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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Facing the "Container Cliff"; Rep. Markey Running for Senate; Paying It Forward 228 Times; Utah Teachers Learn to Shoot; NRA Softens Stance on Guns in Schools; "Find My Dog, You're in My Book"

Aired December 28, 2012 - 07:30   ET

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


ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Alina.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: You can count on me, Ali Velshi. Good morning, everybody. The fight between world powers with agonized parents and children caught right in the middle. Russian President Vladimir has signed a bill that bans U.S. families from adopting Russian orphans. It's thought to be payback for a U.S. law that tackles human rights abusers in Russia, but Moscow says too many orphans have been abused by their new American parents. State Department says it is willing to talk more about keeping the children safe.

The fiscal cliff isn't the only threat to the U.S. economy. Get a load of this, the container cliff. Get a load of this, the container cliff. Nearly 15,000 dockworkers from Maryland to Texas are threatening to strike, starting Sunday, which could shut down more than a dozen key shipping ports and cripple commerce across the country. The dockworkers are demanding higher container royalties to boost their pay.

Did the Newtown school shooter have an evil gene? Scientists at the University of Connecticut reportedly will study Adam Lanza's DNA to see if a mutation or abnormality could have made him more violent? This would be the first study of its kind on a mass killer.

Jockeying has also started for John Kerry's Senate seat, even before it's vacant. Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey is throwing his hat into the ring. If Kerry becomes Secretary of State, and that is expected, a special election will be held early this summer to replace. Markey, the 66-year-old Democrat, is the first prominent candidate to declare for the race.

Love this story, paying it forward by paying it backward. A story of rampant generosity and good will in Canada, it's happening in Winnipeg. One customer pulled up to a coffee shop drive thru in Winnipeg and paid for the person behind them. The next person did the same and on and on and on, 228 customers in all.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You hear the shout from drive thru. My manager, Todd, was in there. You hear him screaming out random numbers, 147. Getting everybody really pumped up and it just filled the building with excitement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think now it's such a habit started here and I think people come back to this one, knowing it's either going to be your day, you will start it, and it will come back, a huge cycle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: No one knows who started the chain or who ended it. Do you want to be the person that ends that chain?

VELSHI: I will tell you, all I do every time I go back to Canada is go to Tim Horton's, a national institute, it's just great.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look who we have here. Do you have a note from the opinion practically principal?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Remember, I do a radio show.

VELSHI: Ladies and gentleman, this is Roland Martin, in case you didn't know. All right, we got an interesting story here. It's been two weeks as you know today since a gunman broke into Sandy Hook Elementary School, killed 26 teachers and students.

Since then there's been an ongoing debate about how to prevent another tragedy from happening, including a suggestion to arm school teachers. Take a look what happened yesterday in West Valley, Utah, West Valley City in Utah.

This was a six-hour seminar, where teachers were taught, among other things, how to properly handle a gun and the whole course was free. Clark Aposhian, taught the course, he is the chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council and Kasey Hansen is a special education teacher who trained to use a gun at Clark's class.

Welcome to both of you. Thank you for being with us this morning. Clark, let me start with you. You've actually been teaching these courses for a long time. I guess after Newtown, you put out a press release saying that you want to kick it up.

You are going to continue to offer free instruction to public service workers, teachers, and maybe other people other than teachers. Tell me what you are intending to do? What has the response been?

CLARK APOSHIAN, CHAIRMAN, UTAH SHOOTING SPORTS COUNCIL: Well, we're teaching -- pore the past 12 years, we have taught school employees free of charge, and we had a fantastic turnout yesterday. We continue to do this. We are not necessarily arming teachers.

In fact, far be it. It is completely up to them whether they want to obtain the permit after the training and get a firearm. Even if they get a fireman, it's still up to them whether they want to carry it in the schools.

But I tend to think after the events in Connecticut and Aurora, Colorado, a lot more teachers are going to go to school armed.

VELSHI: What's it take to get a conceal carry permit in Utah?

APOSHIAN: Takes a class by certified instructor. There are plenty of those here in Utah and you have to sit through the class, a background check. In fact, your background check is checked every 24 hours after that.

VELSHI: All right, Kasey, welcome. You are a K-12 special education teacher. What do you teach? Do you carry a gun at school?

KASEY HANSEN, K-12 SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHER: I am a hearing specialist. So I work with special education students at 14 different schools each week, and I currently do not carry a weapon to school.

VELSHI: Do you have a gun at all?

HANSEN: I don't right now. I would like additional training before I even consider which gun I would like and if I going to bring it to school.

VELSHI: Would you if you got the additional training and got a gun, would you consider keeping a gun in your class at school, on you or locked away?

HANSEN: Honestly, I would. I would take a bullet for any one of the students in the school, if it came down to it, and I just want extra options to protect myself as well as my students. So I believe I would bring one.

VELSHI: Clark, let me ask you this. In your training where it applies to teachers or someone with students or other people around them a lot, is there extra training given to ensuring -- I would imagine in a school situation, one of the things you want to be cautious of is a student getting hold of that gun, someone stealing that gun. Do you deal with that specifically?

APOSHIAN: Well, we teach weapon retention of sorts. But, you know, it -- we trust these professionals like Kasey, to be around our kids for eight to nine hours a day. Why would anyone think they would act in some way to put children at harm?

But they will act with good character and good decorum, and especially when they have a firearm them realize the risks and the -- or the potential risks involved in that. We have been doing this for 12 years.

We haven't had a problem in Utah, despite the dire predictions from the other side. There are lots of teachers in Utah that are already carrying in schools and they don't have to notify the district or the principal about it either.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I can understand why in a crisis someone would want an armed adult in a school. On the other hand, in the last few months, we had a shooting at a movie theatre, as you noted, at a Sikh temple and firefighters fired upon and killed this week. So is the logical extension of this argument that we should be arming those folks at all of those places as well? Where too you draw the line?

APOSHIAN: Well, I mean, you draw the line -- we're going to give folks like Kasey another option rather than jumping in front of a bullet. It's why we put fire extinguishers and medical kits inside classrooms.

BROWNSTEIN: Should firefighters be armed as well in your view? Should movie ushers be armed?

APOSHIAN: We shouldn't necessarily disarm firefighters. I wouldn't think we would want to disarm them. It's up to them if -- you know? Who is going to protect the firefighters then? Who exactly does somebody call when a shooter comes into the school?

They call people with guns, but, unfortunately, the people with the guns show up a little too late. The actual first responders are folks just like Kasey here who engage the gunman.

And we learned from sad experience, if they are denied the right to have a firearm, they end up getting shot and students get shot along with them. We want to give them another option.

MARTIN: Clark, you just said teacher who's bring guns into the classroom don't have to notify the school district, the principal as well. I have a lot of teachers on my social media pages who said this is the last thing they want to do. Should parents be notified if their children is sitting in a classroom where a teacher is armed with a gun?

APOSHIAN: No. Why should they be? This teacher is acting in a professional manner. If they acted in an unprofessional manner with a gun or without a gun, then they would be removed.

VELSHI: Let me ask you this, Clark.

APOSHIAN: We trust our kids with these teachers every day.

VELSHI: Trust them to teach. You are putting a lot of weight on the fact that we check people and they have background checks. We have a report from the "Salt Lake City Tribune" that you trained FBI fugitive, Jason Derrick Brown.

He was charged of shooting and killing an armored car guard. He took your class while working to get a concealed weapons permit. He did pass all of the necessary background checks.

APOSHIAN: No, that's not true. He did not.

VELSHI: What part isn't true?

APOSHIAN: He wasn't an FBI fugitive when I taught him either.

VELSHI: I get that you trained a guy who subsequently became an FBI fugitive after allegedly shooting somebody dead.

APOSHIAN: Yes, that is true. He never got an opportunity to pass the background. It was stopped just before that.

VELSHI: How did he get the gun? How did he get the gun?

APOSHIAN: We sold him the gun.

VELSHI: You just said you can't get a gun without a background check. Now you're telling me he didn't pass the background check, but you sold him a gun. Did you sell him a gun -- did sell a man a gun without a background check?

APOSHIAN: No.

VELSHI: You just told me that you sold him a gun. Which one is it?

APOSHIAN: There are two kinds of background checks. One for the concealed carry permit and one for a firearm, he did pass the background check for the firearm.

VELSHI: That was my question. All right, Kasey, are you concerned you might be in -- how do we deal with this? Let's take this at face value. You and others trained properly in terms of safety. You're comfortable with a gun. What happens?

You keep a gun in your classroom perhaps. Locked one hopes and then how -- you have that added responsibility of making sure you are trained to use it properly. You are amongst people who may not be, including students. Does that worry you?

HANSEN: It does worry me. But I am going to keep my gun on me because I am at four, five, six different schools a day. I travel a lot. I can't keep it in a classroom, locked in a building. So of course, it will be on me, I won't draw attention to it.

I won't tell my students, just, FYI, I'm carrying a weapon on me. I'm just not going to say anything to the students. That's not their worry. Their worry is to learn, to grow up and be our future. And that's all they need to worry about.

They don't need to worry about coming to school and somebody attacking them and somebody possibly shooting them. I mean, our kids as young as kindergarten, understand that bad guys are -- bad guys could come into the school, and hurt them, and we don't want them to worry about that.

We need to keep on requesting with our he indication and they shouldn't -- small children shouldn't have to worry that school should be unsafe.

VELSHI: From your lips to God's ears, I hope kids never have to worry about anything other than getting an education. Kasey Hansen is a K- 12 special education teacher in Salt Lake City. Clark Aposhian is the chair of the Utah Shooting Sports Council. Thanks to both of you for being with us this morning. APOSHIAN: You're welcome.

HANSEN: Thank you.

VELSHI: Speaking of guns, the NRA has clarified its stance on arming teachers. Hear the much softer stance from the president of the organization when we come back.

Have you seen Tessa? Help find the author Dennis Lahane's dog. He'll write you into his new novel. We'll tell you more about that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: A softer stance from the National Rifle Association this morning. The NRA now says schools should themselves decide how to protect children. Here is the NRA President David Keene.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID KEENE, PRESIDENT, NRA: When Wayne LaPierre spoke about a week ago, he suggested what has to happen and what should happen is in every school district, administrators, teachers and parents should sit down and ask what's need to protect the students in that school. Some of them will want police officers there. Others of them will want private security guards. There may be some places where they want volunteers to do it. We're willing to work everybody on those questions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Well, it's a much softer stance than a week ago when the NRA's CEO said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NRA: I call on Congress today to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: All right, well, I know you are taking different sides on this kind of issue. Wayne LaPierre held about the weirdest press conference I have ever seen. It wasn't actually a press conference because he didn't take questions.

So what Keene, the president, corrected wasn't actually a correction of what LaPierre said. LaPierre called on Congress to appropriate money to put armed guards in schools immediately before students got back from holidays.

Now, before any debate on regulation or gun control, that was a ridiculous statement, and Keene is now backing off from something he said he didn't say it. CAIN: It's 100,000 public schools. Here is the deal. I think as illustrated in last interview with the gentleman in Utah, this conversation understandably in the wake of Newtown is inherently emotional. Also it's understandable that we seek answers and solutions on how to fix something that might be inherently unfixable. We're talking about putting armed guards in schools, arming teachers, banning guns that were involved in the shooting.

I think we have to take into account a larger content, which no one wants to hear, but is this, gun violence is down. Mass shootings are down, victims are down. The statistics across the board over wide range of times suggests this is a rare and horrible incident.

VELSHI: The NRA -- the issue -- blamed everybody but guns, blamed the media, video games, which by the way are played everywhere in the entire world and media everywhere in the entire world. There's nothing to do with guns. Guns can't possibly be part of the problem according to the NRA.

CAIN: The NRA was so dedicated to protect the second amendment, they are willing to sell out the first and many other constitutional amendments we hold dear.

MARTIN: You talk about this being rare, but you have Newtown across the country when you look at the collective desk. The point where you talk about whether it's arming teachers or gun control or dealing mental illness, you are trying to confront as many pieces of the puzzle as possible.

There is no one solution. If it's a one-dimensional conversation only about guns then that is a ridiculous conversation. It has to be a much broader, but you can't have some barriers to try and prevent some things from happening.

BROWNSTEIN: You really hear the cultural divide in the last interview with Mr. Aposhian whose basic answer is that all of these institutions need armed --

VELSHI: You asked about firefighters.

BROWNSTEIN: They should be armed. And I think Roland is right. It is a multidimensional problem. I mean, in 1994, when we passed the assault weapons ban out of Congress, it was part of a comprehensive crimes bill that had more cops, that had more activities for young people, that had more prisons.

I mean, ultimately you have to attack a problem like this from all sides. It is very difficult to do that when you have a fundamental cultural divide and I think a big chunk of the country says the answer is more guns, others that are very focused unless.

CAIN: It's also asking the question, do you propose the solution is solving the problem. For example, the assault weapons ban. Statistics show research ever does not reduce gun violence.

MARTIN: Also, Will, when you say it's emotional, don't act as if it's not emotional on the NRA side. So don't think it's just emotional in terms of people who want gun control --

VELSHI: All right, I got an idea for all of you. Anybody here wants to be famous, pay attention including you. If you help find this missing dog, you will get a character in a new novel named after you.

Dennis Lahane is going to extreme measures to find his beagle, Tessa. If you behind her, you will be famous.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Welcome back. Dennis Lehane is the bestselling author of the hit crime novel "Gone, Baby, Gone, Mystic River" and "Shutter Island." Now he's got a crime to solve of his own, where is his black and tan beagle Tessa?

She was last seen Christmas Eve in Brookline, Massachusetts, when she jumped the fence. Lehane is offering to write the person who finds his dog into his next book. He joins us now from Florida.

Dennis, good to see you. Thanks very much, a big fan of your books, by the way. How did this happen? You're in Florida, dog's in Massachusetts.

DENNIS LEHANE, BESTSELLING AUTHOR: Yes, dog's in Massachusetts and we had somebody watching out for the dogs and unfortunately, a gate was left unlocked and Tessa got through the gate, so she just she got out into the wilds of Brookline in Boston.

VELSHI: All right, you got a large fan base and I guess you posted this on social media so you got people out there looking for the dog?

LEHANE: Yes, I'm kind of overwhelmed by social media, I never understood until I did this. I put up a little note on my Facebook page and said if anybody gets information that leads to her coming home I just thought instead of putting a reward, put something different. I'll name a character in a book after you and it metastasized and the next thing I know I'm getting phone calls from CNN.

VELSHI: We're hoping to find the dog. What happens to whoever finds it, a team effort, you'll deal with it. You'll get their names?

LEHANE: We'll deal with it, absolutely. The only caveat I would say, the novel I'm writing now is set in the 1930s so if your name is Heather or Crystal probably wouldn't fit in a 1930s novel, but definitely in a present day one.

BROWNSTEIN: It is guaranteed to be a positive character in the novel?

LEHANE: No.

BROWNSTEIN: All right.

LEHANE: I never know.

BROWNSTEIN: So it's a roll of the dice if you enlist in this cause. LEHANE: Yes, the only thing I always say, whenever I do this, I do this for a lot of charities. The one thing I say I would never make you somebody truly awful.

VELSHI: But we could be gangsters.

CAIN: Could you tell us one or two of your previous characters written in from someone you knew or helped you or you got through a charity?

LEHANE: I'm trying to think, there was a guy in "Live By Night" one of the state police officers in "Live By Night" who dives into the water after a woman was from a charity. I end up getting a list and I punch them in as I go through but no huge name that I can think of, no like primary character.

CAIN: No "Mystic River" Sean Penn character?

LEHANE: No, he wasn't named after anybody.

MARTIN: Somebody has to ask, did you fire the person who looked after your dog?

LEHANE: God, no, these are honest mistakes. No, who would do that?

CHO: I'm curious to know if you have any leads. You said the response has been tremendous, obviously you haven't found the dog, but has anybody even spotted Tessa?

LEHANE: There have been some spotting, but they turned out to be, it's fascinating they turned out to be false. There was several spotting and it turned out to be of all things a raccoon.

VELSHI: Which isn't going to get you written into anything.

LEHANE: No.

VELSHI: Since we got pictures of Tessa, we're consumed with becoming famous in one of your books in your movie. Tessa, no tags, but Tessa has a microchip. What do we need to know about this if somebody's looking for Tessa.

LEHANE: She is super fast. She's very, very sweet but she's also wary. She was a rescue dog, taken off the streets so she's going to be a little wary, skittish, so don't chase her. And if you see her, contact any of the numbers that have been left or any of the web sites, and we will get the proper authorities out to find her.

VELSHI: Got it. You can contact CNN, too, we'll track you down. Dennis, good luck. It's a creative way to enhance the search for your dog, but ultimately those of us with pets know what an issue this is, how serious this is.

Dennis, we wish you the best of luck and thank you for being with us. When it all works out think of us as having helped the search as well and I'll send you our names -- LEHANE: Send your names and we'll get you in there. I definitely do not promise what type of person you will be.

VELSHI: We'll be greedy bunch of poker players. Dennis Lehane, famous author, great to see you. Thank you so much.

Coming up ahead on STARTING POINT, the end of the line for a beloved superhero, why Peter Parker was killed off after 50 years as "The Amazing Spider-Man." I don't understand that.

Plus keeping a close eye on Washington, will a high-level meeting at the White House this afternoon be the answer to the fiscal cliff mess? I don't know. You're watching STARTING POINT. We'll talk about it when we come back.

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