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Feinstein to Introduce New Gun Control Bill; Press Conference with Senator Dianne Feinstein; Frigid Temperatures Plague the Nation; Panetta to Announce Removing Ban on Women in Combat

Aired January 24, 2013 - 11:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": All right, thank you, Jennifer.

I'm Carol Costello. The next hour of "Newsroom" starts right now with Ashleigh Banfield.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": Thanks so much, Carol. Nice to see you, everyone. Hello there.

You know, everybody talks about the weather, right? Carol was just talking about it. Jennifer was just talking about it. We're going to talk about it, too, and here's why.

When the wind chill hits 20 below or 30 below or 40 below, that's news and it hurts. It includes us. It includes just about everybody in the U.S. In fact, we're talking deep ice hitting the South, the deep South.

First, however, though, we're going to talk guns because, after tragedies and promises and debates and executive actions, the showdown on guns is really now about to begin.

Senator Dianne Feinstein is making good on her vow to take action against assault-style rifles, like the one that was used in the Newtown school massacre and so many others before that one.

Right now, the California Democrat is about to unveil her tough new bill on Capitol Hill and, among the highlights of this bill, the provisions include bans on military-styled assault weapons -- to be defined in this bill as well.

Bans on semiautomatic rifles, handguns and shotguns, a strengthening of the 1994 assault weapons ban, which, by the way, if you didn't know, Senator Feinstein authored the 1994 bill, the bill that expired in 2004. Also, bans on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

Again, those are just the highlights. There's plenty more, though. The senator's move follows President Obama's push for much stricter gun control measures and, of course, New York state's new gun control law which is now the toughest in the nation and signed into law by New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo, last month.

We're covering all aspects of Senator Feinstein's new gun control bill with a team of the best reporters in Washington. Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash has been following this. She's going to join our crime and justice correspondent, Joe Johns.

First to you, Dana, on Capitol Hill, theatrics are often times discussed as part of the problem when discussing the military-style assault weapons in the first place and there will be no shortage of theatrics in this news conference today, right?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You can probably see behind me what is going to happen at this press conference.

I counted 10 assault weapons that are on display here that Senator Feinstein and the folks who are putting on this press conference decided was critical to display because they want to make a point. They want to show these and to argue that these kinds of weapons are simply not needed in the hands of everyday Americans.

One thing I should note, that you see -- you can probably see here. There are two lines of stanchions, two lines of ropes. That is because it is not legal for these weapons to -- never mind be in the United States Capitol, but also to be in the D.C. -- in D.C. It breaks the D.C. gun laws.

So, they got special permission from the D.C. police office and also from the Capitol police and you see there are a lot of Capitol police officers around here, but those are the rules to make sure that the guns are behind those two stanchion and we're not allowed back there either.

But that really is the point that she is going to make. And, again, what's most interesting is that her audience, according to Democratic sources, at present time, are fellow Democrats, conservative Democrats who think banning these kinds of assault weapons, they don't want to do it.

BANFIELD: You know, Dana, I'm really glad that you pointed out that there was a special dispensation. Our colleague David Gregory at NBC took it on the chin for having a high-capacity magazine on his program, Sunday morning talk show.

And, so, this was a big deal to get these kinds of weapons up and front-and-center. And there is a significant reason why. When I said theatrics, I meant it. Critics of this kind of gun control law say it's because of the look.

Even here, looking at the pictures, they just look so incredibly menacing, but are they any different, really, than the kinds of weapons that are legal?

So, definition has a lot to do with this. Is there a lot of specificity in this bill about just exactly what kind of weapon will constitute an assault weapon?

BASH: There are and, in fact, I should tell you that I probably should stop talking momentarily because we expect Senator Feinstein and others to come out here.

But I'm going to sit down while I talk and tell you that the answer to that is there are 150 guns, according to this sheet we have on our seats here, that would be prohibited from sale, manufacture, transfer, importation.

So, they do try to be very specific. Not only that, there is a provision that grandfathers in certain types of guns that are owned by individuals already.

The other thing that this does, you mentioned, is that it bans large- capacity magazines and other ammunition feeding devices holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

That is something that -- actually, you know what? Here come the members of the press conference and I should tell you that there are lots, as you can see -- there are representatives from all walks of life here and that was no accident. They worked very hard to get this together.

You see a lot of police officers. I've seen them here from all over the country. We expect to see members of clergy, as well, in addition to members of Congress.

And I see Dianne Feinstein. You can keep talking for a minute. I can see her waiting in the wings.

BANFIELD: OK. I want to let Dana put her mike on mute for a moment and just -- so that we can be very clear here when we mention the word "theatrics," look, all politics involve theatrics,

When they're on the Senate floor or the House floor, oftentimes giant sandwich boards with words and images constitute theatrics in order to highlight what a politician's point is.

And, clearly, the good senator whose now behind these sandwich boards with guns on them is trying to make the point of what these things look like.

Again, what critics say, it's an image issue as opposed to a capacity issue, but it is certainly an issue that those who are concerned about this feel is very meritorious.

Let's listen as the senator takes the podium.

Or, in fact, bypasses the podium altogether. Let me bring in Joe Johns while we await the senator's comments. And they don't always go as orchestrated.

Joe Johns, joining me now from our Washington studio. So, Joe, listen, when we say very quickly that the provisions in this bill go farther than the 1994 ban, that raises hackles for a lot of people and that assuages the concerns of a lot of people.

Give me a better indication of how you can go farther than '94. JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's all about the characteristics that are banned and that's -- you are absolutely right.

There were characteristics were banned in the '94 ban. Basically, the gun couldn't have two things and, if it had two things, it was designated as an assault weapon.

This ban, we're told, is going to have a single characteristic ban. So, if there's any one of the things that makes it more military or more dangerous in the view of the proposers, then they'll throw it out.

BANFIELD: Joe, just going to cut you off quickly so we can listen to Senator Feinstein who's back up at the podium.


SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: ... stand together on this important issue.

Some of us have been working to prevent gun violence for decades. Together, we are introducing legislation to help end the mass shootings that have devastated countless families and terrorized communities.

Today, you will hear from some of my colleagues in the Senate -- Senator Dick Durbin from Illinois, part of the leadership on the Democratic side; Senator Chuck Schumer from New York who helped me immeasurably in 1993 by headlining -- or I should say, leading the effort in the House of Representatives which was successful; Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, distinguished senators from Connecticut who know firsthand about assault weapons.

You will also hear from Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy from New York who knows firsthand the devastation of gun violence as well as Congressman Ed Perlmutter of Colorado who represents Aurora and Congressman Elizabeth -- Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty who represents Newtown.

You will also hear from Mayor Michael Nutter, the distinguished mayor of Philadelphia who leads the United States Conference of Mayors.

You will hear from Commissioner Charles Ramsey of the Philadelphia police department, the current president of the Major Cities Police Chiefs Association who will speak about the display of weapons you see to my left.

Finally, we will hear from victims of recent mass shootings.

I would also like to recognize other supporters who are here today. On the risers behind me, we have police officers from several department and I so thank you for joining us here today.

I would also like to recognize a Million Moms for Gun Control who are represented by Mrs. Sandberg here today, Doctors for America, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Federation of Teachers.

Now, I'd like to introduce the Very Reverend Gary Hall, dean of Washington National Cathedral to open this morning with a few remarks and a prayer.

VERY REVEREND GARY HALL, DEAN OF WAHSINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL: Thank you, Senator Feinstein. It is an honor to be here with you and to share in the work that you and your colleagues and Faiths United Against Gun Violence are doing.

I've spoken twice at Washington National Cathedral on gun violence and I've done it in the pulpit and in the media and in conversation with fellow faith leaders and with people in my own church.

Now, we have come to the end of the preaching part of our work and we are moving forward today with a tangible solution to the epidemic as we stand with Senator Feinstein and with her congressional colleagues as they introduce this assault weapons ban.

As people of faith, we have the moral obligation to stand with and for the victims of gun violence and to work to end it. We have tolerated school shootings and mall shootings and theater shootings and sniper shootings and workplace shootings and temple and church shootings and urban neighborhood shootings for far too long. Enough is enough.

Now, everyone in this city seems to live in terror of the gun lobby, but I believe that the gun lobby is no match for the "Cross lobby," especially when we stand together as people of all faiths across the religious landscape of America.

I don't want to ...


BANFIELD: And, as we continue to listen in on this press conference, Joe Johns is still with us in our Washington, D.C. bureau.

Listen, you just heard it. People live in terror of the gun lobby, according to this minister.

But Joe, the gun lobby is very strong and it represents a significant part of this country.

What do you think or what are people saying the chances are of this kind of a bill, a ban on assault-style weapons, passing the House and even the Democratic Senate?

JOHNS: Very skeptical.

Democratic Senate, let's start with that. Dana can tell you better than I, but she's busy right now, obviously.

The problem in the Senate is that there are a lot of Democrats from Republican-leaning, so-called "red" states who basically have to walk the plank to take that vote because they have so many sportsmen, hunters, people who use guns for legitimate purposes who don't like the idea of a government trying to take their guns away.

Then move over to House of Representatives. It's controlled by Republicans, unlike 1994 when the House was controlled by Democrats and, even then, the gun ban passed on a very close vote.

So, this proposal, frankly, has a very tough row to hoe and it may be that, if they put something out there and try to encourage people who support gun rights to go ahead and vote for it, they'll end up with something that they can sell politically to the country even though it might not be able to get through the Congress, at least right now.

A lot of other people say, go after, say, the ammunition or go after, you know, stopping people who are mentally ill from getting guns. Do some things that are a little bit easier to get agreement on.

BANFIELD: And the Hollywood and the gaming community, as well, part of that basket of controversy.

The good senator is speaking again and we have to fit in a quick break.

So, Joe, I'll let you go so you can listen, as well, and our chief congressional correspondent, as Joe mentioned, is busy because she's in the front row.

So, as we get all of these nuggets together throughout the break, we're going bring them to you on CNN. We're back right after this.


BANFIELD: OK, I'm back to a big story that is affecting so many people across this country and to say it's bitter cold is an understatement. It is rotten. It's just rotten.

You know, it's hard to show cold, but this is the best we can do. These are Rhode Island folks in Providence. You can see their breath, but you can't feel their pain.

It's an arctic air mass hovering over the Northeast. It's also hovering over the upper-Midwest. And it's no fun to chip your car out of the ice.

The wind chills are -- I don't even know how to describe it. Look at this. Have you ever seen minus-85? Have you seen it anywhere lower than the 49th parallel with Canada? It's minus-85 on Mount Washington.

Granted, that's a pretty high elevation, but look at Mount Mansfield in Vermont., minus-63. And the other numbers don't get a whole let better. Long Lake, New York, all the way down at the bottom with minus-22, it just seems unfair, don't it?

And if you're in Chicago, it's not great either. We have a whole bunch of temperatures right across the country where, basically, if it's below, say, minus-10, it probably feels like minus-85. Susan Candiotti drew the short straw and there she is. Listen, Bryant Park, are you kidding me? This is New York City. It never looks like that, Susan. It just never looks like that.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don't you love that? This has to be one of the most photographed fountains in the whole country right now, don't you think?

I mean, look at this sight. So, you're figuring out how is it that you're still getting the crystals and the water is still running? Well, I asked.

It turns out that there are heaters in the well -- in the chamber below that fountain so that is what keeps the pipes warm and the water running and that's why you get the effect of water in the fountain still coming down, but when that wind picks up, of course, the crystals form and that's how you see this.

The temperature right now in the city, around 20 degrees, but that wind chill makes it feel like it's about 8 degrees right now.

There are warming centers set up around New York City. They're always available for those who are the most vulnerable, the very young and the very old, so that they have some place to keep warm.

And that is a concern because, as you know, Ashleigh, there have been at least three cold-related deaths around the country in a few states, including Illinois, where a man was left unattended in his trailer died of hypothermia.

Ashleigh, this is serious business.

BANFIELD: You're not kidding. The CDC actually has statistics on the number of Americans who die because of cold weather. We had an average of 1,300 deaths per year. I'm just looking. I think it's a quote from 1999 to 2011, if you're doing the average, 1,300 people dying from this.

So, while the pictures are pretty and it's funny to joke about it, it is a deadly serious topic.

Susan Candiotti, get back inside and warm up before you do your next, pretty live shot. We appreciate your work.

She's been outside, by the way, since like 4:00 this morning, so big appreciation to you for doing the assignment.

Chad Myers, on the other hand, because of all the whiz-bang graphics you get to work with, you get to do your weather live shots from inside.

Here's what I want to ask you and I don't know how well you're going to know this with all the fancy terms that I've been learning lately about the cold weather and the arctic air mass and what's happening with the polar icecaps, just tell me if this is going to pass any time soon. CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We get warm again on Tuesday, so, I mean, it's a very cold weekend in store, but it does warms up. And then it gets cold again at the end of next weekend.