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More Funerals Today in Newtown; Funeral Director's "Week from Hell"; Emotional Coach Calls for Change; Idea: Buy Back Guns, Boost the Economy; Boy Raises Money for Seizure Assistance Dog; High-Rise Jail Escapees on the Lam; The Billion Dollar Business of Guns

Aired December 20, 2012 - 14:30   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to show the president on his way to Walter Reid Medical Center to meet with the wounded warriors there. The families and the visit is a surprise, but it's worth noting the president normally visits with the veterans right around the holidays.

The bottom of the hour, I'm Brooke Baldwin. Just one week ago, 20 first graders were gearing up for a normal day in the classroom, books, crayons, cafeteria and today several of their hearses now making their way through Newtown.

At least three more students being laid to rest, Allison Wyatt who loved to draw, wanted to be an artist, Benjamin Wheeler who was apparently a pint-size fan of the Beatles and Catherine Hubbard who loved animals. The funerals continue through this Saturday.

Also right now, the Attorney General Eric Holder visiting the town and meeting the first responders and meeting with police. We've told you about the stories and the men and the women who how they are all coping right now.

But for the first time, we are hearing now from the only undertaker about the hell he has been going through this week. Poppy Harlow has the story.


POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first call came in at 7:00 Saturday morning.

DANIEL HONAN, OWNER, HONAN FUNERAL HOME: Once the magnitude came, I said well, we've got the get things planned out so we can do what we have to do.

HARLOW: The pain in his eyes concealed by his glasses. He's exhaustion of parent. Daniel Honan runs the only funeral home in Newtown.

HONAN: One girl, the funeral we had yesterday, she loved Orca whales.

HARLOW: Eleven of the children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary are being remembered here, long lines outside, now a painful sight, all too common in this picturesque town.

HONAN: Tragedy has fallen here in Newtown and it's our job to take care of what has to be done. That's what we do.

HARLOW: The calls with the families --

HONAN: It's very sad.

HARLOW: Difficult beyond words.

HONAN: Many of the children had favorite hobbies. One girl loved horses and animals and wanted to be a vet. One boy was the Giants fan.

HARLOW: Started by his grandfather more than 100 years ago, this funeral home is where Honan grew up, but he has never seen anything as tragic as this.

(on camera): I've read that you called this the week from hell.

HONAN: Well, yes, it is the week from hell, but we'll get through it.

PASQUALE FOLINO, PRESIDENT, CI FUNERAL DIRECTORS ASSOCIATION: Their innocence was taken away from them and that makes it very, very difficult for us to deal with.

HARLOW (voice-over): Pasquale Folino runs the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association and has gathered more than 100 volunteers to help with the Newtown funerals.

(on camera): Mentally, how do you prepare to talk to these families?

FOLINO: You prepare yourself knowing that you have a role to play and that is to assist them in helping them say goodbye to their little girl. It's very, very difficult. In the evening when you go home, you deal with it. You talk to your family. You try to collect your thoughts and just cry. That's what we do.

HARLOW (voice-over): For Honan, the coping will come in the weeks ahead. For now, he tries to tune it out.

HONAN: When I go home at night, I don't -- when I turn the TV on, I've been watching Christmas movies. It's an escape and you know, I find great comfort in my wife. My wife is my rock.

HARLOW: A rock, something everyone in this town needs right now. Poppy Harlow, CNN, Newtown, Connecticut.


BALDWIN: Christmas movies to escape. The wave of funerals for these first graders in tiny caskets has certainly sparked calls for change. A father and basketball coach made this emotional plea for everyone's help to protect his two little girls from tragedies like the one we saw in Newtown.

He is Winthrop University Basketball Coach Pat Kelsey and he said the entire country needs to step up right now.


PAT KELSEY, MEN'S BASKETBALL COACH, WINTHROP UNIVERSITY: I will walk into my house up stairs and into two pink rooms. With a 5-year-old and a 4-year-old laying in that pink room with a bunch of teddy bears in that room and give them the biggest hug and kiss I have ever given them.

There is 20 families in Newtown, Connecticut that walk into a pink room with teddy bears with nobody laying in those beds. It's tragic. This country has got issues. Is it a gun issue or mental health issue or a society that lost the understanding that decent human values are important?

Our leaders, I didn't vote for President Obama, but you know what, he's my president now and he's my leader. I need him to step up. OK, Mr. Boehner, the speaker of the House. He's a Cincinnati guy. He needs to step up.

Parents and teachers and rabbis and priests and coaches and everybody need to step up. This has to be a time for change. I know this microphone is powerful because we are playing the fourth best team in the country, but I won't have a microphone the rest of the year and maybe the rest of my life.

I'm going to be an agent of change with the 13 young men that I get to coach every day and the two little girls I get to raise, but hopefully things start changing. It's really, really disappointing.

I am proud to grow up American and say I'm part of the greatest country ever. That's got to stay that way and stay that way if we change. We have to change.


BALDWIN: His two little girls in the two pink rooms are Ruthy and Caroline, 4 and 5 years old. He played a top-ranked team in the country.

If government brought back gun, could it boost the economy. Yes, they will pitch this program and they wrote about it this week. You have to hear this.


BALDWIN: One fell swoop. My next guest is pitching a unusual gun buyback program for the hundreds of millions of guns in American hands. Matt Miller's proposal is this. You pay people to give up guns now and overpay them and make them an offer they can't refuse.

For example, you have the local gun buy backs that work like this. You have police officers and gun owners give them a one-time deal. Turn in the gun, no questions asked and you get a gift card worth a couple hundred dollars. Look at this picture.

The day after Newtown, gun owners forked over 1,100 guns at a buy back. I was curious as to what kind it included an Uzi, machine gun and five fully automatic assault weapons.

Let me bring in Matt Miller. He is a radio host and writes columns for the "Washington Post." Matt Miller, welcome. Here we go. Your piece, buyback guns, boost the economy, give me your pitch.

MATT MILLER, OPINION WRITER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, basically, you know, the idea -- obviously we have to do something to reduce gun violence in America. But we still need to boost the economy too because we're still in the doldrums.

Why not use one policy that would do both. I am proposing a massive debt-financed gun buy back. The idea as you said has been done in a very small way in lots of cities across the country.

Baltimore and L.A. where I live, New York and Detroit and others, but Australia is an example of a country that did this on a massive scale in 1996 after they had a horrific killing like the one we had just seen, 35 people killed in a sea side resort in Tasmania.

Both parties came together there within two weeks of that tragedy and signed a national firearms agreement that basically banned assault weapons and various automatic weapons and coupled that with a compulsory buy back.

Because the feeling was if you were going to ban the weapons, you had to compensate citizens who had already bought those. Over the next two years, they bought back 1/5 of the guns in the country and melted them down.

BALDWIN: That's incredible and a lot of us have been talking about Tasmania and I have an Aussie on my writing teams. She points out that the gun culture in Australia is much, much different, Matt than the gun culture here.

Let's say there laws and you have something like 300 million guns out there. Are people going to, you know, on their honor just return them? Isn't that impossible?

MILLER: Well, they are not going to do it on their honor. That's why I'm suggesting we overpay.

BALDWIN: How much?

MILLER: Well, you know, 500 will be OK for some of the smaller caliber things. I have heard from a lot of readers and gun owners who said they need $2,000 let's say for the kind of automatic weapons or the A-15s that were used in this kind of a crime.

But experts can figure that out and gun owners say the idea that as a patriotic act that would also boost the economy, we would get folks to say let's rethink this and don't have to have the culture of guns the way we always had. That time has come.

BALDWIN: Your article is "Buy back guns boost the economy" in "The Washington Post." Matt Miller, thank you. It's a thought. A young author raising money to help other kids who are just like him. Hear how the rare genetic disease inspired this little boy to give back next.


BALDWIN: I want to share a story about a young author with a rare genetic disease. He is raising money to help other kids who are just like him. Here is Dr. Sanjay Gupta with today's "Human Factor."


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The 9-year-old Evan Moss is a boy who seemingly only cares about one simple thing. Unfortunately, Evan's life was not so simple.

LISA MOSS, EVAN'S MOTHER: When Evan was a couple weeks old he started having these little shaky movements. It was one arm that would switch a little bit and last a few seconds.

GUPTA: Robert and Lisa took their son to dozens of doctor's appointments. Evan was eventually diagnosed with tuberous sclerosis complex. It's a rare genetic disease that causes non-malignant tumors to grow inside the brain and other organs.

Evan's TSC includes one of the hall mark symptoms, potentially life- threatening seizures that can happen at any moment. Since Evan's parents cannot watch over him all the time. They began to look for an extra set of eyes, ears and a nose.

ROBERT MOSS, EVAN'S FATHER: We were finding out that not only did these dogs respond to seizures. They may have the capability to tell you that the individual may have a seizure or soon be having a seizure.

GUPTA: As you might imagine, these types of highly trained service dogs that can literally sniff out chemical changes in the body leading up to a seizure don't come cheap.

LISA MOSS: A service dog costs anywhere 22,000 to $25,000, and they ask for each family to fundraise $13,000 of that to offset the cost. As part of the application they ask for something from the child receiving the dog. He said can I write a book?

EVAN MOSS, SUFFERS FROM EPILEPTIC SEIZURES: My seizure dog by me. This seizure dog knows when I have a seizure. We will be best friends.

GUPTA: Big sister, Aria, suggested their parents self publish Evan's book on Amazon where it shot to the top of one of the site's bestseller list, a book signing followed at a neighborhood coffee shop. The turnout was overwhelming.

LISA MOSS: We did end up raising around $45,000 and helped about seven additional children complete their fundraising.

GUPTA: Mindy rarely leaves Evan's side during the day, at school, on the bus, in the back yard. Never leaves his sight at night.

EVAN MOSS: The seizure dog will sleep with me. If I have a seizure in my sleep, the seizure dog will tell my parents.

GUPTA: Mindy Moss, family pet, parent's security blanket and Evan's best friend. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN reporting.


BALDWIN: I love dogs. Make sure you watch "SANJAY GUPTA MD" Saturday at 4:30 p.m. Eastern and Sundays at 7:30 a.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

This next one is out of the movies. A daring prison escape and robbers still on the run after scaling down a 15-story building and how these criminals use dental floss to help them in their getaway and where these two robbers were recently spotted.


BALDWIN: OK, staying one step ahead of the law, we have the two convicted bank robbers who made this daring right out of the movies escape from a high-rise federal jail in Chicago using sheets and dental floss.

They are Joseph Jose Banks and Kenneth Conley. That's where they were last seen, walking away from Conley's mom's house. They banged on the door and they were turned away.


JEN SULLIVAN, FBI SPOKESWOMAN: Unfortunately, the trail has gone cold since then. We are pursuing leads and hope someone sees the pictures and they can share.


BALDWIN: It turns out these two guys are long time criminals. In fact, the FBI refers to Banks as one of Chicago's most prolific bank robbers. This is video you're looking out here. This is from some of his heist.

The escapees are pretty creative too because we have pictures of how they escaped. They stashed clothes and bedsheets under blankets and you can see the middle of the scene tied together. If you can squint you can see it.

They put all this under blankets to make it look like to make it look like they were just going to bed. Grab the sheets, tied them together, reinforced it with dental floss and squeezed through a 5- inch wide window, rappelled down to 15 stories.

They were spotted on the camera and hoping to grab this cab, which they did a couple of blocks away. There was a $50,000 reward for Banks and Conley's capture. Keep in mind that is a fraction of the half million dollars in robbery cash. Banks is believed to have rolled away, bedsheets and dental gloss. Consider this, you will find more gun stores in American than McDonalds.

And in supermarkets, wait until you hear the numbers of this billion business.

Plus, any minute, Chris Christie known for his outspoken and blunt delivery is about to hold his first town hall in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.


BALDWIN: Consider this. It is much easier to find a gun store in the U.S. than it is to order a Big Mac or go to the supermarket. Christine Romans explains why clamping down on this business could be near impossible -- Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, this is an incredibly profitable industry. Background checks for gun purchases are one barometer for sales. Those background checks have doubled over the past decade. As the economy stagnated, gun sales have soared.

There more gun retailers than there are supermarkets and McDonald's locations in America. Profits for the guns and ammunition industry expected to reach nearly $1 billion this year. That's according to Iby's World. Smith and Wesson is rolling in record profits.

The parent company of the maker of the rifle used to kill teachers and children in Connecticut, Bushmaster, it brought in a quarter billion dollars in profit last year, a fast growing part of the gun industry, military style semi automatic rifles and high capacity magazines for ammunition.

Gun shops report a surge in gun demand after Newtown. Why? Some of it is people looking to protect themselves, but it's also out of a fear of tighter gun control laws.

In particular, gun aficionados worry about coming restrictions to the AR-15 military-style rifles like the Bushmaster style used at Sandy Hook Elementary. Gun maker stocks initially fell sharply this week, but investors say the demand for guns in America remains very strong.

There 89 guns in America per 100 residents, the highest in the world. The size and wealth of this industry cannot be overstated -- Brooke.