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Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien

Four More Funerals In Newtown Today; Celebrating Jenni Rivera's Life; International Space Station's New Crew; Mudslide Knocks Train Off Tracks; Florida's Plan to Fix Voting Problems; One Millionth Concealed Carry Permit In Florida; Global Gun Control

Aired December 19, 2012 - 07:30   ET



SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. Our team this morning, Roland Martin is with us, CNN's political analyst, host of "Washington Watch with Roland Martin." That airs on TV1. It's nice to have you with us.


O'BRIEN: Will Cain is a CNN contributor and a columnist for the It's nice to have you with us. We're going to ask John to stick around as well. Let's in fact start with some of the other stories that are making news outside of fiscal cliff today. What else do we got?

JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": Of course, we're still talking about Newtown, Connecticut. Funeral services today for four more victims of the shootings there, teacher, Vickie Soto will be laid to rest along with three of the Sandy Hook kids, Daniel Barden, Caroline Previdi and Charlotte Bacon.

The parents of another victim, 7-year-old Grace McDonnell spoke to CNN's Anderson Cooper about their daughter.


LYNN MCDONNELL, MOTHER OF GRACE MCDONNELL: She was the light and love of our family. She was truly a special, special little girl. She loved her school, Sandy Hook. In fact, this week, I was telling somebody, she had a stomach ache one day and I said to her why don't you stay home with mom? And she said no way. I have too much fun there and I don't want to miss anything.


BERMAN: She loved school. Lynn McDonnell says they are comforted that Grace was in the Sandy Hook School, a place that she did love so much when she died.

Thousands of fans expected to gather today to celebrate the life of Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera. A memorial will be held this morning at Gibson Amphitheater in Los Angeles. Rivera and six other people died in a plane crash in Mexico earlier this month.

Liftoff, International Space Station three newest crew members happened about 15 minutes ago. An American astronaut, a Russian cosmonaut, and a Canadian space agency astronaut blasted off in the Soyuz Aircraft headed to the International Space Station. They are going to join the three men who are already on board the space station.

Look at this video, a mudslide near Everett, Washington, knocking seven railcars off the tracks, all caught on tape. The 75-foot wide mud slide was caused by a rain-soaked cliff. They've had tons of rain there.

Engineers were planning to examine this cliff literally right after the 66-car train passed through. Timing is everything. This was just the latest of several recent mud slide on this region -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, John, thank you. The presidential election was on November 6th. Of course, the winner was announced late that night. Florida though did not declare a winner until four days later, and just this Monday, it handed off officially its Electoral College votes this Monday.

That's partly because of images like these, people who waited in line for up to six hours to cast their votes across the state along with voter fraud, allegations, voter purge controversies and much more.

Rick Scott is the governor of Florida. He is hoping change some of that with some new legislation. He joins us this morning. It's nice to have you with us, Governor. Thank you. Appreciate your time. What changes are you proposing?

GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Well, first, Soledad, I just want to thank you. You've done a great job with compassion, thoughtful coverage of the tragedy in Connecticut. You just -- I mean, you can't imagine that happening to your family or your community. So I just want to thank you for that.

O'BRIEN: Appreciate that, thank you.

SCOTT: But going to the voter -- look, people are frustrated in our state. Some of our counties, we have very long lines, you know, we've got to reach a confidence in our election. So I've asked our secretary of state to sit down with our supervisor of elections.

Almost all of them are elected. Some are Republicans, some Democrats and get feedback. What went wrong? Why did we have long lines? Why did it take them so long to get results to us?

We compiled them at the state, basically the supervisor of elections give us. So we need to have bipartisan legislation that deals with three issues. The one is the length of these ballots. We have -- I have the ballot from Miami-Dade, 12 pages, 12 pages of ballots.

This took some people 40 minutes to get through. So we've got to deal with the length of our ballots and local issues, state issues, and it was just too long.

O'BRIEN: There are --

SCOTT: Secondly, we need more flexibility.

O'BRIEN: Go ahead. You said more flexibility.

SCOTT: I think -- I think there are three things. One, the length of the ballot. Two, we've got to allow our supervisors more flexibility in the size of polling locations and three, the number of days we have. We got to go back and look at the number of days of early voting we had.

O'BRIEN: I guess, I'm asking how much of a blame do you hold in this -- or do you hold yourself accountable for? Because there are people blamed you very vociferously frankly for not extending early voting.

When you look at some of the polling, Quinnipiac has a poll out, does Governor Scott deserve a second term, 52 percent say no. And in your own party, more than half of the people say they would like another candidate to challenge you.

So how much of this -- you are suffering the consequences of some of the things that you could have changed.

SCOTT: Well, Soledad, you know, I complied with the law. You know, we had an election bill that was passed my first year in office by the legislature. It was proved by the Justice Department, so I complied with the law.

You know, when you are governor, you have to comply with the law and that's what I did. But we do need change. We need to have a bipartisan group come together, Republicans and Democrats, and say we have to improve this. We have to restore the confidence of all Americans in the election process in Florida.

O'BRIEN: Can I ask you a question? Off of this and turning to gun control, which obviously you have been talking about for days now. You have an "A" rating from the NRA and the NRA has now said they are going to offer meaningful contributions in the wake of this terrible tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. What do you think they mean by that?

SCOTT: Well, I think the right thing, we ought to do is do what you have been doing and that's respect these families in this community. Second, what I've done in the state is ask every one of our schools to go back and let's look at safety precautions and make sure every parent feels comfortable.

I mean, I talked to families up in Connecticut, and I talk to families around Florida. Some of them were very -- they really had to think about sending their child to school this week. So that's the next thing to do.

There will be plenty of time to think about if there is something we ought to deal with. Mental illness issues we ought to deal with. Things like that. O'BRIEN: So what would you support in terms of legislation if it in fact comes to that? I mean, do you believe that there should be stronger gun laws? You're well supported by the NRA and historically they have not reported that. So how far would you be willing to go?

SCOTT: Sure. Well, as you know, I support the second amendment. I believe --

O'BRIEN: Me too.

SCOTT: -- in second amendment. But what I want to focus on right now is the families, make sure our states, our schools are safe. In our state, we have a 41-year low on the crime rate. So we're doing the right things in our state. Whenever anything happens like this, let's step back, say what can we improve?

O'BRIEN: Well, you know, I understand that people often say that in the wake of a tragedy, let's wait, and I actually think I've covered enough of them that, you know, we'll wait until we bump up against the next tragedy and there will be one no, doubt about it.

I guess, I would like to hear from elected officials what are you willing to change? Your daughter, you have talked about her, she's a teacher. Is your answer let's arm the teachers? Some have proposed that.

Is your answer let's not make these semi-automatic weapons available -- the rifles, long guns available? Do you think background checks should be instituted? Right now, somebody can be mentally ill and it won't show up in a background check or a conviction for domestic violence and still get a gun. Where does it start? What are you comfortable doing?

SCOTT: I think right now, what we ought to be doing, let's talk about all of the issues and think about what we can do to improve it. But here is what I think. One, I have been to the law enforcement funeral desk in our state.

And your heart goes out to those families. And afterward, you say what can we do to improve? In Florida, we're doing the right things right now. We're at a 41-year low in our crime rate. I always want to sit back and say, OK, what could we do better? That's what I want to think about with this.

O'BRIEN: OK. I think with all due respect, you are not going to answer my question, because I guess -- I just want you to tell me what you would be comfortable to support, and I get it, it will be part of a conversation.

But I think there have been a number of things on the table and I don't feel like you're telling me, you know, should people not be able to buy high-capacity magazines? What are you willing to say would be a good start that you would bring to the table in any conversation about gun control?

SCOTT: Well, you know, my focus is, one, respect the families, mourn their losses, make sure our schools are safe, and then start the conversation and listen to the Floridians. What I do every day is travel the state, almost, pretty much every day, and listen to Floridians and get their ideas and then come back, based on those ideas of what we can improve.

O'BRIEN: Well, I hope it all goes -- all those conversations turn into meaningful conversations before I get to go out and cover another tragedy of which we've now done a bunch of them.

SCOTT: I can't imagine this happening to our families.

O'BRIEN: My goodness, no. Governor Rick Scott joining us, he is the governor of Florida. Thanks for being with us, sir. Appreciate your time.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, 2008, if you look at statistics in Japan, they had 11 gun-related murders. The U.S. about 12,000, should the United States be looking to other country's gun policies? Christiane Amanpour will talk to us about that straight ahead.


O'BRIEN: So as the nation is considering tighter gun control laws in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, we wanted to talk about what other countries are doing with their laws, for example, Japan, which had just 11 gun-related murders in 2008. The United States at the same time had 12,000.

Christiane Amanpour has been looking into this. Governor Scott was not willing to lay out any ideas for what could reasonable or rationally on the table in his perspective. What have you found in other countries?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was remarkable that actually politicians like that were not willing to give you an answer after many, many attempts. And all you wanted was an answer.

So other countries have faced some of these similar incidents. Remember in 1996 in Scotland, children the same ages as those in Sandy Hook Elementary School were massacred. Sixteen children were killed, and today they are lighting candles for those children who are being buried.

But they have done more than that. The government there took on what were already were tough gun laws and strengthened them. In that case, they banned the easy access to handguns. They also put in a buy back scheme. They also then backed that up with penalties and fines for any violations.

The fact is, that worked. It didn't not work it worked. There is a cause and effect, and the crime, while it sort of stayed somewhat stable for the first couple of years after that, between 2002 and 2011, that gun-related crime went down 4 percent.

In 1996 that same year in Australia, there was a massacre, a mass murder. After that, the Australian government banned the sale, the import, the possession of semiautomatic pistols and assault rifles, similar to those that were used in Sandy Hook and other U.S. massacres. That also worked.

The number of gun-related crimes plummeted. Not only that, a Harvard University study show that before the 1996 massacre in Australia, there were some 13 massacres and about 102 people were killed. After those gun laws were enacted, after the massacre in 1996, there has not been a single such incident.

These are allies of the United States. These are not soft countries. These are countries that go to war, stand by the United States and have seen the crime and have taken political action to limit it.

In Japan, which you just mentioned, it's a different situation. They actually banned the private use of handguns, you can't buy a shotgun. You can basically buy an air rifle. Even off-duty police officers cannot carry guns.

In order to have your basic air rifle, you have to have a skills test, you have to have a license, you have to have a drug test, a mental evaluation, and you have to have police background check, file with the police, all sorts of fines.

As you mentioned in 2008, there were 11 gun-related deaths. That is half the number of young children who were killed in Sandy Hook Elementary. At the same year, there were 12,000 gun-related deaths in the United States. It is not brain surgery. It is not brain surgery.

You have interviewed many leaders. I interviewed Senator Manchin on Monday and started this national debate of sort of shifting the parameters. He is a proud member of the NRA. He is proud member of the second amendment upholder. But he said this changed me.

We have to bring everybody to the table, bring the NRA to the table. Let's have sensible laws.

O'BRIEN: They have said they want to make meaningful contributions. What do you think that means?

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: If I may because I'm encourage by conversations we had earlier and have a thoughtful conversation around this topic. It's always a wary one to have in the days after -- to answer that because my position is inherently vilified.

But if I could I want to explain, Christiane, why those analogies to other countries are somewhat inappropriate. The relationship Americans have with their government is fundamentally different than the Japanese or the U.K. for that matter.

The purpose of the second amendment, and you asked why it was invoked, is that it's designed to be a protection against tyranny, right? It's designed to protect against pole pots of the world. We'll never accomplish a ban. We'll never have a U.K. ban --

AMANPOUR: Nobody is talking about that. People are talking about a sensible conversation --

O'BRIEN: Can I just pause for one moment?

AMANPOUR: This is the kind of thing that we're not allowed to chat about and we should.

O'BRIEN: Because you mentioned the second amendment and everybody refers to it. Let's read it first. Here is the second amendment, literally what it says, a well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. And that's what the second amendment meant.

CAIN: It has nothing to do with hunting or personal self-defense. These people had just beaten the British in a revolution and they enshrined the ability to continue to have that civilian protection. That's why we're different.

MARTIN: But this is -- this is -- this is the fundamental problem I have with that and I get it. I understand historically how we came to that point. But I'm not trying to fight the federal government. I'm not trying to grab a .9-millimeter and say I don't want a federal trooper coming into my home.

We have to reach a point in this country when you have -- we have folks who say let's don't have back ground checks. Let's not have checks at gun -- at gun sales on the weekends and I've gone to those.

I have covered those, and at some point, when you look at 12,000 people being killed annually by guns, when you see not just Sandy Hook, what happens in Chicago, 24 hours after that took place on Friday, 10 folks shot in Chicago. At some point, you've got to have some kind of control.

CAIN: I'm going to let Christiane respond to me because you have some --

AMANPOUR: It's not brain surgery anymore. The question really is, are these children going to have been slaughtered in vain? These weapons, Soledad, are used on battlefields. I have seen children like that slaughtered from Sariavo to Somalia and it's now happening in Syria.

It should not be happening on the streets of the United States. The second amendment does not infringe on the right of hunters. Joe Manchin said to me, I don't need high capacity magazines. I don't need assault rifles.

O'BRIEN: When you say -- so is your issue in the second amendment the word infringement? Any law at all that would prevent somebody who should have not a weapon from having a weapon. It's two lines long. It's not long.

CAIN: Not any weapon. The answer is not any weapon. Sooner or later the principle abuts against efficacy. That's what I was trying to say to Christiane. Absence and absolute ban as such they have accomplished in Japan.

Absent that, when you say we're just going to limit assault rifles, I assume that's one of the things you concentrate on in a sensible regulation. What we're talking about specifically in incidents over the past week are premeditated psychopathic killers who will find the weapons they need to perpetuate these crimes. They're like a drunkard.

AMANPOUR: You just brought up --

CAIN: Almost finished with the point. If you outlaw whiskey will you reduce drunk driving --

AMANPOUR: Perfect analogy. Mothers against drunk driving many years ago took this on. It was considered cool, a nudge and a wink. You have a couple of beers. You have a shot of whiskey. You get behind a wheel and you're in a killing machine. It's changed. Smoking has changed.

O'BRIEN: Will, you say this guy. We know the killers in Columbine. They got their gun in a way that they didn't have to go through a weapons check, a background check. There are examples of all this. When you look at overall crimes that are caused by those long gun assault weapons they're 2 percent to 8 percent of violent gun crimes.

CAIN: The truth is then we end up having these conversations around something that amounts to 2 percent of the gun violence. If you really want to make meaningful reform, handguns make up 50 percent --

O'BRIEN: What are you willing to see?

CAIN: I'm suggesting you need to tie the law you're proposing to making actual improvements. I would suggest to you --

O'BRIEN: Will, let me --

CAIN: Right now if we're going to have a conversation about assault rifles --

AMANPOUR: It's not just assault rifles. It's semiautomatics. It's military style weapons.

O'BRIEN: A law that says that somebody who is mentally ill, if it turns out that he is --

CAIN: He got it from his mom.

O'BRIEN: He's not allowed to have access to weapons. A law that says people have to lock them up.

CAIN: What does that mean? He got it from his mom. How would you have stopped his access to this weapon? Not sold it to his mom?

MARTIN: This is the one mistake we make. It is asked if there is no starting point. I think when people say let's have a starting point, let's ban assault weapons. It's not a question of, well, it's only 2 percent to 8 percent. OK, fine. Let's deal with the 2 percent to 8 percent and then move on. When you can't even start, that's the problem.

O'BRIEN: But talk about the 80 percent, the handgun violence, right. There are people who have convictions for domestic violence who can go buy a handgun. Doesn't that seem strange?

CAIN: That is an extremely more meaningful conversation I would love to have. To Roland's point in talking about assault rifles what I suggest to him the law the president, John, is considering would do nothing to stop the things that perpetuate this conversation in the past week.

MARTIN: Then we should push them on that law.

O'BRIEN: I would agree with continuing the conversation.

CAIN: What law would have stopped Adam Lanza? Think about that.

O'BRIEN: What law will reduce the numbers overall. At the end of the day, Adam Lanza is the tipping point. Lots of people are killed all the time with guns. It is not just about the victims. It's about a lot of victims.

Up next, we're going to talk to "Time" magazine about their person of the year who's just been announced. President Obama has been chosen. We'll tell you why.


O'BRIEN: This is just into CNN. Just moments ago, Barack Obama, president of the United States was named "Time" magazine's "Person of the Year 2012." He was also the person of the year 2008.

The magazine's editor says we are in the midst of a historic cultural and demographic changes and Obama is both the symbol and in some ways the architect of this new America.

In the next hour we're going to talk to Michael Scher who wrote the cover story for "Time" magazine on why they've chosen the president to be "Time" magazine person of the year.

Also ahead this morning, State Department under fire in a blistering new report about systemic failures that led up to the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. Details from a new and scathing report is just ahead.

Blizzard warnings for this morning for the Midwest. Snow is already falling in Denver. We'll tell you what you need to know if you're traveling. Back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning, mismanagement and failures. A new report, a blistering report about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans is out. It points the finger at the State Department. We'll tell you some of the disturbing findings in this report straight ahead.

Then a teacher who tried to save her students along with three first graders will be buried today in Newtown, Connecticut. The president is preparing to tackle gun control policy with a new announcement.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: There may be a run on gun stores. It's the opposite on Wall Street. Is this a sign there's growing support for stricter gun laws?

BERMAN: Snow coming to Denver right now and this winter storm could be headed your way. What you need to know about the dangerous conditions coming right up.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this hour, we'll be talking to Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole, South Carolina Congressman Tim Scott, now Oklahoma senator almost actor Brad Garrett joining us as well.

We'll have the writer from "Time" magazine behind the new person of the year, which is President Obama for the second time. It's Wednesday, December 19th. STARTING POINT begins right now.

Welcome back, everybody. Our team today is attitude by Jim Frederick. He is the international editor for "Time" magazine. A little announcement a moment ago about the magazine's person of the year.