the collapse -- near collapse, I should say, of the fiscal cliff negotiations. There are new developments on that front, as I say, as we watch this funeral service at the National Cathedral for Daniel Inouye continue. We'll have much more on all of this. A very busy Friday here in the nation's capital.

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: We're covering this National Rifle Association news conference that just wrapped up here in the nation's capital. I'm Wolf Blitzer. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

The NRA, instead of proposing new tougher restrictions on guns in the United States, they said the best way to deal with this tragedy, what happened a week ago, the mass killing at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, is to place armed police guards, armed police officers in every single school in the United States. That would deal with this crisis right now.

Dana Bash is our senior congressional correspondent up on Capitol Hill.

Dana, you know as well as anyone, this is a fierce debate over guns in the United States. And this debate is only going to intensify after what we saw last week, and now what the NRA is coming forward with. What is the likely reaction up on the Hill to what we heard from Wayne LaPierre?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm already getting reaction. I've been e-mailing with sources here, specifically about the fact that he called for Congress to act to fund this program that he's calling for to put armed police officers at schools. The initial reaction, first reaction I got -- probably no surprise -- were from Democrats in the Senate who run the Senate, saying it's very, very unlikely that something like this would have the votes to pass Congress. That's probably an understatement when it comes to Democrats.

You know, but the question is what's going to happen on the House side, if the Republicans on the House side -- I'm actually going to toss back to you, because I think we're hearing from the president.

BLITZER: All right, let me go, continue this conversation, but the president is about to speak at the memorial service, the funeral service for the late Senator from Hawaii, Daniel Inouye, who passed away this week.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This Tuesday was in many ways a day like any other. The sun rose, the sun set, the great work of our democracy carried on, but in a fundamental sense it was different. It was the first day in many of our lives, certainly my own, that the halls of the United States Congress were not graced by the presence of Daniel Ken Inouye.

Danny was elected to the U.S. Senate when I was 2 years old. He had been elected to Congress a couple years before I was born. He would remain my Senator until I left Hawaii for college.

Even though my mother and grandparents took great pride that they had voted for him, I confess that I wasn't paying much attention to the United States Senate at the age of 4 or 5 or 6. It wasn't until I was 11 years old that I recall even learning what a U.S. Senator was, or it registering at least. It was during my summer vacation with my family, my first trip to what those of us in Hawaii call the mainland. So we flew over the ocean, and with my mother and my grandmother and my sister, who, at the time, was 2, we traveled around the country. It was a big trip. We went to Seattle and we went to Disneyland, which was most important. We traveled to Kansas where my grandmother's family was from, and went to Chicago and went to Yellowstone. And we took Greyhound buses most of the time, and we rented cars. And we'd stay at local motels or Howard Johnsons. And if there was a pool at one of these motels, even if it was just tiny, I would be very excited. And the ice machine was exciting. And the vending machine, I was really excited about that.

But this is at a time when you didn't have 600 stations and 24 hours worth of cartoons, and so, at night, if the TV was on, it was what your parents decided to watch. And my mother that summer would turn on the TV every night during this vacation and watch the Watergate hearings. And I can't say that I understood everything that was being discussed, but I knew the issues were important. I knew they spoke to some basic way about who we were and who we might be as Americans.

And so slowly, during the course of this trip, which lasted about a month, some of this seeped in my head. And the person who fascinated me most was this man of Japanese descent, with one arm, speaking in this courtly baritone, full of dignity and grace. And maybe he captivated my attention because my mom explained that this was our Senator and that he was upholding what our government was all about. Maybe it was a boyhood fascination with the story of how he'd lost his arm in a war.

But I think it was more than that. Here I was a young boy with a white mom, a black father, raised in Indonesia and Hawaii, and I was beginning to sense how fitting into the world might not be as simple as it might seem. And so to see this man, this Senator, this powerful, accomplished person, who wasn't out of central casting when it came to what you think a Senator might look like at the time, and the way he commanded the respect of an entire nation, I think it hinted to me what might be possible in my own life.

This was a man who, as a teenager, stepped up to serve his country even after his fellow Japanese-Americans were declared enemy aliens, a man who believed in his country even when his government didn't necessarily believe in him. That meant something to me. It gave me a powerful sense, one that I couldn't put into words, a powerful sense of hope.

And as I watched those hearings, listening to Danny ask all those piercing questions night after night, I learned something else. I learned how our democracy was supposed to work. Our government, of and by and for the people. We had a system government where nobody is above the law. We have an obligation to hold each other accountable, from the average citizen to the most powerful of leaders, because these things that we stand for, these ideals that we hold dear are bigger than any one person or party or politician, and somehow nobody communicated that more effectively than Danny Inouye. You got a sense as Joe mentioned, of just fundamental integrity that he was a proud Democrat. But most importantly, he was a proud American.

And were it not for those two insights planted in my head at the age of 11, in between Disneyland and a trip to Yellowstone, I might never have considered a career in public service. I might not be standing here today.

I think it's fair to say that Danny Inouye was perhaps my earliest political inspiration, and then for me to have the privilege of serving with him, to be elected to the United States Senate, and arrived, and one of my first visits is to go to his office and for him to greet me as a colleague and treat me with the same respect that he treated everybody he met, and to sit me down and give me advice of how the Senate worked, and regaled me with some stories about wartime and his recovery. Stories full of humor, never bitterness, never boastfulness, just matter of fact. Some of them, I must admit, off- color. I probably couldn't repeat them in the Cathedral.

(LAUGHTER) That's a side of Danny that -- Danny once told his son his service to the country had been for the children, for all of the sons and daughters who deserved to grow up in a nation that never questioned their patriotism. This is my country, he said.

Many of us have fought hard for the right to say that. And obviously Rich Shinseki described what it meant for Japanese-American, but my point is when he referred to our sons and daughters he wasn't just talking about Japanese-Americans. He was talking about all of us. He was talking about those who serve today who might have been excluded in the past. He's talking about me. That's who Danny was.

For him, freedom and dignity were not abstractions. They were values that he had bled for, ideas he had sacrificed for. Rights, he understood as only someone can who has had them threatened, had them taken away. The valor that earned him our nation's highest military decoration, a story so incredible that when you actually read the accounts, you'd think this -- you couldn't make this up. It's like out of an action movie. That valor was so rooted in a deep and abiding love of this country. And he believed, as we say in Hawaii, that we're a single ohana, that we're one family, and he devoted his life to making that family strong.

And after experiencing the horror of war himself, Danny also felt a profound Connection to those who followed. It wasn't unusual for him to take time out of his busy schedule to sit down with a veteran or fellow amputee, telling stories, telling jokes. Two heroes, generations apart, sharing an unspoken bond that was forged in battle and tempered in peace. In no small measure, because of Danny's service, our military is and will always remain the best in the world. And we recognize our sacred obligation to give our veterans the care they deserve.

Of course, Danny didn't always take credit for the difference he made. Ever humble, one of the only landmarks that bear his name is a Marine Corps mess hall in Hawaii. And when someone asked him how he wanted to be remembered, Danny said," I represented the people of Hawaii and this nation honestly and to the best of my ability. I think I did OK."

Danny, you were more than OK. You were extraordinary.

It's been mentioned that Danny ended his convention speech in Chicago in 1968 with the word "aloha." To some of you who visit us, it may have meant hello and to others it may have meant good-bye. Those of us who have been privileged to live in Hawaii understand aloha means "I love you." And as someone who has been privileged to live in Hawaii, I know that he embodied the very best of that spirit, the very best of aloha.

It's fitting it was the last word that Danny spoke on this earth. He may have been saying good-bye to us. Maybe he was saying hello to someone waiting on the other side. But it was a final expression, most of all, of his love for the family and friends that he cared so much about, for the men and women he was honored to serve with, for the country that held such a special place in his heart. And so we remember a man who inspired all of us with his courage and moved us with his compassion, that inspired us with his integrity, and who taught so many of us, including a young boy growing up in Hawaii, that America has a place for everyone.

May God bless Daniel Inouye. And may God grant us more souls like his.


BLITZER: The President of the United States speaking beautifully about the late Senator from Hawaii, Daniel Inouye, who passed away this week at the age of 88, the longest-serving Senator. The memorial service taking place in Washington at the National Cathedral and taking place in his home state of Hawaii.

We will take a quick break.

Remember, in 90 minutes, we will be hearing once again from the president. He'll be back at the White House. He'll be announcing that John Kerry, the Senator of Massachusetts, will be his nomination to become the next Secretary of State succeeding Hillary Clinton. We'll have live coverage at around 1:30 p.m. Eastern.

Much more news coming up right after this.