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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

House's Bipartisan Gun Bill; Second Grader Suspended for Imaginary Weapon; Controversy Over Law & Order Episode;

Aired February 6, 2013 - 08:30   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY S TART": Another potential black eye for baseball. The Milwaukee Brewers slugger, Ryan Braun, appears in the records of the Miami area clinic that allegedly distributed performance-enhancing drugs to major league players. Now, Braun, you remember, flunked a drug test in 2011 but became the first major leaguer to have a suspension overturned on appeal.

The former MVP claims his attorneys hired the owner of the biogenesis clinic as a consultant during his appeal process and that's why his name appears in their books. Major League Baseball is investigating.

So one finger gets you 30 days, especially when it's the wrong one. Here's what you don't do in court. This teenage girl was appearing before a Miami-Dade circuit judge for drug possession. And watch what happens when things do not go her way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

JUDGE: Come back again. Come back again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Yes, that's the wrong finger to use. Penelope Soto was hauled back in front of the judge after her offensive finger gesture. She was slapped with 30 days in jail for contempt of court. She will bring that finger with her.

O'BRIEN: That story makes me so sad, because you look at that girl, there's so much wrong in that six-second clip. She's a teenager, right? Who gives a finger to a judge when you're a 16-year-old girl?

BERMAN: Bad move.

O'BRIEN: There's just a bad future for that young lady if she can't get her act together. It's terrible.

Well, law enforcement officials and celebrities, too, are gathering in Washington, D.C., today. They're going to try to push lawmakers to enact stricter gun laws. The event will include the comedian Chris Rock, the actor Adam Scott, the singer Tony Bennett, also representatives from Mayors Against Illegal Guns -- we've talked to them a lot -- and the Law Center to Prevent Violence. All this comes on the heels of the significant announcement that comes out of the House yesterday where two Democrats, two Republicans introduced the first bipartisan legislation on gun control.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D), NEW YORK: We've made it very difficult for law enforcement to stop the flow of guns to criminals and we've made it easy for criminals to get their hands on guns. With this bill, we start turning this around so that we can handcuff the real people and those are the criminals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings joins us. He's from the state of Maryland. Republican Scott Rigell from Virginia joins me as well. Nice to have you both with us.

So I want to start with you, Congressman Cummings. You have a very personal attachment to this issue. I know that your nephew was a college student who was murdered. Tell me a little bit about that.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: A year and a half ago, my nephew, Christopher Cummings, was an honor student, 20 years old at Old Dominion University in Virginia. He was robbed at 5:00 in the morning and shot to death, and his roommate was also shot. And I got to tell you, I can feel the emotion right now that I felt when I went into his room, and to see his blood and body tissue spread over the walls. It's a very painful thing.

And I think when the Sandy Hook incident came up, I got to tell you, so that it brought it all back up. And people want solutions to this gun violence problem, and I'm so glad to be joining with Scott and others to try to do some common sense legislation that will help resolve those kind of matters.

O'BRIEN: So Congressman Rigell, why don't you walk us through this what you're calling common sense legislation? What exactly will it accomplish?

REP. SCOTT RIGELL (R), VIRGINIA: Well, Soledad, it's really focused on two groups of people: folks who are gun traffickers, and straw purchasers. These groups are hurting lawful gun owners like myself. I'm a lifetime member of the NRA, and I'm proud of the work that the NRA has done in so many areas, and I'm a strong defender of our Second Amendment, but there's a group of folks out there, gun traffickers and straw purchasers, who are circumventing the laws. The penalties are not stiff enough. And as I put it, we need really to change the culture in America to where it's really not OK to buy a gun for someone else. Right now, the penalties are so low that there's a high incidence of this, and this is hurting our country.

O'BRIEN: How will the two bills, the one that's been proposed by the Senate and now this one that you have, how will they work together? I mean your bill leaves out a lot of stuff. It focuses on trafficking and tracking, but it doesn't cover mental health, it doesn't really cover background checks. Those, I think people would say, are critical elements. How do you bring them together?

RIGELL: Well, we were really focused on common ground and I think Elijah might even comment on that, that focusing first on what we agree on.

CUMMINGS: Yes, Soledad, one of the things that we noticed is that there are a lot of broad proposals, and certainly Vice President Biden has brought forth some very good ideas, but we've got to figure out exactly what it is that we do agree on. And the thing that bothers me is a lot of times we will agree on certain things, but because we concentrate on our disagreements, we end up doing nothing. And I think it would be very, very sad, considering what happened at Sandy Hook and what seems to be happening almost on a daily basis now with young people being killed, we've got to find some solutions. And I think Americans are not asking us to do something; they're begging us to do something.

RIGELL: And the other group, Soledad, that's begging us to do something are the law enforcement officials and the prosecutors. They're telling us how frustrated they are, as Representative Maloney highlighted in the piece that you ran there, with their inability or the difficulty that they have in prosecuting and deterring the bad folks.

So that's one reason there are so many law officials behind us yesterday at the press conference and really from across the country who couldn't physically be here with us that are supporting this. It makes sense and it is common ground. We're working hard to get it advanced throughout House.

CUMMINGS: And Soledad, keep in mind what Scott said: We're aiming at the criminal element. These are people who are trying to get around the laws that already exist, and so we're trying to figure out how do we make sure that that person, who has a criminal record, and then goes to someone who does not have a criminal record, tells them to buy a gun -- how do we really show them that we are not going to stand for that? I just think this will help that situation.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask Congressman Hayworth where you see challenges for this. I mean, you have been there You have seen proposals like this being discussed, but really nothing has come before, before the Senate plan.

NAN HAYWORTH (R), FMR. U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, it goes back to what we were talking about before, Soledad. There are all these elements of a solution that have to be looked at and I think one of the problems that we have -- and I laud the Congressmen and Congresswoman Maloney for bringing this bill to the floor, because I think it's something that could incrementally, you know, this is a fairly small step that might be helpful and make some progress, that's good. If we can't make the enormous bill, let's make incremental progress.

But the problem is we need to have an approach that encompasses the cultural element in some way, the mental health element. We need to bring more focus on all of those issues if we're going to get the cooperation of those who are the staunchest Second Amendment advocates.

O'BRIEN: Congressmen Elijah Cummings, Congressman Scott Rigell talking to us this morning. Thank you, gentlemen, I appreciate your time.

CUMMINGS: Thank you.

RIGELL: Thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, a second grader is suspended for imaginary play. He threw a pretend grenade so he could rescue everybody.

Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX EVANS, SUSPENDED CHILD: I just can't believe I got dispended.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: "I can't believe I got dispended." Did the school go too far in this? The kid is, what, 8 years old? We'll talk about that.

Then "Law and Order: SVU", advocates for victims of rape. Is it hypocritical then to cast Mike Tyson, a convicted rapist, in an episode? This one woman who's fighting that decision, she's going to join us live to talk about that straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans minding your business this morning. U.S. stock futures have turned slightly lower. It's a really busy again for company earnings, and it was a good day yesterday, so at least now, an hour before the opening bell, taking a pause. The Dow is still within shouting distance of its all-time high from October 2007. The Dow's got to rise another 219 points to hit it.

Rising salaries, finally, for liberal arts majors. The National Association of Colleges and Employers finds liberal arts and sciences general studies majors earn $43,100 when they got their first job. History majors $41,900, and those with English degrees, $41,900. You can see the lowest on the list are visual arts, performing arts. Most of these salaries rising between 3 percent and 4 percent. Last couple of years, they've been rising. That's a trend we've seen.

But I don't know if they'll be able to afford to live in any of these cities. CNN Money compiled a list of the world's most expensive cities. Let's please take a look.

Tokyo comes in number one. A loaf of bread there costs $9. Take a look at Osaka. Two Japanese cities on this list. Sydney, Oslo and Melbourne. And then take a look at this: the back half, the high-end dinner for four in Paris, that'll run you almost $2,200. Zurich, Caracas and Geneva also on that list.

O'BRIEN: Where is New York on that list?

ROMANS: New York is not in the top ten.

O'BRIEN: Really?

ROMANS: As much as we feel like we are being nickel and dimed all day long, we are not in the top ten, nor is London.

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Unfortunately, a lot of visual arts and English majors in Paris. So the two lists are not synched up properly.

O'BRIEN: Visual arts major then goes on to be a corporate reader.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOW: Brooklyn and Queens and Staten Island are skewing New York down. I think there's some skewing happening.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Maybe. This is such an interesting story. Little kid who's name is Alex Evans, he's kind of shocked because he's now been suspended from school. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EVANS: I just can't believe I got dispended.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Oh, he got dispended. His mom says, no, you were suspended. He was trying to save the world from evil; he's a second grander. His mom is Mandy Watkins. She said the principal called her up and said that Alex, her son, threw a fake grenade during recess. What he was doing was he didn't actually have anything in his hand, threw the grenade, and then started saving people because he was going in to rescue them. So he was using his imagination.

The school says there are these list of absolutes that the school, the list is here, the absolutes for Mary Blair Elementary School, which, by the way, is in Loveland, Colorado, no physical abuse or fights, real or play fighting, no weapons, real or play.

And the kid's in second grade. How do you enforce that?

BLOW: I'm sorry, is this school? Is this playground? Just bring them all inside. Don't let them go outside.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: It makes no sense. No physical abuse, that I agree with. But fights, real or play? How do you stop play fighting between boys?

BLOW: Exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

BLOW: First of all, that's a really big second grader, so I would like to have that second grader here to save me. But that's what boys what boys do. Like, we play like that.

ROMANS: I was watching a group of preschoolers, and they were playing good guys and bad guys. You know, we didn't teach them who the bad guys are, but they're running after each other, the good guys and the bad guys. I mean these are what kids do. Does the school say no, don't do that, and he keeps doing it?

O'BRIEN: He can't be the first kid, I'm telling you, who has had play fighting.

BLOW: No.

(CROSSTALK)

UM: I look at that story and I think there but for the grace of God. I mean I have two, a 6 and 4-year-old, and you cannot enforce, you cannot police a child's imagination. I mean, they're saying no imaginary weapons. And, sure, we don't our kids to pretending to have handguns and grenades and stuff, but kids are kids. And boys --

(CROSSTALK)

BLOW: Let them play.

O'BRIEN: My twin boys are 8 and you have twin boys. And you have all boys. How does -- anything will become a weapon, right? They will literally take whatever is around and somehow turn it into some kind of gun.

HAYWORTH: That goes into the issue of hardwiring, which has interesting cultural implications for us. Because in one sense we like to think - and we should all be multi-potential -- but there are these built-in propensities.

O'BRIEN: They do it in a way my daughters never did. The girls would use -- boys will turn anything into a weapon. So I always think that that's -- I don't know how they enforce that.

ROMANS: It's up to the parents and the teacher to try to predict -- maybe not predict, but you see this behavior coming, you learn from it, you reinforce the positive behavior, you punish the negative behavior. But I think the positive reinforcement is more, and I'm not a brain expert ,but I think the positive reinforcement works in parenting way more than reinforcing the negative.

HAYWORTH: And they're surrounded by these images culturally. They are surrounded. I mean, try to get your kids away from the Xbox -- you can try up until a certain age. Internet, television, you know, if you have a remote in the house and they're flipping channels every 15 minutes.

BLOW: And while we're celebrating, rightfully, so many soldiers who have been deployed, are coming back. If a kid says I want to be like the heroes that people are seeing on television, you can't kick the kid out of school.

O'BRIEN: We've got to take a short break.

Still ahead we're going to talk about Mike Tyson. He is a convicted rapist. So there's some questions about whether or not he should be in this episode of "Law and Order: SVU". Some say he's done his time; others say it's hypocritical. The woman who's fighting the episode airing has 15,000 signatures. She'll join to us live to talk about that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT everyone.

New this morning, the U.S. Postal Service plans to halt Saturday delivery of first class mail beginning August 1st. The post office will still deliver packages, express mail and mail order prescriptions on Saturdays, however. The company lost $15.9 billion last year.

So funny guy Jim Carrey may not be so funny right now to some gun enthusiasts after this tweet. He wrote, "Anyone who would run out to buy an assault rifle after the Newtown massacre has very little left in their body or soul worth protecting."

Commentators on the right of course unleashed attacks on Carrey saying things like "Dumb and Dumber doesn't begin to cover this one."

O'BRIEN: Just how much this -- this debate is really I think gotten everybody at the grassroots level talking about it.

So there's some controversy this morning over this interesting story. The newest episode of NBC's "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, SVU". And in that episode, it's going to air tonight, Mike Tyson plays a convict who was molested as a child.

Well, the casting prompted an online petition asking NBC to replace Tyson or pull the episode altogether. You might remember that Mike Tyson served three years in prison for raping a woman back in 1992. Here's a little chunk of the episode.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ICE-T, ACTOR: Can you tell us about Martin?

MIKE TYSON, FORMER BOXER: No ma'am, I'd rather not.

ICE-T: You're going to stand there, Reggie, but he's still up there at that camp with other boys.

TYSON: Why do they care now? They never cared before. MARISKA HARGITAY, ACTRESS: Because we're just finding out now about what he did to those boys and if that man is going to be punished for what he did and we need somebody brave enough to come forward.

TYSON: I can't. I don't want to think about it. I don't want to think about any of them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So the petition was started by a woman named Marcie Kaveney. She works a rape crisis counselor and she's also a rape survivor. It's nice to have you with us this morning. We appreciate your time.

So what did you first think when you heard that Mike Tyson --

(CROSSTALK)

MARCIE KAVENEY, LAUNCHED PETITION PROTESTING TYSON SVU APPEARANCE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: -- who's a convicted rapist was going to be starring and was cast in this role?

KAVENEY: Well, you know, my first thought was is that nobody was touching on what it might mean to the survivors to see a convicted rapist on a show that has been, you know, what they consider to be their show, and a show about victims and survivors of rape.

O'BRIEN: The -- you know, NBC Entertainment said that they don't really have a plan to comment, but here's what -- what Mike Tyson said about it.

He said, "I'm sorry that she" -- meaning you, "has a difference of opinion and she's entitled to it. I'm sorry that she's not happy, but I didn't rape nobody or do anything like that. And this lady wasn't there to know if I did or not. I don't trip on that stuff. I'm not trying to get rich and famous. I'm just trying to feed my family. Why should they care? Since I'm clean and sober five years, I haven't broken any laws or did any crimes. I'm just trying to live my life."

Part of his argument is that he's -- he's moved on, he's paid his dues for what he was convicted of and he served time and then did, you know, afterward went on probation and community service and psychotherapy, all of those things that he had to do. Isn't there a point you say he's now served the punishment?

KAVENEY: Well, I think, you know, ultimately rape is rape, and it's no less heinous because it happened 20 years ago than it is today. And you know the show itself bases it around victim's stories and survivor stories and that is -- that is the problem right there, is that you have survivors that are having to turn on that show and see Mike Tyson on a show that they considered to be theirs, that tells their stories, that they identify with.

O'BRIEN: You know, it's such an interesting debate, right, because I think in some ways it's the question about, is a prison time served sort of rehabilitation and now we're supposed to say we've moved on? Or the point that she's raising, which is it's a show that is all about people who are survivors of -- SVU, Sexual Victims Unit, it's a crime unit for that.

I'm -- I'm very torn on this and it seems to me that the producers -- what have the producers said to you? I know you've been debating them back and forth.

KAVENEY: There hasn't been too much of a debate back and forth, honestly. I know more like (INAUDIBLE) did come on Twitter, yes, and basically addressed myself and someone else and said, you know, I get your feelings, you know, but commenting over and over again is like yelling, it alienates. I know that he's come on and had a seven-part Twitter about, you know, that it happened 20 years ago and just to kind to wait and see, that there's, you know -- the show is there for discussion, you know.

But ultimately, like I said, it all comes down to survivors and you have thousands and millions of survivors watching your show and that you have a responsibility to them, and having you know a convicted rapist on the show -- I have several comments on our Change.org petition and those comments are talking about how hurt people are or how inappropriate it is, how insensitive it is. And that he could have done anybody else --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Does it matter that he's playing a victim? I mean, is there some element of --

KAVENEY: It's not just that. Yes, it's not just that. I think the fact that he's on the show at all is a problem. The fact that he's -- in fact, playing a victim is an even a bigger problem because then what point do you say OK, are we going to let all the rapists and the murderers out of jail because they had a terrible childhood? You have to take responsibility for your actions as an adult.

HAYWORTH: Marcie has an excellent point. Because let's face it, you know, Mr. Tyson is not an actor, he's not -- and with all due respect to the producers, he's not a particularly good actor. So you have to think that his casting was done in some sense because there's notoriety. So I think they should show more sensitivity.

BLOW: Well, he's more actor now than he is boxer.

O'BRIEN: He did a Broadway show.

BLOW: He has a Broadway show, he's been in several films. I think that you do have to look at it and go back to the broader point which is, you know, can someone be rehabilitated? And is rehabilitation the point, even among the most heinous types of crimes? And rape being obviously one of the most heinous. And also, you know, not to say anything about Mike Tyson's history, which I have no idea what it is, but in this case, playing a person who was the recipient of child abuse, that ripples through lives and kind of comes out in ways that kind of create aberrant behavior in a way. O'BRIEN: It's supposed to air tonight. It will be interesting to see --

(CROSSTALK)

BLOW: It's just an interesting thing all the way around.

O'BRIEN: Marcie, thank you for joining us to raise some of your issues. We appreciate your time this morning.

KAVENEY: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Thanks.

We have to take a short break and we're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: In our final moment we have "End Point". Congresswoman, we're going to give it all to you.

HAYWORTH: Well, you know, Soledad, you're just mentioning Jennifer Tyrell's visit today was very moving. Here is someone who is loving mother who has done absolutely nothing wrong, who has served her community well, and she's apparently being discriminated against simply because of the way God made her.

O'BRIEN: Boy Scouts of America, the vote is sometime today. We'll be very interested in seeing how that actually goes. Big implications there.

Thanks, guys. I appreciate you being with us.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now. I'll see everybody back here tomorrow morning.

Hey Carol.