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Anger Over Map Of Gun Permit Holders; New York Newspaper In Middle Of Gun Debate; Gun Control Debate Reignited

Aired December 27, 2012 - 10:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

Stories we're watching in the NEWSROOM. The Second Amendment and public safety, is it possible to strike a balance between the right to bear arms and keeping Americans safe? The president of the NRA, David Keene, joins me with his thoughts.

Last week, Congress passed a law that allows Netflix to share your movie watching history on Facebook. The only problem, it also said police can search through all your e e-mail archives without a warrant.

A shark tank in a shopping mall explodes sending sharks flying everywhere and shoppers run in running for their lives. NEWSROOM starts now.

Good morning. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Carol Costello. We begin in Washington where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is expected to speak at any time now about the fiscal cliff.

Reid and his fellow Senators are under intense scrutiny after the Republican House Speaker John Boehner said the Democratic-controlled Senate must act first on proposals already passed by his chamber. We will bring you Reid's remark when they happen.

Our other top story this morning, growing outrage over the decision a New York newspaper made to publish a map with the names and addresses of people who have gun permits. The interactive map was created with publicly-available information. It pinpoints the location of legally licensed permit holders for handguns.

We reached out to the newspaper for a statement, they sent us this back.

Quote, "The massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, remains atop our minds for many of our readers. Our readers are understandably and keenly interested to know about who owns guns in their neighborhoods," end quote.

CNN's Brian Todd joins me now. Good morning, Brian. You talked with some gun owners about this issue. What did they tell you?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, there's a lot of fallout over this map and it's extraordinary when you actually work this map on the Internet, all you have to do is click on one of those dots and the name and address of the gun permit holder pops up there.

We went to a gun store in Virginia. The manager did not want the store identified by name, but we asked gun owners what they think of this interactive map and how they would respond to it if it happened in their state. Take a listen.


PAT CAVANAGH, GUN OWNER: A couple reasons. Obviously, gun ownership is personal. But the main concern I would have is there are a lot of gun thefts. So if your name comes up and your address and zip code comes up, people are going to know who are not the right people are going to want to break in and steel your guns.

That would be a concern. You don't know if you're going to be home when that happens or a family member would be home when that happens. That would be my main concern.

TODD: Would you be less likely to buy a gun or any kind of weapon knowing your name and address could be published?


TODD: Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it's a matter of public record, anybody could find out any way.


TODD: So a lot of fallout over this, Carol. Some people who have responded to the "Journal News" Web site have suggested that maybe the paper should be sued for violating the privacy of the permit holders. But a lot of legal experts believe it would be difficult to win a lawsuit because you'd have to prove there was intent to harm someone there. So the fallout continues against the "Journal News" for this.

COSTELLO: Let's talk about that backlash against the paper. I mean, what are some people doing in response to this because they can't take legal action?

TODD: Well, it's interesting. At least one attorney, Christopher Fountain, has put on his blog the names --

COSTELLO: Brian, I'm sorry. I have to interrupt you. The Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is talking about the fiscal cliff. Let's listen.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: -- it's not going to be a good draw. Americans taxes are approaching the wrong direction. Come the first of this year, Americans will have less income than they have today. If we go over the cliff and it looks like that's where we're headed, the House of Representatives as we speak with four days left after today aren't here with the Speaker having told them they will give them 48 hours notice.

I can't imagine their consciousness. They are out wherever they are and we're here trying to get something done. They are not in Washington, D.C. the House of Representatives are not here. They couldn't even get the leadership together yesterday.

They had to do it with a teleconference, Republican leadership. If we go over the cliff, we'll be left with the knowledge that could have been prevented with a single vote in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives of Mr. Speaker.

Prior to this session starting today, the presiding officer and I had a conversation about how things have changed around here. I served in the House of Representatives. There are 435 members of a House. What goes on in this country shouldn't be decided by the majority.

It should be decided by the whole House of Representatives. Everyone knows, including the Speaker of the House of Representatives today, that if they brought up the Senate-passed bill, it would give relief to everyone making less than $250,000, it would pass overwhelmingly.

But the Speaker says, no, we can't do that. It has to be a majority of the majority. So they have done nothing. He tried to bring up the bill last week to show they could defeat it. They couldn't do that even. They couldn't defeat the bill passed here in the Senate.

The American people, I don't think, understand the House of Representatives is operating without the House of Representatives. It's being operated with a dictatorship of the Speaker not allowing the vast majority of the House of Representatives to get what they want.

If the $250,000 would be brought up, it would be passed overwhelmingly I repeat. On any given day for the last five or six months since July 25th, Speaker Boehner could have brought the Senate-passed middle class tax cut legislation to a vote in the House. Then it would pass.

But he's doing -- he's made the decision he's not going to let a vote on that because it would pass. I've said here, Mr. President, it's not too late for the Speaker to take up the bill. But that time is even winding down. Today is Thursday.

He's going to get 48-hours notice to the House before they come back. So that's Saturday. With just that one vote, middle-class families would have the security their taxes wouldn't go up by $2,200 on New Year's Day. Speaker Boehner should call members back today.

He shouldn't have let them go, in fact. They are not here. They are not here. John Boehner seems to care more about keeping his Speakership than keeping the country on financial footing. He's waiting until January 3rd to get re-elected as Speaker before he gets serious with negotiations.

Because he has so many people over there that won't follow what he wants. That's obvious from the debacle that took place last week and it was a debacle. He made an offer to the president. The president came back. They are just a little bit apart. He walked away from that and went to Plan B.

All it did was whack people who need help the most, poor people, and he couldn't even pass that. Remember, he's not letting the House of Representatives vote. He's letting the Republicans vote. It was so bad and he was in such difficult shape there he wouldn't even allow a vote to take place because he knew he would lose.

For months, he's allowed House Republicans to hold them hostage to protect the richest 2 percent. The funny part, the 2 percent don't want to be protected. The majority of rich people on our great country are willing to pay more.

The only people that disagree with that are Republicans who work in this building. The Speaker just has a few days left to change his mind. I have to be very honest, Mr. President.


COSTELLO: We're going to step away from Senator Harry Reid. You kind of get the gist of what he's saying. He's blaming the House Speaker, the Republican John Boehner, for the stall in talks on fiscal cliff.

Dana Bash is our congressional correspondent. It just seems like this is the blame game. The House Speaker would blame the president. The Senate majority leader would blame the House Speaker. Who is really to blame in all of this?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): You know, everybody is, Carol. You're right. It's absolutely is the blame game. I'm a little surprised at how personal Harry Reid just got in going after the Speaker.

Yes, it is true that things have clearly broken down, that goes without saying, and that the Democrats were not happy that maybe a week and a half ago the Speaker pulled out of talks with the president after they had reached a pretty good amount of progress. But the fact that he called the Speaker a dictator and in the next breath said he's worried about his job. It's a little contradictory, but also, again, very, very personal about the Speaker.

Look, let me give you a little bit of a reality check. That is it is true that the House is not in session. They will come in quickly at 2:00 in a pro formal way and House Republican leaders have told members they will give them 48-hours notice and that hasn't happened yet.

But Senator Reid and Democrats and Republicans in the Senate also went home for the holidays. They are back today. But it is unclear what's going to happen at this point. It's also clear both parties know that the ball is in the Senate's court right now.

There was a lot of posture that speaks to how angry people are right now and how tense things are. But it does not necessarily mean they are not going to continue talking when it comes to the United States Senate. COSTELLO: Let's hope they keep talking, somehow, some way. We don't have too much longer. Dana Bash, thank you so much for joining us this morning. We appreciate that.

As we have been telling you all morning long, the NRA's president, David Keene, is here. We'll talk to him after a break.


COSTELLO: It's 14 minutes past the hour. Now back to our top story. The decision of a New York newspaper to publish the names and addresses of gun permit holders, even the Brady Center, a group in favor of gun control is opposed to what the "Journal News," which is located in the lower Hudson Valley of New York, decided to do.

The Brady Center calls the decision to publish the names misplaced and it adds it's not a common sense approach to decreasing gun violence in this country.

With me now in a CNN exclusive from Washington is David Keene, who is the president of the National Rifle Association. Welcome, David.

DAVID KEENE, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be with you.

COSTELLO: Thanks for being here. We appreciate it. I suspect in the case of the "Journal News," you agree with the Brady Center?

KEENE: Well, we don't agree often, but we do agree on that. Although I think it's more than misplaced. I think it was unconscionable that this newspaper did this for a couple reasons. Ironically it works both ways.

First of all, these are all upstanding citizens who have passed rigorous tests. They own their firearms legally. By listing them, they do two things. One, most guns that are used illegally in this country are either bought on the black market or they are stolen.

So if you're a criminal looking for a gun, you've just been given a map to where you can find some. The paper would like to list the make of guns that people own so you'd have a catalogue to shop.

Secondly on the other side, it also tells you who isn't armed. And therefore, if you're not seeking a gun, but you're seeking television sets and the like through burglary, you know where to go.

I think it is completely irresponsible. The fact is that this newspaper did this knowingly for the purp se of trying to demonize gun owners because they don't happen to believe in firearms. But this --

COSTELLO: Again, though, the fact that the Brady Center agrees with you. The newspaper should not have done this, does that say to people out there who are yearning for a compromise that there's some middle ground here? We can agree on at least something.

KEENE: There's always something to agree on. When we get to the basic question of whether Americans under the 2nd amendment have the right to use and purchase and own firearms legally and for lawful purposes, I don't think we'll get to an area of agreement.

And at least we can agree that people who exercise their rights who have no reason to be suspected of having done anything wrong shouldn't be demonized because some paper disagrees with them.

I think what's important is that as we have this, quote, "conversation" in the days following the Newtown massacre that the conversation should be rational. We're willing to discuss all of these things because we're confident in our position.

But I don't think that attacking people personally, trying to demonize them, trying to blame individuals for something that's not their fault in any way gets us anywhere. I'm willing to talk with the Brady people or anyone else. The evidence is very clear in terms of what works and what doesn't.

COSTELLO: I must say, David, when we found out we were going to interview you today, I have an active Facebook page and I put on there, "What would you like me to ask David Keene from the National Rifle Association?" And many, many comments say, "Why is the NRA crazy? Why are they out of touch with reality? Why do you think people say those things about the NRA?"

KEENE: Listen, the question of firearms in this country is a question on which people disagree very deeply and some people tend to personalize it.

I tell you this though. Recent Gallup polls show the NRA is quite popular, certainly more than either of the national political party, although that's a pretty low bar. We asked voters in Wisconsin following the recall election of Governor Walker whether they agree with the goals and principles of the National Rifle Association and 45 percent of them said yes.

So yes, there are people who are detractors, yes there are people who disagree with us on policy and yes, there are people who think that because we support firearms rights that we're crazy. But the fact of the matter is most Americans don't feel that way at all. And most support the 2nd amendment.

COSTELLO: We'll get to a few polls in a minute including what your own members think of the NRA. But I'd like to get this question out of the way. David Gregory held up a magazine during his interview with the NRA's Wayne Lappierr. A 30-round magazine is illegal in the city of Washington, D.C. Should Mr. Gregory be prosecuted?

KEENE: No, I don't think so. There are two lessons for him there: Don't ask the government what's legal and what isn't legal because half the people you ask don't know. And secondly, that's a silly felony.

It's a felony in Washington, D.C., to own that magazine or to be caught with a cartridge. So I really think what David Gregory did, while he was inadvertently flouting the law, was illustrated in a very graphic way, perhaps not intentionally, just how silly some of these laws are. And if he's prosecuted --

COSTELLO: But isn't it the NRA's position to enforce the existing laws on the books? Then why not enforce this one, it's on the books?

KEENE: I'm not a vindictive guy that wants to go after David Gregory. I think it illustrates the craziness of some of these laws.

COSTELLO: But still, it's a law that's on the books and that's your position so right now it's illegal to hold up something like that.

KEENE: People who use guns and firearms in the commission of crimes should be prosecuted under existing laws. This was not a commission of a crime by David Gregory.

COSTELLO: But citizens can't choose which laws to follow and which laws not to follow.

KEENE: No, the fact of the matter is, if you want to support indicting David Gregory, fine. I'll tell you who I'd like to indict, the people in Chicago, the criminals in Chicago who made that one of the most violent cities in America. In Chicago, there's less chance that you'll be prosecuted under federal firearms laws than in almost any major city in this country and that's a crime.

COSTELLO: It's been nearly two weeks since the Newtown shooting. One week since the NRA response. In that time, Americans seem more confused than ever about how to react to gun violence.

On one hand, people are buying up guns like mad. In Los Angeles, we have seen some of the biggest gun buyback in history. People waited two hours in line to get rid of their guns. Why do you think that is? Why the dichotomy in the country?

KEENE: Well, I think I wasn't in Los Angeles for the buyback, but if you offer me a $100 for a $50, I'll sell it to you.

COSTELLO: But some people said that they wanted to get rid of the guns because they wanted them out of their house after Newtown.

KEENE: People have every right to either own or not own a gun. That's what a free country is all about.

COSTELLO: Let's move on to the polls that I was talking about earlier. There are some who are as conservative as you can get who say the NRA not listening to your own members.

Frank Luntz is a Republican pollster. This is what he had to say on CBS.


FRANK LUNTZ, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: I don't think the NRA is listening. I don't think that they understand. Most Americans would protect the 2nd amendment rights and yet agree with the idea that not every human being should own a gun. Not every gun should be available for just anyone. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KEENE: All of our members agree with that. All that Frank Luntz is doing, and by the way that poll he is talking about was paid for by Mayor Bloomberg's group. He's misrepresenting the views of the National Rifle Association.

There are people who should not be allowed to purchase firearms and the law provides prohibiting such purposes. We have argued for years that those who have been adjudicating should be included on the instant check registry with the government so they can be denied the purchase of firearms, 23 states haven't even done that.

COSTELLO: I think he was talking about having armed guards in every school in America. He said most don't want more guns in school, they want less. He said some of your members even agree with that and you're not listening to them.

KEENE: There are 23,000 schools today that have armed guards, private schools and public schools. Cops in the schools program was initiated in the 1990s by Bill Clinton. Now whether an individual school wants that kind of protection or doesn't want that kind of protection is really up to the individual school.

And when we made that statement, when Wayne LaPierre spoke about a week ago, he suggested that what has to happen is in every school district, administrators, teachers and parents should sit down and what's need to protect the students. Some will want police officers there.

Others of them will want private security guards. There may be some places they want volunteers to do it. We're willing to work with everybody on those questions, but the fact is that is not a crazy suggestion.

COSTELLO: The teachers unions in the country don't want armed guards patrolling over schools. Most police officers don't want that.

KEENE: Let's not got into an argument about who teachers unions are interested in. We're not urging that teachers be armed. But in some schools, school districts and teachers are armed today. And if the school district and the teachers want to do it that way, that's really up to them it seems to me.

COSTELLO: Let's go back to Mr. Luntz. He conducted a poll for mayors against illegal guns this past May. It showed NRA members strongly support what he called common sense safety measures to keep guns from criminals.

I want to go through them one by one. Here's the first one, 87 percent of NRA members agree 2nd amendment rights support goes hand in hand with keeping guns out of the hands criminal hands.

KEENE: That's it the NRA's position.

COSTELLO: So how do you keep them out of the hands of criminals? I say that because if you go back to Sandy Hook, this kid wasn't a criminal. He got hold of a legally-purchased gun and committed mass murder.

KEENE: He stole the gun. He could not have probably purchased that firearm himself. He try, I think, to buy a gun and couldn't. In a country the size of ours, there are some people who are evil. Some people are lunatics.

If you go to a store to purchase a gun today, you have to fill out a government form and you have to be checked through what's called the nick system that runs your name through all the data bases of criminal activity and if you come up as a prohibited purchaser, you cannot purchase that gun.

The NRA has supported that system from the very beginning because we agree. And if he suggests we don't agree, he's misrepresenting the facts. We agree that guns should be kept out of the hands of criminals. Now --

COSTELLO: You're going to -- the next statistic we have is 74 percent of NRA members support requiring a criminal background check. But you don't have to go through any such thing at private gun shows.

KEENE: Actually that's a bit of an exaggeration. If you want me to answer your question, I will. Most of the guns, the vast majority of guns are sold by dealers. And everyone has to go through the same check they would go through if they bought those guns in the dealer's store, the retail outlet.

The purchasers who do not have to do this is if you want to sell me a firearm as a private party just as if you want to sell me your car you don't need a dealer's license. Wait a minute. It's not much of a problem because the federal government has in the past done studies of where criminals get their guns.

Less than 1 percent of them are purchased at gun shows, period. So that's really not a source of very many firearms either. But 4 percent of the guns purchased are purchased at gun shows so you're talking --

COSTELLO: A bigger problem are private gun sales. There's no record of it anywhere. Should sunshine who sells a gun have to report that somewhere? Shouldn't the police --

KEENE: No. If I sell a gun to my son or my wife or my cousin, the answer is no.

COSTELLO: So what if that gun is used in a crime and police can't find where it came from?

KEENE: We do not keep -- this country does not keep a gun registry.

COSTELLO: Why is that?

KEENE: Because a national gun registry can lead to the thing that happened in New York. Secondly, history shows that nations that register guns are in a position then to take the guns away from the citizens. We have a right unless we're criminals, unless we're in a prohibited group, we have a right to have one. And there is no reason --

COSTELLO: But don't I have a right of a victim to do the police do the best investigation they can.

KEENE: And they do.

COSTELLO: But without the tools, they can't.

KEENE: They have the tools. They have attempted in various places, New York tried to do microtargeting of ammunition and the like so they could trace gun crimes. They ended that program because it was hugely expensive and solved no crimes. Canada had a gun registry. Cost them upwards of a billion dollars and solved no crimes.

COSTELLO: There's got to be some middle ground. It's not either/or. You're kind of making it sound like that way. That gets us nowhere.

KEENE: If you expect me to say, yes, let's get rid of the 2nd amendment --

COSTELLO: I'm not asking you to do that at all.

KEENE: It's valuable and worth preserving. If you're asking me are there things that can be done, for example, if the proposal is to include those who are -- mentally unstable to own a firearm, I can find a middle ground on that. In fact, you and I are probably on the same page on that one.

COSTELLO: David Keene, thank you so much for coming in and talking with us this morning on this very important topic. We appreciate it.

KEENE: My pleasure.

COSTELLO: We'll be right back.