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Gun Debate Gets Emotional; Tornado Touches Down In Georgia; Egypt in Turmoil; Niger to Allow U.S. Drone Base

Aired January 30, 2013 - 12:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Suzanne Malveaux. We are taking you around the world in 60 minutes. Here's what's going on right now.

The debate over gun violence now taking an emotional turn on Capitol Hill. A Senate committee hears testimony from former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in 2011. Giffords struggles with speech because of the lingering effects of that shooting. But she is determined to speak out.


FMR. REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (D), ARIZONA: This is an important conversation for our children, for our communities, for Democrats and Republicans. Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something. It will be hard, but the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you. Thank you.


MALVEAUX: And you see Giffords' husband there at her side. Former Astronaut Mark Kelly also testified as well. Now, these two encouraging, inspiring. They have launched Americans for Responsible Solutions. That is a push for gun control.

A Senate panel is also hearing from opponents of more gun control laws. The executive vice president of the NRA says the focus should be on making schools more secure, more aggressive prosecution of gun criminals and fixing the country's mental health system. Wayne LaPierre says that gun laws are not the answer.


WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXEC. V.P., NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: While we're ready to participate in a meaningful effort to solve these pressing problems, we must respectively but honestly and firmly disagree with some members of the committee and many in the media and all the gun control groups on what will keep our kids and keep our streets safe. Law abiding gun owners will not accept blame for the acts of violent or deranged criminals, nor do we believe that governments should dictate what we clan awfully own and use to protect our families.

As I said earlier, we need to be honest about what works and what does not work. Proposals that would only serve to burden the law abiding have failed in the past and they'll fail again in the future. Semi- automatic firearm technology has been around for a hundred years. They're the most popular guns for hunting, target shooting, self- defense.

Despite this fact, Congress banned the manufacture and sale of hundreds of semi-automatic firearms and magazines from '94 to 2004. And independent studies, including one from the Clinton Justice Department, proved that it had no impact on lowering crime. And when it comes to background checks, let's be honest. Background checks will never be universal because criminals will never submit to them.


MALVEAUX: Our Dana Bash, she is following the hearing on Capitol Hill. She joins us live.

So, Dana, you know what, no matter which way you fall on the gun issue here, you cannot deny that moment when Gabrielle Giffords enters the room and testifies. I mean wherever she goes, people stop, they watch and they listen. Describe for us what was that like when she entered the room to testify?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Pretty much exactly the way you described it, Suzanne. Even people who disagree with her position now, the reason she was here, which is to argue for what she calls more -- some responsible curbs on gun rights, everybody was just in awe of the fact that she is able to walk, clearly with assistance. She's able to talk, even though it's very halting. And she's able to see, even though she can only apparently sees out of one eye, even after having a gunshot wound through the head. So a lot of respect for her on both sides of the aisle. And people saying that at the beginning of the statements even on the right side of the panel, meaning all the Republicans who are arguing against any gun control.

MALVEAUX: And we're seeing these pictures. She's getting kisses from those on the panel. Do you think, you know, this is emotional for a lot of people and clearly seeing her, everybody else gets pretty emotional about this, too. Do you think it is enough to shift this debate over the Second Amendment and to actually get some of the folks who are part of bringing forward legislation to deal seriously with the gun control issue?

BASH: Seeing her and sort of her wounded self that she is now, that in and of itself, no, I do not think so. In fact, you remember, it was after she was shot and six people were killed in that shooting two years ago, there was not even any discussion -- none -- even among Democrats, her fellow Democrats, because it's so politically -- it's political dynamite. It had been and still is to some extent. So that, no.

But I think that the fact that she happens to also be a gun owner. She represented a district in Arizona that is full of people who, you know, like their guns and support gun rights. And her husband has testified that he is a gun owner and is a very strong supporter of the Second Amendment. That, I think, gives them more credibility with people who they are trying to convince to pass something to change the way -- in their words, to make sure that kids and people out there are safe.

MALVEAUX: All right, Dana, thank you very much. We're going to get back to you in just a bit.

Want to talk to one of Gabrielle Giffords' closest friends, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who's joining us from Miami.

And we saw you. We saw your reaction. Very emotional when you saw your best friend up there talking about the importance of this very moment and what it means to her personally. Tell me, why is she doing this? I mean, you know, it takes so much work and so much effort every time she gets out there publically. You can see -- you can see that in the way she walks, in the way she talks. What does she say to you?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: You know, and to -- what we saw today in Gabby's strength and her -- the clarity of her voice really doesn't even show the kind of preparation and resolve that it took for her to get to that table today. You know, the challenge for her to speak is still one of the things that she's struggling through. And what she did today was remarkable.

And it is important to highlight that Gabby, through her legislative career, has been a Second Amendment supporter, is a gun owner, has the credibility that comes from that record. And on top of that, you know, is pushing forward with this organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions, because, you know, Wayne LaPierre and the NRA have proven themselves today and in the last few weeks since Newtown to be the fringe group that they are, that represents gun manufacturers and doesn't even -- isn't -- can't even claim to be the voice, Suzanne, of the majority of their own members on what we need to do to make sure that we reduce gun violence. That's the bottom line here.

MALVEAUX: I know there's the gun debate here. I really want to stick with this moment that we saw that was so powerful on the floor when Gabby Giffords -- you said there's preparation that takes place that's behind the scenes. This is something that you can talk to, to speak to, that no one else can. What does it take for her really to get out there? What kind of preparation is involved?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, for example, Gabby gave -- had an opportunity to give her first speech just about six weeks ago now to an organization of speech pathologists and professionals. And it was a five-sentence speech. She had to memorize it. And was able to deliver it. She practiced it for me when I saw her in Washington and she did a fantastic job.

Today you could see that she knew it well enough to recite it and also was reading it for guidance. But it takes -- for her to get to that moment, it takes a tremendous amount of rehearsal and practice. And, I mean, Gabby has the courage. That's -- and you can clearly see the resolve. I think it's really important to note, you know, she's not just reading that statement in a wrote way. You could -- you could hear the emotion and the power behind the statement she was making because she feels strongly about this, that we have to make sure that we deal with reducing gun violence in a responsible way.

MALVEAUX: And, Debbie, one thing that Dana mentioned was the fact, you know, after the shooting where she was one of the targets of assassination, there was very little action from even the Democrats who didn't want to touch this issue. Things have changed. It seems as if the landscape has changed somewhat. Both sides want to talk about it, seem willing to talk about it. After the Newtown shooting, what was her reaction when she saw that there was something that could happen that horrific after what had happened to her? What was her initial response?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You know, I think in the classic way that Gabby Giffords has always dealt with policy issues, you know, her own shooting and the decisions she made following it, clearly because she was focused on her own recovery, but also in the steps that they decided to take afterwards, you know, I think it was a classic response from Gabby and from Mark that it shouldn't be about them. When we got to Newtown and 20 six-year-olds were gunned down and that, at the end of the day, this is about making sure that we never have children subjected to that kind of violence and that no parent in America has to lose their child from senseless gun violence.

MALVEAUX: All right.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: So that we can take the step that need to be taken to prevent that. So, for Gabby, it's always about others and helping others. And I think that's what finally brought this to a head for them so that they could use their leadership and their strong voices to help make sure that all -- Americans come together around a solution.

MALVEAUX: All right, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Thank you, Debbie. Appreciate it.


MALVEAUX: I want you to tune in tomorrow night. There's a special "ANDERSON COOPER 360" town hall meeting. Anderson is examining the Second Amendment and the push for gun control. It's at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Thursday right here on CNN.

And we are also watching as well an extremely unstable, dangerous storm system stretching 1,200 miles from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast, threatening millions of folks in the south. It is triggering severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, wind gusts stronger than 70 miles an hour. The storm has caused major damage in several states. And trees knocked down now. We're already seeing roofs ripped off homes in Tennessee. One man reportedly killed from a falling tree.

And the storm also creating some dangerous conditions on the road. Police in Kentucky say that this tractor-trailer flipped over after hitting a concrete barrier. Before the storm hit the south, the central U.S. was hit as well with numerous crashes in Kansas and Ohio.

Want to bring in Chad Myers, whose following all of this. We're just getting word here that a tornado touched down in northern Georgia about a half hour ago. What do we know?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, it was the town of Adairsville, Georgia. And there are triage areas being set up at local banks and things. We know that this was a pretty big hit. I've seen video of it. We don't have the video approved for air yet, but stay tuned with us. When we get that approved -- we have to ask the photographer. We have to make sure that this is OK -- we will show you this tornado. It is an impressive tornado for Georgia. Not maybe the F-5 or 4 like you would see in Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma and Nebraska, but a very big tornado did roll through that town and over the interstate, knocking over a few cars, tipping over a tractor-trailer as well.

And as you said, this is making a snow event up here in parts of Wisconsin and Michigan. And then the line of weather, the line, the cold air, there, right here, the warm air right here, clashing and making tornadoes for the southeast today. About the same story that we had yesterday a little bit farther back off to the west. And right now we are watching the entire area here all the way from north Georgia, right on back down through Rome with storms coming on by.

Taking a look at these temperatures. This is what's causing this. This is the extreme weather we're talking about where it's 70 degrees in Atlanta, 28 in Kansas City. And up here, temperatures are well below zero again still. And that's not wind chill, that's the air temperature. Cold and warm never like to clash. Doesn't matter what season it is. When that happens, when they touch each other, when there's a big enough cold front, you can always get the threat of tornadoes. And we'll watch it for you (INAUDIBLE).

MALVEAUX: Chad, where do we think the storm is going from here?

MYERS: Well, we know that these cells are out ahead of the line that is moving through Alabama right now into Georgia. Atlanta will probably be affected here in the next two to three hour, maybe a little bit less if a storm pops up that's not on radar at this point. But these storms are rotating, which means that the storm itself is going around. The back of the storm becomes a mesocyclone, or a little low pressure itself, and that causes the tornado to fall out of the back of the storm. So there's always going to be that threat.

If you're in a tornado watch box, either buy an app for your smartphone, get an NOAA weather radio, but keep it on today if you're in this warm zone. If you're in the cold zone, you're clear. You may get some snow. But if you're in the warm -- if you walk outside and go, wow, man, it's hot today. Why is it so hot? If you're saying that to yourself, you are still in the danger zone. There's Atlanta, Georgia, right now.

MALVEAUX: Yes, I said that this morning, it's very warm here in Atlanta.


MALVEAUX: So we're going to be watching and wait for those pictures to come through. Chad, really appreciate it.

MYERS: You're welcome.

MALVEAUX: Just ahead on NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL, the wave of violence now in Egypt's streets now having a rippling effect. The government and the police force now feeling a distinct shift.

We're keeping a close eye as well on Wall Street today. Could be a big day for the markets as the Dow dances close to breaking the 14,000 mark.


MALVEAUX: There are new efforts now to pull Egypt back from the brink of collapse. That is right. The country has been in a chaotic spiral for days now. More than 50 people have been killed in the violence.

Want to go to Reza Sayah in the Egyptian city of Port Said. Reza, first of all, the thing that we are all wondering, could Egypt fall apart? Is it falling apart now?

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, it's a country in turmoil and what you have is two sides who are not talking to one another. They're demonizing one another and you have to wonder where the country is going to go from here.

On one hand, you have the president who's struggling to keep calm throughout the country. He insists that he's doing his best to move this country through the democratic transition. But then you have the opposition factions, the secularists, the moderates, the liberals, who believe that he's tried to squeeze everyone out.

And that's why you have a face-off here. No one is quite sure where the country is headed. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Reza, tell us about the protesters. We're seeing these pictures now of folks who are on the ground. The violence is increasing. It has been over the last couple of days. Are these young people who are unemployed? Does this represent a large body of people, the general population, who are not happy with their president and their government?

SAYAH: Certainly, one of the glaring problems here in this country is that a huge part of the population are 20-somethings, 30-somethings who are unemployed. They're looking for a better life, a better economy. Promises that the government made them during the revolution, it never came through.

We should point out that the violence has steadily decreased over the past few days. Nothing what we saw over the weekend. But, still, you have people here in Port Said, other provinces along the Suez Canal, who are defying the president's declaration of a curfew and emergency rule.

Here where we are in Port Said, a curfew is technically supposed to go in place, but for the past couple of days, the people here have told the president, we know you've put a curfew in place, but we're protesting anyway, clearly defying his authority, Suzanne. MALVEAUX: So, Reza, who is in control on the streets? When you take a look at those pictures, obviously, you say there is good news that the violence is not what it was over the weekend. Is there a sense that this standoff will continue between the government and the protesters that is playing out?

Lost the signal. We're going to try to get back to him as soon as we can.

The turmoil in Egypt, still a real concern for, of course, the outgoing Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. She talked to CNN about those challenges and what she thinks Egypt's struggling new government needs to do.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: It's very difficult going from a closed regime and, essentially, one-man rule to a democracy that is trying to be born and learn to walk.

But there are some clear lessons. You have to represent the people and the people have to believe it. You have to have the rule of law that applies to everyone, not just to some of the people. You have to have a constitution that respects and recognizes the rights of all people and doesn't in any way marginalize any group.

So, I think the messages and the actions coming from the leadership have to be changed in order to give people confidence that they are on the right path to the kind of future they seek.


MALVEAUX: And the war on terror is now changing and this is the future here. We are talking about drones. We're going to tell you where this tool of war is headed next.


MALVEAUX: The U.S. now has a new deal to base American surveillance drones in a country in Africa. We're talking about Niger. It's a landlocked country right in the middle of where U.S. officials believe al Qaeda and other Islamic extremist groups are now active. It is next door to Libya, and Mali and Algeria.

I want to bring our Michael Holmes from CNN International to talk about this. What is the significance when you talk about a base? Do we mean an American base that would actually be in that country where drones would be situated?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. It would be a base, but let's not think in terms of like the Iraq-Afghanistan- style U.S. base of hundreds of buildings and things like that. It will be a presence. That's what it will be. There will support staff there. These drones will be based there. They'll be able to fly these mission. The crucial thing that you mentioned there is the neighborhood. Mali, Algeria, Libya, these are the sorts of countries that these drones are going to be able to get to.

MALVEAUX: What do these drones do? We're watching these pictures here of them fly. What do they actually accomplish?

HOLMES: Yeah, you've got different sorts of drones out there. You've got the drones that we see operating in Waziristan, in Pakistan and other places, also in North Africa and Yemen, sometimes, when they fire the missiles and take out targets from the air.

These ones, we're being told, are going to be just for surveillance. They're going to be out there gathering intelligence because, the thing you are talking about in this neighborhood here, it's very hard to have human intelligence.

You know, within Pakistan, for example, the CIA has their network of people that give them information. In this part of the world, in this neighborhood, they don't. They have very little intel, so these drones are going to be up there looking for movements of groups that they're interested in and worried about.

MALVEAUX: And, Michael, what do we think these groups are doing? Do we think there's a significant numbers of al Qaeda that's in Niger?

HOLMES: Yeah, they're worried about -- not in Niger, but in the neighborhood, generally, and this is the concern that we've seen in Mali, of course. What happened in Mali in the north when the al Qaeda- linked groups, the Islamists, came in and over to took over what was a separatist rebellion at the time and hijacked it, basically.

You've got these groups that are spread out right across the Sahel, the Maghreb, this area that encompasses many countries and you can see that they are starting to coalesce and work together. And that worries a lot of people, so the basically want to keep an eye on them.

MALVEAUX: And, Michael, I don't know if you can answer this question, but how much does this pose a direct threat to us here in the United States when you look at Niger? It's far away. We -- you know, obviously, they are looking for potential hot spots. Could this be a direct threat to us?

HOLMES: The groups that are operating in the neighborhood are. Niger is a friend to us and they're letting us do this. They are the ones that are saying, yes, you can come and base here and run these drones.

This is -- by the way, they're not the only ones. This is the sixth African nation that's allowing us to run drones from their turf, so they're not the only one. But they're our friend and they're letting us do it.

But all of these countries, they're letting us do it because they're worried. They're worried about these groups who are crossing borders and working in different parts of the region who do pose a threat to us and, also, to those governments. MALVEAUX: All, right, Michael, thank you. Appreciate it.

Call it "Arab Spring bling." That is right. This is in Tunisia. You might remember that is where the Arab Spring began. Well, the dominoes started falling two years ago. That's when those anti-government protests exploded, spread all across North Africa and the Persian Gulf. Well, the unrest eventually forced out the presidents of Egypt, Yemen and Tunisia.

The new government of Tunisia has now sold in a big auction all these treasures that were collected by Tunisia's ousted president.

So what are we talking about here? A fleet of luxury sports cars, gold statues, jewelry, all of this being auctioned off. Officials say that all that money from the auction went right back into the country's economy.

And if you are among more than 1 million people who owns certain models of Toyota, there is news that you're going to hear this. The carmaker is now hit by another recall.