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Jobless Claims at Four-Year Low; Anger over Map of Gun Permit Holders; Toyota's $1,100,000,000 Settlement; America Divided on Gun Ownership

Aired December 27, 2012 - 09:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Stories we're watching now in the NEWSROOM, do you have a right to know if your neighbor owns a gun? A New York -- a New York paper thinks so. They published a map of people with gun permits and we're going to talk to someone who's on that list in just a minute.

A snag for thousands of holiday travelers. The killer winter storm arrives in the northeast. We're already seeing long delays, hundreds of flights canceled, and highway traffic snarled.

$1.1 billion Toyota agrees to settle a class action lawsuit over unintended acceleration and also installed new safety features.

And a shark tank in a shopping mall explodes, sending sharks flying everywhere and shoppers running for their lives.

NEWSROOM starts now.

And good morning, I'm Carol Costello.

This just in to us. Jobless claims fall to a four-year low. Alison Kosik joins us from the New York Stock Exchange to tell us more.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Carol, this winds up being a big improvement for jobless claims number falling 12,000 last week to 350,000, and what that means is that the level now is close to the lowest level since the early part of the recession, so it really shows these layoffs are slowing.

Now something interesting has been happening in the past several weeks. The claims numbers have spiked, and then have slowly been settling down and that was mostly because of Superstorm Sandy. So today with the level at this more palatable sort of level at 350,000 the big question is, will today be just a blip or will this be the beginning of a trend.

And that's what you really want to see. You want to see these -- the level of layoffs continuing to at least stay the same and obviously you want to see them come down but at the same time you also want to see hiring happening and that's where that government jobs report that we focus on once a month, that's where that comes into play.

We're going to get the next one next week, that government jobs report, and the big worry, Carol, that's hanging over all this is the fiscal cliff. Now although we're still in the middle of wondering what Congress is going to do about it, you know, companies are already holding back hiring so that is clearly impacting the jobs market but the good news once again is the layoffs are slowing, down 12,000 to 350,000 last week -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Yes. Thank you very much, Washington. Alison Kosik, thank you so much.

Growing outrage over the decision of a New York newspaper to publish a map with the names and addresses of people who have gun permits. The interactive map was created with information available publicly. It pinpoints the location of legally licensed permit holders for handguns.

We reached out for a statement from the newspaper, it sent us this, quote, "The massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, remains at top-of-mind for many of our readers. Our readers are understandably and keenly interested to know about who owns guns in their neighborhoods."

Scott Sommavilla is the president of the Westchester County, New York Firearm Owner Association. He's on the list that the newspaper published. He joins me now from Walhalla, New York.

Good morning, Scott.


COSTELLO: I'm good. So you opened the newspaper and see your name, is that how you found out?

Yes, actually I got a bunch of phone calls and said hey, by the way, this is not the first time they've done it. They've printed our names in the past but it's the first time they made it Google Earth where you can drag the man to actually see the person's house, and we have a huge worry because you actually made a criminal's job easier to case a house from the comforts of their own home on a computer on how they could break in. And --

COSTELLO: And by that you mean that the thief now knows where he can steal a gun?

SOMMAVILLA: Well, steal a gun, where the guns are, and what home there are and how many windows, doors, access, how their escape route, entry route can be, just by clicking a mouse.

COSTELLO: The paper says there are residents at Westchester County and beyond who want to know who has guns in their neighborhoods because they feel safer that way. How do you respond to the newspaper?

SOMMAVILLA: I think if you look at New York state's law, it's a concealed carry license which means you're not supposed to let anyone know you actually have a gun on your person, and if you do or it's brandishing, unless you absolutely need deadly physical force, you could lose your license through revocation. What the paper just did is do the opposite of what the law tells the pistol licensee to do and now everybody knows where they are and put a lot of families in danger by doing so.

COSTELLO: Yes, on the other hand, this is public information. It can be gotten by anyone who goes through the trouble. The paper, I guess, made it easier.

SOMMAVILLA: No, they did, they made it quite easier. I believe our forefathers, when they wrote that in early 1900s here in New York state, they weren't counting on Google Earth to actually come into play with that. You know, the list can be -- can be published, but not in such a manner. You know, 40 percent of that list is retired law enforcement.

I actually saw some women who I knew that have got order of protections from their spouses and they were really beaten pretty badly and now their lives are in danger because they printed their names. That and law enforcement, it's actually quite disgusting.

COSTELLO: Earlier this morning CNN, actually we spoke to a blogger who published the names of people who work at the paper, published their addresses, too, and suggested that people go to the homes of these journalists. Do you think that's an appropriate response?

SOMMAVILLA: I think those gun owners want to see how the shoe fits on the other foot so to speak, and --

COSTELLO: Yes, this tit-for-tat, I mean, come on.

SOMMAVILLA: It may be -- it may be proper -- I think everyone should have a little privacy and be allowed to have that privacy when they want to, and by what they did, it hasn't -- we lost our privacy. You know, you'd think they would have had restraint in this like an adult would have.

COSTELLO: But do you believe that gun owners should show up at the house of these journalists and -- I don't know what would they do. What would they do?

SOMMAVILLA: I don't know what they would do. I guess they would have -- maybe protest. I really don't know what they're going to do. I've had some phone calls that some people want to organize that. I've got really mixed feelings about that right now.

COSTELLO: But you know, in your gut how do you feel? I mean should we just complain about it as you are quite publicly and not show up at the journalists' house to, like, just aggravate the situation even more?

SOMMAVILLA: Well, that's what it is, then we're just as bad as they are. This is their personal agenda to make this happen, to put our families in harm's way, to go back and give it to them at the same way it's not they're in danger, it's just to show that -- how upset we are of what they've done. And maybe that's what needs to be done. I'd rather not but, you know, I'm not going to stop other gun owners and their frustration to let the editors know the lack of restraint they had with this particular view of theirs.

COSTELLO: Scott Sommavilla, president of the Westchester County, New York, Firearm Owners Association. Thank you so much for being with us this morning.

SOMMAVILLA: Thank you.

COSTELLO: In just an hour, I'm going to talk exclusively with the president of the NRA, David Keene, to get his reaction to that newspaper's actions.

In Los Angeles, a gun buyback program we told you about yesterday become the -- became the most popular drive-through in the entire city. People lined up for blocks and blocks to hand over their weapons in exchange for grocery gift cards. While there were many people who dropped off just one gun, perhaps something that had been in the family for years, there were many who brought in multiple weapons.

The "Los Angeles Times" reports police took out 22 pistols from the truck of one Honda, that got the driver $1,000 in gift cards. The people had reasons beyond money for turning in those weapons.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Different shootings and things have been happening in the country over the last couple of weeks. I was really driven to bring this gun in today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To turn in some ammunition and guns that may be stolen from our house and you know someone may do something really bad with them.


COSTELLO: We'll find out later today the total number of weapons turned in in Los Angeles.

Take a look at these live pictures out of Syracuse, New York, this is the same powerful storm that has been moving across the country, started in California over the weekend, dumping heavy snow all along the way and you name it, high winds, tornadoes, rain and icy conditions have snarled traffic, caused flight delays, power outages and widespread damage. The severe storms also blamed for at least six deaths, including two children.

In Alabama a store clerk described what it was like when a tornado touched down.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never been in a war zone but I'm sure it's what it looks like, here a bunch of tins all the stuff that's lifted off these buildings was laid on our parking lot. There were totes of things left in the tree, just broken glass everywhere. So I was just thankful I was alive. Because I mean, if it had been 100 yards the other way, it would have ripped through the middle of the store.


COSTELLO: That's a surveillance video from that Walgreens store in Mobile as the twister passed by. And look at that debris. You can see just how powerful the wind was. And today the northeast gets the brunt of that storm.

Let's head over to meteorologist Bonnie Schneider for a look at what's ahead.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Carol. You know it's interesting the storm is now moving to the northeast in more densely populated area. It's not as large as it once was but it is proving to bring quite an impact. In fact right now what we're looking at are delays across New York and Philadelphia due to the wind and the power of the storm.

Speaking of wind, we don't know the cause of why this happened but Southwest Airlines out of MacArthur Airport in iSlip had an incident this morning where the plane slid off into the grassy area. Now passengers were on board a flight from iSlip to Tampa around 6:30 this morning, no injuries reported. Everyone was fine but at the time, winds were gusting well over 32 miles per hour in iSlip, so we'll have to see whether winds caused that to occur.

It's interesting to note that, you know, you don't have to have heavy rain coming down to have impacts. We do have wind right now at LaGuardia, so delays are on the way up and I think we're going to see that continue throughout the day today.

You can see the storm system now on our radar picture showing heavy snow over northern New England. This is where we're anticipating accumulating snow by the foot, and don't forget about the wind, blowing and drifting snow will really cause this to pile in, and through Kingston and areas of upstate New York you're getting a mix of snow, sleet and rain, driving treacherous across the northeast today, Carol.

And it's interesting to note that here in the southeast we're not necessarily getting snow. The -- most of them reports flurries here in Atlanta yesterday but look at the temperatures. They dropped down into the 20s across Texas so cold air plummeting really far south impacting so many people.

COSTELLO: It's cold here in Atlanta.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, it is.

COSTELLO: We're not used to that.


COSTELLO: You've been spoiled. Bonnie Schneider, thanks so much.

President Obama ended his holiday vacation early this morning, boarding a plane in Hawaii to make his way back to Washington and you can bet he's planning to get back to work on that so-called fiscal cliff as soon as he lands.

The goal, to work out a deal that can solve the political gridlock before the New Year. The Senate will reconvene today. The House, however, is not back in session after the failure of Speaker John Boehner's plan B last week, House members are saying the ball is now in the Senate's court.

Former President George H.W. Bush is in the intensive care unit at a Houston hospital this morning. According to a statement from the Bush family the president has been in intensive care since Sunday, after suffering a series of setbacks, including a persistent fever, they also say he's relentlessly positive and spends time talking and joking with his doctors.

In the next hour we'll take to you Houston for a live update on the president's condition.

It's called one of the largest lawsuits of its kind. Toyota agrees to a $1.1 billion settlement. We'll tell you who benefits and if one of the people who benefits is you.


COSTELLO: It is 15 minutes past the hour.

The U.S. Senate seat left vacant after the death of Daniel Inouye of Hawaii will be filled this afternoon. Hawaii's Governor Neil Abercrombie tapped Lieutenant Governor Brian Schatz to the seat. A White House official says Schatz is flying with the president to D.C. and is expected to be sworn in later today.

Schatz is a former Hawaii legislator and an executive of a non-profit group.

D.C. police says they said no when NBC asked if they could use a high capacity ammunition magazine as a prop, you know, the one that David Gregory showed on "Meet the Press". Gregory used it during an interview with the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association. But the devices are illegal in Washington even if they're not attached to a weapon.

NBC has not responded to CNN's request for a comment.

A 30-foot whale discovered on a New York beach is not expected to survive. Biologists say the thin whale is emaciated, in poor physical condition, and nothing can be done to save it. They say if nature does not take its course, they plan to humanely euthanize it.

And adding to the fiscal worries, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says the U.S. will hit the $16 trillion debt ceiling on Monday. That's when the government reaches its legal borrowing limit. Geithner says the government can operate for a few more weeks using emergency measures, but Congress needs to act quickly to avoid a full blown crisis. We've heard that one before.

If you own a Toyota that had unintended acceleration problems, you will be reimbursed. Toyota has now agreed to pay $1.1 billion to settle a class action lawsuit. So what does that mean for you?

Alison Kosik is in New York to tell you.

Hi, Alison.

KOSIK: Hi, Carol.

This is turning to be one of the biggest lawsuits of its kind in the auto sector. And what it does, it revolves around the infamous sticky pedal issue that started happening from a few years ago. That's where some Toyota drivers said they were experiencing what's known as unintended acceleration and that's when their gas pedals were getting stuck in floor mats, about 16 million vehicles are going to be covered by this settlement, and the model years ranging from 1998 through 2010.

Now, once a judge approves this settlement, the current owners, they're going to get a break override system installed as well as a customer care plan that will have a warranty on certain parts tied to the acceleration for up to ten years.

Now, another part of this payout will compensate current owners whose cars are not eligible for the override system and a separate fund that will go to former owners of these Toyota models who sold their cars for reduced values because of the negative publicity. They weren't able to get as much money for their cars. Now, what the settlement does not cover, though, are any personal injury claims.

And remember, this comes as Toyota tries to really try to move past its biggest but not most recent safety crisis. You know, you look at just this year alone, the automaker, it's already recalled more than 10 million cars and it agreed earlier this month to pay more than $17 million for issues related to its Lexus recall.

Toyota investor, they seem to be happy to be putting this issue behind them. The company shares are higher in the premarket -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Alison Kosik, live at the New York Stock Exchange -- actually, you're live in New York. I see that there. Thanks, Alison.

Talk back question today: will America ever come together on the gun issue?,, or you can tweet me @carolCNN. I'll be right back.


COSTELLO: Now is your chance to talk back on one of the big stories of the day. The question for you this morning: will America ever come together on guns?

It's been almost two weeks since Newtown. Where does America stand when it comes to guns? On the one, handgun sales have surged, including those of semiautomatic rifles like the one used at Sandy Hook. Yet in Los Angeles, people stood in line for two hours for a gun buy-back. Some wanted guns out of the House. Others wanted to get the gift cards.

But clearly many felt having more guns did not make them feel safer.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I dropped off some guns, some were antiques, some were new, but I had no use for them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm getting older, my senses are coming to me and I don't need those to be around the house anymore.


COSTELLO: And what about NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre's proposal for armed guards in schools? The National Teachers Union, the NEA, were shocked at the idea, calling the NRA delusional. But politicians are split on the issue.

And today, the Utah shooting sports council is sponsoring a free concealed weapons class for educators, this at the same time two firefighters were shot and killed by a man with an assault rifle similar to the one used in Newtown. The mayor of Philadelphia responded this way.


MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER (D), PHILADELPHIA: I guess Mr. LaPierre would then say that firefighters need to have armed guards go with them. I mean, I think it just shows that that was a completely dumb ass idea from the start.


COSTELLO: President Obama has called for a meaningful conversation on guns, but it seems as if Americans are talking at, not to each other.

Talk back question today, will America ever come together on guns?,, or tweet me @carolCNN.

I'll be right back.


COSTELLO: We've talked a lot about the gun culture in this country since Sandy Hook and up until now, we haven't come to any conclusions about how to stop gun violence in America. Not hard to understand, we live in two Americas. One that believes owning a gun is a God-given right and one that believes owning a gun comes with a price, sometimes a tragic price.

Few years ago, I sat down with two men who represent those two Americas, one in Baltimore, Maryland, and the other at rural western Pennsylvania.


COSTELLO (voice-over): Dante Barksdale runs on faith.

DANTE BARKSDALE, "SAFE STREETS" BALTIMORE: I'm going to just take a little walk.

COSTELLO: An ex-con, he's fighting to end gun violence. It's not easy.

According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, there were more than 97,000 people shot in America this year, more than 250 each day.

(on camera): We like our guns in America. We love our guns in America, don't we?

BARKSDALE: In the urban parts of, you know, the city, you know, they tell us, you know, the biggest guy, the guy who has the most people are afraid of, the guy with the biggest gun, this is what a man is.

Safe Streets -- we're all we got.

COSTELLO (voice-over): In 2009, Barksdale works with Safe Streets, an organization aimed at reducing gun violence among 15 to 25-year-olds in Baltimore.

Guns are a part of life in rural America, too, but the aim here -- to keep them and use them. They put food on the table and make many feel safe.

(on camera): There are some people who say that owning a gun is a God-given right. Do you consider it to be that?



POLANSKY: Because I need to protect myself.


POLANSKY: From the bad guys, or whoever, or an animal.

BARKSDALE: What we deal with in the urban part of the communities is that people use guns to resolve their problems, and that this is not normal.

COSTELLO (voice-over): Two very different viewpoints reflecting a debate in America that seems to have become polarized. TOM GLASS, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: People that might otherwise have been in the middle about gun control, gun liberties, have been pushed to polar extremes.

COSTELLO: It all depends on where you're coming from.

(on camera): Do you think that you'd feel differently about guns if you lived in a high crime area?



POLANSKY: I wouldn't feel any different.

COSTELLO: You really wouldn't?

POLANSKY: I might even buy more guns.


POLANSKY: Or I might buy an AK-47 just to -- so I'm not outgunned. But no, I wouldn't feel any different.

BARKSDALE: Yes, people use guns. You know, what I'm saying, to hunt, to do whatever they do. But in my neighborhood, guns are used to resolve conflict.

There isn't going to be in killers in east Baltimore.


COSTELLO: In the wake of the Connecticut school shooting, the debate over guns has been renewed from Main Street, all the way to Washington.

In just 30 minutes, I'll talk exclusively with the man whose group has been at the center of the conversation for many years, the NRA's President David Keene, he will join me in THE NEWSROOM just about 30 minutes from now.