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North Korean Crisis; Texas College Stabbing Spree; Gabby Giffords and Guns; Will Senate Republicans Filibuster Gun Control?

Aired April 9, 2013 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We have a live update from the region.

Also breaking news tonight, in Texas. An attempted massacre, the would-be killer slashing one throat after another on a college campus. Joining us, one of the heroes, a student who actually stopped him.

And here in Washington, a late new sign of perhaps progress on some form of gun control. Later tonight, a 360 exclusive. Mark Kelly and he's firing a Glock 9 millimeter, the same weapon that nearly killed his wife, Gabby Giffords. He's firing and she's cheering him on. Dana Bash spoke with them about how they reconciled their fight for gun control with their love for guns and their ownership of that particular gun.

Also tonight, a custody battle that began in Louisiana, ended in Cuba. It's happening right now. Call it Elliott Gonzalez in reverse, if you will. But none of the players are Cuban except that is the authorities in Havana who just decided what to do with the American family who have landed on their shore with two little boys that they have kidnapped.

We begin, though, with the breaking news tonight, the White House now saying that North Korea launching one of their ballistic missiles, quote, "could be imminent." Also word that Pyongyang and Washington were talking secretly just days before this showdown began.

Our Kyung Lah is in Seoul, South Korea monitoring those developments as well as a sharp threat from the North today.

Kyung, this possible ballistic missile test, what do we know about it?

KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know is that all eyes are on the east coast of North Korea, where the launch could be, as you say, imminent, according to South Korea's Presidential Office. They expect the highest likelihood is right now. The morning hours of April 10th. It is April 10th here in Asia, so everyone is watching to see if this missile launch is going to be happening in these early hours at any time right now.

Something that we should mention, Anderson, is that this is an unusual twist to this. South Korea's Fisheries and Oceans Department, it seems very random to mention this, but this department is usually notified by North Korea if there's going to be a missile launch. In this case, they weren't notified.

This is different and this is significant. It tells us that Kim Jong-Un is sending a message, he is changing the rules of the game. He is not his daddy, he is thereby, Anderson, more unpredictable and thereby more dangerous.

COOPER: What do we know about this potential missile test, what kind of a missile, where would it be fired toward and what kind of steps are being taken in the region to prepare for it?

LAH: Well, the assumption at this point is that it's going to be an intermediate rocket test launch, and that the assumption, and again, these are all assumptions because we simply don't know. North Korea has proven to be so unpredictable this month. The assumption is it's probably going to head out to the waters, but no one's taking any chances.

If you go to a U.S. air base in South Korea right now, as we did, at the Osan Air base, we saw U.S. patriot missile batteries pointed right up at the sky. They are pointed north. U.S. bases have been targeted, they have been told by North Korea that you are a target so there are preparations on the ground to make sure that nothing falls on them.

COOPER: We've seen North Korea issue warnings to diplomats to leave embassies in North Korea. Now today to foreigners in South Korea. How seriously is that being taken?

LAH: It's taken seriously and then not seriously. Seriously because foreigners are used to being targeted directly by Pyongyang. This is something a little more rare than the usual noise and hot air we hear out of the North. They specifically pointed out foreigners in South Korea should leave, they should evacuate. That's a bit more extreme than what we've heard normally out of the North.

So people here -- I spoke with one American woman, she's doing business here in South Korea, she says she hasn't changed her routine but she did check in with the U.S. embassy, her very first time, Anderson.

COOPER: Right.

LAH: There is an elevated level of concern but no alarm.

COOPER: A lot has been made obviously, Kyung, about the lack of diplomatic channels between the U.S. and North Korea. We're finding out tonight there were actually direct communications between the two countries last month. What do you know about that?

LAH: What we know is that these are regular back channel meetings, and meetings that I've had with U.S. officials. We know that this is something that's normal, these back channel meetings, but they are secret because the United States does not have relations, direct normal relations with Pyongyang, but in this meeting, and it did happen prior to all this escalation in this region, there was a meeting. The United States saying we want to try to move, veer off to a diplomatic route but that message certainly is not being appreciated by Pyongyang, if the message was delivered at all, because we are where we are -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Kyung Lah. Appreciate the reporting. Thanks.

Our other breaking news tonight comes from Texas where a college campus northwest of Houston was thrown into chaos today as a suspect went on a rampage, slashing, stabbing people in the head, in the neck, until he was actually tackled by a group of students. Fourteen people were wounded in the attack at Lone Star College in Cy-Fair Campus. Two are in critical condition right now.

The suspect is in custody, he's about 21 years old, we're told. He's enrolled at the school. In a second we'll talk to one student who actually tackled this alleged slasher.

But first, lot of questions. The main one, of course, is why. Ed Lavandera joins us me now live from Cypress, Texas, with the latest.

Ed, what do we know?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're still waiting to figure out exactly what motivated this attack. Authorities say a 21-year-old student has been taken into custody. So far, no charges have been filed so we're still waiting on that.

Of course, a great deal of attention being paid to the 14 people who were wounded in this attack that happened just after 11:00 Central Time here on the college community campus. Several of those students, two of them are still in critical condition, Anderson. Several have been upgraded to good condition and a few have been released. But a great deal of concern for those two other students, Anderson, that are still in critical condition tonight.

COOPER: And what do we know about the identity of the suspect? Who is he? Do authorities have any sense of what kind of motivation or what set off this attack?

LAVANDERA: Well, the motivation, last we heard from investigators here, the entire campus had been shut down for the day. It's still closed. We're told it will be reopened as usual tomorrow, but investigators have been processing. This attack happened over the -- over the area of a couple of different buildings that were being looked at so investigators were going through the building trying to find any evidence that they might need.

There is -- our names kind of -- a name floating around among students about who was behind this attack but that name hasn't been officially confirmed by investigators here in the Houston area. We've just been told it's a 21-year-old student who is being questioned and as I mentioned, we're still waiting for those -- any word about criminal charges being filed against him. COOPER: Well, some of the earlier reports suggest there might be more than one attacker but law enforcement is confident now there really was only this one attacker, correct?

LAVANDERA: You're correct, Anderson. In fact, when the first call came in, according to investigators, the 911 call came in as a male on the loose on campus, stabbing people, and they believed that perhaps because these -- these attacks happened over a little bit of a wide area on the campus, that it might have been different witnesses seeing the same person a couple different times. That's the way it was initially reported. Investigators said a short while ago that they're confident that one person is behind the attacks.

COOPER: All right. Ed, appreciate that.

Students at Lone Star describe obviously a terrifying scene, one of confusion. A lot of people running, some of them clearly injured.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a little female student who had got punctured right in her neck and they had her on the -- they were putting her on the stretcher and trying to stop the bleeding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone just seemed to panic and shock, like, I was wondering what the heck was going on.


COOPER: Well, joining me now are two witnesses to the stabbing rampage who got involved amid the chaos in different ways. Steven Maida actually helped to chase down and tackle the suspect. Cassie Foe, she's a nursing student in the school, who rushed to help some of the victims.

Steven and Cassie join me now live from Texas.

It's amazing that both of you got involved, so many people run away from these kinds of things. You really just went toward and did what you could.

Cassie, what was the first sign that something had gone wrong?

CASSIE FOE, WITNESSED STABBING: Well, I was in my nursing lab and I heard a scream from the hallway, thought people were just playing around, and went out to check and saw a girl bleeding out of her neck, running down the stairs. Another one at the top. And I went to check and see if there was anyone else and that's when I saw the attacker stab another white male. Outside of a classroom.

COOPER: You actually saw --

FOE: And then I --

COOPER: So you actually saw that young man stab somebody? FOE: Yes. I did. I saw him from the back side and it looked like he was just bumping into him, and stabbed his neck. He collapsed. I went and got napkins, rushed to cover the blood, tried to keep all that I could in, and I rushed to every classroom knocking on doors to see if I could get help.

COOPER: You're going to make an awesome nurse.

Steven, where were you when the attack began?

FOE: I hope so.


COOPER: Yes, I think so.


Where were you, Steven?

STEVEN MAIDA, WITNESSED TO STABBING: Anderson, I was outside next to the -- next to the lake walking back to my truck whenever I saw some people running out and I thought it was a campus tour, like they have so many times at Lone Star, like a big crowd of people. But it was actually people running away and I heard, I was walking and I heard one of the girls walking -- running past me, my friend's been stabbed. She's stabbed in the face.

And I was like -- and it caught my attention so I go -- and I go this other girl comes outside, she has a stab wound in her cheek and I asked her friend, like, what happened. And she goes this guy's stabbing girls in the face up there. And I was like where, what's he look like. And I just kept asking what does he look like. And she goes he's upstairs and he's got red hair and he's white.

And so I went inside and there was another girl that had the stab wound in her neck. There was blood all over the stairs. And I ran upstairs and looked around and I couldn't see anybody, but then I saw people in the hallway so I knew it was safe so I ran over there. Whenever I arrived there was another kid with a slice in the back of his head, and I asked where's he at, what's he look like. They didn't know also. Then I kept going, asking. And I saw this other gentleman, he's right there, he's right there.

He was literally downstairs to where you could see him. So I took off back to the stairwell, ran downstairs and ran outside, and he was on the other side of the bridge, and other security guards were running after him and everything. And I was just running after him. I thought they were going to tell me to stop and not get involved but I just kept running, and pretty soon I was out front but there was these other three kids next to me, three or four kids that I wasn't going to be alone.

Like I wasn't going by myself. We ran and the kid looked behind, we're about 100 feet away, and he darts into the first building he sees. And there's three different ways you can go, you can go straight and go to the lab right here or upstairs, and he went straight and made a left after the vending machines to go out the doors. Asked people where he was, the girl pointed us in the direction. We ran outside and saw him and we just took off running after him. One kid, the kid got to him and grabbed him by his backpack, turned him around and another kid named James actually grabbed his arm and was pushing him down -- pushing him down.

I'm just right there, why did you do this, why, and I'm just screaming with anger, why would you do this to people, why?

COOPER: Did he tell you?

MAHDIA: He didn't say anything except for -- only thing he said was, give me my hearing aid, my hearing aid. And that's when I realized he couldn't understand me but he put his hands up right away and said I give up.


COOPER: Were you scared at all?

MAHDIA: That's why I decided to him because he said --

COOPER: Because I mean, it's amazing that --

MAHDIA: I heard like --

COOPER: That you ran past the security guards, you tackled this guy with your friends.

MAHDIA: Well, these weren't my friends. These were just other people that have good hearts and just want to take care of, like, innocent people that's getting stabbed in the face. Like that's a girl that prize possession to her is her face, her natural beauty, and she -- and he took that from them and these guys wanted to catch him also but I wasn't scared because it was a stab wound.

He said he had a knife and that's a way -- that's a way fairer battle than a gun. So if he had a knife, that means he was willing to fight, but you can always disarm someone, but no one wanted to go inside. Everyone kept running out from where I was at, but I'm a curious person. Went upstairs, and found out and ran back downstairs and thank god I've been working out a little bit. So I had the energy to catch up to him and then we got him on the ground and the security guards came and handcuffed him.

That's when I took that picture and people are just saying, like I did it by myself. I didn't do it by myself. Eric Bertrand (ph) helped out. This kid named James also helped out, another gentleman, I didn't get his name but I want to thank them also for their help.

COOPER: These are -- absolutely. And these are pictures you took once the police, law enforcement actually had arrived. But again, I just think it's incredible what both of you did, getting involved in like so many times we hear people running away. You guys are great citizens and great -- I mean, your classmates are lucky to have you and your friends who also took part in this.

One -- when -- did he give you any -- he didn't give you any indication of why he was doing this.

Cassie, when you saw him stab this person, did he say anything?

FOE: He didn't say anything. He didn't even know I was there. He didn't know I saw. So I mean, honestly, I've just been praying all day and I hope these families can get through this.

COOPER: Well, again, I just want to praise both of you again because I just think it's so important for people to stand up.

Was it -- to you, was it random, Cassie? I mean, did it seem like were there particular people he seemed to be targeting or did it just seem like he was wandering around?

FOE: No, it just seemed like he was -- he was just going around basically getting whoever was more open and easiest for him to reach at that point in time.

COOPER: Cassie, did you ever think --


FOE: There was no pattern or --

COOPER: Did you ever think you'd have to put your nursing training to work like this?

FOE: Not so soon, no. I'm just really thankful it wasn't myself, because I have a daughter at home and you know, I don't know what I would do without her so --

COOPER: Well, Cassie and Steven, again, thank you so much for joining us. I can't imagine what this day has been like for you, but I'm so glad you were there and that you had the presence of mind to act both the way you did. I really appreciate it. My best to you.

Let us know what you think. You can follow me on Twitter right now @andersoncooper. I'm tweeting tonight.

Next, a 360 exclusive. An interview with Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly. Safe to say you'll find something very surprising, including this family moment at their home in Tucson.


MARK KELLY, GABBY GIFFORDS' HUSBAND: This is the same kind of gun Gabby was shot with, a Glock, a 9 millimeter Glock but in that case it had a magazine that held 33 rounds. This when it's full holds 17. He shot 33 rounds. Every round hit somebody, we think.


COOPER: So what does his wife think of his choice of weapon in target practice during her recovery from a near fatal gunshot wound? Find out next.

And later, she lost a child at Sandy Hook. Dylan Hockley's mom Nicole joins us. She's here on Capitol Hill. We talk to also a U.S. senator who wants to filibuster a new debate on gun control laws. We'll talk to him ahead. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Welcome back. As we said at the top of the broadcast, there is late news tonight on a break in the logjam in that building behind me over gun control legislation. Details on that in a moment.

It is significant but not necessarily a game changer and it doesn't make the big questions go away. Namely, why is this so hard? The main proposal, universal background checks, has about 90 percent of support among Americans, if you believe the polls. Ninety percent. So if you believe Congress should be doing the will of the people, what their constituents want, what's the hang-up, you might ask?

Well, we're here tonight to find out and talk to both sides on the gun debate. We'll talk to one of the Newtown parents who flew here last night on Air Force One, who were at the Capitol today, talking to lawmakers, telling their stories, trying to make it personal.

We'll talk shortly with Dylan Hockley's mom Nicole. Dylan was just 6 years old when the Sandy Hook gunman took his life. She's fighting for tighter gun control measures. So are Mark Kelly and former congresswoman, Gabby Giffords, who was so terribly wounded in that event in Tucson.

Dana Bash visited them at home. It's a 360 exclusive and parts of it may surprise you. Take a look.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gabby Giffords will never be the same after being shot through the head, yet one thing hasn't changed. Ironically, her appreciation for guns. In fact, target practice is still a form of entertainment at her mother's house deep in the Arizona desert.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Watch this. He's aiming for my pot. Whoa.

BASH: This is Mark Kelly using planting pots and water bottles as targets while Giffords watches from the patio with her mother, cheering him on.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excellent. Excellent.

GIFFORDS: Excellent.

BASH: And Kelly isn't shooting with just any kind of gun. KELLY: This is the same kind of gun Gabby was shot with. A Glock, a 9 millimeter Glock, but in that case, it had a magazine that held 33 rounds. This when it's full holds 17. He shot 33 rounds. Every round hit somebody we think.

BASH (on camera): How long have you had this gun?

KELLY: Well, I gave this to Gabby as a gift.

BASH: When?

KELLY: A number of years ago. She is a gun owner. You know, she's from the west.

BASH (voice-over): Still, we asked the question a lot of incredulous people seeing this scene would ask.

(On camera): Really? This guy sort of still has -- gets his kicks or recreation for him is shooting a gun after his wife was shot through the head?

KELLY: Well, Gabby used to like shooting a gun, too, occasionally.

GIFFORDS: Yes, yes.

KELLY: Not all the time. And you know, Gabby also has same type of gun that she was shot with. She didn't want to get rid of it. So now there's a round in the chamber.

BASH (voice-over): To be sure, this is meant to serve a very political purpose, to show Giffords and Kelly are credible messengers for their new cause. Tightening gun restrictions. In fat Kelly also showed us a gun he recently bought and videotaped for the sole purpose of demonstrating how easy it is to get a background check and why he and Giffords want them expanded to private sales, like at gun shows.

KELLY: When we timed it, it took five minutes and 36 seconds. It's not a lot of time. You could do the same thing at the gun show, where people are currently not subject to a background check in most states.

BASH: Giffords and Kelly formed their organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions, in January, the second anniversary of the tragic shooting that left Giffords partially paralyzed and robbed the once articulate politician of her gift of speech.

GIFFORDS: Optimistic.

KELLY: You're optimistic.

GIFFORDS: Optimistic.

KELLY: And I am, too. I'm -- especially when we're talking about a universal background check.

BASH: The Sandy Hook shooting spurred them to take a stand.

GIFFORDS: Sandy Brook.

KELLY: Sandy Hook.


BASH: Brain damage from Giffords' gunshot wound makes it difficult for her to find words, even Sandy Hook.

GIFFORDS: Sandy Brook.

KELLY: For Sandy Hook.

GIFFORDS: OK. Handy brook.

KELLY: Sandy Hook.


KELLY: Sandy Hook Elementary. You know, it's something we just can't -- 20 first graders --

GIFFORDS: First graders died.

KELLY: In their classrooms.


BASH: The couple originally called for a ban on assault weapons and limits to high capacity magazines. Giffords made a dramatic plea to senators.

GIFFORDS: Be bold, be courageous. Americans are counting on you.

BASH: But they now admit there are limits to what is politically realistic.

(On camera): If you want to name the number one thing Congress could do to prevent the kind of violence that you were the victim of, what would it be?

GIFFORDS: Background checks.

KELLY: Yes. Certainly. Without a doubt.

BASH: Giffords has learned to navigate an iPad for e-mail with her left hand because her right hand is paralyzed but most of her communicating with former colleagues, pressing them for new gun laws, goes through Kelly mostly on the phone. Though she doesn't have to say much to make her point. Especially in person.

KELLY: When gabby sits in their office and tells them how important universal background check bill is, they hear that. She's a former colleague. She was doing her job, like they do every single day, when she was nearly killed.

BASH: When Giffords was in Congress, she represented this red Arizona district on the Mexican border, filled with voters who expected her to defend their gun rights. She pushed to overturn a gun ban in the District of Columbia and voted to allow guns in national parks. A conservative Democrat herself, she knows first-hand how politically hard it is for her former colleagues to support gun restrictions.

KELLY: It's tough.

GIFFORDS: Yes, tough.

KELLY: To tell you. It can be a tough issue. That's because of the influence.


KELLY: Of the NRA. You know, the gun lobby.

BASH (on camera): What do you think about the NRA's argument that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun?

GIFFORDS: It doesn't work. It doesn't work.

BASH (voice-over): But realistically, had she not been shot, would the pro-gun congresswoman have been open to voting for stricter gun laws?

(On camera): Candidly, would you have said yes?


KELLY: I think it depends on what those measures were.


KELLY: Gabby was middle of the road.

GIFFORDS: Middle of the road.

KELLY: She was -- you know --

GIFFORDS: Straight in the middle.

BASH (voice-over): There is no question the gun culture is deeply ingrained in Giffords. It has to be to still exposed herself to guns, even after her near fatal shooting.

(On camera): What's it like to sit and hear the gunshot go off? Does it startle you?


KELLY: Well, I think it's because Gabby doesn't remember the gunshot going off the day she was injured. Right? You don't remember that?


BASH: If you could, would you shoot a gun today?


KELLY: We've talked about it. Gabby's actually held it. Hasn't shot one since she's been injured, but a few days ago she was actually trying to aim with it with her left hand.

BASH: Is your hope to be able to shoot a gun again?

GIFFORDS: No, I don't know.

BASH: Not a big priority in your life right now?

GIFFORDS: Yes. Not really.

KELLY: Not at the top of the list.

BASH (voice-over): Still, what's so devastatingly altered her life now infuses her life with purpose.

(On camera): I've seen it written that there's irony that you are such a good spokesperson for new laws to curb gun violence because you can't speak very well.

KELLY: Yes. I guess that's kind of -- maybe it's bad irony. I don't know. It's stink, though. It's something that --


KELLY: It stinks. It stinks.


COOPER: Dana Bash joins me now here live in Washington.

It's interesting, they're pushing for universal background checks but if memory serves me correct, the young man who shot her, Jared Loughner, didn't he actually pass a background check?

BASH: He sure did. He did not get his gun at a gun show or through a private sale or any of the ways that members of Congress who are pushing to curb violence want to expand the laws to. He actually had a background check that he did pass.

What Mark Kelly argues is that this is another thing that they have to change, which is making sure that the system that they're going through to get the background checks has accurate information, an up to date information.

COOPER: Right. A lot of states don't give full --

(CROSSTALK) BASH: Exactly. Arizona didn't have the information they should have for lots of reasons, including the fact that things weren't reported that should have been about his mental state.

COOPER: There is news tonight about legislation. What are we hearing?

BASH: We know. We reported on your show last night that Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey, Democrat and Republican, both very big gun rights supporters, were working on a deal. They actually have scheduled a press conference tomorrow morning and Senator Manchin's staff says that they feel confident that they can at this point get a deal and announce a deal by tomorrow morning.

What does that mean? That means that probably they will bring along enough senators to support not universal background checks but expanding the current system to include gun shows and Internet sales. Beyond that --

COOPER: Not private sales.

BASH: Not private sales.

COOPER: Not relative --


BASH: Exactly. Or any other private sales. We're going to get more information about that tomorrow, what they've been working on. But beyond that, we also expect the Senate to actually take up debate on this on Thursday. And we expect it to be a couple of weeks, but if Senators Toomey and Manchin can come together, that will certainly not be what everybody wanted who have been pushing for these new gun measures, but they call it a baby step and they say they'll take what they can get.

COOPER: All right. Dana, fascinating interview. Appreciate it. Thanks.

BASH: Thank you.

COOPER: See you tomorrow for part two of Dana's exclusive report. She's going to join us tomorrow, focusing on Gabby Giffords' near fatal wound and her remarkable battle back from it, including the chilling moment when she stared down the would-be killer in court.

Right now, I'm joined, though, by one of the 14 Republican senators who have been planning to block debate on a Democratic gun control bill, the only one out of the 14 who would agree to come on tonight. We very much appreciate it. Senator James Risch of Idaho.

Thanks very much for being on the program.


COOPER: First of all, Tom Coburn, a Republican, was on Erin Burnett's show an hour ago, said he does not think there will be a filibuster if Democrats allow Republicans to bring amendments up for a bill. Do you think that's true?

RISCH: Well, I think that's probably true. In any event I don't think there's going to be a filibuster that won't be overridden. I mean, I think there's clearly 60 votes to override a filibuster. There's going to be a debate on this this week.

COOPER: You are one of the people who wants to filibuster.

RISCH: Well, filibuster is simply a procedure by which you try to defeat legislation. I'm committed to defeat any legislation that interferes with a law-abiding citizens' right under the Constitution which is a right just like freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of association in Amendment One. Amendment Two gives every American the right to keep and bear arms.

Having said that, that is of course modified by the fact that if you're a felon, you can't. If you have serious mental issues, you can't. That's what we should be focused on.

COOPER: Do you know the criticism from Senator McCain who says why try to filibuster, why not allow this to come up for a debate, that this is what the Senate should be all about?

RISCH: Well, and of course it is -- it was debated today on the floor. It's going to be debated tomorrow on the floor. There is going to be a debate on it, there's no question about it. But it is a procedural method by which if you're successful, you can stop passage of a bill. That is not going to happen here. There's going to be enough votes to override the filibuster and then get to the bill, whether the bill passes or not, we'll see.

COOPER: The not wanting universal background checks, or so- called universal background checks, what is your main opposition to that?

RISCH: Well, the background check system we have right now is not being enforced and it isn't working. I keep hearing on this program the reference has been made closing the gun show loophole. People portray that the guns that are sold at gun shows are not subject to background check. The vast majority of guns that are sold at gun shows are done so by FFL dealers. They have to do a background check.

COOPER: But why not control, you know, a relative giving -- selling a gun to a relative or friend to a friend?

RISCH: Right.

COOPER: Why not have it factored in?

RISCH: The thing that really bothers me is the fact that number one, it doesn't work. Number two, it's placing the burden on law- abiding citizens. The person who is going to use the gun for legal purposes is not going to go through the background check system. Instead of burdening them with that, I would rather see there be able to be commerce in guns so the people can exercise that second amendment right.

COOPER: But how do you know that somebody's a law-abiding citizen that's buying the gun through a relative if they haven't gone through a background check. I heard you cite in interviews that thousands of people have gone through the background check and be caught as lying.

They have been felons and they are not prosecuted. The NRA says that's ridiculous, they should be prosecuted but nevertheless, they were caught. So those are people, if you extended the background checks to even private sales, though it may be inconvenient, wouldn't you catch thousands of people?

RISCH: Anderson, you make a really good point in that. The last year that the statistics are available for, 15,000 people were convicted felons or on the run who lied and committed a felony on the background check form.

COOPER: Right.

RISCH: Out of those 15,000, they prosecuted 44 of them. We need to enforce the laws that we have. Those 15,000 should have been prosecuted because you know they didn't stop trying to get a gun. They went somewhere else to get the gun.

COOPER: I don't hear a lot of people arguing that those people shouldn't be prosecuted, that the current laws shouldn't be, but if you caught 15,000 people lying, why not extend the background checks and you're going to catch another 15,000?

RISCH: Well, instead of that, Anderson, what we really ought to do is we ought to focus on keeping the guns out of the hands of convicted felons and people who have serious mental disease.

COOPER: How do you know --

RISCH: That is a very, very difficult thing to do.

COOPER: I mean, convicted felons have friends and relatives who might sell them a gun anyway.

RISCH: Absolutely. Those people should be prosecuted. We have laws against straw purchases now. Those people should be prosecuted. Look, I want to make absolutely clear here, those of us that support this constitutional right that we as Americans have and we are one of the very few people in the world that have the ability to own and bear arms.

We are not trying to protect criminals by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed, just the reverse. Because every time a criminal commits an act like this or a person who has a serious mental illness does something like this, it endangers everyone else's ability to keep and bear arms. COOPER: Just from a logic standpoint, how do you know if they're a criminal or have a serious mental issue if you're not doing any kind of check, if their relative who is an idiot decides to sell them a weapon or their friend decides to sell them a weapon? If nobody's checking, how do you know they're a good guy or bad guy?

RISCH: Well, there's no question that by expanding the background check, you will pick up some more of those people, but that isn't necessarily going to keep guns out of their hands. There are over 300 million guns today in America.

They can be bought from anywhere and even the conversation that's going on now in bringing the bill that they're talking about with gun shows is still going to leave a vast majority of sales without background checks.

COOPER: If gun show checks, internet sales, that's what the compromise people are talking about, is that something that's acceptable to you or does that go too far?

RISCH: It isn't that it goes too far. It's just ineffective. They're just not getting the job done. There are other things we really need to focus on and that is keeping guns out of the hands of people that shouldn't have them.

COOPER: Senator, I appreciate you coming on the program.

RISCH: Thank you.

COOPER: In a moment, I will ask a Newtown mother, Nicole Hockley, to react to what she just heard. That's next.

Later, the strange saga, really bizarre story, a family battle that ended with two kidnapped children, two American kids being brought to Havana, Cuba. The Cuban government deciding tonight what to do with an American family, we'll tell you what they decided. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Welcome back. A moment ago, you heard Senator James Risch of Idaho explain why he's opposed to expanding background checks for gun buyers, a measure my next guest believes will make another massacre less likely, another rampage like Sandy Hook.

Joining me now is Nicole Hockley. She lost her son, Dylan, at Sandy Hook. Thank you very much for being with us. I'm so sorry for your loss.


COOPER: I don't know if you were able to hear the senator, but there are a lot of senators who are saying do not expand background checks, that that just inconveniences law-abiding gun buyers. When you hear that, what do you think? HOCKLEY: I'm not sure how that inconveniences law-abiding gun buyers if there are already background checks in place for law-abiding gun buyers to ensure that it doesn't get into the wrong hands. Why shouldn't that be the same for all gun sales and gun purchases? It shouldn't be for some and not all.

COOPER: A lot of people at the NRA also say we need to make existing background checks work better, prosecute people who lie on those things. That's something you agree with as well.


COOPER: But you don't see it as you can do both. You can expand background checks and also make the current ones more effective.

HOCKLEY: Certainly enforcing the existing laws is always an important thing to do. But expanding it to cover all gun sales that just makes common sense to me. I see no reason to do it for some but not for all.

COOPER: How has it been, you've been down here today, you came down in Air Force One with other families from Newtown. You talked to the Republicans, you talked to Democrats. I mean, this is obviously a position no parent wants to be in, yet you feel it's important to be here. What has it been like today?

HOCKLEY: Today was a good day but a very hard day. Truly, I would much rather be at home with both my children, if I could. I would rather not be doing any of this. But I feel absolutely compelled to do it on behalf of my son, Dylan, and be his voice and the voice of all the others who died and help prevent deaths in the future and save lives.

COOPER: Do you think it helps, do you think having a senator or congressperson meet you, hear about Dylan, you think that makes a difference?

HOCKLEY: I think it makes a huge difference and I appreciate the fact that they're taking the time to listen to us. It's incredibly important to have your voice be heard and the fact that Republicans, Democrats, all the meeting requests that we have asked for have all been accepted, and more are coming on all the time.

It doesn't matter whether we all agree about what needs to happen. The fact that they are taking the time to listen and to talk to us about their opinions in private, that's a huge step forward and that's part of what makes this nation so great, I think.

COOPER: Do you feel that real change is possible? Do you feel -- I've talked to some family members who worry that sort of time is slipping by and parts of the country are not as focused on this as they were immediately after the horror.

HOCKLEY: Maybe for some people, that's true. Certainly, we continue to get a lot of support in terms of e-mails from people all over the world and certainly across the United States, saying that they're with us on this.

For me, I might have been one of those people in the past that would see the tragedy on the news and then get back to my own life and forget. I can't do that anymore and this is my life, going forward.

I know that there are a lot of other parents like me out there who may have never had to make a stand in the past, but it's important to exercise our first amendment right of freedom of speech and ensure our voices are heard.

COOPER: On this program, we have really tried to focus on the people who lost their lives that day, and remembering them and honoring their lives. What was Dylan like?

HOCKLEY: Dylan was -- he was a great little boy. He was always smiling, always laughing. If he laughed, other people laughed with him. He loved to be tickled so people would come up to him and just start tickling him just to hear him laugh. It was like music.

He loved looking at the moon at night and he ate spaghetti with his fingers. He was a very loving and empathetic little boy. He was artistic and so had some learning difficulties and some social interaction difficulties, but he was a joy in our family, and I miss him terribly.

COOPER: Thank you so much for being with us. I really appreciate it.

HOCKLEY: Thank you very much.

COOPER: Thanks. Wish you the best.

HOCKLEY: Thank you.

COOPER: Just ahead, another treacherous journey across the Straits of Florida. Two young brothers are safe tonight in Cuba. Their parents are in a heap of trouble. Their parents kidnapped them from their grandmother's house.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann was the first reporter to actually talk to the parents, find them in Cuba, actually find them when they turned up in Havana. He joins me ahead.


COOPER: Tonight, an international manhunt has taken a dramatic turn. An American couple who fled to Cuba on a boat with their young sons will be turned over to U.S. authorities. Cuban officials made that announcement just hours ago.

Now the good news is that the 4-year-old Cole Hakken and his 2- year-old brother, Chase, are safe tonight after crossing the Straits of Florida in a 25-foot sailboat with their parents, Josh and Sharyn Hakken. That is no small thing.

The water separating Florida and Cuba is notoriously rough, shark infested. A lot of people have died trying to cross it. So what kind of parents would put their kids in that kind of danger?

Last week, a court terminated the Hakken's parental rights. That tells you something. A day after that ruling, authorities say that Josh Hakken showed up at his in-laws' home in Florida where Cole and Chase have been living.

John Zarrella reports on what happened next.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From her home in Tampa, Patricia Hauser placed a 911 call.

UNIDENTIFIED DISPATCHER: 911, what is your emergency?

HAUSER: My son-in-law just kidnapped my two grandchildren. They have been in my -- state custody.

ZARRELLA: That was last Wednesday. Another in a series of desperate events involving Joshua Hakken, described as an anti- government protester and his wife, Sharyn. The couple had just lost parental rights back home in Louisiana.

Authorities say Hakken kidnapped his children, Chase and Cole, from the home of their maternal grandparents, the Hausers, who had been given state custody of the boys. The same day the boys were abducted, the family pickup was found in Madera Beach not far from St. Petersburg.

Surveillance video showed Hakken and his wife, Sharyn, had at a dock in Madera preparing a sailboat, the "Salty." As Tampa police hunted for Hakken, his wife and the two boys, they knew they were dealing with a man who could pull off a daring escape.

DET. LARRY MCKINNON, HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY SHERIFF'S SPOKESMAN: We've said all along, making irrational decisions doesn't always make you unintelligent. We know he's a very intelligent individual. He's an engineer.

ZARRELLA: To say what they did was risky is an understatement. In the 25-foot boat, they sailed in rough waters for days before turning up in Cuba. The saga began nearly a year ago in Slidell, Louisiana. Police there responding to a disturbance at a hotel say they found weapons and drugs in the Hakkens' room. The children were there with them. What concerned authorities just as much was how the Hakkens were talking.

DET. DANIEL SEUZENEAU: They were speaking some bizarre terms to the officers in reference to traveling across country to beat the Armageddon. Things were just very strange.

ZARRELLA: The children were taken and put in foster care out of concern for their safety. Two weeks later, according to Louisiana authorities, Hakken showed up at the foster home with a gun demanding his kids. He ran off when 911 was called.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need the police. I have a guy at my house with a gun.

ZARRELLA: It was sometime after that the boys were sent to their grandparents'. It's not clear how Hakken and his wife had planned the abduction and escape to Cuba, or what they may have planned to do once they got there. John Zarrella, CNN, Tampa.


COOPER: It's incredible story. Earlier today, CNN's Patrick Oppmann tracked down the Hakkens at a marina in Havana. He was the first reporter they talked to. Patrick, joins me now. Patrick, the fact you found the Hakkens, their children on the sailboat today, it's incredible to me. Take us through how that happened.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, we just weren't getting the answers we wanted from either U.S. officials or Cuban authorities who were very tight-lipped about this case. So as it happens, sometimes when you do, we went out and looked for the answers on our own.

This seemed like a very good place to start, a large marina here outside of Havana, very popular places for people to bring their boats in. We got in this marina and went boat by boat until we got to the end of the line and there, we found what appeared to be the Hakkens.

As you heard John say, a boat called the "Salty" and there on the deck appeared to be Cole Hakken playing and we started getting a little bit of footage, then immediately I spotted a man who looked just like Joshua Hakken walking back. He was dropping off what happened to be trash in a nearby dumpster.

I asked his name and he confirmed he was Joshua Hakken. He asked who I was. I said a reporter and with that he took off, run into the boat. At the same time, Anderson, Cuban security officials came out of the woodwork, some with their hands on their pistols. That's when I had a pretty good idea that we were in the right place.

COOPER: So it seems like the Cuban officials knew they were there and were watching them. The Cuban government now has agreed to send the Hakkens and their kids back to the U.S. when's that going to take place, any idea?

OPPMANN: You know, talking to both U.S. and Cuban officials throughout the day, you get the sense that both sides really want this to happen as soon as possible. But it's a level of coordination we haven't seen here in quite some time between governments that usually don't agree on much of anything.

But what we're waiting for now is to find out how they'll transport them, if they need to bring in U.S. marshals as they have done in the past to take them out on one of the direct flights say between here and Miami, here and Tampa, but both Cuban and U.S. officials say they want this to happen immediately.

They think it's going to be the best thing for the children to get them away from their parents, get them back in their own country -- Anderson.

COOPER: Great job of reporting. Patrick Oppmann, thank you very much.

Coming up, some very sticky fingers as thieves make off with 5- 1/2 tons of Nutella, next.


COOPER: Isha is here with the "360 News and Business Bulletin." Isha, what have you got?

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, U.S. officials say President Obama has signed off on an aid package for the Syrian opposition. Officials say the package will not include heavy weapons, but is expected to include non-lethal military equipment like body armor and night vision goggles.

Funeral preparations are under way for former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, with some questioning whether she should be honored with the kind of ceremony usually reserved for monarchs. The funeral is set for April 17th with full military honors. An online petition against the state funeral has gathered more than 25,000 signatures.

A new record for stocks today, the Dow Jones Industrial average rose 60 points, closing at a record high of 14,673.

Anderson, a delicious crime in Germany, police say 5,000 jars of Nutella worth about $21,000 was stolen from a former railway station. There have been similar thefts in the same time recently. Thieves have also made off with 5-1/2 tons of coffee and 34,000 cans of Red Bull.


SESAY: What's this deal with you saying Nutella?

COOPER: What are you saying, Nutella?

SESAY: Nutella.

COOPER: I don't know. I always say Nutella. Whatever it is, it's darned good.

SESAY: I don't eat the stuff.

COOPER: Seriously, it is like the greatest thing. It's like ambrosia, whatever that may be.

SESAY: Most things you don't eat, but you eat Nutella. Now I'm confused. Let's call the whole thing off.

COOPER: Isha, thanks. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: That's it for us here in Washington. Thanks for watching, "Guns Under Fire," a CNN special report on background checks continues tomorrow. About 90 percent of Americans say they want them. So why isn't Congress getting the message? That plus part two of our interview with Gabby Giffords. "PIERS MORGAN LIVE" starts now -- Piers.