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CNN NEWSROOM

At Least 100 Killed in Small Village in Syria; Can Fiscal Cliff Be Avoided?; Navy SEAL Commander Found Dead; Gun Control Debate; Interview with Barry Manilow

Aired December 23, 2012 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Don Lemon, let's get you up to speed now. A shocking number of dead and wounded today in a small village in Syria.

Look at the street covered with bodies and terrified survivors. Witnesses say people were standing in lines for bread when a Syrian military jet bombed the bakery where they were waiting. More than 100 people were reported dead. That number may go way up as night goes on. The full report from the region in just a moment here on CNN.

Nine days left before you face a new year with higher taxes. Apparently a fiscal cliff solution is not wrapped up as a gift under your Christmas tree. Lawmakers are home for the holidays. House Speaker John Boehner is in Ohio, President Obama is in his native Hawaii. You'll hear about a last ditch effort that may happen after the holiday. That story just a few moments away here as well.

A United States senator was arrested for drunk driving early Sunday morning. Idaho Republican Mike Crapo was taken to jail in Alexandria, Virginia after midnight. Police say he was stopped for running a red light and charged with driving under the influence. Senator Crapo has issued an apology. He was released on $1,000 bond, and he has a court date.

Christmas, just two days away, and for much of the country it's going to be a white one. Heavy snowfall has blanketed several states in the mountains of California. Up to five feet of snow is expected. Snow is also falling back east as well. Like lake effect snow has blanketed areas around Cleveland and Buffalo. And high winds are threatening to delay flights at airports in New York, Philadelphia and Washington.

I have to warn you, the report you're about to see has some very graphic images of people hurt and people dying. This is the latest from western Syria, where more than 100 people were killed today as they waited in line for bread. CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom is in Beirut.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A voice filled with horror. A scene full of carnage. A massacre in Halfaya, screams the man. They targeted the bakery. A bakery where hungry civilians have been standing in line to get bread.

One eyewitness reached via Skype described the grisly aftermath.

HASSAN AL RAJB, ACTIVIST: From 200 meters away, I could see corpses as I walked towards the bakery. The people cannot be described. Bodies piled on top of each other, it was an impossible scene. There was no word to describe it.

JAMJOOM: Al Rajb, who says he was one of the first on the scene, filmed this video. The wounded are carried away as rebels and civilians dig up mangled corpses from the rubble. Shock and grief quickly turned to anger. "Where are you, world," asks this man pointing to the destruction. "Come see the bodies. They were waiting for bread." Activists tell CNN this town in Hama province is full of anti-regime sentiment.

AL RAJB: Halfaya was liberated a week ago. But the regime surrounded it completely, cutting us off from the world. Nothing was allowed in or out. Even water and bread were cut off. Today we were able to reach an aid organization and we were able to obtain dough.

JAMJOOM: He says they were able to open one of the town's bakeries around 1:00 p.m. And that the rockets struck just hours later. As nearby hospitals quickly filled up, activists began pleading for help.

Now, as more and more rebel groups promise retaliation for this attack, fears mount that the unceasing violence in Syria, which has already claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people, will only get worse.

Mohammed Jamjoom, CNN, Beirut.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: To Washington now, and the big question looming over the quiet Capitol, is Congress ready to plunge over the fiscal cliff? Earlier I spoke with Brianna Keilar. She's following the president in Honolulu, and I asked her what might happen as the holiday week rolls out?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's one sort of last ditch effort possibility here, Don, and that is when the Senate reconvenes on the 27th. It's possible that either they could try to pass something and sort of force it on the House, or it's possible that they could take a bill that they've already passed back in July with the threshold of those tax hikes being at the $250,000 level, and that they could kind of say to the House, OK, now the ball is in your court, you have to deal with this. But it's still very much a possibility, Don, that this doesn't work out, that we go over the fiscal cliff, and that was reflected today on the Sunday shows from both Democrats and Republicans. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICK MULVANEY, R-S.C.: Passing plan B the other night would not have changed the outcome. We were going to go over the cliff before, we're going to go over the cliff now, because it's what the president wants. You cannot negotiate with someone who doesn't want to negotiate.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN, I-CONN.: In the aftermath of the House Republicans rejecting Speaker Boehner's so-called plan B, it's the first time that I feel that it's more likely that we will go over the cliff than not, and that -- if we allow that to happen, it will be the most colossal consequential act of congressional irresponsibility in a long time. Maybe ever in American history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Now, officially, Don, the president is expected to be here -- or is supposedly here in Hawaii through the new year, but I think the expectation now at this point is that with Congress returning, President Obama is likely to go back to Washington to oversee things as perhaps they move. Or as perhaps the fiscal cliff comes nearer and the U.S. goes over it.

LEMON: Can we expect, Brianna, any other lawmakers, any other lawmakers to step up to the plate and kick-start negotiations? What about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell?

KEILAR: Well, the thing at this point, and I'm told by sources is that there really are no negotiations going on between Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is actually in Hawaii today for the funeral of Daniel Inouye and is now on his way back to Washington. It would really come down to the Senate doing something. The way Democrats see it, there is a possibility that Senator McConnell might allow this bill that I mentioned that had already passed in July, with the threshold for tax hikes being at the $250,000 level, that he might sort of allow Democrats to say, OK, the House has to take this, or if there is some sort of vote on another measure, that while Mitch McConnell would be unlikely to personally support it, perhaps he might let some of his Republican senators do that.

Now, this is sort of thinking coming from Democrats, this is not something that Mitch McConnell at this point is planning to do, and it's very much unclear. The fact is, though, it doesn't just matter what the Senate does, Don. The House would have to pass something. And whatever were to come out of the Senate at this point would require not just Republican support -- they made that clear last week when they didn't support Speaker Boehner's plan B. It would also require Democratic votes, and that means it would come down to Speaker Boehner deciding whether or not he would allow some sort of measure to go to the floor. And that is especially uncertain.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: CNN's Brianna Keilor. Tonight, one of the U.S. Navy's deployed special forces commanders is dead. He was in Afghanistan, and military investigators are working on the belief that he took his own life. Here's our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr with what few details we have so far. Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Don, very sad news this holiday weekend for U.S. Navy SEALs. The Navy is now investigating the death in Afghanistan of one of its most senior deployed SEAL officers as an apparent suicide, a U.S. military official tells CNN.

Navy Commander Joe W. Price, 42 years old, died December 22nd while serving as the commanding officer of SEAL Team 4, a group of more than two dozen commandos conducting combat operations in the southern region of the country.

Now, while the death remains under formal investigation, that U.S. military official who's directly familiar with the event said the family has been notified of the death, and has also been notified it is being investigated as an apparent suicide. There is no indication at this time that Commander Price was involved in any military-related investigations or any controversies, the officials said. All indications are when he did not appear at an expected time, other military personnel went to look for him and discovered his body with an apparent gunshot wound. Don.

LEMON: Barbara, thank you.

The president wants a group, headed by the vice president, to bring him recommendations on what to do about gun violence. But what will Congress do with any ideas they might come up with? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Gun control is the hot topic for people on all sides of the ideological spectrum. It's not just one political party's problem. Not a Republican problem, or a Democratic problem. Earlier I talked to a CNN contributors Ana Navarro and LZ Granderson about the politics of gun control.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It has been Democrats and Republicans who haven't done anything with gun control. Including our president who four years ago was campaigning against people who wanted to cling to their guns and their religion, and now in November we saw him wanting to cling to the votes of the people who cling to their votes and their religion. We saw shootings in the midst of this campaign, Don. We saw the Aurora shooting, we saw the Sikh temple shooting, happened smack in the middle of this campaign, and this issue, not be discussed, not be debated in what was a very long and testy, heated campaign. So I don't think it's true, or right to say it's the Democrats or the Republicans. What we cannot have is a conversation where we're blaming each other. Where the media is blaming the guns, where the gun industry is blaming the liberals, where the liberals are blaming the, you know, violent video games. We have to have a comprehensive conversation, and it be a constructive conversation. Not one where people are trying to escape their responsibility and blame it on some other industry or some other faction.

LEMON: Well, and I think in your ...

LZ GRANDERSON: You don't.

LEMON: ... in your response. I'll let you respond, LZ. But I think in your response there's a different between Republican and Democratic lawmakers. I will agree with you that Republicans and Democrats who are lawmakers are not doing anything when it comes to gun rules or gun legislation. But Republicans and Democrats who are citizens in this country and voters would like to see something different, the majority of them when it comes to gun rules.

And on the side of people who don't want ...

NAVARRO: And we're going to have to make it happen.

LEMON: Let me finish- on the side of people who don't want any changes with gun rules. Most of those people are Republicans and they are gun enthusiasts. Go ahead.

GRANDERSON: I was -- I just wanted to say that ...

WARNER: Listen, we citizens are going to have ...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Let Ana respond and I'll let you go, LZ. Go ahead, Ana.

NAVARRO: This is -- look, Don, we have right now three different chambers of, you know, three different areas of government. There's a lot that the executive branch can do. There's a lot of leadership that President Obama can provide that he has not provided on this issue. And yes, there's a lot of hearts and minds that have to change in Congress. A lot of them Republican, and also some Democrats. And I think it's up to us as citizens if we want to see changes happen, to take off the party labels ...

LEMON: Exactly.

NAVARRO: ... and to demand it of our elected officials and the people representing us. A lot of times politicians act because the citizens are demanding it ...

LEMON: Right.

NAVARRO: ... and crying out for it. And that's what has to happen on this issue.

LEMON: I think you are right. This is not ...

NAVARRO: We have to lead and they will follow.

LEMON: This is not a Republican and Democrat issue. I always say that -- or a Democratic issue. And it is, because it's going to take all of us to do it. And we have to take the politics out of it. LZ, I'll give you the last word. Go ahead and go on as long as you want. I'm sorry I cut you off.

GRANDERSON: That's quite all right. I was just going to say that what Ana is describing, well, this is a microcosm of what's wrong with Washington. There is this notion that the NRA is a defender of the Second Amendment, when the fact is that our elected officials and the president are supposed to be defenders of the Second Amendment. There's defenders of the Constitution. Not a lobbying group, but it's the lobbyists who actually has our government by the throats, not the voters, the lobbyists. You're seeing politicians make decisions based upon what they think the money is going to say from the lobbying groups. The NRA is one example. But once upon a time, we were wrestling against cigarettes companies and tobacco companies trying to do the right thing and having politicians handcuffed from doing the right thing to the American people because of lobbying groups, because of money. And so, what we're experiencing right now, is the same thing we're going to continue to experience until we get really serious about the way that we're being governed and who's actually governing us.

LEMON: LZ Granderson, and Ana Navarro, thank you.

Their job was to make people laugh, but not these days. How a Connecticut morning radio show has become a way for listeners to heal. Powerful words coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Connecticut's number one FM radio morning show usually sounds like a fraternity party. But after the Sandy Hook shooting, the two radio hosts got serious and started taking hundreds calls from people trying to deal with tragedy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHAZ FROM "CHAZ AND AJ IN THE MORNING": On (inaudible) we'd like to call it a town hall meeting held in a frat house. Friday was strange. We went from in the morning doing one of the most happy, upbeat, fun shows of the year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Next year's going to be even better.

CHAZ: To in the afternoon doing the saddest show of our careers.

And he was one of the first responders to the scene. How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm doing OK.

CHAZ: Never in your life could you imagine you'd pull up to a scene so horrific?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely not. There are certain things that people just shouldn't see.

AJ FROM "CHAZ AND AJ IN THE MORNING": Every moment it was getting worse and worse, and you couldn't help but feel, OK, did we reach the bottom?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My sister's a behavioral therapist, Sandy Hook Elementary.

CHAZ: Is that right? Is she OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't -- we don't know. We haven't heard from her.

CHAZ: How long ago did she start there?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's her second week there.

CHAZ: She's probably very busy right now.

AJ: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, absolutely. She's probably -- will be very terrified when she gets home, but right now her priority is her children.

CHAZ: And Monday we had her on the show, and she was not OK.

(on camera): I'm so sorry for your loss.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Thank you very much. We're all surprised and shocked.

AJ: There's almost like a threshold for a nightmare. This left nightmare in the rearview mirror.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My heart goes out to those parents, because they'll never be the same.

AJ: The fact that folks were able to call in and get it out of their system to talk about it, so keeping it bottled in, I think it helped them, and it helped us.

CHAZ: Jim in Sandy Hook.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a father of a third grader that attends the school. So you can imagine, you know, how our world's have been turned upside down.

AJ: Frank in Shelton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, how are you doing, guys?

Very close family friend of ours lost his son.

CHAZ: Gretchen in Seymour.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You bring hope to all of us who remain a little bit hopeless.

CHAZ: Barry in (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know how any of these parents are doing what they're doing.

CHAZ: A tough day, after a tough day -- and then another tough day, and then a harder day. And then ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sure as we speak -- I just can't -- can't get over what had happened.

AJ: Scott in Roxbury (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A very close friend of mine his son was one of the victims.

AJ: Mary in Shelton.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, how are you?

CHAZ: We're hanging in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As we all are, it's really tough.

CHAZ: It is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really, really tough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And at the cemetery also, there was probably 200 to 300 firefighters.

CHAZ: They are all lined up along the funeral route.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're having their service for his son today in Newtown.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a lovely poem. May I share it with you?

AJ: Can you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please don't cry, we are OK, we went on a field trip today. It's really nice so I think I'll stay and hold your spot to your field trip day. I know Christmas is here, and there is toys to be given. So, please tell Santa to send them to heaven.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Just ahead on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: We're here. No rapture, no giant asteroid, was it all an apocalyptic lie? We asked a family who has prepared for the end of days for decades.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: One hour. That's how long the Mester family dedicates each day prepping for the end. But it's not what you think. They don't believe in a zombie apocalypse or that there is a giant asteroid barreling towards the Earth, they believe in something much more down to earth -- global economic collapse. And they are ready for the civil unrest they believe will follow it or could follow it. Mike and Lisa Mester join me now. So, for you it's almost like the Great Depression, when people are so -- when people are starving and having to ration things, you will have supplies that you can rely on in case that happens? Is that -- it's just ...

MIKE MESTER, PREPARES FOR ECONOMIC COLLAPSE: Well, that's true, and we do have a lot of supplies that are out there, but my wife and I made a decision a long time ago. We have people we care about, we have friends and we have neighbors. And those are things that we're going to try to keep as best we can (inaudible) together.

LEMON: OK. Listen, give me an idea of some of the things -- a list of some of the things that your family is doing to prepare?

LISA MESTER, PREPARES FOR ECONOMIC COLLAPSE: Oh, my goodness. Couponing.

LEMON: Right.

LISA MESTER: We do a lot of that stuff. And that's how we get a lot of our supplies. Our college students. We just prepare them even just to move out of home. So that they are more aware of what's going on around them.

LEMON: And as we were talking, as we were preparing the segment, you guys mentioned Superstorm Sandy, one of the biggest things that -- one of the highest commodity things was D-sized batteries. So do you guys store things like that? Do you stock up on things like that? Is it -- look like a bunker...

LISA MESTER: Yes, we stock up on that. We don't have a bunker.

LEMON: Right.

MIKE MESTER: Yeah, and here's in the term "bunker" I mean there are all people out there that have bunkers. And there's that moniker that's out there of a doomsday prepper. Doomsday is pretty absolute to us. We are not ...

LEMON: You don't like that moniker?

MIKE MESTER: No, I do not. It's -- it is stereotyping somebody that's preparing for an event. And using the term prepper that's out there, what is a prepper? It's somebody that is preparing for something that's going to disrupt their style of living that they are accustomed to. Where they are going to rely upon their own self- reliance first. If you just look at some of the things that have occurred in major disasters that are out there, obviously, you mentioned Superstorm Sandy. One of the things that was after, you saw the community start to come together. And once people start realizing that basic preparedness, emergency preparedness starts at the local level and then moves its way up to the federal level, then it's a whole different game that's out there. Because people are less of a liability that way, because they do have some provisions in the time need. LEMON: OK, so you don't call it a bunker, but if something were to happen, how long will you -- you do have supplies, how long will these supplies last?

MIKE MESTER: Well, let's put it this way, it depends on how many people are going to show up at our door. We have lots of friends that don't prepare.

LEMON: I know, I asked for your address ...

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: We are talking about the "Twilight Zone", it's like, remember, people with the bunker, and I was like let me in.

MIKE MESTER: Absolutely. I do -- I do recall that episode, but we have very good friends and they're the same way, I'm coming to your house. OK, come to my house. Now, the question is, will you be able to get to my house.

LEMON: So, it depends on how many people come. If it's just your family, then a longer period of time, obviously.

LISA MESTER: But we're ready for ten people for two years.

LEMON: For two years. This gives you a piece of mind?

LISA MESTER: It gives me a piece of mind. Yes.

LEMON: It gives you a piece of mind?

MIKE MESTER: Absolutely. And I often get asked the question, well, what are you fearing? I don't fear anything, my family doesn't fear anything, because that is what gives us peace of mind ...

LEMON: Yes.

MIKE MESTER: Is the fact that it's there.

LEMON: And if you can do it, it's not harming anyone else, why not?

MIKE MESTER: No, absolutely. You know, I can go out and spend that money on golf clubs, or cruises or fancy cars or anything like that, we choose to spend it on something that's tangible that we believe is there, that we can use.

LEMON: Let's hope you never have to use it. Mike and Lisa Mester, thank you very much.

MIKE MESTER: All right.

LISA MESTER: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you.

The gun debate dominated the Sunday morning talk shows. We'll get you up to speed next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Just past half past the hour, look at your headlines right now. More than 100 people were killed in Syria today, civilians doing nothing more than waiting in line for bread. Witnesses say a Syrian military aircraft dropped bombs on this small village and hit a bakery where people were gathered trying to get desperately needed food. Witnesses say, the hospitals cannot handle all the casualties.

Some Washington lawmakers sound gloomy about chances -- about the chances for a compromise deal on the fiscal cliff.

Nine days remain to get the deal done. But lawmakers are home for the holidays. House Speaker Boehner is in Ohio. President Obama as reported, in his native Hawaii.

Today we say aloha to an American hero, the late Senator Daniel Inouye was remembered with full military honors in Hawaii. The 88-year-old senator lost his arm in World War II, he represented Hawaii in Washington for more than 50 years. President Obama and the first lady attended today's service. The president has said Inouye was his earliest political inspiration.

Many gun shop sale owners say sales have been booming recently. Some link that to concerns the president may impose new restrictions of firearms . Thousands of north Texans -- well, they visited local gun shows and stores this weekend where the most powerful weapons are costing more than ever. A gun dealer told our affiliate, WFAA, that an assault style weapon like an AR-15 a week ago ran around $900. This week, anywhere from 1500 to $2500. In just a few minutes, my conversation with a gun shop owner, several former police officers, a criminologist and a school safety expert who says the current call for bringing guns into schools for safety is in his words, borderline insane.

An estimated 87 million Americans will be traveling over the holidays, and the weather is already complicating their plans. As soon as meteorologist Jennifer Delgado has the holiday forecast. Jennifer?

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, Don, it's hard to believe we're only two days away from Christmas, and everybody wants to know the forecast, and we started off on Christmas Eve, and guess what, we're going to be looking at some rain out there. As well as some snow in the higher elevations, up toward parts of the Ohio Valley and the East Coast. But we're really going to be watching the chance for severe storms setting up across parts of Texas as well as for Louisiana. Now, a storm system is going to be coming in out of the four corners, and this is going to mean yes, a white Christmas for some areas. What areas are we talking about? For southern Missouri as well as for Arkansas, you could see some snow there, and down toward the south, we're talking about some rain and heavy rain at times. Now, let's track this through the future for you. As we go later into the day, on Wednesday, after Christmas, we're talking the Ohio Valley looking at snow and windy conditions. LEMON: Jennifer. We're not going to budge. That's a message from the National Rifle Association, making clear today it's opposition to any new gun laws in the wake of the Connecticut shooting. The group's CEO is standing by remarks he made at an event on Friday. And CNN's Barbara Starr has more on the debate that dominated the Sunday morning talk shows.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Newtown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Newtown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Newtown.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many more?

STARR: Performers and artists now joining with 800 mayors calling for a plan to end gun violence. But Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive officer and public face of the National Rifle Association made clear on NBC's "Meet the Press" that his organization will oppose legislation adding new restrictions to the sale of weapons or high capacity ammunition magazines.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, CEO, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATIONS: Look, I know there's a media machine in this country that wants to blame guns every time something happens. I know there's an anti-Second Amendment industry in this town. I know there are political leads -- for 20 years, always try to say it's because Americans own guns. I'm telling you what I think will make people safe, and every mom and dad, will make them feel better. When they drop their kid off at school in January, as if we have a police officer in that school, a good guy.

STARR: As the last of the Newtown massacre victims are laid to rest. The NRA has taken the position that armed security officers in schools are a major part of its solution.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, (I), CONNECTICUT: I have found the statements for the NRA over the last couple of days to be really disheartening. Because the statements seem to not reflect any understanding about the slaughter of children, that happened in Newtown, Connecticut.

Here's what bothered me, the NRA spokespeople have been willing to deal with every possible cause of gun violence except guns.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: School districts across the country have grappled for years with the question of security. But advocates of more gun laws, the opposite of the NRA, offer this. They remind everyone there was an armed security officer at the Columbine High School the day of that 1999 massacre. And they say controlling gun violence requires a package of solutions beyond the schoolhouse door. Barbara Starr, CNN, Washington.

LEMON: Barbara, as promised, a frank and sometimes very heated discussion about the gun debate. You don't want to miss it, it's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The gun control debate is heating up in the wake of the Newtown massacre. We got opinions from many sides of this issue last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM DEETS, OWNER, SHARP SHOOTERS USA: I don't think that the assault weapon ban or the proposed assault weapon ban is going to solve or prevent crimes like this from happening.

LEMON: Why? Why not?

DEETS: Why is that? Because what's going to happen is people like these shooters in Aurora, Colorado and Virginia Tech, here in Connecticut, these were mentally disturbed people, mentally unstable people who slipped through the cracks. Whose family, whose mental health care professionals didn't take the steps to have them -- or petition the court to have them medically adjudicated so that they couldn't possess -- have a firearm. And it's not a question of the assault weapon itself or the AR rifle. The Virginia Tech shooter had a semiautomatic pistol. We've got to try to identify these people before they commit these acts.

At Virginia Tech, he did not have an assault rifle.

LEMON: But he had -- there were guns -- it still was a gun.

DEETS: It was a pistol.

LEMON: The common link is a gun. No one is saying that we shouldn't talk about mental health. But the common link is a gun. If someone who is just crazy, I have crazy people in my family, everyone knows a crazy person. The thing that the crazy person doesn't have access to in most families is a gun.

DEETS: Correct. You're absolutely correct. And that's where those families and those mental health care professionals that treated these individuals failed this country. They failed this country by not taking steps to petition the court to have these people mentally adjudicated defective. Because it's only through that, only through that, if they go to a store and try to buy a firearm, they'll be denied.

LEMON: I understand. You're talking about mental health. So then why aren't you as focused and as passionate about looking at gun laws and gun rules in this country as you are about people with mental health? It seems that it's just one point. Most people are saying it should be a multipronged approach. But for gun enthusiasts and for the NRA, the responsibility is never with the NRA, never with gun owners, never with the laws. It's always with video games, it's always with other things outside of that. When people are not being killed because they're watching a video game, they're being killed because they have access to a gun. DEETS: It's incumbent upon everybody in this country, whether you're a firearms owner or not, to work together to identify people who shouldn't have firearms. We have got, as I mentioned, 155 million people in homes that have at least one firearm.

LEMON: I agree with you, listen--

DEETS: 200 million guns that we're talking about --

LEMON: -- that we should be working with people and identifying people with--

DEETS: And we've got to.

LEMON: We should be identifying people who should not have access to guns, but we cannot just do that and not take a look at gun laws.

RICHARD MORAN, CRIMINOLOGIST: Gun people are trying to push this off as mental illness. The truth is, his mother bought the gun, and there's no evidence he was mentally ill prior to the shooting, and the shooting itself is not enough evidence of mental illness.

Studies show that 75 percent of the mass murderers are legally sane.

LOU PALUMBO, FORMER POLICE OFFICER: We're having a pattern now where people are failing to safeguard these weapons. That's an educational issue. It would have been nice if the NRA had come out and reminded their base of support of the importance in this particular area. I think maybe how we should approach this is institute a moratorium for a short period of time. Let things cool down, let everybody kind of depoliticize this topic, and come at this thing intelligently.

The reality of the situation, Don, and I say this remorsefully is, I am not convinced that an assault rifle ban is going to curtail this activity. One of the problems is that in their omnipotent wisdom, the firearms industry in the mid-'60s introduced this particular format of weapon to the United States general populace, and it's been consumed since that point. So you can only imagine how many of these are floating around already.

LEMON: I have got an interesting tweet that said, all recent mass killings were committed by 18- to 25-year-old young men who are primarily white. Virginia Tech is the exception. Are you saying that we should start profiling white men?

DAVID SIROTA, SALON.COM: Well, I think we should ask the question, why is America 30 percent white guys and 70 percent of the mass shootings in the last many decades have been at the hands of white guys. I'm not saying we should racially profile white guys. But I do think that it is interesting to note that had the shooters, had 70 percent of mass shooters been let's say Arabs or African-American men, I think the conversation right now would be a very different conversation, where we'd be talking -- where we'd be having a much less nuanced and much uglier conversation.

Why are 70 percent of these mass shootings at the hands of white men? Not to say that they should be racially profiled, but to ask the question, why is the composite so similar? Let's explore that, let's ask that question, because it's an important question in light of a political climate right now where there's a lot of what I'd call the white victimization narrative out there, this idea that white people are being kept down, this idea that white people are being oppressed. Does this have anything to do with this? I think it's worth asking the question.

MORAN: If you try to make a profile, how many people are going to fit that profile? At least 500,000. Maybe four or five million people will fit that profile. Then what do you do with it? You cannot predict rare events. That is the problem.

PALUMBO: I think you should just have a general awareness of everyone in your space, and when you see off-color behavior, be guided accordingly.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Thanks to all my guests last night.

My next guest calls the idea of bringing guns into schools to keep kids safe borderline insane, and he's an expert on school safety. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The conversations about school safety after the shooting at Sandy Hook elementary are endless. Ken Trump is the president of National School Safety and Security Services. And he says those conversations are, quote, "borderline insane." I asked him why.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEN TRUMP, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL SCHOOL SAFETY AND SECURITY SERVICES: I tell you, Don, the devil's always in the details of implementation. And even if you entertain the idea, which I don't, of bulletproof backpacks, for example -- if you understand how schools work -- most schools, the kids put the backpacks in the lockers anyway. What are you going to do in gym class? I just have this vision of kids running around in gym, will they be carrying the book bags over their heads or in front of them? It doesn't even make sense, period, but especially in implementation.

Armed police officers, school resource officers do a lot of preventative work, relationships with kids. Those -- the funding for that's been cut more and more for the past five or six years, as has prevention. And you start talking -- teachers want to be armed with textbooks and computers, and every teacher I talk with at my kid's school and elsewhere around the country said, no thanks, no way, no how.

But the conversation just goes on like wildfire, and we're missing the fundamentals. Let's talk about the counselors, the psychologists, the social workers who have been pulled from schools in recent years. Talk about the school-based police and security personnel, the lack of training, basic access to your buildings. And the list goes on and on.

There are a lot of people in our schools who want reasonable, practical help now.

LEMON: Let me jump in here, because my thing is, for the thrill of being able to -- is that worth the safety of a kid, because these are recreational rifles we're talking about, or they should be. And that's what most people use them for. You can't use them to really protect your home or you can't really use them to hunt.

But I want to say this, leaders of the NRA have said that they will not budge an inch on their stance against new gun laws. The NRA President David Keene was on CBS "Face the Nation." I want you to listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID KEENE, PRESIDENT, NRA: The first thing we have to do is protect our kids. We're willing to debate the whole question of the semiautomatic so-called assault weapons. We've debated it before. We had an assault weapon -- so-called assault weapons ban for ten years. We had what Senator Feinstein is suggesting. It was allowed to expire. The FBI, the Justice Department and others who studied it, said it made no difference. So if we're looking at things that are effective, let's talk about them, but first, let's talk about protecting our kids.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK. So you heard what David Keene, who's the NRA president, had to say on CBS "Face the Nation" regarding gun laws. What do you think?

TRUMP: Well, with all due respect to the NRA, and I believe in the Second Amendment in general, but I also believe that I won't pretend to be a gun rights lobbyist if they don't pretend to be school security experts. And that way, we can respect our fields.

Look, one gun in the hands of a kid is one too many in a school. And when we look at the firepower, I think we need to have some rational conversations on the gun issue and stop politicizing it. It was jumped on immediately. I'm talking, as you know, within 24 hours, people -- we started circling the wagons on this issue.

And yes, that needs to be a conversation, but we also need to balance out that conversation with what are we going to do when kids come back to school in two weeks and how do we pull back all these other resources that we know work in schools that we've taken away.

And I just want a practical conversation that's helpful in the big picture, in the long term on gun issues and broader societal issues. But I also want to see the conversation on what are we going to put in the schools in the next few weeks to give people some resources who need the help, Don.

We haven't had conversations, it's fallen to the wayside, budgets have been cut. I want some practical stuff, and I want stuff that's going to help the principal in two weeks when they get back to school. And the politics and the political rhetoric and the tone of this, has to be not ratcheted up, but toned down and serious on all ends, and stop circling the wagons, taking it -- politicizing it, using it for -- to further the agendas, and let's get real.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Hundreds of gun control advocates held a candle light vigil today on the Brooklyn Bridge. Demonstrators marched and called for tighter gun controls. They stopped in the middle of the bridge and read the names of the 26 people massacred at Newtown school. Some demonstrators chanted "no more guns."

Legendary singer and songwriter Barry Manilow has a new CD, his fourth Christmas album. He tells CNN why he's so drawn to holiday music, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Barry Manilow has been belting out the holiday tunes for decades. And he released another one album year -- another one album year? Another album this year.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: It's been a long week. Earlier Miguel Marquez spoke with Manilow and asked him what the singer loves so much about this time of year?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARRY MANILOW, SINGER: I love the season, I love the giving, I love the receiving, I love all that. It's the only time of the year that people stop hollering at each other for a couple of days.

But what I like about the Christmas songs is that they come from the world when they actually used to write a melody and a lyric. Like what you say, Irving Berlin writing "White Christmas" and that song you were playing, "Happy Holidays," this is a real melody and a real lyric, and that kind of songwriting is going down the drain. And so these Christmas albums give me an opportunity to go back and sing songs that have great melodies and great lyrics. And as an arranger, I play around with something like "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," and that's fun too. So I jump at the chance to do these Christmas albums.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Is this the sort of music you like to listen to this time of the year, hang out

MANILOW: I just like the family. You know, when I'm on the road, I'm -- my band and my crew become the family. When I'm not on the road, like now, my family actually becomes my family. Right now, I have got ten people and six dogs on the lawn out here. And can you think of any other way to make yourself happy than that kind of thing happening?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Barry Manilow, talking earlier with our Miguel Marquez. That was my opening (ph), by the way.

Santa may not be delivering presents to one house in Seattle. Jeanne Moos explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Maybe if this homeowner had measured better, his Christmas tree wouldn't have burst through the roof.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's crazy, right?

MOOS: What's crazy is how crazy everyone is about this Christmas tree stunt that really doesn't stunt anyone for more than a few seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we bought a 14-foot tree and I cut the top six feet of it off.

MOOS: Then plunked it onto a plywood platform on the roof and artfully arranged shingles around it.

It's funny, your house is sort of proof that the price of trees has gone through the roof.

(LAUGHTER)

MOOS: Seattle architect Patrick Kruger (ph) has always been a huge fan of the movie "Christmas Vacation," in which the main character, Clark Griswold, is obsessed with the perfect tree.

CHEVY CHASE, ACTOR: There it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dad, that thing wouldn't fit in our yard.

CHASE: Not going in our yard, Russ. It's going in our living room.

MOOS: That's kind of what Patrick did. His license plate even pays homage to the Christmas fixated Griswolds.

Actually, the first tree Patrick put up on the roof had a problem your average living room tree doesn't -- it flew off. Plywood platform it's on had to be bolted down.

True, this is not a new concept. In England, and in Lincoln Wood, Illinois, there have been grander versions of the same visual joke with the tree cut in three.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're saying it's better than this one?

MOOS: Yours has a Charlie Brown aspect to it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it needs me.

MOOS: What Patrick needs and has is a kinky Christmas tree, as well as a nice plump regular one with a star that grazes the ceiling rather than pierces it.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Ho ho ho. Good night.