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Chicago's Grim Landmark: 500 Homicides This Year; Finding a Fix to the Fiscal Cliff; Obama Meets with Cong. Leaders Today; Eva Longoria Gives Back

Aired December 28, 2012 - 10:30   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Don Lemon joins me now. Don, thanks for coming in. You spent some time there during another period where these gun murders were spiking.

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes you were talking about the children, 270 children.


LEMON: The last time I was there covering this story in depth -- I've been there since when an elementary school kid died there in Elbert and it was caught on videotape and it sparked the whole nation to look at Chicago.

But I not only went there in 2008 and 2009 when it was at its -- the last time it was at its worst, and you see it there. I lived there for three years. And I am very familiar with these communities. And so when this started happening and the nation -- we figured here on CNN and I did that the nation need to know about it. We went and we talked about it.

But I want you to hear one of the main reasons -- one of the main reasons that this happens.


LEMON: Is because of these people who are committing this gun violence and they are also victims of it as well; they feel they have no other option. They would rather do this, sell drugs, be in gangs than work at McDonald's.

Listen to a one young man we call Dave. He is a gang -- an admitted gangbanger. And you won't see his face but you'll hear from him.


LEMON: What's the violence for? What's the -- what's the whole reason for shooting? Why do so many people get shot?

DAVE, CHICAGO GANG MEMBER: -- trash on my way, usually all about the mighty dollar.

LEMON: So if you kill somebody you get rid of them, that's more money for you? I don't mean you specifically. DAVE: Not me --


LEMON: For some people, so he says, listen, I'm just a small fry but I'm eating.


LEMON: So if they -- they figure if they wipe out the next person, then they will have more of a territory. And it's not just these guys. It's not just the people who are doing this. It is also the guns, let's be honest about it. There's a court order that comes at -- goes up from Indiana to Illinois. There are gun shows and the gun show loophole --


LEMON: -- is all a part of that as well. And so there's a proliferation of guns on the streets of many major cities including Chicago which adds to the problem. But ultimately the people in Chicago are responsible for their own neighborhoods, their own shootings, and everything that goes on. Yes, guns proliferate the streets, but those people have to get a hold of their communities if they want to stop it.

BLACKWELL: The important question now is what is the solution, Don?

LEMON: The solution, I think, is looking at gun laws and, again, from people who legitimate gun owners who know how to use guns, who respect them, no one wants to take that right away. But we have to look at who is in possession of these guns and how they are getting into the hands of the wrong people. Case in point, Chicago, 500th homicide.

BLACKWELL: Don, thank you very much. We're going to continue this conversation now.

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Chicago's 28-year ban on handguns. But that city still has some of the toughest laws on the books when it comes to owning firearms. Despite those tough laws, this has been a very violent year on the streets of Chicago.

As we told you, last night the city saw its 500th homicide this year. Chicago Police Department told CNN this morning that 87 percent of those homicides are a result of gun violence.

Carol Costello interviewed NRA president David Keene yesterday. Here's what he said about Chicago.


DAVID KEENE, PRESIDENT, NRA: I'll tell you who I'd like to have indicted and prosecuted. The people in Chicago, the criminals in Chicago who made that one of the most violent cities in America. You know in Chicago there's less chance that you'll be -- that you'll be prosecuted under federal firearms laws than in almost any major city in this country and that's a crime.


BLACKWELL: This conversation now -- joining me now is Reverend Jesse Jackson. Reverend, good morning.


BLACKWELL: I want to get your reaction to what David Keene said. But first, what's your reaction to this milestone -- this grim milestone from last night in Chicago, the 500th homicide of 2012.

JACKSON: Well it is a -- it is a grim reminder of how desperate we are. We've been riveted by the killing in Newtown, the massacre of these children who'll never see Santa Claus again, who would never have an Easter Bunny -- something about that grabbed us. I think the President's focus that was well focused, but he serves to illuminate the crisis here in Chicago. There might be 32,000 American are killed by gun fire here across the country.

Here is a problem. Guns out there in Chicago, guns coming in from suburbs and drugs come in from Mexico. And we know the three gun shops that sell most of the guns that come to Chicago. One gun shop alone in Riverdale sells half the guns that kill people in Chicago. The mayor is -- Mayor Daley working on it, Mayor Magnus (ph) worked on it. They're helpless to stop the guns coming in, drugs coming in and jobs going out.

BLACKWELL: So what's the solution? You mentioned that you know the gun shops outside of the city of Chicago that are selling the guns inside that are being seized inside Chicago. What's the solution? Shut down these gun shops? And then how far do you extend that?

JACKSON: Well that's a part of it. I also think if we look at Austin, you look at Roseland, look at Englewood, you're talking about 40 percent unemployment that's a factor in this. You're looking on a low intensity drug, gun war that's taking place. Where it is a -- the gun manufacturers are making money. The drug peddlers are making money. So it's a really low intensive war.

We all just need to revive the ban on assault weapons and then gun manufacturers should be as liable when someone is killed with their weapons as the cigarette manufacturers when they kill with their product as well.

BLACKWELL: So you think they should be sued? Do you think gun makers should be sued by the government as cigarette makers were?

JACKSON: Oh, yes. It think that we are -- you know it's one thing, I think, for militia that have guns, but these assault weapons, you know that 25 some odd police are killed by these weapons. The White House just a year ago, these members only can kill people in classrooms and theaters they can also shoot on airplanes. This is really is a matter of homeland security. This is not just a matter of having my little gun to play with. If you want a gun for your house, you've got it. Well, I can shoot a relative or a suicide than a relative that a (INAUDIBLE) I might add guns for hunting, I can understand that.

But these weapons, the power of these weapons is of such that have been used not to enforce the drug trade. Drugs are from Mexico and guns -- and they make guns in Barrington, guns come from the suburbs from Mexico and Afghanistan.

BLACKWELL: But these assault weapons are not the ones that are killing people in Chicago in large part. They are not the ones that are killing the 32,000 Americans you mentioned who are shot involved in these gun crimes every year. So would this reinstatement as you have for the assault weapons ban, as you have on, would that really address the problem in major cities like Chicago?

JACKSON: It will address it in Aurora, Colorado, address it of course in Newtown, Connecticut address it at the NIU University here in Illinois. That part of it. But the -- you (INAUDIBLE) on these guns there's no background check. We have 15,000 gun shops. And plus the gun shows without any -- without any gun checks.

So we have become addicted to violence. Every time there's another killing, gun sales spike up. We think the more guns make us more secure. They make us less secure. In Chicago, we're helpless, because we are trapped. Guns comes from the suburbs down in Connecticut and Mississippi. Unless we have a national background check, some national stopping of the gun flow, we're going to self- destroy.

BLACKWELL: Let's get to David Keene and his comments on the show yesterday. He said Chicago needs tougher prosecutions for gun crimes, but also he mentioned that in places where these bans on guns exist, there are higher rates of gun crimes. You say that you are helpless in Chicago. If Chicago has enacted this ban on gun sales and this still happens, and if Baltimore does it, would it not have the same effect in Baltimore and Atlanta and New York and so forth?

JACKSON: You know I think about Newtown, for example they have four -- three or four gun ranges. There are no gun ranges in Chicago, we have almost no unemployment. They have this -- this tragedy of really two killings in ten years. The long killing there and the massacre that took two weeks ago. Newtown is so different than the complexity of the urban crisis.

That's why I'm glad the President went to Newtown. I think his -- his heartfelt pain was of course heartfelt and it was appropriately applied. I wish he would come to Chicago, because his presence will sort of illuminates how complex it is.

For example, 40 percent unemployment does matter. Lack of education does matter. I went to the Cook County Jail again on Christmas morning -- about 800 inmates. I asked how many of them had been shot. Three quarters stood up. I asked them, "You have been shot and you shot somebody. Will you join us in a drive to stop guns?"

We must talk to the victims of the gunshots and those who are doing the shooting and go what this man told Don Lemon. We have lost our hope, we've lost our economy, we need jobs. BLACKWELL: Reverend Jackson, I'm going to make one more turn at this question. Because the original question was Chicago has some of the strictest and most tough gun laws in the country. If this level of gun laws doesn't work in Chicago and you still have the guns coming from outside the city in and now it got 500 homicides this year, what is the argument to extending this nationally and to other cities?

JACKSON: Well, the guns are not coming from Chicago.

BLACKWELL: True. That's what I'm saying. If other cities were to enact the laws that have been enacted in Chicago and it hasn't worked for Chicago, 87 percent of the homicides are gun crimes, then why should Baltimore do it? Why should D.C. do it? Why should New York do it? Chicago has tough laws; it isn't working.

JACKSON: Well, Chicago is in a bubble. As the manufacturers, we're target markets for gun flow. And explore the problem and the pain and so you have a combination -- a deadly combination of guns and drugs and in a long instance of warfare guns and drugs and jobs we need a comprehensive plan. It's not just gun violence there's also the violence of poverty and lack of education and lack of dreams.

So people think killing is the only way out. And so we need a comprehensive plan. This is the knee pad and they have been called for reconstruction. Not just gun violence alone is the issue here.

BLACKWELL: Reverend Jackson, thank you very much this debate will continue. I thank you for being part of it.

JACKSON: Thank you, sir.

BLACKWELL: We're back after a quick break.


BLACKWELL: In just about four hours, we will see a last-ditch effort to keep us from going over the fiscal cliff. The President and key congressional players will meet at the White House to play let's make a deal.

Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. He's a ranking member on the House Budget Committee. Good morning.

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Good morning Victor.

BLACKWELL: So we have seen these meetings at the White House, conference calls, press conferences, statements. Is today's meeting a gamechanger. Are we're going to see something out of this that gets us closer to a deal?

HOLLEN: Well, as you said, this is a last-ditch effort by the President to date bring together the congressional leaders to avoid at least the tax portion of the fiscal cliff, which is the biggest portion of the fiscal cliff. The President has put many proposals on the table, as you know. Speaker Boehner walked away from the last proposal. Hopefully this time will be different. The Speaker has to allow the House to work its will, to have a majority vote here. He's not allowed us to have a vote on a Senate-passed compromise bill. Hopefully he'll allow us to have an up or down vote on whatever comes out of this meeting if something is agreed to.

BLACKWELL: Now the ball is in the Senate's court and we know that Leader Reid will have to put some sweeteners into this bill to get a few Republicans to sign on to get maybe some of the retiring Republicans or those who are not - well, probably just retiring Republicans, since things have gone in the past few months in the Senate. What things in this bill, would you say, absolutely know, that would not get Democratic support? What's off limits?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, what we're talking about now is the tax part of the fiscal cliff. And as you know, the Senate on a bipartisan basis has actually already passed a bill, so that has to be the foundation of anything more the Senate does. And I think it's important that people understand that when you say the action begins in the Senate, that's because Speaker Boehner has declared that the House will not even vote on that compromise Senate bill.

I mean that's a choice that he's made. He has said that he's not going to allow a vote to come up in the House unless half of the Republican members support it, even though it might have support with the full majority in the House. In other words, I believe that today, we could take up the bipartisan Senate-passed bill that prevents the fiscal cliff and get it passed in the House.

The only thing preventing us from doing that is that the Speaker has refuse to allow a vote on that. And by the way, people need to understand that that plan would provide tax relief to 100 percent of American families on their first $250,000 of income. And for folks above that level, they would be paying a little bit more on the amount of their income above $250,000. That was the bipartisan Senate plan. We should have a vote on a plan like that here in the House.

BLACKWELL: Congressman, last hour I spoke with a woman, her name was Karen Duckett. She lives in Laurel -- just outside your district. Karen could lose her unemployment benefits this weekend if no one comes through with a deal that can pass and be signed by the president.

Here's what she said. This is her message to you and the rest of Washington.


KAREN DUCKETT: I would ask them to please come together and make a decision, a decision is needed. Put all the personalities aside and step up and make a decision. It's not that difficult to make a decision to make sure that millions of Americans have food to put on their table and to be able to pay their rent.


BLACKWELL: What's your response?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, she's absolutely right. That's exactly what President Obama has proposed. He's proposed a plan that would extend all the middle class tax cuts and provide extended unemployment benefits for people who are out of work through no fault of their own who are still looking for a job. That's exactly the proposal the President has put forward. That's exactly the proposal that we have asked to have a vote on in the House of Representatives. We haven't asked Speaker Boehner to support the bill. We have just asked them to have a vote on exactly the kind of proposal that you and that caller were talking about.

BLACKWELL: We are now four days out. We'll see what happens. Congressman Chris Van Hollen, thank you very much.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: We're back after another break.


BLACKWELL: You know her from TV and movies, but what you may not know is what she's dedicated her life to -- giving back. Here's Alina Cho's special report, "Big Stars, Big Giving and Eva Longoria".


EVA LONGORIA, ACTRESS: I've been pulled a million different directions with you know supporting AIDS in Africa or you know sex trafficking in Thailand or dolphins in Japan and you can't do everything. And so I'm thinking what -- what do I really want to do, where can I create the most impact?

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To answer that question you could see Eva Longoria looked in the mirror.

LONGORIA: I always knew I wanted to be with women and within the Latino community.

CHO: Best known for playing the vixen on "Desperate Housewives."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Celiz (ph), how are you?

LONGORIA: The best you ever had.

CHO: Longoria had humble beginnings. The youngest of four daughters, born in Texas to Mexican-American parents.

LONGORIA: I wasn't the first to go to college. It was expected.

CHO: But let's be honest. I mean, when you went to college it wasn't a walk in the park. You had to work.

LONGORIA: I was flipping burgers, I was an assistant to a dentist, you know I worked in a car shop changing oil, I was an aerobics instructor. I mean, yes I had -- I was definitely work study. CHO: Seventeen percent of Latinas drop out of high school. Fewer than half of adult Latinas hold college degrees. So in 2010, the actress started a foundation focusing on helping Latinas get a college education.

On the day we meet up with her at this high school in Los Angeles, she's the keynote speaker at a graduation for parents.

LONGORIA: Everyone here has taken a stand for their child.

CHO: The program is called PIQE. Longoria's foundation is helping to fund it.

LONGORIA: Well it's a nine-week program that parents can take in order to help them navigate the institution of schools. It is not easy.

I've sat with a lot of these parents before the program and they didn't know what a transcript looked like, they didn't know what a GPA was, they didn't know what SAT meant.

CHO: Children of parents who graduate are guaranteed admission to one of several schools in the Cal State University System, provided they meet the basic requirements like Juana Martinez.

JUANA MARTINEZ, STUDENT: I only went to elementary school.

CHO: She graduated from PIQE so her daughter, Alejandra, could have a better future.

LONGORIA: Very good. Make your mother proud. I don't want the Latina community to just be a large community. We need to be an educated community because this is going to be our future work force.

CHO: Something Longoria has talked about a lot on the campaign trail and now as a co-chair of President Obama's inaugural committee.

(on camera): Are you nervous?

LONGORIA: I'm very nervous.

CHO: What will you wear?

LONGORIA: Who knows, I don't know.

CHO: Politics and philanthropy, making a difference in both.

LONGORIA: I'm funding these programs because I believe in them. I think it's important that you, that you, yourself, as a role model, as a philanthropist, as an activist that you yourself give out of your back pocket. I would give my shirt off before I would ask to you give yours.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLACKWELL: Top stories now. New York City police are searching for a woman this morning after a man was pushed to his death on a subway platform. Witnesses say a woman was pacing that platform and mumbling to herself shortly before pushing him. This is the second time in a month someone has been shoved in front of a train.

Los Angeles police probably did not expect to see this at a gun buyback program. "The L.A. Times" reports that at least one rocket launcher was among the thousands of firearms turned in. No word whether the launcher was real, but officials say the buyback program broke records.

And in money, banks setting records this year but not in a good way. Bad behavior costing banks a whopping $10 billion in fines. More than half of that was related to improper mortgage practices. Other charges include money laundering for Iran and manipulating interest rates.

I'm Victor Blackwell. Thanks for joining us today. "CNN NEWSROOM" with Alina Cho continues after this break.