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First Hearing on Gun Violence Since Newtown; Unveiling the New BlackBerry; Senate Opens Debate on Gun Control

Aired January 30, 2013 - 09:30   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Opening bell on Wall Street. Stock futures are down after the government said the U.S. economy shrank in the fourth quarter. Ringing the bell today, Jack Lipinski, president of the energy company CVR Refining.

We're keeping an eye on a hostage situation in southern Alabama. It started when a man boarded a school bus and shot and killed the bus driver. He took a 6-year-old hostage and he's now holding him in some sort of underground bunker. Police are communicating with the man and they tell us the boy -- the little boy -- has not been harmed.

In the next hour, the Senate Judiciary Committee holds its first hearing on gun violence since the Newtown massacre last month. We're taking a look inside this Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing room. And Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the NRA, you can se him sitting there beside the gentleman in the white hair. Wayne LaPierre will be testifying later this afternoon.

Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman shot in Arizona, will give the opening statement for the other side.

And when that hearing begins, by the way, we'll carry it live. We're expecting it to start in just about 31 minutes.

Joining me now are: Jerry Henry, executive director of A group that calls itself, quote, "Georgia's no compromise for gun owners." And John Edwards, chief of the Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Police Department. Oak Creek was the site of the Sikh temple shooting that left seven dead last August.

So, welcome to both of you.



COSTELLO: OK, John, you're there, too.

Jerry, welcome to you.

I just want to get this off the table. Both of you agree banning all guns is not the answer. Is that right?

HENRY: I believe banning any gun is not the answer.

COSTELLO: And, John?

EDWARDS: I don't believe banning any particular weapon is going to stop these issues. It's a -- to me, it's a violence issue.

HENRY: That's correct.

COSTELLO: OK. So we get that off the table. We both agree on that.

EDWARDS: Gabrielle Giffords, she is going to give a statement before the hearings begin, and as you might expect, that probably will be very emotional, because she's been damaged by a gunshot wound to the head and she'll probably be forever damaged.

So, you know, some might say that's just bringing emotion into a hearing that doesn't need any more emotion.

Jerry, how do you feel about Gabrielle Giffords being there?

HENRY: Well, I certainly have no problem with her being emotional. She has been through an awful lot. And I do not like decisions being made on emotion, but the people that are in the hearing are supposed to hear every side or both sides of the hearing or of the issues, and then make the decision on whether they agree or whether they disagree.

Their decisions should not be based on emotion, but I don't see how you can keep her from being emotional.

COSTELLO: John, I'm sure you agree, it's hard to take emotion out of this issue.

EDWARDS: Absolutely, and she has every right to be there and speak and she should be there. Everyone should be heard. We shouldn't be afraid to discuss anything or any part of this,.

But emotion, we train our officers and I teach it, usually, the first answer or response that comes to anyone's mind is an emotional one, when something happens and usually you can think about something you've done in your personal life or professional you wish you wouldn't have said or done, and it's usually that emotional response and you have to look at everything. And it's usually not the right response first thing when you look at it.

COSTELLO: Jerry, this is part of what Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the NRA, is expected to tell the panel today and I'm going to quote his statement, which the NRA sent to us.

Quote, "When it comes to the issue of background checks, let's be honest, background checks will never be universal because criminals will never submit to them."

The majority of Americans are all for background checks. Why is the NRA so dead set against them?

HENRY: Because it does nothing. The criminals are going to get firearms. They're not going to subject themselves to background checks. They don't go now to subject themselves because they'll get turned down. They go either steal them or they buy them on the street.

And as a matter of fact, if you look at 2010, background checks, the number of denials and people prosecuted because they were felons trying to buy a gun it's less than 0.008 percent of the total background checks they did. So, it's really not doing anything. And the criminals are not going to go for the background check.

COSTELLO: So, John, as a law enforcement officer, are background checks valuable?

EDWARDS: I believe they are valuable. I think it's one of the things that are valuable, and I think it was hit on just a second ago is what's being done with those individuals who are trying to purchase a weapon and nothing's done about it.

One of the issues here in Wisconsin is a federal law that certain people can't possess a gun. We got a gun hotline. We have a CCW state that people can carry and they call in to a hotline, the licensed dealers do, and people are denied the right for various reasons.

I want to be able to have access to that data base or that I'm notified that someone in your community just tried to purchase a gun who shouldn't. That's what I want, the people who shouldn't have guns in their hands, we need to something about, and we should prosecute those who tried to get a gun and are denied. It's just going to push on the table and said, you're denied, or they tried to get a gun and they know they couldn't.

We need to be notified and investigate those things and prosecute. I think that's one of the issues that gives a little bit more teeth.

COSTELLO: So, Jerry, can you understand John's argument?

HENRY: I can understand what he's saying. But of the total of the background checks that are run, it's extremely small and the criminals that know they're felons, they know they can't buy a firearm and they're not going to be the ones that go. Most of the time, those people that get turned down are people who have domestic violence in their background and a lot of those did not know they were ineligible because when the law was passed to include domestic violence, they made it retroactive, and they find out when they get a background check that they're prohibited.

COSTELLO: See, if you two can't find some compromise because, you know -- this is how it seems to me. We're going to have these hearings, right?


COSTELLO: And gun control advocates are going to say one thing, gun rights advocate are going to say something else and we'll continue to go in this circle and nothing will ever get done. I mean, is that what you kind of think will happen, John?

EDWARDS: Well, I think one of the issues is that we are, and this is a prime example, we try to put people on one side or the other, and from my perspective, this is a violence issue. We need to figure out what's causing the violence.

We don't arrest the gun when someone commits a crime, we arrest the individual. We need to find out what causes this.

There's an article or an editorial in "USA Today" yesterday about the will to live. We have to figure out why some of these people have given up on the will to live. And when they do that, there's no consequences, nothing happens when they go off in these shootings. That's not the day-to-day crime but some of these mass shootings.

We shouldn't be on different sides, because there's -- a lot of things in the proposals that the president is putting forward that help law enforcement from getting access to some database, getting mental health for people who need them, and identifying, working with schools to identify people before these things happen and get them the help they need.

I believe, if you lose a gun, you should report it. If you have a gun stolen, you should report it. We do that with vehicles. But right now, if we have a gun crime, I can't -- there may be no record for decades of where that gun was at.

COSTELLO: All right.

EDWARDS: But if you just report it, my gun was stolen, I don't know why anyone wouldn't be against some of those things.

But putting us on one side or the other, that's what causes some of the issues because we forget about -- we're all trying to stop the violence. I think we can all agree on that, that we want the violence to stop.

I don't want guns in the hands of people who shouldn't have them. People who have the right to have them, I have no problem. I don't care how many guns they have. That's not the issue. It's those that use it illegally and shouldn't have it.

COSTELLO: All right. We're going to --

HENRY: I agree 100 percent.

COSTELLO: See? Oh, good, that's good.

EDWARDS: There you go, we figured it out.

COSTELLO: Good. I love that, both of you guys should be in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

In fact, we're going to go live there because Dana Bash is reporting a huge line of people waiting to get into the hearing room. Dana, describe the scene for us.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is tremendous. I don't remember a line that has formed that is really this big. I think we have some pictures our photographer just shot.

It goes all the way down the entire length of this Hart Building where this hearing is, down the stairs -- we're on the second floor -- down the stairs, winding around to the first floor. And, you know, I was able to speak to some of the people online. I was just kind of doing an unscientific poll to see why a lot of people were here.

And surprisingly, most people I talked to are here on the side of gun control, not gun rights and I say surprisingly because we know that the NRA tried to enlist its members to come here, to support their point of view on gun rights.

COSTELLO: I see it there snaking down the stairs. That's incredible.

And you're right. I'm surprised, because the NRA did send out that e- mail trying to mobilize its members to come to the committee hearing two hours early so that they could get through security.

Tell us what that procedure is like.

BASH: You know, it's sort of like when you go into any federal building, or through the airport. This is an open building. All congressional office buildings are open to the public, you don't need to pass, but you need to go through security.

So, the security lines, as far as I could see, were not that bad. But this line, as you can see, is pretty remarkable to get into the hearing. Obviously, not even close to the number of people waiting in line will be able to get into the hearing because the number of seats for the public are not that great.

COSTELLO: All right. Dana Bash, we'll get back to you.

Stay with us, all of you, for the Senate hearing. It's scheduled to get under way at 10:00 Eastern. That's just about 20 minutes from now. Of course, we'll have extensive live coverage.


COSTELLO: The maker of BlackBerry, RIM, is taking on Apple and a host of smartphone makers when it announces the BlackBerry 10. The long delayed device will be unveiled in New York at the top of the next hour, which is in about 15 minutes.

Alison Kosik is at New York Stock Exchange to tell us more.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Almost, almost as exciting as something new coming out from Apple. So, with this new operating system, Carol, RIM really needs to get everything -- everything absolutely right. Meaning, the design, the hardware, the apps, everything. It's got a lot riding on this, because the fact of the matter is RIM has been losing customers, a lot of them. The stock price has been taking a hit. It's been laying people off. It had a network outage a few years ago, several in fact, that to the ire of many BlackBerry users.

Then, you look at BlackBerry's market share in 2009. It was 20 percent. Well, guess what? It's now 5 percent. The CEO old "Fortune", "We have to win our customers back one by one."

So, this is big, that -- they're sort of taking this to the Super Bowl at this point. In fact, RIM bought a 30-second spot, Carol. And, as you know, Super Bowl commercials are said to go for almost $4 million. This is a first for RIM.

COSTELLO: We'll see if it works.

Alison Kosik at the New York Stock Exchange.

Of course, stay with us for the Senate hearing on gun control. That's scheduled to get under way in just about 15 minutes. We'll have extensive live coverage for you.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Humans were made to make things, that's why we have thumbs. We've gotten away from making so much, there's that instinctive drive for people to create. I like to think that Tech Shop helps kind of rekindle that in people and get them back to being makers.

There are so many things that come out, it could be little tiny things, it could be big world-changing things. And all of the things that people do here just really, really light me up, really excite me.



COSTELLO: All right, let's head to Capitol Hill in the Senate Judiciary Committee. As you can see the room is filling up. Soon senators will be asking questions of witnesses who will be testifying about how we can cut down on gun violence in this country.

Outside this meeting room here, the lines to get in are extraordinarily long. Take a look at that. These are people just waiting to get into the hearing, not all of them will get in, of course, because there's limited seating inside.

Dana Bash just reported most of these people are actually gun control advocates, which was kind of surprising because the NRA sent an e-mail around last night and also posted a message online urging NRA supporters to flood the hearing. Maybe they're at the back of the line, who knows. So we're going to be covering this hearing as it starts in just about 12 minutes, we'll have extensive live coverage for you. We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: At 50 minutes past the hour, time to check our "Top Stories".

Fifteen first responders from 9/11 will be the first to get government compensation. Most of them are firefighters. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting payments range from $10,000 to $1.5 million. The money is from a fund created by Congress that compensates people who got sick after working at the 9/11 site.

Apple has been granted a trademark for the design of its store. Specifically the store front and layout of its furniture. Reports say the move came after fake Apple stores popped up in China and Microsoft and Sony opened similar looking stores and that didn't make Apple too happy either.

"Talk Back" question of the day. "Will God decide who wins the Super Bowl?"

This from George. "Carol, I'm like you. No disrespect intended but God is everywhere for everyone. God has a plan for everyone. It's great that players are coming out and supporting God."

This from Michael. "Man has freewill. God will not decide he already knows who will win."

It's probably true.

This is from Alex, "God has as much interest in sports as the average human in paint drying. It is offensive for anyone to think that God will be so trivial as to pick one team or person over another."

And this from Tina, "Pretty sure this is simply about gifted and blessed men giving God the glory for their talents and I'm certain they don't do so to cause argument."

And from Brenda, "I wonder if God is thankful for all the money that's spent on this game. In front of the scene and behind. Sad. When people are starving." Oh.

Continue the conversation, please The next hour of NEWSROOM after a short break.


COSTELLO: Good morning. Thanks so much for joining us. I'm Carol Costello. Senate showdown -- just a few minutes from now, lawmakers will weigh into the bitterly decisive fight over gun control. This is the first hearing on gun violence in 14 months and it comes after a series of horrific shooting spree that revive the national debate over gun control. We'll have live coverage of the testimony from former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Herself a shooting victim and we'll hear from her husband, Mark Kelly. They now lead a campaign against gun violence.

We'll listen to Wayne LaPierre the CEO of the National Rifle Association. His gun lobbying group has reached out to members asking them to attend this morning's hearings.

Let's head now to our Washington Bureau and CNN's Jake Tapper. And I guess this hearing can be kind of a microcosm of the fight ahead.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right Carol. This hearing could set the tone of future congressional debates over this incredibly contentious issue. The Senate is soon going to consider a new ban on what is called assault weapons. These are semiautomatic rifles and the sponsor of that measure, California Democratic Dianne Feinstein, is a member of this committee, the judiciary committee that means she's sure to mix it up today with the NRA's Wayne LaPierre who's testifying to Feinstein's measure said by somebody the most wide sweeping in decades even faces resistance from some Democrats who believe only a more modest set of restrictions has a realistic chance of being passed.

And today's hearing is a huge draw on Capitol Hill. This is a video we shot about half an hour ago as people waited in line to get inside the room. It wrapped around the hallway and down a flight of stairs.

Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash is in the room now. Dana, you did an unscientific poll of the people in line. Who are they?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know it really is a mixed but surprised me that most of the people who I talked to or who I saw had specific stickers saying that their position who are in favor of gun control. And the reason why I say it surprised me is because we reported that the NRA sent out an e-mail and an alert to its members -- 4.5 million members I should say -- urging them to come and support their position on gun rights. So it did surprise me that there seems to be more people here -- excuse me in favor of gun control. Go ahead.

TAPPER: The NRA is known for being able to mobilize its supporters. In the past it's been effective; in more recent years not as much in terms of who they back in elections. Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive officer of the NRA is due to testify today and also of course Mark Kelly, who is the husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who was shot so infamously two years ago. What can you tell us about their testimony, Dana?

BASH: Well first of all just the optics are going to be interesting. Because they're going to be sitting at opposite ends of the witness table. There are five people all together. They are going to be at opposite ends. And Mark Kelly I'm told is going to start off along with his wife, Gabby Giffords. She's going to be here and give an opening statement. And I spoke to Mark Kelly yesterday about his testimony. He reminded me, look, he said that we are both -- meaning, he and Congresswoman Giffords -- are both moderate gun owners. Meaning they own guns. They have been supporters of gun rights for a long time. But he also said that he hopes that they can do something about the safety of our kids and our communities.

One tidbit that he told me is that he and Gabby Giffords used to go on after work dates but they used to go together to the NRA practice range just outside of Washington. He almost joined the NRA himself but never got around to it. So that's their perspective.

And then of course on the other side of the witness table the last person we will hear from will be Wayne LaPierre who will be saying a lot of the familiar things that we've heard from him over the years but even more specifically since the shootings at Newtown he's going to say, in fact his prepared remarks say that he's going to say that law abiding gun owners will not accept the blame for acts of violence of deranged criminals.

So expect him to be as combative and defiant for people who own guns as he has in the past.

TAPPER: And I'm sitting here with CNN's crime and justice correspondent Joe Johns. Joe we were talking about this earlier. Senator Patrick Leahy the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he walks a tight rope on these issues. Tell me more about that.

JOE JOHN, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: He's a gun owner. He respects the rights of gun ownership in this country. Reading through his prepared remarks today it's pretty clear that he's going to walk a fine line in this hearing. He recognizes the fact that in 2008 the Supreme Court essentially agreed with Justice Scalia --


TAPPER: Washington, D.C.'s gun ban which was overturned.

JOHNS: Right, that's right, the District of Columbia against Heller. And they upheld the right of people to own guns. The question, of course, here and what you can expect this committee to really drill down on is what is reasonable gun ownership? This is something we haven't heard so much about.

There's been a lot of talk about so-called assault weapons. But what's reasonable?