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Gun Control Debate; Will Lance Armstrong Come Clean?; Hugo Chavez Too Sick for Inauguration

Aired January 9, 2013 - 15:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: As the cry for gun control gets louder, the lines for gun purchases get longer.

Take this weekend's gun show in Orlando. A record 8,000 people showed up on day one. And the run on guns and run on ammunition is beginning to impact police agencies who fear they may run out of ammunition for training.

Here is Aaron Diamant from our Atlanta affiliate WSBTV.


AARON DIAMANT, WSBTV REPORTER (voice-over): The mostly empty shells inside the Sandy Springs police armory say it all.

TERRY SULT, SANDY SPRINGS, GEORGIA, POLICE CHIEF: When you can't get ammunition, it is very concerning.

DIAMANT: Chief Terry Sult's department one of many law enforcement agencies in Georgia we found with bullets on back order, tens of thousands of rounds each.

SULT: It affects our ability to be prepared. It affects the potential safety of the officers because they're not as proficient as they should be.

DIAMANT: A nationwide ammunition shortage has already forced the Douglas County Sheriff's Office to push back a couple of training exercises while scrambling to restock.

STAN COPELAND, DOUGLAS COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: That could be six months. It could be eight months.

DIAMANT: It is not just the practice ammo.

COPELAND: We have been looking at what to do. We don't know when our next shipment of duty ammo is coming in.

DIAMANT: Local police ammo distributors like Jay Wallace say it is in part fallout from a huge spike in gun and ammo sales to civilians after the horrific school shooting in Connecticut.

(on camera): Can you remember a time when there was this much demand for ammunition? JAY WALLACE, AMMO DISTRIBUTOR: I cannot. I cannot. This was probably -- in my lifetime, in my business lifetime, there has been more demand for ammunition than there has ever been.

DIAMANT: Wallace now worries some departments could have to wait up to a year for factories to ship certain kinds of rounds in bulk.


WALLACE: We are having law enforcement agencies that are coming in and buying ammunition off the shelf because they need it.

DIAMANT: While most departments say they can make do for now...

SULT: We're going to be starting to get very concerned at the six- month level if that's all we have in stock, because then we have to start planning and rationing.


BALDWIN: WSB also reports that one Georgia vendor had to increase the turnaround time for its ammunition. Usually, apparently it is a 60- day wait. Now bulk orders are taking six months or more to receive.

Want to talk now to someone who has just stepped outside of the meeting at the White House, who has just met with Vice President Biden and his task force today. He is Lonnie Phillips, the stepfather of Jessica Ghawi, one of the 12 killed at the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, last summer.

And, Mr. Phillips, welcome back here. I know we chatted a couple of days ago as you were anticipating your travels to Washington. How did the meeting go?

LONNIE PHILLIPS, FATHER OF VICTIM: The meeting was very, very productive, very -- a lot of groups there, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, some people from Arizona. Some groups from New Hampshire was represented.

Newtown was represented, and a lot of agencies that work with victims. It was probably a total of I want to say 25 people, plus the president's advisers were there. And it was a very good meeting.

The president realizes that we only have a short window to do something. Vice President Biden said that the president wanted something in the next couple of weeks, something that they could work with. So we're looking at mainly assault weapons ban, and also limiting the number of rounds that you can -- a clip or -- and also they want to look at mental health issues. They have already started work on that. They have made a lot of progress.

BALDWIN: OK, so I'm just...


PHILLIPS: Background checks, background checks was a very important issue that they wanted to deal with.

BALDWIN: OK, so, you said about 25 people, assault weapon ban, limiting ammunition, mental health, background checks. Listen, that's a lot to tackle in a meeting. We know tomorrow is the big day with the NRA and a couple of other gun groups.

Maybe it's just for show. Maybe some substantive compromise will happen. At the end of the day, here you are, sitting in this high- power meeting in the White House. You lost your stepdaughter, your daughter here. Do you think the president should have been in there?


He's got the right man in charge. He's very in tune with what he's doing and he was very pleased with the information he got today. He got a lot of very good -- took a lot of notes and he commended the group and told them he was very pleased with the amount of information that he got, and how astute they were on that, what issues they were tackling.

He's very optimistic about getting something done.

BALDWIN: Are you optimistic?

PHILLIPS: Absolutely.

I see more momentum going now after Newtown than I have seen since Columbine. And after the killing and the massacre in Aurora, it was on the public consciousness for a couple of weeks and then, of course, the Olympics came along and it was soon forgotten, and the same with Gabby Giffords, same thing happened. But this time it's different.

BALDWIN: This time is different. You feel the momentum. We know the deadline here for this task force end of the month. You mentioned the vice president, the president both know short window. You mentioned it a lot. We will see what happens. Lonnie Phillips, thank you so much for hopping on the phone with me.

Now to this. Just in here to us at CNN, this crane, look at these pictures. A crane has collapsed in New York.

We have our producer Christina Ginn is actually watching the scene right now.

Christina, give me a point of reference. Where are we talking about?

CHRISTINA GINN, CNN PRODUCER: Brooke, I'm in Long Island City, which is literally right across the East River from Manhattan.

If I look across the river, I'm looking at the United Nations. I can see the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building. We're right across the river from that. There is -- it's purely residential. There is probably 10 high-rise residential buildings. This building is under construction. Like I said, it is just right across the street from Manhattan, right across the river from Manhattan. BALDWIN: So, we're looking at some pictures from our affiliate WABC, looks to be some -- I see some stripes, maybe some firefighters, emergency crews there on the scene.

Do we know? This is sort of a later lunch hour, and I don't know how many people were out and about in the area. What did you -- did you see the moment when it crashed?

GINN: I live nearby. And I heard the crash.


GINN: And it was -- it lasted probably three or four, five seconds. There has been some construction, so at first I thought it was just construction, but then it kept going and kept going and so I ran to my window, and saw the crane crumpled on top of the construction site.

I saw probably 30, 40 construction workers running away from the scene and then grabbed my camera and came back and in that couple of seconds, they were running back to the scene because there were people trapped and so you could -- you know, they were rushing to help, help their co-workers.

What I see on the street now, there is probably 30 or 40 emergency units. I have seen at least three people get into ambulances on stretchers. I saw a stretcher at one point right by where the crane hit. And so it looked like they might be pulling somebody out from underneath it. I don't know for sure.

I checked around down there and they are not ready to give out any official information yet.

BALDWIN: OK. Christina Ginn, don't go too far from your phone or from your camera here. It sounds like a rescue situation is under way here, Long Island City, just across the river from as she pointed out the United Nations, Lower Manhattan. We're going to keep a close eye here on what is happening and how many folks could be injured there in Long Island city because of that crane collapse.

Now this:


BALDWIN: You just heard Andrew Cuomo talking about guns, but what about the next big hurricane? One New Yorker says he's not at all happy about Cuomo's new plan. I'm Brooke Baldwin. The news is now.

(voice-over): When celebrities want to confess, they usually go to Oprah. So for Lance Armstrong, is this the plan?

Plus, a warning to beachgoers, stay out of the water, this after a great white is spotted.

And in one county, police don't have enough ammunition because of a run on bullets. One distributor says he has never seen it so bad.



BALDWIN: Want to take a look here, these are pictures -- again, this is a crane collapse, and this has just happened in the last little bit. This is Long Island City, New York.

We were just actually talking to one of our producers at CNN, Christina Ginn, who was sending us pictures. This crane collapsed on this residential building in Long Island City. Point of reference, she said, just across the river you have the United Nations, you have Lower Manhattan.

According to Christina, there have been, she said something like 30, 35 emergency crews vehicles on scene. She saw people being taken out on stretchers, hopping on ambulances. So presumably this is a rescue situation. We're obviously making phone calls. As soon as we have any information on this collapse, and on any injuries, we will bring that to you live.

Meantime, new developments in this morning's ferry crash, Lower Manhattan, injuring 57 people there. Coast Guard records indicate the same Seastreak ferry has been involved in two prior crashes. You had 2009, the ferry slammed into a dock in New Jersey. In 2010, the ferry collided with a dock puncturing a hole in the ship.

You're looking at the aftermath from this morning here. Today's accident left two people in critical condition. It happened right around 8:45 this morning, near Wall Street. This is Pier 11, if you know the area. And take a look at bow of this vessel. Huge gash there evident by the pictures. The ferry was traveling from New Jersey to New York City's Pier 11.

A passenger says she was asleep this morning when the crash happened.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was actually sleeping. All of a sudden, we just hit, boom. And people were catapulting forward. It was a big bang and it was just all of a sudden my face was in the seat in front of me. It happened so fast.


BALDWIN: We still don't know yet what caused that ferry to slam into the dock. Paramedics treated, they say, dozens of people this morning.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The nature of the injuries are -- basically the two critical patients are head injuries, one was taken to Cornell and the other one to Beekman; 20-some-odd other patients were long-boarded for spinal immobilization and the others were walking wounded taken to various hospitals.


BALDWIN: One passenger on board this morning's ferry, Chris Avore, joins me now on the phone from New York.

Chris, I just have to ask about you. I read you told one of our producers the crash cleaned your clock a little bit. You OK?

CHRIS AVORE, FERRY PASSENGER: Yes, yes, I'm fine now. But it definitely was one way to start a day, that's for sure.

BALDWIN: What did it feel like? What was the impact like?

AVORE: I haven't been in a lot of car crashes, but that's about the closest thing I can think of. Because, again, you're just kind of sitting there, minding your own thing, getting ready for your day. And then with that sudden of an impact and that lurch forward and with no restraining devices or anything like that, you're just, you know, physics is going to take over from there and who knows where you're going to end up.

BALDWIN: Where were you? Were you seated?

AVORE: Yes. I was seated in the back of the boat on the second floor. There were a lot of people standing because we were getting close to the end of the first leg of the trip. And, you know, so it is usually, to be honest, like one of the few times when I'm still trying to get my own act together, and I'm not standing up waiting to try to just get off the boat as fast as possible.

BALDWIN: Yes. I heard the ferry this morning was unusually full. When did you realize that something was wrong, Chris?

AVORE: Well, you're right.

The boat -- the ferry was certainly full. But that's not anything that's ever that unusual. There had been a moment or two a couple of minutes prior where it felt like the boat was going a little closer to shore than it usually does. But, you know, that doesn't seem -- at the time that didn't seem like anything.

And then five minutes later when we're coming into the city is -- you know, even then, we still really didn't know because when you're kind of getting ready for your own day and whatnot, you don't necessarily recognize exactly how fast you're going from where you are.

You don't -- it is not like you're in a car and you can look around and you realize you're almost there to start falling down. You just assume that because it has never happened you're going to cruise on in and you're done. So really, like, there wasn't any type of, you know, alert that we were going to be in trouble or anything like that until after the fact.

BALDWIN: Goodness.

Chris Avore, I'm glad you're OK. I'm glad your clock is OK. Thank you, sir, for picking up the phone. We appreciate it. AVORE: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Oprah, Oprah gets the exclusive. Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong now is willing to sit down with the queen of talk one week from tomorrow. This will be Armstrong's first interview and we're hearing only interview since the doping revelations that stripped him of the seven Tour de France titles and banned him from Olympic sports for life.

Over the years, Armstrong has strongly denied using any kind of performance-enhancing drugs.


LANCE ARMSTRONG, FORMER CYCLIST: Everybody wants to know what I'm on. What am I on? I'm on my bike.


BALDWIN: But since the U.S. anti-doping authority found him guilty and his sponsors started fleeing, Armstrong hasn't said a word. No admission of guilt, no admission of wrongdoing.

Earlier, I spoke with Christine Brennan, columnist with "USA Today" sports and she's been vocal about Lance Armstrong and she said a source told them that Lance Armstrong is giving -- quote, unquote -- "serious consideration" to a confession. Oprah billing this as a "no- holds-barred interview."

I'm joined by Lauren Ashburn, editor in chief of the Daily Download from Washington and also contributor at The Daily Beast.

Lauren, good to see you.


BALDWIN: Obviously, picking Oprah, this is all about strategy and managing an image, who does he give the tell-all to? To Oprah. What do you make of that choice?

ASHBURN: Well, Oprah has not had a syndicated show for several years and her struggling network owned in part by Discovery does not get the viewership that her syndicated show did.

So Oprah's not quite what she was and Lance definitely isn't what he was. So there is a question as to how much this interview can do for him and for his image, if he confesses.

BALDWIN: When you talk about the magic touch, right, she -- Oprah has that or she had that power to make or break so many people who came before her. I mean, if he confesses, if she sort of outwardly forgives, do you think that that won't really matter?

ASHBURN: The problem here is, do you know what time Oprah is on this channel? I don't. But I did know on her syndicated show she was on my channel seven at 4:00 every single day and it was appointment viewing and you would sit down and you would watch the hour with this person. And what we're going to see from this interview all over the news are clips of her talking to him, and you will get that one big sound bite, but you don't get to sit there with her -- or most people won't -- a lot of people who do watch OWN, her network, will, but the mass society won't sit there with her as she talks to him and that could be a big difference in how Lance is perceived.

BALDWIN: You mentioned that you and perhaps others don't know when the show would air and this network of hers, you know, everyone knew when she would be on during her hour show.

And so apparently she's adding the six scripted series to help this fledgling network. But aren't these interviews, these big, you know, sort of tell-alls with a Lance Armstrong, isn't that her strength? Do you think she should go more that direction?

ASHBURN: Of course I do. Of course. I miss Oprah. I miss seeing all of those confessionals.

All the politicians here in Washington who do something wrong need a place to go. Where do they go now? What couch do they sit on? Of course I think this is the direction she should go in. Oprah sat on her own couch and confessed her struggles with weight loss and that has helped many women. And her voice is a needed voice in society on issues like that.

BALDWIN: Lauren Ashburn, Oprah fan right here as well. Thank you very much. We appreciate it.

Want to get back to our breaking news here out of New York, out of Long Island City. This crane, look at the picture. Mangled, mangled metal mess, collapsed. We're now getting word of injuries. We will have that for you, more pictures of the scene, on the other side of the break.


BALDWIN: As promised, we have an update for you here as we're getting these new pictures of this crane collapse in Long Island city. We have heard now -- this is according to the New York Police Department -- there are five minor injuries, all are non-life-threatening.

This happened just a little while ago, Long Island City. This was a residential building. You see that sort of iconic Pepsi-Cola sign, right, that you see across the river. I'm just glancing here at my e- mail, this is some information coming in to me from Christina Ginn, one of our producers there who took some of these photos.

It was a 30-story-tall crane. They just moved the crane, she says, in the past week. They were working on a TF Cornerstone building. Apparently, they own the buildings in the area. If the crane would have fallen the other way, it would have hit the 20-story residential building beside it. That's the latest we have from Long Island City. We will keep you updated.

But I want to move along to what happened today in Venezuela. Within just the past couple of hours, the Supreme Court of Venezuela has tried to make sense of the country's leadership crisis. You have socialist Hugo Chavez, stricken with cancer, still in Cuba, being treated, even though his inauguration for a second term in office is set for tomorrow.

Venezuela's opposition has said Chavez should be replaced, he should be replaced temporarily. But shortly after noon today, the country's highest court declared the new Chavez term will begin even if he is not sworn in.

Jim Clancy, our veteran journalist who covers these things all around the world, let me just ask you this. You have the opposition, who has been very, very vocal. This has been a crisis in leadership. Does the crisis deepen or does the opposition go along with the Supreme Court's decision today?

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They don't have much choice, really.

It is a huge fight inside the parliament, and they were saying you're violating the constitution, this is the opposition. And then the supporters of Chavez just started shouting his name, shouted them down. We had a woman who serves on the Supreme Court coming out and saying it's fine, we can go ahead with this.

They will have a huge Chavez rally. It will be attended by the presidents of Uruguay and Bolivia and everybody. They will have a Chavez rally instead of the inauguration tomorrow.

BALDWIN: OK. Meantime, I was asking Paula Newton. I was talking to her in Caracas who was reporting on this last hour, and I said has anybody heard from Hugo Chavez in Cuba? She said, no, not a peep out of him for an entire month, which tells her he's very sick, four cancer surgeries. Is it time to be thinking about Venezuela post- Chavez?

CLANCY: Oh, they're already thinking about it in such big ways right now.

The Chavistas, can they even exist anymore? Because this was a movement made around one man. And he made all the decisions. All the decisions were made behind closed doors. Will that change? That could change for the better. But at the same time, the Chavistas are really worried there could be a power struggle between Nicolas Maduro and the head of the Senate, Cabello.

BALDWIN: Maduro is the number two?

CLANCY: He's the guy that in December Chavez named as the vice president.


CLANCY: As he would be the guy to succeed me, the bus driver turned union activist and now rose up in the ranks of the government.

He's a populist. A lot of people like him. But if there is a fracture within the Chavistas, if they split, that is what gives the opposition an opportunity in any election. They're already talking about we should have a special election. Obviously, the Chavistas don't want to do that. They want to have time to fix things a little bit, try to stabilize that economy.

They have to do something. No longer can they rely on what you can only call stunt politics, Chavez building a government-built home for his three millionth Twitter follower, to the cheers of people, and...

BALDWIN: Are you serious?

CLANCY: Yes. So, you know, that is the way that he was able to rule and he ignored a lot of the deep fiscal problems that the country has.

BALDWIN: As you're saying, people have already been thinking about a post-Chavez Venezuela, how would a post-Chavez Venezuela impact U.S. relations?

CLANCY: It is not clear. It's not entirely clear.


CLANCY: It could improve. Everybody makes such a -- yes, he was a thorn in the side of the United States at every opportunity. This man embraced Moammar Gadhafi and his fading days.

But he was also a very reliable seller of oil to the United States. When it came down to it, he did not follow Fidel Castro's mold, but he certainly led a resurgence of the left all across Latin America and the left is going to miss him.

BALDWIN: Jim Clancy, thank you.

And now this, an emotional governor Andrew Cuomo in New York reflecting on superstorm Sandy moments ago during a state of the state address, but my next guest says Cuomo's new preparation plan for another big storm no good.

Plus, more on our breaking news. We're on it, Long Island City, crane collapse -- back in a moment.