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Supreme Court Makes Decision on Handgun Case; North Korea Marching Towards Nuclear Disarmament?

Aired June 26, 2008 - 10:00   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to have that decision for you just as soon as we get it. First a little background to share with you. It's a case with huge political, legal and personal implications.
CNN's Justice correspondent Kelli Arena explains those issues.


KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Two women. Two stories. Two completely different interpretations of the U.S. constitution.

SHELLY PARKER, GUN RIGHTS PLAINTIFF: I believe the second amendment is written for the purpose of allowing individuals to have a gun at their choosing in their home.

ARENA: Shelly Parker says that threats from drug dealers forced her to flee her old neighborhood in Washington, D.C.. A single woman, she wants a gun to protect herself. But Elilta Habtu says owning a gun is not the answer. She barely survived the Virginia Tech massacre.

ELILTA HABTU, VA. TECH SHOOTING VICTIM: The Constitution, how it's written, it's very clear what it says. It says, the whole sentence, it says, you have the right to bear arms if you're doing it for militia.

ARENA: It all centers on D.C.'s handgun ban and whether the city can tell residents they can't own a firearm. D.C. says it has a right to keep its community safe. Parker, a D.C. resident says it's her individual right to have a gun if she wants one.

PARKER: Anybody who is a criminal can have a gun, but if you're trying to do the right thing you don't have a gun which leads us prey to everybody else.

ARENA: But Habtu who still has a bullet lodged near the base of her brain believes if she had a gun she would not have survived the Virginia Tech killers' deadly rampage.

HABTU: I have this crazy idea that maybe we're simply here inside, you know. If I had a gun, I would have overtaken. No, you wouldn't have. Don't feel that, you know, just owning a gun will make you safer because it won't.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COLLINS: Kelli Arena there with some opinions regarding this huge decision that is being discussed as we speak at the Supreme Court. A reminder, Kelli Arena is standing by in the listening room right outside where this decision is taking place. That is where they will hand out the actual ruling. She'll get a look at it and break it down for us.

Jeanne Meserve our correspondent is actually in the courtroom listening firsthand. So we will get a report from both of them again just as soon as the decision comes down.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And breaking news -- North Korea turns over secrets about its nuclear program. The communist nation submitting its long-awaited nuclear declaration to China today. China led six-nation talks. The U.S. is looking for details now on North Korea's plutonium stockpile.

In that report, North Korea has also promised to blow up a cooling tower at its Yongbyon nuclear reactor tomorrow. In return, the reclusive Asian nation is to be removed from a U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism and some sanctions against Pyongyang are to be lifted. President Bush calls the developments "an important step in the right direction."


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States has no illusions about the regime in Pyongyang. We remain deeply concerned about North Korea's human rights abuses, uranium enrichment activities, nuclear testing and proliferation, ballistic missile programs and the threat it continues to pose to South Korea and its neighbors. Yet we welcome today's development as one step in a multi-step process laid out by the six-party talks between North Korea, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States.


COLLINS: Just a handful of western journalists are in North Korea for tomorrow's implosion at the Yongbyon reactor. CNN's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour is one of them.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm reporting to you from North Korean television here inside the studio with a backdrop, a painted backdrop of Pyongyang behind me. This is a very rare occurrence and we are invited among a small group of journalists from the six parties who are party to this negotiations that are aimed at disarming North Korea.

Today, North Korea handed over its long-awaited nuclear declaration to China, the chairperson of the six-party talks. They handed it over in Beijing, and as far as we know they handed over some 60 pages that detail its activities at its Yongbyon plutonium nuclear reactor. In return, in a carefully sequenced stage of events, President Bush has announced that he is telling Congress that he's rescinding North Korea's status on the U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism. He's also rescinding some sanctions that are being imposed on North Korea under the trading with the enemy list.

Now, in return, on Friday afternoon North Korea time, at Yongbyon nuclear plant, North Koreans are going to implode, collapse their cooling tower, the distinctive tower that is an important feature of the nuclear reactor. Experts are saying that this, coupled with the systematic disabling of the nuclear plant, ever since last summer, is a giant step forward in ending all the activities there. Yongbyon don't forget is where North Korea over the years has been extracting plutonium and has been able to make several nuclear devices with that plutonium.

In October of 2006, it test-fired a nuclear device. Now after these months of negotiations, they have finally reached the end of what's known as stage two, phase two of these negotiations. It will take another phase before North Korea is expected to deal with its weaponization program, to hand over any plutonium that it has extracted, including those that is turned into nuclear devices and to then dismantle, fully dismantle Yongbyon.

In addition, they hope to be able in the future to probe any uranium enrichment activities North Korea is suspected of having engaged in and to ask North Korea about any proliferation, in other words, exporting its nuclear knowledge, expertise and material to any third country.

I'm Christiane Amanpour, CNN in Pyongyang, North Korea.


HARRIS: Verification. The U.S. and the International Atomic Energy Agency must make sure North Korea follows through on its promises.

Here's State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee.


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: We're with John Wolfsthal. He's been following North Korea since the 1980s. This is Yongbyon, North Korea's main nuclear facility. Here is where they produce the plutonium to make nuclear weapons. And there it is the cooling tower. Is the destruction meaningful?

JOHN WOLFSTHAL, CTR. FOR STRATEGIC & INT'L STUDIES: Well this is a critical piece of equipment for the nuclear reactor. Without this facility, the reactor can't operate and can't produce more plutonium for weapons. You can see here that the facility's been cleaned out in preparation for the destruction but the equipment has been put some place else for monitoring.

VERJEE: Verification is now the key process. Because the question is, is North Korea really committed to really giving up the plutonium? And you need to get in there.

WOLFSTHAL: That's right. We don't trust North Korea. We don't take them at their word. We need to get people on the ground. We need to be taking samples. We need put together basically a jigsaw puzzles from pieces of data without really seeing the cover of the box.

VERJEE: You were there, you took some pictures of the really bad stuff. This is what we want to get our hands on, right?

WOLFSTHAL: That's right. This is the fuel that came out of the reactor in the early 1990s. Under the Clinton administration, this was under monitoring. Under the Bush administration, it was actually turned into nuclear weapons. We're trying to get it back under control.

VERJEE: What does this whole process, North Korea does something, the U.S. does something, what does it mean for a future administration, either Obama or McCain?

WOLFSTHAL: Well, it gives the future administration something to pick up on. If we were deadlocked as we were a couple of years ago, there would be nothing to build on. Now at least we have something that we can try to build off on.

VERJEE: Thanks so much, John Wolfsthal.

WOLFSTHAL: My pleasure.


VERJEE: The Bush administration has been so dragged down with Iraq and a sputtering Mideast process so this is a really big win for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her top diplomats on North Korea, Christopher Hill. They've worked very, very hard to get to this point. It is a breakthrough and it is a significant milestone in this process.

Throughout the way they've been receiving a lot of resistance from conservatives and have taken a lot of heat to say you can't trust North Korea, you can't deal with North Korea. The only way to deal with North Korea is to just put a lot of pressure. But regardless, as I say, it's significant, but there are a lot of big holes, a lot of things are missing, Tony, in this declaration.

HARRIS: OK. Zain Verjee, our State Department correspondent, maybe next hour we'll talk about some of the things that might be considered missing from this agreement. Zain, appreciate it. Thank you. Good to see you.

COLLINS: North Korea's neighbors were part of the six-party negotiations. China led those talks. Reaction now from Beijing and Seoul, South Korea.

First to CNN's John Vause in the Chinese capital.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm John Vause in Beijing where the North Koreans have finally handed over their nuclear declaration to the Chinese. But for the United States it's not so much a case of trust and verify but rather verify, verify and verify over the next 45 days. North Korea does not have to declare and disarm its nuclear arsenals. That will be left to later negotiations.



SOHN JIE-AE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Sohn Jie-Ae in Seoul, the South Korean government welcomed North Korea's nuclear declaration and said it considered it an important first step in making North Korea nuclear free.

Now, it is a sentiment not felt so much on Seoul's streets which are still filled with protesters that are against the import of U.S. beef. But the South Korean government had said that import to inter- Korean projects that would hugely benefit North Korea could move forward if North Korea lives up to its promise to give up nuclear weapons.


HARRIS: Gun fight. The Supreme Court set to rule on a fundamental question. Do you have an individual right?


COLLINS: Smoke and flames, it's man versus nature in the western U.S., will firefighters finally get a break?


HARRIS: You know, firefighters are facing another big day of battling in the western United States. In California, hundreds of fires are still burning after last weekend's lightning strikes, so many of them. One wildfire is closing in on big sur (ph) and has burned several homes. In all about 2,000 homes are threatened across the state. Wildfires are eating up thousands of acres across Arizona and New Mexico as well. Firefighters say they're hoping to hold on until cooler temperatures and higher humidity roll in.

COLLINS: Wow, look at that. Such a tough situation there. Reynolds Wolf is standing by in the weather center to talk a little bit more about this and also the ongoing story that we've been talking about for days and days now, Reynolds, the Mississippi and the cresting.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, it's odd, isn't it, I mean, the difference you have from one coast to another, what's happening in California, they really could use the rain. And here in the southeast, you know, lawns are as hard as my head, and then in parts of the Midwest you've got rain and even more rain. In fact, just over the last 12 to 24 hours we've seen some record rainfall in Ottumwa, I hope is said that right and Iowa. They had over, let's see, 3.42, nearly three and a half inches of rain. That is a record.

You see Marengo, from Richland back over to say Corydon, even Victor. The point is they've had a lot of rain in places where they really don't need it, in parts of Iowa, back into Missouri, even in Illinois, where the rain continues to fall. At this time, we have a severe thunderstorm watch that will be in effect until 1:00 p.m. local time.

And of course, the severe thunderstorm you have, of course, a lot of lightning, a lot of thunder, but you also have a lot of rain. And that's not what they need, especially in places like, say, Winfield, Missouri, just north of St. Louis. They've got one levee left that's incredibly weak. And additional rainfall certainly is not going to help matters.

That's the latest we've got. Let's send it back to Tony very quickly.

HARRIS: OK. We have the Supreme Court decision that we've been waiting for on the D.C. handgun ban, and the Supreme Court, as you can see in the lower third there, has killed the handgun ban, overruling the D.C. law, ruling that law from D.C. unconstitutional. Now, you'll recall that an Appeals Court had already ruled that the 32-year-old handgun ban was unconstitutional and now the Supreme Court has upheld that Appeals Court decision, ruling that the 32-year-old handgun ban in Washington, D.C., is unconstitutional.

And again, some of the notes on this, the District of Columbia, as you can see here, in 1976 passed at that time one of the nation's strictest gun control laws. City officials say it has since helped reduce violent crime. And you'll recall at that time, 1976, the District of Columbia was absolutely plagued with a lot of drug-related violence. That was in part the reason behind passing the ban.

The Federal Court threw out the handgun ban in a challenge, and the right to bear arms, boy, this is so interesting because, Heidi, it seemed like such a bedrock, fundamental constitutional question. It's a little surprising when we did a little more research on this to learn that it has taken so long for a case to make its way to the Supreme Court. Again, this ban put in place 32 years ago.

COLLINS: Yes. I'm not sure how surprising the overall decision is. It does make you wonder, absolutely, though, how long something like that could remain in effect, especially when you're talking, as you said, about 32 years. And we should clarify, too, this is only handguns.


COLLINS: There were other decisions that were made years and years ago regarding rifles and, you know, those with trigger locks, ones you had to keep disassembled and so on. Just to clarify, this only refers to the handgun provision. So obviously this is what has just come down, a decision we've been waiting for for quite some time. Trying to get more info. Pardon me.

HARRIS: Well, here it is. I mean, we're trying to find the clearest, simplest language that represents the expression of the court on this and maybe this is it, the U.S. Supreme Court says "individuals have the right to own guns." That language in striking down the D.C. handgun ban. So ...

COLLINS: For self-defense and hunting, the justices' first definition pronouncement of gun rights in U.S. history. It's definitely a decision that we're going to talk more about. I want to get you some background on it for a moment.

CNN Justice correspondent Kelli Arena explains all the issues surrounding that.


ARENA: Two women. Two stories. Two completely different interpretations of the U.S. Constitution.

SHELLY PARKER, GUN RIGHTS PLAINTIFF: I believe the second amendment is written for the purpose of allowing individuals to have a gun at their choosing in their home.

ARENA: Shelly Parker says that threats from drug dealers forced her to flee her old neighborhood in Washington, D.C.. A single woman, she wants a gun to protect herself. But Elilta Habtu says owning a gun is not the answer. She barely survived the Virginia Tech massacre.

ELILTA HABTU, VA. TECH SHOOTING VICTIM: Read the constitution, how it's written, it's very clear what it says. It says, the whole sentence, it says, you have the right to bear arms if you're doing it for militia.

ARENA: It all centers on D.C.'s handgun ban and whether the city can tell residents they can't own a firearm. D.C. says it has a right to keep its community safe. Parker, a D.C. resident says it's her individual right to have a gun if she wants one.

PARKER: Anybody who is a criminal can have a gun, but if you're trying to do the right thing you don't have a gun which leads us prey to everybody else.

ARENA: But Habtu who still has a bullet lodged near the base of her brain believes if she had a gun she would not have survived the Virginia Tech killers' deadly rampage.

HABTU: I have this kind of crazy idea that maybe we're simply here inside, you know. If I had a gun, I would have overtaken. No, you wouldn't have. Don't feel that, you know, just owning a gun will make you safer because it won't.


COLLINS: CNN's Justice correspondent Kelli Arena joining us now, right outside the Supreme Court. Kelli, I know you were in the listening room nearby where the decision was made. Tell us what happened.

ARENA: Well, it was a very close decision, as expected. 5-4 decision. I'll read a little bit of it for you. In sum, "we hold that the district's ban on handgun possession violates the second amendment." The justice goes on to say, "we are aware of the problem of handgun violence in this country, but the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table."

As you know, Washington, D.C., said that it needed to have that handgun in place for the past 32 years as a policy decision to try to stop violent crime. The justices basically rejected that argument today, says it is an individual's right to own a firearm and that it's constitutional. And so whether or not we think it's good policy or bad policy, there is no question here.

COLLINS: It doesn't matter.

ARENA: It doesn't matter. It is a constitutional right for an individual to own a firearm. And so, I mean, there are lots of people outside, out front. I don't know if you can hear them. I know you can't see them, we're too far away. But for both sides of this issue lined up, waiting in anticipation for this hearing, those who oppose the gun ban are out here chanting and screaming and marching. You have the people who were in support of that gun ban holding up signs, and very silently in protest.

COLLINS: It's still just amazing to me that this has been in place for 32 years. Talk a little bit more about that. I mean, was there new information that came to light regarding the statistics on violent crime that were able to somehow turn this around or did they say, we never really have any of that information?

ARENA: No. Actually -- you know, you brought up an excellent point because back in 1976 there were 135 and I'm checking notes -- 135 gun-related homicides. Last year there were 143. So, you're not talking about a big difference in the number of gun-related violent crimes in the District of Columbia. But, you know, still the city argued, we need -- we have a violent crime problem here. We need to control the amount of guns that are available.

But if you're looking at these statistics, they're not really that far apart. And that is something that the opposition has been bringing up all along, saying, look, this isn't really bearing fruit. And as you know, it was a group of D.C. residents who said, hey, you know, the criminals are armed. We want to be armed as well.

COLLINS: Yes. We saw that in your piece as well. You may not know the answer to this, Kelli, but while we have you, who, then, takes on this task? This has now been thrown out, there's not going to be a handgun ban any longer in this area. But as you pointed out, those numbers of the violent crime still high for the area. Who now says, all right, no longer do we have a handgun ban, we've got to tackle the violent crime situation in this manner? ARENA: Well, that would be up to the police force. You know, there's nothing official that has to be done. I mean, people, residents, will know for sure because this is a highly anticipated. I mea, people on the streets have to understand how highly anticipated this ruling was. We were here yesterday. And just about every other person that passed us on the streets -- and of course, we were not dealing with the gun ban yesterday -- kept asking, is this the gun ban?

COLLINS: Really?

ARENA: Everybody knew that this was coming down, at least in this community. Everybody was aware of it. I mean, most people are usually not aware of Supreme Court rulings and when they're coming out. But this one was very highly anticipated by the community. From all sectors of the community, pro and con. So this is something that people are really, some are very nervous about, some very, you know, just apprehensive, what is this all going to mean?

And we will see. We will see. Of course, this is the most -- one of the most restrictive gun laws in the country. And, of course, it will start having a ripple effect in other jurisdictions that have similar laws as well. So, as always, every Supreme Court decision, national implications.

COLLINS: Far reaching. All right. CNN justice correspondent Kelli Arena for us there, giving us the breakdown.

Also, I want to remind you that our Jeanne Meserve was inside the Supreme Court to hear this decision come down firsthand. She's going to joining us a little bit later on. But as the wires are writing it, this is the justices' first pronouncement on gun rights in U.S. history.

HARRIS: So let's get reaction to the Supreme Court ruling upholding individual gun ownership. Brooke Baldwin is at a gun store in Smyrna, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta. Were, Brooke, gun owners have been heavily regulated in this area for years. I mean, you just can't walk into a gun store and buy a gun. I'm sort of curious, what's the reaction there?

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, Tony, I think we heard some claps earlier. I'll introduce you to the store owner in just a moment. But I think it's important first to just point out and give you a little bit of perspective. That not since 1939 has the Supreme Court of the United States even tested the scope of the second amendment.

This is a landmark decision here because essentially the argument has been, is it the individual right or is it a collective right? And as you may imagine, Tony, the people here and the store owner very happy because they're all about individual rights to bear arms. Want to introduce you to Jay Wallace. Thank you for being with us this morning.

JAY WALLACE, GUN STORE OWNER: Sure. BALDWIN: We are in "Adventure Outdoors." We are surrounded by guns. Tell me first your reaction. You said you had goose bumps as we were watching this reaction come down from D.C., your reaction to the ruling is what?

WALLACE: Well, this is a great day for all freedom loving Americans across this country. And it renews my faith in the system. I'm very he happy, very pleased.

BALDWIN: Take me through, as we were in the store, show me what we have. Because this particular ruling pertains to D.C.'s handgun ban. And handguns are in this case correct?

WALLACE: From what I understand, I haven't been able to read everything that they've said.

BALDWIN: Right it is. It's handguns. Just for example, I'm trying to understand how this affects people just watching this across the country because this particular ruling deals with handguns in the District of Columbia. Let's say I'm a Georgian. I walk into your store, I tell you, Jay, I'd like to buy a handgun. How easy is it for me to do that in Georgia?

WALLACE: Well, of course, you have to be a Georgia resident to buy a handgun and that you have to go through the background check and go through everything that everyone has to do. And of course, it is our -- our freedoms have been better here in Georgia than they have in Washington, D.C., for the last 32 years so it won't affect us as much.

But what it does do for us is lets us know that this won't happen in Georgia like it happened in D.C.. So, you know, the verdict has come down. It's out. We do have an individual right to keep and bear arms, and that's a great thing. This is a great day. We're living history.

BALDWIN: This is a great day. Jay, thank you.

I think it's so important to also reiterate the fact that Kelli was saying this will have federal implications. There could be test cases because the number of places, it's not very easy, very stringent gun laws, to see exactly how this will affect crime throughout the country, how this could affect accidents. So, Tony, we'll just have to see what kind of effect this will have on states, municipalities. This is a huge, huge, historic decision.

HARRIS: No. I think you're absolutely right about that. Brooke Baldwin for us in Smyrna, Georgia. Brooke, good to see you. Thank you.

Coming up, more reaction on this decision from the Supreme Court, as you've heard, a landmark decision. Our Jeanne Meserve was in the courtroom. We will talk to her in just a couple of moments right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COLLINS: Quickly, got to get a look at the big board here. Definitely some activity, not the kind we like to see, Dow Jones industrial average is down 132 points. This all happening before the Supreme Court decision came down, not that that had anything to do with it. Who knows?

I want to pretend to be an analyst here but also the big news of the day regarding North Korea. Who knows? We're going to talk with Susan Lisovicz a little bit later on to break down these numbers for us. So, again the Dow Jones industrial average well below the 12,000 mark now, resting at 11,682. We'll watch it for you.

HARRIS: More now on the Supreme Court's decision. Dahlia Lithwick has been closely following the handgun case. She is a senior editor and legal correspondent for the on-line magazine Slate and she joins us from Washington.

Dahlia, good to see you. Thank you for taking the time this morning.


HARRIS: Any surprises in this decision?

LITHWICK: You know, I think everybody sort of saw the writing on the wall.


LITHWICK: I think that after coming out of oral argument, it was very clear that on this big philosophical question about the scope of the second amendment, whether it runs to an individual or a militia, it was very clear coming out of oral argument that at least five justices -- I actually would have said seven. So, I'm actually surprised.

HARRIS: Well, that was my thought -- yes. I -- that was my thought that it would be closer to a unanimous decision. That surprised me a bit.

LITHWICK: Well, you know, it was interesting because I think, and I haven't -- I have to confess I haven't worked my way through the opinion yet.


LITHWICK: But I think that the really big, big meta question here, this question of is there a personal, individual right to bear arms, really is fundamentally a very ideological one, it's a very political one. It has a lot to do with your libertarian notions about the Constitutional protections that you're afforded. And so, I think at the end of the day what we're seeing here with this very, very typical 5-4 split ...

HARRIS: Yes. LITHWICK: know, the conservative liberals, might be something that has a little more to do with politics than the Constitution.

HARRIS: You know what, Dahlia? The idea, though, on its face -- the idea of telling residents that they can't own a handgun strikes as being somewhat unAmerican on its face, doesn't it?

LITHWICK: Well, and I think that's what you're saying is essentially what we're going to hear in the opinion. I think that the fact that this is as close to a flat-out ban as you can get really, really was irking some of the justices in the majority. They said, you know, we're not talking about machine guns, we're not talking about rocket launchers.

HARRIS: Right.

LITHWICK: We're talking about the most common gun out there and we're talking about a complete ban. So, I think you're quite right, at least early indications are that this is not going to affect other handgun regulations ...

HARRIS: Right.

LITHWICK: ...the machine gun ban, the federal machine gun ban. We're talking about what is really an all-out ban for all intents and purposes ...


LITHWICK: all-out ban, and we're talking about handguns, which really, you know, is something so common that we're not talking about something that only criminals have (ph).

HARRIS: I'm trying to think of the other side of this now. I'm wondering what the message moving forward is for municipalities who you know, who feel, who may feel, that this is the kind of strong step, an outright ban that we need to have as an arrow in the quiver if we're going to try to get a handle, particularly in urban areas, on all of the drug-related violence that seems to go along with handguns.

LITHWICK: Well, that certainly what was D.C. contended throughout this litigation. They said, look, we need this ban ...

HARRIS: Yes, yes.

LITHWICK: ...because this is a very, very close urban quarters. We're not talking about having a rifle to protect yourself from grizzly bears. We're talking about the need, as some of the petitioners in this case that to protect themselves in very dangerous situations. Conversely, the district said, we need to get these guns off the street -- these guns, these are lethal.

So, I think you're quite right. That's the nut of the conflict. But you know, it's all wrapped up in this huge Constitutional package that has to do, as I say, with the Constitutional interpretation of an amendment that hasn't been looked at in 70 years.

HARRIS: Dahlia Lithwick, she writes for Dahlia, thanks for your time this morning.

LITHWICK: My pleasure.

COLLINS: Quickly, we are just now getting in the White House reaction to the Supreme Court's decision. Want to give that to you now. This is from the White House Press Secretary Dana Perino. She says this, quote, "We're pleased that the Supreme Court affirmed that the second amendment protects the rights of Americans to keep and bear arms."

Again, that quote coming in from White House Press Secretary Dana Perino regarding the decision on handgun ban in Washington, D.C. Decision just coming down 5-4. Interesting.


COLLINS: You had a bet on that, huh?

HARRIS: And I lost, yes. I thought it would be close to unanimous and ...

COLLINS: Terry (ph) over there wins.

HARRIS: ...and I lost big-time.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM this morning: coming clean about its nukes. The other big story we are following in the NEWSROOM for you. North Korea gives up some secrets and gets some rewards.


COLLINS: Lots of news going on here in the CNN NEWSROOM today. This story, North Korea, has a nuclear stalemate actually been defused? Just hours ago, the communist nation announced it has handed over long-awaited details of its nuclear program, that is a critical step toward dismantling it and easing the international concerns that have been building for years.

President Bush says he will call for the lifting of sanctions against the nation he once called part of the axis of evil. He will also move to take it off the U.S. terror list. But, he added North Korea will have to end its nuclear activities in a verifiable way.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This could be a moment of opportunity for North Korea. If North Korea continues to make the right choices, it can repair its relationship with the international community, much as Libya has done over the past few years. If North Korea makes the wrong choices, the United States and our partners in the Six-Party Talks will respond accordingly.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS: Marching toward nuclear disarmament, North Korea inches forward, the U.S. ponies up on its promises. So, how did we get to this point?

CNN's Kyung Lah walks us through.


KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the days of test launching missiles to then pledging to freeze its nuclear weapons program, it's been one step forward and several steps back with North Korea. But U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill in a recent visit to Tokyo said the end may be near.

CHRISTOPHER HILL, U.S. NEGOTIATOR: It's been a very long road, a very difficult road, even a few bumps in the road, I would say. But I think it's been the right process for dealing with this problem. And let's see if we can finish the job.

LAH: It has been a frustrating years-long dance for negotiators, trying to deal with the communist regime and its reclusive leader Kim Jong Il. In 2002, President Bush took a hard line against North Korea, labeling it part of an "axis of evil."

BUSH: By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger.

LAH: Later that year, North Korea expelled U.N. inspectors. In 2003, it withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and announced it had reactivated its nuclear power facilities. It was the first year of the Six-Party Talks: U.S., the Koreas, China, Japan and Russia.

In 2005, North Korea committed to abandoning its nuclear weapons program in exchange for energy assistance. The commitment was short lived. July 4th, 2006, in a show of defiance, North Korea test- launched its long-range Taepo Dong II missile with two short-range rockets. The U.N. Security Council swiftly and unanimously passed a resolution demanding North Korea suspend its missile program. In October 2006, North Korea announced it successfully tested a nuclear weapon.

The next year, Six-Party negotiations are restarted and North Korea agrees to shut down its main nuclear reactor in exchange for aid. After more missed deadlines and Pyongyang's slow response, U.S. negotiators are quietly expressing guarded optimism the years-long process may finally be coming to a peaceful resolution.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Tokyo.


COLLINS: With gas prices going up, a growing number of Americans are now parking their cars permanently. And that's where car sharing programs can come in.'s Poppy Harlow has our Energy Fix from New York. Hi there, Poppy.


Well, this is an energy fix that many people are already using, car sharing. It allows you to rent a vehicle by the hour and gas is usually included. It's becoming a more attractive option and new companies are popping up all over the country as the average price of gas, as you well know, tops $4 a gallon.

There are some nonprofit car sharing programs in Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, and San Francisco. And then, there's also Zipcar, that's a national for-profit chain.

Now, those companies say it is not just gas you're going to save on. There's also insurance and repair costs. Ithaca Carshare in New York, that's another nonprofit, says it costs an average of $650 a month to own a car. But the CEO of Zipcar says his company is also getting cars off the road.


SCOTT GRIFFITH, CHAIRMAIN AND CEO, ZIPCAR: What we find is about 40 percent of the people that join either don't buy a car or they sell a car because of Zipcar. So, for every car we put on, that translates into 15 personal cars going away.


HARLOW: Now, saving money and helping the environment is good, but make no mistake, these companies are growing right along, Heidi, with the cost of fuel. In fact, Zipcar attributes about 15 percent of its growth to rising gas prices, Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes, it's an interesting dynamic too because the more they grow, the more cars they're going to have to fuel up. So, it sounds like if they're providing the gas, they might be getting into trouble just like the airlines.

HARLOW: Yes, you know, when I spoke to the CEO you just saw there, I asked him about that. It's really a double-edged sword, these high gas prices. On the one hand, it's stoking demand for these rent by the hour cars. On the other hand, the companies are paying the same high price as everyone else is.

So, Zipcar is finding ways to cope. Take a listen.


GRIFFITH: We had to put a price increase in earlier this year, about a five or six percent price increase, that's covered us for now. If we see another big spike above where we are today, we'll have to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARLOW: All right, so you'll have to do the calculation for yourself and see if this is truly an energy fix for you. And just remember, car sharing programs are not in every community. But if this sparks your interest, check out my complete interview with the CEO right there, you see the address on the bottom of your screen: This may help you save a few bucks -- Heidi.

COLLINS: It sounds pretty zippy to me. All right, Poppy, thank you.

HARRIS: You know, he said he is not leaving. Will he have a change of heart? We will talk with a Midwest homeowner who's facing down the flood.


COLLINS: Quickly, want to get back to the story we've been following, the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the gun ban in Washington, D.C., handgun ban. Let's get to Paul Helmke now of the Brady campaign, James Brady, to prevent gun violence and listen in.


PAUL HELMKE, BRADY CAMPAIGN TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE: ...on carrying concealed weapons, limits on who is able to acquire a gun such as felons and the dangerously mentally ill, limits on where guns can be taken, such as schools and the government buildings, limits on the conditions of sale and limits on the types of weapons.

So, the main point we take from this decision, which Justice Scalia also described as being limited to the facts in front of them which dealt basically with self-defense in the home, because of these limitations, this opinion still allows common sense gun control laws, restrictions to make us all safer.

And from the Brady Campaign's perspective, while we expect there will be a lot more court cases and a lot more challenges as the courts around the country fight off the meaning of the second amendment, it's clear that what the court did today is they limited the extremes. They said that you can no longer have near total prohibitions on guns, but they also said you can have reasonable restrictions on guns.

And since they've taken away extremes, they've left this as a policy issue to be fought out in the middle ground, which is where we've been from the Brady Campaign, which is where mayors and police chiefs and law enforcement have been and where we hope to accomplish a lot more in our legislatures and in the Congress and with elected officials for years to come.

With that, I'm happy to take any questions quickly.


HELMKE: Sorry. Thanks, Pete (ph). OK.

QUESTION: What other gun laws does this imperil? What other gun laws are in trouble as a result of this?

HELMKE: As Justice Stevens pointed out in talking about his dissent, it's a narrow holding, but it's a broadly found right, which means that a lot of lawyers, a lot of criminal defense lawyers, are going to start using the broad language that Justice Scalia used in order to challenge gun laws, in order to challenge convictions, in order to challenge indictments that they're being brought.

We feel that we can win those based on the fact that this is a narrow fact situation and a narrow holding and the fact that Justice Scalia talked about restrictions. But it means that there'll be a lot more challenges to come.

QUESTION: What do you think of the (INAUDIBLE)?

HARRIS: All right, we're just starting to get some reaction now to the Supreme Court's decision. More reaction to come throughout the morning, to be sure. We'll bring as much of it to you as we can right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Moving on to business news now, investors may want to hide your eyes. Turning into a pretty tough day on Wall Street. Our Susan Lisovicz is coming up next with the latest numbers -- yikes!


HARRIS: Boy, a rough day on Wall Street. The Dow dipping below its low for the year. Our Susan Lisovicz is on the -- yes, she needs to be on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange to explain this one to us.

Susan, did I miss something in the futures trading here? I did not see this coming.


COLLINS: More misery in the Midwest. Can it actually get worse? Rain again today in northern Missouri, just what they don't need. The latest deluge could cause a second round of crests along the swollen Mississippi River in northern Missouri. Twenty-two Missouri counties have been declared major disaster areas now. The storms could also cause the river to crest at higher than expected levels in the coming days in Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois.

CNN's Gary Tuchman introduced us Wednesday to a man in Winfield, Missouri named Grant Keay. He made his own levee to protect his home from floodwaters, and it appeared to be working.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Looks like you're on a houseboat.

GRANT KAEY, FACING DOWN THE FLOOD: Kind of feels like it.

TUCHMAN: Feels like it? (voice-over): Grant Keay's house looks like a cork in a bathtub surrounded by water. But he has 110 tons of sand around his home.

(on camera): Your levee system has protected your house?

KEAY: Absolutely, we've got plenty of sandbags, five pumps, two generators, flood lights.

TUCHMAN: You're staying for good no matter what?

KEAY: Sure, I'm not leaving.


COLLINS: Grant Keay is on the phone right now with us from Winfield where the river is certainly rising.

Grant, first of all, just want to ask you what is the situation around you right now?

KEAY: There's lots of water. It's slowly been creeping up and down, an inch one day, couple of inches the next day. Now, we're expecting a little more.

COLLINS: How are you feeling about your decision right now as you talk to us?

KEAY: I feel good about it. You know, I think we're going to save the house OK. You know, it's extremely stressful, you know. I've run out of vacation time, so now it's going to be getting into my pocket a lot more than it has, but you've got to do what you've got to to. It's your house.

COLLINS: 110 tons of sand. Where on earth did you get it all?

KEAY: Most of it we had to buy from a sand company down the road from us, $250 a truckload.

COLLINS: Geez. How did you make the levee? I mean, did you come up with the design of some kind? Did you consult an engineer? Where did you get the actual idea?

KEAY: No, well, sandbags seem to be the cure for most flooding situations and I've seen lots of them on TV. So, we decided to just build one.

COLLINS: Wow, I'm looking at the pictures now, just in case you're not near your TV. And I really have never seen so much sand surrounding a home. Like our correspondent Gary said, it looks like you're on an island.

KEAY: Well, it feels like it. You're very secluded. The only way out of here is going to be by a boat or putting on a set of waders and walking out.

COLLINS: But you are not going to do that no matter what? KEAY: Well, I mean, if it comes up over my levee, it's going to be time to bail out, but you know, I ...

COLLINS: Where's your family, Mr. Keay?

KEAY: My wife is at work right now. My son is probably on his way to work. My other son is in the National Guard sandbagging someplace, so.

COLLINS: Wow. All right, well, I guess the only thing to do here is to wish you the very best of luck. We know that the forecast is not one that you want to be hearing, that river's probably going to crest near you there early Saturday morning.

KEAY: Yes.

COLLINS: So, again, we wish you the best of luck. The pictures are incredible. And appreciate your time as well. Grant Keay built that levee there around his home trying to save it. Appreciate it.

HARRIS: Well, you know we had to talk to our Jeffrey Toobin about today's landmark Supreme Court ruling on your right to bear arms. We will talk with our senior legal analyst next hour right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.