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Biden's "Gun Violence Project"; Gun Violence Debate Continues; Holmes on Trial: Day 3; The Wedding Crashers

Aired January 9, 2013 - 08:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: It is Wednesday, January 9th and STARTING POINT begins right now.

Welcome everybody. Our team this morning, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson is with us, Jenn Psaki is the Democratic strategist. She served as a traveling press secretary for President Obama's re- election campaign, Ryan Lizza is a CNN contributor, Washington correspondent for the "New Yorker," "EARLY START" co-anchor, John Berman sticks around to help us out as well. Appreciate it. It's nice to have you all with us this morning.

Our STARTING POINT is the White House and the National Rifle Association, could be a little bit of a gun control showdown.

The NRA announcing that is accepting an invitation to be part of the vice president's gun violence project. The panel will get down to business today when they meet with victim's rights and gun safety groups. Tomorrow, sportsmen and gun owner groups will have their say, an NRA representative will be part of that conversation tomorrow.

White House correspondent Dan Lothian is in Washington, D.C.

Even though they've agreed to send a representative, the NRA sort of sounds on the fence in terms of their participation. It's not exactly a warm, exciting embrace I don't think, Dan. Good morning.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Well, exactly and I think there's a lot of concern from the NRA because they think there's too much focus on gun control and not on some of the other issues, such as mental health, such as dealing with violent video games, something they believe contributes to gun crimes out there or violence out there. In addition, the NRA has been proposing perhaps there should be armed guards at all schools.

And so, they think --to everyone, lawmakers should be looking at those issues rather than focusing solely on gun control. And so, a spokesman for the NRA saying they were invited to attend these meetings and, quote, "We are sending a rep, to hear what they have to say". So, very short response. They're coming to listen. The White House wants to hear what the NRA and some of these groups who have been invited here have to say about putting together policy to prevent gun violence in the future.

Now, what the White House is saying is that while they work on these options, there are things that lawmakers can already do, such as reinstatement of the ban on assault weapons, closing some of the loopholes around background checks and also limiting high capacity magazines. So, those are things they say they can get working on right away, but that there are these other options that could be put on the table, the president looking for those options by the end of this month, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Why is Wal-Mart not in this conversation? They're the -- I think they're the nation's largest seller of firearms. It seems sort of strange that they would not be able to clear their calendars to attend this.

LOTHIAN: That's right. Remember, right after those shootings, they did pull some of their ads but continue selling those weapons. And they say it's really a scheduling matter.

In a statement, a spokesperson saying, quote, "Unfortunately, we are unable to attend but we have been having ongoing conversations with the White House and reaching out to lots of groups and organizations on this topic and sharing our experiences. We take the sale of firearms very seriously and are committed to the responsible sale of firearms."

But by the fact that they're not coming here, raising a lot of eyebrows, when you have the NRA and other organizations coming here, there's a sense they should be at the table as well.

O'BRIEN: All right. Dan Lothian, thanks.

Christine, I know you've been on the phone with Wal-Mart.


O'BRIEN: Dan said raising eyebrows by the fact they're not attending. He said it sounds like a scheduling issue. Is that --

ROMANS: I say -- I asked Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar, I said, how do you have a scheduling issue when the White House asked you to visit? He said, we already to them earlier this week and it's not a bad deal. We had our monthly meetings scheduled with our executives in Bentonville, Arkansas and there's just nobody who can be there.

And I said, well, you have 2.2 million employees and not one of them can be at the White House meetings? He said, look, we've been talking to the White House, the vice president's office. They know where we stand, what we've done and what we feel. We don't need to be at the meetings.

O'BRIEN: Senator, what do you make of that? Because when people tell me they have a schedules snafu, generally, and I'm a cynical person, I just don't believe them, right, if the White House calls.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI), MEMBER, BUDGET COMMITTEE: They're probably out there trying to grow the economy. They're concentrating on their business and I'll take them at their word. I have no idea what's happening with Wal-Mart but they listen to the White House. I think the concern is from people that actually do want to protect gun rights is that this, you know, a fast moving train to try and restrict those gun rights.

O'BRIEN: So, meaning, they don't want to be involved?

JOHNSON: So, people are suspicious of that.

O'BRIEN: Yes. So, why wouldn't it make you say let's be part of that.

JOHNSON: But again, from my standpoint, if they got sales meetings, those things probably pretty important. They're trying to grow the economy, that's a good thing, right?

O'BRIEN: So nice to see a non-cynical senator. I love it.


JEN PSAKI, FORMER TRAVELING PRESS SECRETARY FOR OBAMA CAMPAIGN: I mean, the White House is reaching out broadly because that's what they do. They don't expect the NRA is going to say all of your ideas are great, we're going to agree to it and sign on. But that's the stage we're in.

This reminds me of when a boy asks a girl out and the girl says I'm not free for the next two years. You know, the NRA has --

O'BRIEN: Lose that number.

PSAKI: -- has staff in Washington, has plenty of people. They have plenty of people. They made a strategic decision. But the scheduling answer is just a little flimsy.

ROMANS: Wal-Mart says they were asked just a few days ago if they could come to the meetings and their monthly meetings are scheduled months in advance and no one could --

O'BRIEN: It is hard to get in and out of Bentonville.


RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Come on. This is -- are you kidding me? You know how many corporate jets Wal-Mart has going through Bentonville. If the White House --


PSAKI: They can come from K Street. That's where they're coming from.

LIZZA: I mean, it's a huge slap in the face to the White House. They're trying to send a signal --

ROMANS: Is it OK for them to talk about this subject outside of these meetings and that's good enough? They say they have talking to the vice president's office.

LIZZA: It's a slap in the face to say you've been publicly invited to the White House and you're not going.

And, Jen, you know, whenever someone says it's a scheduling issue, it means that they don't want to be there.


ROMANS: It's like resigning saying you want to spend more time with your family.

LIZZA: Maybe as the senator said, maybe for people who don't like what the White House is going to propose, because they feel everything is moving too fast and they don't want to be a part of it.

O'BRIEN: Let's bring Colin Goddard. He was shot four times during the Virginia Tech rampage, and he's now assistant director of federal legislation for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, also to be part of the conversation that's happening today with the vice president.

It's nice to have you with us. I appreciate your time.

So you're going to meet with the Vice President Joe Biden. What would you like, what would your message be? What do you want him to walk away with from you?

COLIN GODDARD, SHOT FORUR TIMES DURING VIRGINIA TECH RAMPAGE: I mean, as a victim of gun violence and as a member of the Brady Campaign, you know, my job is to represent the voice of the overwhelming majority of Americans, of us that want some comprehensive, common sense changes to our gun policy. I mean, we really need to look at not only just the last major shooting but we really need to look at the 33 Americans, the 32 of us who are murdered with guns every single day, and how can we best reduce that number and save more American lives?

O'BRIEN: Is that true, Senator, the overwhelming majority of Americans want some kind of comprehensive gun reform and gun policy, sir?

JOHNSON: I'm not sure where he sees that evidence. It's certainly not with the people in Wisconsin that I represent. People want to protect gun rights and realize it's a Second Amendment right, I don't see that evidence.

O'BRIEN: There are measures, Colin, that are on the table, from the White House, universal background checks, tougher mental health exams, stronger penalties if you carry a firearm near a school. How do you feel about those measures? What is lacking in your estimation, what would you rather, what else would you like to see?

GODDARD: I mean, all those measures I think make sense, you know? We really understand, there are common ground solutions that respect the Second Amendment.

O'BRIEN: Like what?

GODDARD: Also make it more difficult for dangerous people to get their hands on a gun in the first place, a background check. You know, 40 percent of gun sales in this country every year go unchecked. That's just bad policy, you know, and doesn't stop a law-abiding citizen from owning a gun. They'll pass that background check every time.

But somebody with a history of dangerous mental illness, somebody with domestic violence or restraining order, somebody with a felony record, they need to get checked, otherwise you'll never know about that. So, we need to start doing that for everybody.

O'BRIEN: You know, I covered the Virginia Tech aftermath and I was there and I remember at the time there was a lot of hammering and people saying the same thing oh my God this tragedy, how did it happen? We have to do something, now is the time, and then that window closed and it passed.

And the same thing after Aurora, oh, my God, I can't believe it, how could this happen, innocent lives -- and then that window closed and the moment passed.

People have said and I'm curious to know, Colin, if you agree, is Newtown a turning point or in six months, will you and I have this conversation again and the time will have passed and the window will have closed and we'll move on to the next school shooting?

GODDARD: I think it has been a tipping point for a lot of people. I mean, our phones at the office in D.C. are still ringing off the hook. I mean, our activists in the field across the country are getting so many new members saying I just can't keep watching these things and not do something about it.

You know, I think there was multiple factors that played into this. I've seen this overwhelming support for something to be done. It's still almost a month out and we're still getting phone calls off the hook, and we're still having conversations with new people on Capitol Hill that we've never had conversations with before.

So, I'm saying this is very encouraging, you know? We need to keep this up. People understand that they're now going to play a part in this and make something done. And so, America, please keep this up. We're going to get this done.

O'BRIEN: Yes, plenty of people, we were just talking about Wal-Mart not taking part in the White House conversations and Senator Johnson was suggesting that there are some folks who feel like this is moving to fast and they don't maybe, possibly, they don't want to be part of a conversation that's going too fast, if you will.

And I guess I'm curious to know, you don't get the sense there's this equal push about mental health. You don't get a sense there's this equal conversation about investigating violence in our culture, right?

I mean, I think it's fair to say I see it personally as a three-prong or maybe more pronged problem -- guns certainly, also mental health issues, and also a culture where violence is celebrated, right? People target practice on video games all the time. It really is in our culture and yet we're really targeting one element of that.

So, do we need to target the other things that seem to play a role in this?

GODDARD: Absolutely and I believe the task force is trying to take, like I said, a comprehensive look at everything. I mean, I kind of look at it as a supply and demand. We have to look at the supply side, the easy accessibility allowed to dangerous weapons and the demand have in this country to pick it up and use it aggressively or use it to solve their problems or resolve disputes.

You need to come at it from both angles from the bottom up and top down to see a great reduction in the number of people shot and killed every year. I mean, we deserve better than this. If we believe that, we will see something changed.

O'BRIEN: Colin Goddard is the assistant director of federal legislation with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. He'll be part of these conversations with the vice president and the vice president's task force today. Nice to see you. Thank you for talking with us. Appreciate it.

GODDARD: Thanks for having me.

O'BRIEN: John Berman has a look at other stories making news this morning.


Day three to determine if there's enough evidence to put James Holmes on trial. Holmes is accused of killing 12 people at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater, screaming in at least 30 guns shots can be heard in the background in one in 911 calls played in court yesterday. The father of one of the victims says he had a hard time listening.


TOM TEVES, FATHER OF THE SHOOTING VICTIM: I mean, any one of those shots could have been the one that killed Alex. And if it wasn't, it hurt somebody else or killed one of the other people who we've become friends with. So it was horrific.


BERMAN: Holmes defense team hinted at a possible insanity defense.

So, history will be made at this year's presidential inauguration. New details released yesterday that Richard Blanco has been chosen to serve as the inaugural poet. He is the son of Cuban exiles. He is the youngest poet ever to receive the honor, also the first Latino.

The musical line-up we learned will also include headliners Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor. President Obama is inaugurated January 21st -- actually, he's really inaugurated twice, January 20tg and January 21st. CNN will cover all of it, we will be there live on the Mall starting at 5:00 a.m. on Monday. O'BRIEN: Look at you flanked by me and Zoraida in that picture, Charlie's angels.

BERMAN: One lucky man.

LIZZA: Kids in your backyard, start getting the microphone practicing be a newsman.

BERMAN: Look what can happen to you.

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Brent Musburger.

BERMAN: Thank you, Brent Musburger.

All right. Things getting testy between the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics. Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett, they exchanged words during the Celtics 102-96 victory Monday night. And again, in Madison Square, the basement following the game.

Building security and New York City police officers broke up after Anthony waited for Garnett outside the Celtics team bus.

O'BRIEN: You can't do that. Come on, Carmelo.

BERMAN: The report thought that they spoke on the cell phone and everything is cool between them.

O'BRIEN: Melo, come on, man.

ROMANS: Keep it on the court, boys. Keep it on the court.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT: a romantic wedding comes crashing down literally when a hot air balloon ride lands all wrong, couple who went through the ordeal is going to join us, up next.

And not everybody thinks Brent Musburger is such a bad guy for the comments he made about the beautiful former Miss Alabama. Coming up, we'll talk to Jenn Sterger, former New York Jets employee who credits the sportscaster with her success. We'll tell you why, next.


O'BRIEN: Well, it was supposed to be the happiest day of their lives. Amazing pictures of a romantic balloon ride, Kerin and Jonathan Narcisse getting married high above San Diego. Isn't that just beautiful? They look so happy. But then --


O'BRIEN: But then, the newlyweds --


O'BRIEN: Suddenly, a gust of wind came by, boom! Here's what happened. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)


O'BRIEN: OK. That never looks good when the camera is doing all that rolling stuff happening. Karen is in San Diego, Jonathan is in Des Moines, the happy couple. He's joining us, I should mentioned, by Skype, the happy couple working it out so they can be in the same city of Des Moines together soon.

Nice to have you with us. Congratulations on the nuptials that ended kind of roughly. So, Jonathan, you're afraid of heights.


O'BRIEN: Why were you in a balloon in the first place?



O'BRIEN: Oh, my apologies. My apologies, sir. So, what are you doing in a balloon?

JONATHAN NARCISSE: Well, she said she wanted to get married up there and I said you know what? If I man up for 45 minutes to an hour for a lifetime of bliss, so it was an easy choice.

BERMAN: There's a lesson here though, right?


O'BRIEN: There's a takeaway.

JONATHAN NARCISSE: I think, -- you know, I went on my way to San Diego, I bought this book, "52 Ways to Make Your Wife Happy," but you know, I really think that it's like I told Karen when she asked me about the book. I said, you know, a lot of guys worked really hard to get their wives, but I'm going to work even harder to keep you than I worked to get her, and you know, I've been pursuing her since about 2005. So --

O'BRIEN: So, 45 minutes in a balloon just seemed like, you know, part of the deal. Karen, he just really, really loves you. Wow! Can I ask you a question, though? I got to ask Karen a question, hang on a second, Jonathan. So, you take the vows in the balloon. You've got 14 people in this balloon, the whole wedding party.

It's fabulous, it's romantic, it's amazing. When did you realize that something was going very, very wrong?

KERIN NARCISSE, HOT AIR BALLOON WEDDING CRASH LANDED: After we missed two landing places, he would go down with the balloon, he'd say OK, we're going to land, and then, we didn't land, and then, he goes OK now get ready again and we're going to land, and then we didn't land. O'BRIEN: Were you freaking out?

KERIN NARCISSE: The balloon went up higher. Well, I was like, OK, well, he's got to know what he's doing. You know, he's piloting us, so -- but then, when I saw the powerlines, I got a little worried, and the power grid, yes.

O'BRIEN: Oh, my gosh!


O'BRIEN: So, when you hit hard, did everyone freak out? We can hear shouting and a little bit of screaming from your wedding party.


O'BRIEN: Yes? But everybody was fine, right?

KERIN NARCISSE: Yes. I mean, it wasn't part of our wedding party, but there was a person that I think did have, you know, some back issues afterwards because we had five other people with us in the balloon other than our wedding party. It was a semi-private balloon, so yes, it was very, very scary, and --

O'BRIEN: I bet.

KERIN NARCISSE: We didn't know, you know. I mean, when I turned around and I saw the fence coming I'm like that's either going to be a good thing or a bad thing.

O'BRIEN: Oh my God! OK. Jonathan, last word goes to you. So, next year, when Kerin wants to renew the vows in a balloon, what do you say to that?

BERMAN: Sky diving.

JONATHAN NARCISSE: No, no, you have to understand that I found the rose and as soon as I found her, I shared with her that next year on our anniversary we're going to go sky diving. So --


O'BRIEN: Please don't. I'm begging, please don't.



O'BRIEN: How about a cruise, something nice.

.JOHNSON: I would go ahead and book them right away.


O'BRIEN: That's right. One year from today, we'll see you back here to talk about how that went. Nice to have you guys. Congratulations again. Jonathan Narcisse and Kerin Narcisse, the newlyweds, who, you know, usually, they say if you go through something challenging, then it makes your married life stronger.


BERMAN: If it rains on your wedding day, it's good luck. I mean, they're going to have a 10,000-year marriage.


O'BRIEN: So great to have them.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, it was a wonderful Christmas gift, came with a contract, 18-part contract, a kid getting an iPhone. We'll talk about that straight ahead.


ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans, "Minding Your Business."

Futures are mixed this morning as earnings season starts to heats up. Sales for Alcoa, the largest U.S. aluminum producer beat analyst estimates. Overall fourth quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies expected to rise about 3.3 percent.

So, talk about biting the hand that feeds you, AIG, the poster child for the most hated bailout of the financial crisis, it will consider today whether to join a lawsuit against the government. A lawsuit claiming AIG got a raw deal when taxpayers saved it in 2008.

The suit led by former CEO, Hank Greenberg, comes as AIG launches a PR campaign, you're seeing a little bit of it there, a PR campaign to thank taxpayers for the very bailout at issue.

Now, the IRS has taken tax returns starting now drum roll please, January 30th, eight days later than scheduled because of the fiscal cliff. This could have been a lot worse. Some tax experts were telling us delays could be maybe even a few more weeks. The IRS says refunds should not be delayed for most filers.

And Social Security recipients have two months to switch to electronic payments. No more paper checks. It's a cost-cutting measure the treasury department says it costs $4.6 million to send out five million paper checks for Social Security benefits each month. So, from here on out, you're going to give you their direct deposit or you get this debit card.

And, people, if you're still getting a Social Security check on paper, you can expect to hear from your bank or credit union that working with the government to transition everybody.

O'BRIEN: Great. Christine, thank you.

Our "Tough Call" this morning is one that I love from an iPhone gift from one mother to her teenaged son came with lots of strings attached. The mom is Janelle Verly Hoffman (ph) agreed that her son who's 13, Gregory, could have an iPhone, but he has 18 rules that he has to follow in a contract.


O'BRIEN: Here's number one, "It's my phone. I bought it. I paid for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren't I the greatest? So, from that point, I am in love with this mother."


O'BRIEN: I think she's brilliant. Other bullet points, she gets to check the phone every night. He can't take it to school. He has to share the passwords. There's also an item, no porn, item ten, no porn, a 13-year-old boy, I think that's a smart thing to lay out.

LIZZA: This is worse than Verizon's contract.


LIZZA: Worse than a gym membership contract. So, how old is this kid?

O'BRIEN: He's 13.

LIZZA: He's 13. You know --

BERMAN: You take the deal?

LIZZA: I would take the deal.

O'BRIEN: Of course you would.

LIZZA: I would take the deal.

O'BRIEN: It's an iPhone. You're 13.

LIZZA: All of his friends probably have it.

ROMANS: Don't you remember, didn't your mother tell you, this is not your house, this is my house. Those aren't your clothes, those are my clothes. I paid for it --



O'BRIEN: You live still at home with your mom.



LIZZA: She tells her grandkids that.

(LAUGHTER) O'BRIEN: Listen, I have to say, I think this is brilliant. Some of her items outside of the basic like here's how you use the phone, blah, blah, blah, we take it away at certain times, she says you know, do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Be a good friend first.

JOHNSON: Sounds like a good mom.

O'BRIEN: I love that. And she says, live your experiences, download music from something that's different than your peers are listening to.

LIZZA: That one is great.

O'BRIEN: I love her.

LIZZA: That one is great.

O'BRIEN: I think wonder without Googling.

PSAKI: She wants him to be human which is so wonderful.

O'BRIEN: I love it.

PSAKI: I mean, I think people in this day and age could take a lesson, right? You know, the way people interact over e-mail and Twitter and not talking in person.

O'BRIEN: It's great. It's great. And last one, you will mess up, I will take away your phone, we'll sit down and talk about it. We'll start over again. You and I, we are always learning, I am on your team. We are in this together. I love her. I want to be this mother.

JOHNSON: -- get that on your website. Somehow, I got a feeling that's going to be a very popular contract between parents and children.


PSAKI: It's a reprint.

O'BRIEN: Totally. My daughter just lost her iPhone after like three weeks.


O'BRIEN: She's 12, going to be 13. I'm going to have her have this contract, too. I'm stealing it. Thank you, Janelle. You're the best.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, a lot of outrage over sportscaster, Brent Musburger's comments surrounding a football player's girlfriend, but our next guest says that, in fact, when he complimented her on air, at an FSU game back in 2005, changed her life for the better. Jenn Sterger will join us next. And this reporter got into --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go ahead. I'm not going to get in trouble. It worked in practice.


O'BRIEN: A little more physical. Oh, God. Ouch.

ROMANS: That's live.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Those are live shot. We'll tell you what happened there, didn't end well. We're back in a moment.

JOHNSON: Big sale.