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Manchin: Time to Talk Gun Control; New Push for Assault Weapons Ban; Video Game Concerns After Newtown

Aired December 18, 2012 - 09:30   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. Thank you so much for being with us. I'm Carol Costello in Atlanta.

Soledad O'Brien is in Newtown, Connecticut. She joins us live.

Good morning, Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, Carol.

Here is the latest today: classes resume for most of the kids in this community, many of them still wrestling with so much heartbreak. All the Newtown schools, except for Sandy Hook, of course, it's a crime scene, they are reopening today.

The grief and fears of returning students are going to be a huge concern no doubt. Additional counselors and police officers will be at every school.

Today, the town lays down two more of its youngest victims to rest. The grandmother of Charlotte Bacon says the 6-year-old was a bundle of energy, who loved dresses and loved school.

Six-year-old Jessica Rekos lived and breathed horses. She was excited about a pair of cowgirl boots she was expecting for Christmas.

Both of those young ladies will be laid to rest.

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia is a proud member of the NRA and a rather famous advocate of gun rights. You can see him here carrying a rifle and a political ad that was called "Dead Aim." But in the aftermath of Sandy Hook Elementary, the Democratic senator has had a change of heart.

I spoke with him earlier on "STARTING POINT" and here's what he told me.


SENATOR JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: I know that everybody is grieving as hard as we're grieving in West Virginia, and I can only imagine the pain. I just can, as a parent and grandparent. So our hearts and prayers are with all of the families and all of the people of Connecticut, Newtown. I just -- I just don't have words for that and my sympathies for them.

With that being said, we haven't hopefully become a society or become even a governing body that we can't sit down and talk. We can't lay everything on the table to find out how do we move forward? We know we have challenges.

And, you know, I'm a big proponent of Colin Powell's five promises to children. Second promise, every child should have a safe place in their life. Sometimes it's not always the home. More than often, it's the school and it looks like even that has been taken away.

So, it is time to sit down. It's time to look at a responsible, reasonable approach. Mental illness, a culture of violence, sometimes accepted, even glorified and then certain military style weapons that really as a hunter myself, as a proud defender of the Second Amendment, as a proud member of the NRA, you know, we should question and look and see if there is a better way to do this.

O'BRIEN: Would you then support legislation that would ban assault weapons? Would you support legislation that would get rid of high capacity magazines?

MANCHIN: Soledad, that all has to come to the table. If it's a responsible, reasonable manner, I would think that the majority of Americans would support a reasonable approach to that. I have been hunting all my life. I have ever had multiple rounds of clips of 10 or more. It's not needed.

I've never gone with a military style assault rifle hunting. It's not needed.

So we need to question that. And we need to bring the NRA in. These are all good people. They have children and grandchildren, they are hurting too. They are grieving.

So we can't villainize, and if you start to villainize, you will push them away and we won't move forward. What will happen, we'll be in a stalemate again and that's not what we desire.

O'BRIEN: Do you worry about political backlash? You said you're a proud member of the NRA, and as you know, they often fund candidates who -- and work to overthrow frankly candidates who don't support the same kinds of beliefs and legislation that they support. Do you worry about backlash from constituents?

MANCHIN: Soledad, I come from the beautiful state, the great state of West Virginia, the most wonderful people and we sit down and work through our problems, we have challenges, we sit down. We come to a conclusion with the facts and that's what we're asking for.

There's always going to be I guess movement or political backlash on anything and everything. The easiest vote to take in Washington is a no vote. Vote for nothing. You don't really have to explain. But if you are willing to move forward and for the sake of our children, Soledad, we had 20 beautiful babies that were slaughtered. That cannot be tolerated in America.


O'BRIEN: Joe Manchin says sitting down at the table, carol, is the first step to coming to some meaningful dialogue about what changes to be happened considered to be reasonable on both sides of the issue -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Even in this climate, though, Soledad, that's easier said than done. Thanks, Soledad.

Now is your chance to talk about one of the big stories of the day. The question is this: what does owning a gun represent to you? There is one industry that is recession-proof, the gun industry. Americans spend about $3.5 billion every year on guns. Even in the days after 20 first graders were shot multiple times, gun stores were jammed, just in case Washington decides to clamp down on guns.


RICK MATLICK, GUN SHOPPER: They're going to do something. I mean, that's obvious, and people want to get stuff before a ban on whatever comes in, probably magazines, people get scared.


COSTELLO: Critics say America's enormous appetite for guns is largely fueled by the National Rifle Association. It's easy to see why. The NRA is a master when it comes to psychology.

Listen to NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre from earlier this year.


WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VICE-PRESIDENT, NRA: If President Obama gets one more term, it will break the back of the Second Amendment in this country. This is the most dangerous election in our lifetime, if you're a supporter of the Second Amendment.


COSTELLO: Really? Mr. Obama did not push for a single piece of gun control legislation in his first term, no matter. In the NRA's world Obama's second term spells doom or maybe what happened at Sandy Hook does.

Dick's Sporting Goods says it's suspending sales of some semiautomatic rifles from its stores nationwide. But don't expect that to dance on the spirit of gun right advocates. Charlton Heston said it best, the late NRA president famous for saying he'd give you his gun only if you pry out of his hands.




COSTELLO: What is it about guns that cuts to the core of the American psyche? Is it the Second Amendment which says our right to bear arms shall not be infringed, or is it, as former NRA lobbyist Richard Feldman says, that gun owners see this relationship through this democracy through the eyes of the gun issue?

Talk back question today: what does owning a gun represent to you?, Your responses later this hour.

Violent video games, let's talk about that a little bit. There's some of the most popular on the market. And every time we hear about a shooting, concerns are brought up about the violent video games. So, should parents be worried about the games their children play?


O'BRIEN: Since the shooting here in Connecticut, there's been a major push for gun control in this country.

One day of the new -- day one, rather, of the new Congress, the California Senator Dianne Feinstein says she plans to go after a similar weapons that are similar to what the police say the shooter used at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

This is what she told Piers Morgan yesterday.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I'm going to do an assault weapons piece of legislation and it's going to be strong and it's going to be definitive and it's going to ban by name at least 100 military-style semiautomatic assault weapons, and it's going to ban big clips, drums or strips of more than 10 bullets.

And it's this particular category of weapon which the Bushmaster is. It's a killer weapon. You can find it very quickly. It has very little recoil, very little kick, and it's very high velocity.

And it doesn't belong on the streets of our city and it doesn't belong in a place where a 20-year-old like this particular 20-year-old could get a hold of it and go in and do what he did.

And this makes me very angry.


O'BRIEN: There was a federal assault weapons ban, it expired back in 2004.

Let's go back to Carol.

COSTELLO: Those who knew Adam Lanza said he loved video games. In high school, Lanza was a member of the school's tech club in high school.

And members of the tech club played the computer video games, including the one you're looking at "Starcraft". It's a multiplayer strategy game where you command armies to defeat your opponents.

So, is there a link between violent video games and aggressive behavior?

Craig Anderson is a professor at Iowa State University. He's also the director of the Center for the Study of Violence. He joins us now from Ames, Iowa.

Welcome, sir.

PROF. CRAIG ANDERSON, IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY: Thank you. Happy to be here, Carol.

COSTELLO: Glad to have you here.

So, in your mind is there a connection between violent video game and violence in real life?

ANDERSON: Yes, there is. Every major scientific society that has studied the question has come to the same answer, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, most recently, the International Society for Research and Aggression, have all come to the same conclusion that basically media violence is a risk factor, is a causal risk factor for increased aggressive behavior, including violence.

COSTELLO: You know, I don't know -- years ago, you know, back in the day, we heard the same thing about heavy metal music or hard rock music with violent lyrics. And that kind of fell by the wayside, and nobody really believes that, you know, lyrics and music such as that translates to violent behavior in the real world.

ANDERSON: That's true. The same thing has happened to research on movie violence and television violence. And in a sense, that speaks to the strength of the industries much like the NRA, but to the movie industry, video game industry and their ability to keep the general public confused about what the research shows.

But the research is very clear. We conducted a meta -- well, it's called a meta analysis type of study that was published in 2010 that looked at all of the video game studies that we could find around the world, including a substantial number from Japan and reviewed those studies and combined them using state-of-the-art statistical procedures and came to the conclusion that exposure to video games, violent video games can increase aggressive behavior.

(CROSSTALK) COSTELLO: So professor, what exactly, how does it affect your brain? Does it desensitize to you violence? What does watching or playing a video game do to your brain to make you more violent?

ANDERSON: Well, there are a several -- there -- there are number of processes going on, so in the short term, that is right while one is playing the game and for a brief period afterwards, aggressive thoughts are more available. So if a provocation occurs in that time period you're more like to see it as a provocation and aggressive solutions are more likely to come to mind.

Longer term we get changes in attitudes towards using aggressive solutions, changes in how one interprets say ambiguous situations, so you get bumped into say a child in a lunchroom.

Those who play a lot of violent video games are more likely to interpret that a bump as intentional and they are more likely to respond by pushing back or maybe even starting a fight.

COSTELLO: Ok, so the final question and this is the thing I think confuses people. Millions of people play games like "World of Warcraft" millions of people do and millions do not resort to violent behavior in the real world so how do you explain the disconnect.

ANDERSON: That's correct. Yes the idea is that it's much like say smoking and lung cancer right. Smoking a cigarette isn't going to cause everyone to get lung cancer. In fact smoking a lot of cigarettes not everyone who smokes gets cancer. And some who don't smoke do get lung cancer so it's more of a probabilistic relationship and it's -- I like to point out to people that taking a normal, healthy, well-developed child or adolescent and you know, if they start playing violent video games, that's not going to turn them into a school shooter, mainly because extreme acts of violence always require multiple risk factors to be present. And media violence is only one of many risk factors out there for extreme kinds of aggression and violence.

COSTELLO: Professor Craig Anderson, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

ANDERSON: You're welcome.

COSTELLO: We're back in a minute with a check of our "Top Stories."


COSTELLO: We'll take you back to Newtown, Connecticut and Soledad in just a minute. But first a check of some of the other stories we're following this morning. Three months after the deadly attack at the U.S. consulate in Libya Congress had received the independent report on the incident today. That's ahead of hearings this week. The U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens as you know and three others were killed in that attack on September 11th.

McDonald's employees may not be loving this news. Advertising agents reporting they may have to work on Christmas day because Santa wants a Big Mac on Christmas day. Anywho -- it cites a November 8th memo from the company's chief operations officer urging franchisees to open on the holiday to help boost sales.

In money news Robert Griffin III, RG3 has set a record off the field. reports the RG3 jersey has sold more than any other players in a single season since the NFL started keeping track. And yes that includes Tim Tebow. The record was previously held by Bret Favre.

Talk about your power couple Hollywood legend Martin Scorsese will produce and direct an HBO documentary on political icon Bill Clinton. It will cover Clinton's two terms in office and beyond. Clinton is said to be cooperating fully with the Scorsese project.

Now let's take you back to Newtown and Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: By that I am not surprised that he is cooperating with Marty Scorsese doing a movie on him. All right Carol thank you.


COSTELLO: Yes I wonder what will be included and not included in that movie.

O'BRIEN: Here in Newtown -- and not included, right that's the key one what will not be included.

Here in Newtown, Connecticut the days have cleared up. We were in a downpour which some people were talking about the town crying because the weather was so bad. So the weather has improved a little bit but still the town is trying to make sense of this terrible tragedy in this aftermath.

Investigators still trying to learn more about the shooter, Adam Lanza, one of those who might be able to offer some insight into the gunman's life is Adam Diaz he is a former classmate of Lanza's who spoke exclusively to CNN's national correspondent Susan Candiotti. We're going to hear from him coming up this morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

Also ahead in the next hour kids in every school here in Newtown except for Sandy Hook Elementary are headed back to school today and on hand at every school grief counselors. It's a very different world these kids are going back to now than the one they left last week. We'll update you on what is happening there.

I spoke with Steve Perry he is the principal and founder of Capital Preparatory Magnate School at Hartford, Connecticut. And we'll hear from him about how he would be responding if in fact this had happened at his school. That's ahead in the next hour.

We're back in just a moment.


COSTELLO: "Talk Back" question for you today. "What does owning a gun represent to you?

This is from Crystal. "A gun to me is protection I don't own a gun but if I did that's what it would be used for. If I'm broken into and my husband isn't home, I would have to protect myself. How else would I do that?"

This is from Lissa. "Control over my own safety. My ability to make my own decisions and understanding of personal accountability, both mine and the criminal's."

This from Shelley, "No one has the right to own a gun that can kill 20 children in a minute and a half."

And this from Roy, "Responsibility, accountability, added safety and the obligation to think very rationally about how and when that gun should be used. Had Mrs. Lanza secured her weapons as they should have been secured, we might not have had so much carnage."

Keep the conversation going, More of your responses in the next hour of NEWSROOM.


COSTELLO: Stories we're watching right now Just days after that deadly school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School fellow students in Newtown are heading back to the classroom. It is not going to be easy. So, how do you help them cope?

Plus an exclusive interview with a former classmate of Adam Lanza who reveals information about the gunman's childhood.


ADAM DIAZ, FORMER CLASSMATE OF ADAM LANZA: He was a very intelligent person, he really was. It's just like, you know, the way he acted around other people was just very withdrawn and just really quiet.


And lies spread about the Sandy Hook Elementary School case. Now police say they will go after you, you social media users who post fake posts (ph).

NEWSROOM starts now.