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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Newtown Mourns; A Moment Of Silence For Newtown; Manchin: Time To Talk Gun Control; Tragedy Renews Gun Control Debate; Newtown Copycat Arrest?; Benghazi Attack Report Released; Senator Daniel Inouye Dies At 88; Obama Answers Coach's Message; Mayor Bloomberg's Fight Against Guns; "I Am Adam Lanza's Mother"; Inside the Violent Mind

Aired December 18, 2012 - 07:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: There's word of a major move overnight by Dick's Sporting Goods which has 451 stores across 42 states has, they're saying out of respect to the victims, pulled its guns from stores closest to Newtown is suspending the sale of AR - 15 rifles and weapons like it across the entire chain.

And this morning children all over Newtown will head back to school for the very first time since Friday's shooting. Sandy Hook Elementary School remains closed. It is a crime scene.

Jessica Rekos is one of 20 children who were killed on Friday. She will be laid to rest today. She was 6 years old. She loved horses. Couldn't wait for her 10th birthday because her parents said they would buy a horse for her.

The Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy calling for a nationwide moment of silence on Friday exactly one week after that shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The governor choking up when he explained why he took it upon himself to tell the families that were waiting on Friday morning that their loved ones weren't going to come home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOVERNOR DANNEL MALLOY (D), CONNECTICUT: It was evident to me that there was a reluctance to tell parents and loved ones that the person that they were waiting for was not going to return. I made the decision that to have that go on any longer was wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: The 6-year-old Noah Pozner was laid to rest yesterday. That's a picture of him there. His mother's name is Veranique Pozner. At his funeral, she read a very beautiful and very moving eulogy to her son.

I'd like to read a little bit of it for you today. It starts like this "The sky is crying and the flags are at half mast. It's a sad, sad day. But it's also your day, Noah, my little man. I had miss your forceful and purposeful little steps stomping through our house.

I will miss your perpetual smile, the twinkle in your dark blue eyes framed by eyelashes that would be the envy of every lady in this room." She goes on and ends by saying this, "I will join you some day, not today, I still have lots of mommy love to give to Danielle, Michael, Sophia, and Arielle. Until then, your melody will linger in our hearts forever. Mama loves you, little man."

The entire eulogy, which is so powerful and so beautiful can be seen in "The New York Times," they have reprinted it there this morning.

As we've been talking about this tragedy bringing a change to gun laws to the forefront, we want to bring in Senator Joe Manchin. He is conservative Democrat from the state of West Virginia.

He is a member of the National Rifle Association and he is kind of famously pro gun. We'll talk to him this morning. It's nice to have you with us, sir. We certainly appreciate it. You have said it's now time to talk about gun control. What do you specifically mean?

SENATOR JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Soledad, what we're talking about, 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 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 have challenges.

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, 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 as a hunter myself, as a proud defender of the second amendment, as a proud member of the NRA, 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 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 ten or more. Not needed.

I've never gone with a military style assault rifle hunting. It's not need. So we need to question that. 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 is 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 is 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 slaughtered. That cannot be tolerated in America. So does that bring us to the table?

Have we had such a toxic atmosphere, political toxic atmosphere we can't set and have a mature, intelligent decision and look at things and make sure we can protect the second amendment to the constitution, which I will as fervently as ever?

I'm a proud member and will always be. But with that, I'm a responsible parent and grandparent. We need to look. How do we handle mental illness? All these things that we talked about, you know, the culture of violence, how have we gotten where we are today?

When you say the backlash, it's a shame in Washington. I have been here two years as a U.S. senator. I have seen almost a guilt by association. People afraid to talk to other people to get a truly constructive dialog because they were afraid they would be tainted or targeted.

Now it's almost to the point that we're afraid to have an adult conversation so guilt by conversation. Has it gotten to that in Washington? I hope not.

O'BRIEN: Governor Perry said this about weapons. I want to play a little bit for you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOVERNOR RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: In the state of Texas, with our concealed handgun license if you go through the process and you have been dully backgrounded and trained and you are a concealed handgun licensed carrying individual, you should be able to carry your handgun anywhere in this state.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Do you agree with that? He is talking about Texas, his state. Do you think we should be able to carry a gun anywhere?

MANCHIN: Soledad, he's talking about the laws we have in this country, the legal, law-abiding citizens. You know, we're not talking about that. We're talking can we get Rick Perry to sit down and he is a proud member of the NRA?

Can we get people to sit down and have an adult conversation? That's what this really is about. If we can't even get them to the table, do you really think we'll have success in basically how we keep our children safer, changing the violent culture?

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you this --

MANCHIN: I'm sorry.

O'BRIEN: When you look at assault-type weapons, estimated to be somewhere between 2 percent to 8 percent, some of the numbers I've seen, involved in gun violence. So that leaves you, I think it's 80 percent is handguns involved in gun violence. Does this open up a conversation to --

MANCHIN: I think what you will see hopefully -- Soledad, hopefully you will have proud members of the NRA and defenders of the second amendment who says it's time to have an intelligent conversation. The military assault rifles, is that something needed in our society?

Was it designed for the purpose of our military and our first responders and police defending us as a nation? And those who are the discussions we should be having, along with the other things we've been talking, the mental health and violent culture.

We're having a hard time getting people of different philosophical beliefs to come out and sit down. They are afraid to speak out thinking that one side or the other might attack them. It might be politically not popular.

Again, I remind you, we're talking about children here. Never in my life did I ever think that I would ever see, Soledad, children slaughtered in America. I never -- I can't comprehend it.

I was with my grandchildren this past weekend, I just can't comprehend it. My heart goes out. I'm hurting. I think all America is hurting right now.

O'BRIEN: Senator Joe Manchin joining us this morning. Thank you, Senator, for being with us. We appreciate it.

MANCHIN: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: I want to get right to John Berman. He is in New York. He has a look at some of the other stories that are making news today. Hi, John.

JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": Thanks so much, Soledad. The 18-year-old Sergio Cabata is in custody this morning in Fairfield, California, accused of threatening an attack similar to the Newtown, Connecticut massacre. Police say the suspect's Facebook posts suggested he supported the school shooter's actions and was considering a copycat rampage.

A report by an independent panel that looks at the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya could go to Congress today just ahead a congressional hearing on Thursday.

The report ordered by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, although she won't testify since she's recovering from a concussion. The attack in September, you killed four Americans, including Chris Stevens, the ambassador to Libya.

A giant of the U.S. Senate has died. Senator Daniel Inouye represented Hawaii from the day it became a state in 1959. He was 88 and suffered from respiratory problems. Shaken Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid addressed his colleagues yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: I have never known anyone like Dan Inouye, no one else has. The kindness he has shown me for my time here in the Senate has been something I will cherish always.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Senator Inouye was the second longest serving member ever of the Senate just behind the late Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia.

Newtown High School football coach Steven George never expected a response when he left a message on a white board for President Obama. The president visited Newtown on Sunday. Coach George and another teacher left a note on the white board in advance, thanking him for coming.

They weren't sure that the commander in chief would see it, but he did. The coach's note read, "Dear President Obama, the Newtown community is so thankful that you are coming to help us heal in times of adversity, it is reassuring to know that we have a strong leader to help us recover."

A day later, Coach George was shocked to see that the president wrote a note back to him on this white board. He tweeted it for everyone to see. It said simply you're in our thoughts and prayers, Barack Obama. A nice note from the president.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, there is a growing cry for tighter gun control laws, but what do people who have been directly affected by these mass shootings think. Joining me next is Lori Haas, whose daughter was shot and survived the Virginia Tech massacre.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: So as families in Newtown continue to grieve, victims and survivors who's experienced past shootings are trying to offer comfort and demand change to prevent future killings like these.

A group of them joined Mayor Bloomberg on Monday to call for immediate and national action on gun control.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: This is just ridiculous. This is an outrage. We are killing each other and we're the only industrialized country in the world doing it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Joining me now is Lori Haas, the mother of Virginia Tech shooting survivor and an advocate with the coalition to stop gun violence. Lori, this first question I have to ask is, having lived through this yourself, when you see an event like what happened in Newtown, Connecticut, on Friday, what's your first reaction?

LORI HAAS, DAUGHTER IS VIRGINIA TECH SHOOTING SURVIVOR: Sadness and horror and shock, and, frankly, vacillating between nausea and anger on Friday when we heard the news. It was -- it was difficult at best and just utmost concern for those who were involved in the tragedy and whose loved ones were killed by a gun.

BERMAN: You say nausea and anger. Where is the anger directed?

HAAS: My anger is directed at frankly, elected leaders. I find it appalling that we have allowed the gun lobby to lead the debate on policies regarding public safety. I rely on law enforcement as the guiding principal for my decisions on public safety.

And I talk with them often and I have since the shooting in April 2007 where my daughter, Emily, was shot. And I believe that our public safety officials in law enforcement should be leading the discussion and leading the way and pointing the direction on the policies that we enact.

We've learned much from them after the Virginia Tech shooting. All of the families involved in that shooting and we'd like them to be the lead spokesmen on the policy debate. Not a gun lobby that is out to make money.

BERMAN: You said to me that you have been working on this every day since your daughter was shot five years ago now, more than five years ago now.

HAAS: Yes.

BERMAN: It's been a hard effort clearly. Do you feel like people are listening? Why haven't they been listening?

HAAS: Well, I think there is a segment of the population that is listening. I think there is a large segment of the population that is listening. In polling, we have the support of not only every American out there virtually, we have the support of NRA members.

Three out of four NRA members want a background check on all gun sales. That's a clearly awareness by everyone that we need to do a better job with our gun laws in this country. When all of America three out of four NRA members, 82 percent of gun owners want better and more responsible gun laws, like a background check on all buyers. We hold the moral authority and our elected leaders need to listen to us.

BERMAN: You heard Mayor Michael Bloomberg there a second ago. His comments, he is clearly frustrated. His group, "Mayors Against Illegal Guns" is asking people to demand a plan. You have been part of that effort?

HAAS: Yes, I have been. I am demanding a plan. I am sickened and horrified at the level of carnage in this country. That the everyday gun violence, 34 Americans shot by guns, that's a Virginia Tech every day.

And now we have the unspeakable heartache and pain of those families who lost loved ones, in particular 6 and 7-year-old children. I cannot fathom it. I cannot fathom it.

BERMAN: You mentioned background checks. As you know, President Obama met yesterday with some of his key advisers, and tasked Vice President Biden in leading an effort to come up with probably some new gun laws. Besides the background check, what are the two or three things you'd like to have happen right now?

HAAS: I would like an assault weapons ban reinstated. The ban expired in 2004. Since that time, we've had mass tragedy after mass tragedy with horrific numbers of carnage. The shooter in Virginia Tech to use a high-capacity magazine, 30 rounds, and was able to do just unspeakable numbers.

We'd like stricter penalties for those who traffic in illegal guns. We have to do a better job. Those are quick, easy fixes that we can do now, literally now to start saving lives in America.

BERMAN: Quickly, do you think this is a turning point?

HAAS: I do. I absolutely do. I'm convinced of it.

BERMAN: All right, Lori Haas, thank you so much for being here. Appreciate your efforts. Thanks very much.

If would you like to help those affected by the shootings in Newtown, you can go to cnn.com/impact, a lot of ways there that you can help.

Coming up next, examining why the gunman went on this shooting rampage in Newtown. A research on previous mass murders may link the brains of the killers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everyone. You're watching a special edition of STARTING POINT. We're coming to you this morning from Newtown, Connecticut. "I am Adam Lanza's mother," that's a line from a blog post that has now gone viral. The author is Liza Long and she writes about the difficulties of living with a teenage son who is mentally ill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIZA LONG, BLOGGER, "THE ANARCHIST SOCCER MOM": Sometimes for no apparent reason he will turn into this absolute raging, I don't know how to describe it. You'd have to see it to believe it. I stopped and said to myself, you know, this isn't normal. I have to face up to the fact that I have a sick son and we need help.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Liza tells CNN that she loves her son, but that, quote, "terrifies me." There are many questions that are still unanswered about the Newtown school tragedy this morning, the biggest of course is why and maybe that will never be answered.

Why did the suspected shooter have first graders in an elementary school in his sights? Dr. Sanjay Gupta tells us a research on previous mass murderers, giving us a possible window inside the violent mind.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first thing you notice when you look around Newtown, everyone has that questioning look, why? What did we miss, if anything? No answers yet, just hindsight.

(on camera): To try and make some sense of the tragedy here in Newtown, Connecticut, medical investigators often look for evidence of patterns, not talking about looking at clothing styles or musical preferences or even lifestyle, but rather looking for evidence of specific plans, could get some clue as to what was happening in the person's mind and in their brain.

(voice-over): It's hard to know because thankfully there are relatively few tragedies like this one, but a close look at ten of the most analyzed mass murder cases in history provide some remarkable insight.

According to this research published in the "Journal Aggression and Violent Behavior," doctors typically start by placing these killers into three categories, traumatized, psychotic, and psychopathic.

In 2005, a 16-year-old killed nine people at a school in Minnesota. A look into his past revealed an abused boy with an awful family history. The shooter had been previously traumatized.

The Virginia Tech shooter killed 32 people, six were murdered in Arizona and 12 lives were taken in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater. In each case, the killers showed signs of psychotic behavior, severe delusions and paranoia.

Thirteen people were shot and killed in Columbine, Colorado. One of the murderers was later discovered to be a textbook psychopath and we now know he even laughed while gunning down his victims. Looking back, none of them had snapped. They had all left clues, pieced together after it was too late, hindsight.

(on camera): We still don't know much about the shooter who lived in this home, but there is something else to consider, what medications, if any, he was on, and specifically I'm talking about antidepressants.

If you look at the studies on other shootings like this that have happened, medications like this were a common factor. I want to be clear, I'm not saying that antidepressants can't be effective, but people seem to agree there is a vulnerable time when someone starts these medications and when someone stops could lead to increased impulsivity, decreased judgment, and making someone out of touch.

(voice-over): None of this is an excuse and it's never one thing. None of these behaviors will fully predict or explain why, but soon again there will be hindsight that might just help prevent another tragedy. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Newtown, Connecticut.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: After several mass shootings in a few short years, the Newtown massacre might be the tipping point for Washington to ask. We are going to talk this morning with Arizona Congressman Ron Barber who took over Gabby Giffords' seat after the Tucson shooting.

And we might actually be closer to a deal on the fiscal cliff, believe it or not. We'll tell you why President Obama's new proposal could be the compromise Republicans are looking for. That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: This morning in our special edition of STARTING POINT, gun control debate is now in full force as the White House considers changes and national polls show a new attitude after the Newtown shooting.

Will this tragedy inspire lawmakers to act? H ere in Newtown while Sandy Hook Elementary remains closed, it is still a crime scene, all of the other students in town go back to class in a couple of hours.

We'll talk about how schools are preparing to handle their grief. Another child is laid to rest today.

ROMANS: Yet another sign this morning the tide may be turning over gun control. Gun companies' stocks under fire as a big pension fund moves to strip its investments.

BERMAN: New developments on the fiscal cliff this morning, maybe a big one.