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Congress Urged To Pass Gun Control Laws; President Renews Call To Action; Mandela "In Good Spirits"; Ebel Threatened To Kill Guards, Beat Up Inmates; Alaska Lawmaker Backpedals; Customers Take Down Store Robber; Does Dodgeball Promote Bullying?; "The Host" Arrives In Theaters

Aired March 29, 2013 - 07:30   ET



SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. The president says now is the moment for Congress to pass stricter gun control laws. He said that yesterday, even as we learned that Adam Lanza showed up at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut with practically armed for war.

He had an assault weapon. He had 10 high powered magazines, two handguns, a shotgun and in less than 5 minutes he was able to kill 20 children and six adults. The president saying we cried enough over Sandy Hook, and it is shameful that nothing's been done.

Dan Lothian is at the White House for us this morning with more on this. Dan, good morning.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. Well, the president really trying to keep the pressure on Congress. That event here at the White House next week, another anti-gun violence event in Denver, Colorado making a strong, urgent appeal in order, the president says, to save more lives.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): More than 100 days after the mass shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama sensed his support for stricter gun laws slipping.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This is our best chance in more than a decade to take commonsense steps that will save lives.

LOTHIAN: While surrounded by mothers touched by gun violence, the president made an emotional appeal, invoking the memory of Newtown massacre victims to shame Congress to act.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: The entire country was shocked. The entire country pledged we would do something about it and that this time would be different. Shame on us if we've forgotten, I haven't forgotten those kids, shame on us if we've forgotten.

LOTHIAN: One poll shows support for tougher gun laws dropping 10 points to 47 percent from 57 percent in December and there's tough opposition to the president's sweeping measures. What the Senate will be taking up next month lacks some key components the president pushed for universal background checks and a ban on some high-capacity magazines.

In addition, four GOP senators, including Florida's Marco Rubio, say they'll block any legislation that puts more restrictions on gun owners. In a statement Rubio said he intended to, quote, "oppose any legislation that would infringe on the American people's constitutional right to bear arms."

But the president is getting support from groups like "Mayors Against Illegal Guns" out with this new ad featuring relatives of the Sandy Hook victims.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She just wanted to teach little kids. And that was her goal. She died doing it.


LOTHIAN: Now that Senate bill will try to expand background checks. Will also make it illegal for someone to buy weapons and resell it to a criminal and also will look to increase funding for school safety. But, again, there's strong resistance.

The NRA in a tweet saying, quote, "The economy is weak, national debt is mounting, too many Americans are out of work, but Obama campaigns against guns to please the fringe" -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Dan Lothian for us this morning at the White House. Thank you, Dan.

Victoria Soto, you might remember, was among the teachers who lost their lives in the Sandy Hook massacre. Her younger sister, Jillian, appeared in that new ad you just saw a few moments ago. That was hosted by "Mayors Against Illegal Guns." She's with us this morning.

It's nice to have you. Dan showed us a little snippet of the ad. Do you worry that, as the president seems to be worried, that people are sort of losing their sense of anger that that sort of that is sort of waning in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School?

JILLIAN SOTO, SISTER OF SLAIN SANDY HOOK TEACHER VICTORIA SOTO: I do. I feel that a lot of people are starting to forget what happened and it is losing momentum. So, doing this ad for Newtown, and having it released yesterday, with everything going on with President Obama, giving his speech asking people to join him, the Senate to join him with everything that he's doing, you know, I feel like it helps.

And you know, it's getting it out there once again and making our story known. Again to everybody, it's been almost four months. So you know, it helps to put it out there yet again, and make everyone know, we haven't forgotten. We're not going to forget and we're going to keep fighting for change.

O'BRIEN: When you look at the polling, there's a poll out from CBS News, and Americans who want stricter gun control laws, 57 percent back in December 2012, but now it's dropped 10 points. It's now down to 47 percent.

And, you think about it, it's really only been four months. You know, that number, I think some people would say it's doomed for any kind of legislation if in only four months it's dropped so much.

SOTO: I think so. I think it does -- it worries us that, you know, it has dropped, but, you know, we'll keep fighting. We'll keep making sure that people don't forget. We won't let the whole Connecticut effect die. We're going to keep fighting. We're going to keep telling our story to everybody who wants to listen, speaking to anybody who wants to hear us, any senator, anyone who wants to hear.

O'BRIEN: Do you think they're listening? Here's what Ted Cruz, Senator Ted Cruz said he has promised we showed a picture of the four, among the four who are going to block legislation by that puts any kind of restriction on gun laws that.

And he said this, "It's saddening to see the president today, once again, try to take advantage of this tragic murder, promote an agenda that will do nothing to stop violent crime, but will undermine the constitutional rights of all law-abiding Americans."

I guess as someone who's been very specifically victimized by this, do you feel like he's trying to take advantage of the murder to promote an agenda?

SOTO: I don't think President Obama is trying -- to fight for change, you see that there is a problem here that there are kids losing their lives. There's 20, 6 and 7-year-olds who died in December. And any person who thinks we're doing something wrong in asking for change to fighting for it.

If they were any of these families they would feel very differently. And it hurts so many people in Newtown and all over the world to see this happen, and no one has to lose a loved one because guns are in the wrong hands. We're not doing the right things by checking every person who buys a gun and doing a background check on them.

You know, these are commonsense things that we're asking and assault rifles ban is not taking away every assault rifle. There are several that aren't even included. And you can still purchase one if it's something you truly want. But it's taking big ones and ones that are involved away.

You know, it's hurtful to see people say that we're trying to take the second amendment right away because that's not what we're doing. You can still get a handgun. You just have to go through a background check.

O'BRIEN: Jillian Soto's sister, Victoria Soto, was killed in that massacre in Sandy Hook Elementary School. You know, I've covered a number of unfortunately a number of massacres and every single time, you know, people stop caring. I've seen it over and over again, the media aftermath when people feel so intensely about it and then it always goes away. We'll see if this time it's any different. Thank you for talking with us. We appreciate you coming on the show.

All right, we've got to get to other stories this morning and John has got that for us.

JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": Thanks, Soledad. Nelson Mandela said to be in good spirits this morning after he was hospitalized for a lung infection. The office of the South African president says the 94-year-old apartheid leader enjoyed a full breakfast this morning and he's apparently responding positively, they say, to treatment.

New developments in the case of Evan Ebel, he is the parolee believed to have killed Colorado's police chief. Records show that Ebel was written up 28 times in prison for things like threatening to kill guards and beat up other inmates. He even threatened to kill a female guard and make her beg for her life. Ebel was killed in a shoot-out last week.

Alaska Congressman Don Young seems to be in full backpedal mode this morning after using a slur to describe migrant workers. The Republican lawmaker was talking about how technology was affecting the economy when he made this comment to an Alaskan radio station.


REPRESENTATIVE DON YOUNG (R), ALASKA: I used to -- my father had a ranch. We used to hire 50 or 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes. You know, it takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It's all done by machine.


BERMAN: So the term he used wetbacks caused a lot of people to raise their eyebrows.

O'BRIEN: Who uses the word wetback now? I mean, that's just so crazy.


BERMAN: Don Young.

O'BRIEN: What year are we in?

BERMAN: Let me read you how he explained it.

O'BRIEN: Yes, please do.

BERMAN: In a statement to KTUU, a television station in Alaska what Don Young said was I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California. I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect. That's --

O'BRIEN: That's almost a version of the I'm sorry if you were offended by my comments apology.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's a word used to describe people that look like me.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: this was obviously just a part of his vernacular that it was --

MARTIN: It's pretty clear --

O'BRIEN: Mr. Cain, you're so quiet this morning.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: What is there to say? You expect me to come out in his defense?

O'BRIEN: No, no I don't. I think we could just move on with that. Carry on, Mr. Berman.

BERMAN: So two strangers turn into Good Samaritans when they team up to take down a robbery. Have to look at this security video from a drugstore in Mesa, Arizona. A suspect demands cash from the cashier. He took the money, but two customers tackle the guy like a couple of linebackers.



DUSTIN HOLLANDER, FOILED ROBBERY: Threw my stuff down, and just told him no. And he decided to try and get past me. My wife works as a cashier and you know, if she was getting robbed I wish somebody would step in for her.

JACOB HEWARD, FOILED ROBBERY: Strange. It's in my neighborhood and I'm glad I could help.


BERMAN: Sideline tackle barely in the frame there. Police got there a few minutes later and took the suspect to jail. Mesa police plan to honor the heroes for their bravery.

O'BRIEN: Good for them.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, it's a gym class staple, but it's getting banned. We'll tell you why one school is saying no to Dodgeball. There's a movie in this I think.

The star of the highly anticipated new sci-fi movie "The Host," the actors, Max Irons and Jake Abel, will join us to talk about that new flick. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Did you play Dodgeball in school? Yes, yes, yes, OK, so everybody. Are your memories -- are your memories of Dodgeball kind of like this?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dodgeball is a sport of violence, exclusion, and degradation. Make sure you pick the bigger, stronger kids for your team. That way, you can all gang up on the weaker ones.


O'BRIEN: That's so true. That's how it works. It really is true. That's from the 2004 movie "Dodgeball" with Ben Stiller and Hank Asarea. One school district now in New Hampshire, that image of that game, has prompted the school board to ban it saying that Dodgeball promotes violence and promotes bullying. Not everybody agrees. Here's what some of the parents in the district are saying.


PRISCILLA FLYNN, WINDHAM RESIDENT: It's Dodgeball. Dodgeball has been around as long as I can remember. Personally, I think it's a blast. If you don't want to play it, don't play it.

HEATHER DEVRIES, PARENT: Everything these days they're worried about kids' feelings getting hurt, kids getting hurt. You know, how are they ever going to learn?


O'BRIEN: I love that mother.

BERMAN: I degrade my kids at a very young age.

O'BRIEN: The school board insists that the game opens up opportunities for bullying and contradicts their anti-bullying policies.

CAIN: We all, I think, at least the three of us agree it's good for a kid to get hit in the face with a soft, round ball every once in awhile. John, you seem to disagree.

BERMAN: I love Dodgeball. We called it bombardment when I grew up. You know what's going on in Windham, New Hampshire. I mean, who knows what's happening? Maybe there were a rash of kids who were hurt or 30 kids staying home from school --

O'BRIEN: Please.

MARTIN: John, while they're doing this, they say is to prevent bullies. But here's the problem, you could knock a kid down playing basketball. You could knock a kid down -- you can bully -- in some other sport so -- it's dumb.

LIZZA: All contact sports will be banned in Windham. O'BRIEN: I think there is something that is helpful to kids, yes, to be pounded by a ball. Kind of recover from that and come back and be strong. Not humiliation, failure, yes, humiliation, no.

LIZZA: Isn't there and in-between ground here? Couldn't they just use --


BERMAN: When you hear people saying all we do is care about kid's feelings.

MARTIN: My God, my kid fell down. Yes, he's a 5-year-old boy. Let him fall. He'll get up, he'll be fine.

O'BRIEN: I played Rugby with a bunch of women in college and they all played Dodgeball, yes. That's right. It's not even a humble brag. You've got to be tough. You've got to toughen up. Seven is not too early to start.

LIZZA: Playing Dodgeball with Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Have you seen these ads for the movie "The Host?" It opens today based on the novel by the same name, which is written by "Twilight" author Stephenie Meyer. We're going to talk to the two stars, Max Iron and Jake Abel, about that movie coming up.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. If you liked the blockbuster "Twilight" series then you are going to love "The Host," at least what they are hoping. It's based on the novel by the same author, Stephanie Meyer.

"The Host" is about humans invaded by aliens seeking to occupy their bodies. Max Irons and Saoirse Ronan are among the very last humans who are left. Listen.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Find her, we find the resistance.


O'BRIEN: Find her and you find the resistance. Max Irons and Jake Abel, who play rivals in the movie join us now. It's nice to have you with us.

We have moved off the Dodgeball. So it's kind of a love quadrangle, right? So there's a guy and a girl and then the alien takes over the girl's body. So they are sort of like girl alien inhabited and another guy. That's a lot of people. MAX IRONS, ACTOR, "THE HOST": We've been doing this for months now and we find it quite difficult to sum it up, tough to do.

BERMAN: That was good, though.

O'BRIEN: That's was not bad. You need me to come along on the -- because -- so we saw the blond woman with the ponytail and she is sort of like the heart of all of evil because she is trying to trace that girl who was a regular girl now becomes alien inhabited girl. If she can trace her back to the original team that she is with, she could solve it, right?

JAKE ABEL, ACTOR, "THE HOST": Yes, we're hiding out in the cave, the last remaining faction of human resistance and every agent struggling to survive and growing crops in a cave.

IRONS: The aliens decide we're not good from our planet and to save us from ourselves and safe us from the planet. They are going to put us on the right path. The only downside is potentially genocide and we're no longer the top of the food chain and forced to hide.

O'BRIEN: SO the young woman who is played by Saoirse Ronan becomes inhabited and the big concern is she will rat everybody out. Let's play a clip and talk about it on the other side.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come back. Wait. Look, look, look at me.



O'BRIEN: Dramatic. So the goal -- the goal -- it is. I mean, all these clips, a lot of them on the internet.

BERMAN: A lot of heavy breathing.

O'BRIEN: And some scary stuff. I would imagine the big-picture goal is to grab the twilight audience, is to grab the Stephanie Meyer's audience because, of course, she wrote the "Twilight" series. Do you feel the pressure from that?

ABEL: Not necessarily a pressure. We haven't tried to think about it too much to be honest with you.

O'BRIEN: Really?

IRONS: I saw an article in the newspaper, and they said when of the 12 films would bet next "Twilight," the only common denominator was a young cast. I think people are fascinated by the phenomenon of the "Twilight."

CAIN: Max, you said it's really hard to get parts, at least for men, because are you competing against 30 or 40 year olds, you have to be 30 or 40 to get in a starring role, essentially Ben Affleck is still standing in your way?

IRONS: A few -- more interesting parts the older you get personally I believe.

MARTIN: For men. Not for women.

IRONS: Not for women. But I think Hollywood is a dangerous place for young actors at the moment. I think youth is disposable, both for men and women I think. People are looking for that astronomical boost for fame and pay, and that's not necessarily success. As an actor, just want to keep working, lay a foundation of good solid work.

O'BRIEN: She is working on another book. Is that the goal? To do what she did with "Twilight" and franchise?

ABEL: We can only hope that people like our film. I think "Twilight" was a phenomenon, but I think we would love to come back and do more. This is a really great cast, but with William Hurd, Franklin Fisher, Diane Kruger. You don't normally get a cast like that in the young adult world I don't think and it elevates the work in a way that's enjoyable to be part of.

O'BRIEN: The movie opens today, good luck. It's like "The Host," the 10th version.

MARTIN: Sure. Bring it.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT, we'll talk about those 7,000 people in Oklahoma that are being warned that they could have been exposed to HIV and Hepatitis B by their dentist. His office allegedly so unsanitary it made the Health Department inspectors physically ill.

And then this couple with their daughter's toys vanishing, they set up a sting operation to find out who was actually ripping their kid off. We'll talk about the video, which has now gone viral. That's straight ahead.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning, a disturbing health warning, thousands of patients treated by an Oklahoma dentist who is now accused of using dirty equipment may have been exposed to HIV and Hepatitis C. We'll take you live to Tulsa, Oklahoma with the very latest on that.

And on the same-sex marriage fight heating up in light of the major Supreme Court cases this week. So why does Rush Limbaugh seemed to think it's over?

BERMAN: New this morning, stranger to the rescue. A man on a subway platform jumped into action when he sees someone fall into the rails. These pictures just in.

JOE CARTER, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Welcome to "Dunk City" USA, guys. I am in Fort Meyers, Florida, on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast University. Of course, their basketball team making the sweet 16 tonight and as you can see, this town is going crazy for "Dunk City."