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Fire Destroys N.J. Boardwalk; Guns for the Blind; Destroying Syria's Chemical Weapons.

Aired September 13, 2013 - 11:30   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: I cannot imagine what it is like where you are. First and foremost, is the fire out yet?

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's not out yet. Let me show you what it's like. These are some of people who live in the area. They can't get back in some parts. They're upset and saddened, obviously.

We know the wind was a problem, Ashleigh. This was also a big problem. See that fire hydrant, that fellow fire hydrant? That JUST wasn't enough. And some of them didn't work properly because of sandy. They were damaged in sandy. If you look to the right, those big red things, those are called Neptune units or Neptune pumps. You put those big yellow hoses on them. They stretched that hose for a mile and pumped in water from the bay to get the water here, a mile away, 5,000 gallons a second, we're told, to get that water in here. And the governor is saying as well, they were pumping water from motel swimming pools to try to get on this fire.

Here it is right here. Where it says Funtown Park, Ashleigh, on the other side of that is a custard shop, the Coors Brothers Custard Shop. They believe that's where it started. They don't know how it started there but they believe that was the central point of it starting. Then it started spreading down the boardwalk. And then they got ahead of it, right? And they said they treated this fire as if they were working a forest fire, a wildfire. They tried to dig a trench in that brand new boardwalk you talked about, $8 million, they chopped it up, put sand there, fire jumped over that. They went another couple blocks down and built another trench. Fortunately, that one held but not before 50 businesses all went up in flames and smoke.

I'll get you a little bit closer in here, almost as close as we can get. There they are, still putting out the hot spots. And the governor said they will be doing that for days, because as those walls start to collapse, there's still smoldering fire under there. And they call them hot pockets. And they will be dealing with that. Luckily, minor injuries. No one died. But a whole lot of people's livelihoods are gone.

BANFIELD: Oh, Don. It's so remarkable when we see buildings collapsing in this wall of flames.

LEMON: Right.

BANFIELD: The aftermath looks almost identical to the pictures from last October. It's hard to tell whether we were showing archivals of the damage left over from Hurricane Sandy or the damage from last night.

Keep us posted on the effort to keep this thing out completely, when they're finally able to get that. Just a lousy story.

Don, thank you. Appreciate it.

LEMON: Thank you.

BANFIELD: Don Lemon live in Seaside Park and Seaside Heights in New Jersey.

A couple other stories to bring to you. Bumps for JetBlue today. The airline's coo tweeted that the company has experienced, in his words, quote, wide delays due to computer problems. If you're flying JetBlue or planned for some possible flights, call because you might have to plan for delays.

Also a big oops for United Airlines. People scrambling to take advantage of what was called "zero dollars" for airfare. Deeply discounted flights. Problem is it was a big mistake. The airline did quickly fix the bug but not before a whole bunch of tickets were purchased. The question is: Are the passengers going to be honored with those free tickets and low-cost tickets? Stay tuned to this space for that.


BANFIELD: So here is a great story that Piers Morgan has been out front on. It's been great. When you first hear this, you might say, are you kidding me? Blind people shooting weapons and the law is there to protect them. There is more to this than meets the eye, though.


BEN FERGUSON, TV PUNDIT: The majority of people in this country, 14.3 million adults -- that doesn't count anybody under the age of 18 -- are declared legally blind by America's standards. The majority of those people actually can see and a lot of them are actually able to drive with certain restrictions.


BANFIELD: So does he have a point? Or when it comes to shooting a gun, should it be a lot more restrictive than that? That story, coming up.


BANFIELD: Here is the story that's getting a lot of attention beyond Iowa. There it is, guns for the blind. The state has been granting gun permits to people who are considered legally or completely blind. Is this right or is it wrong?

Our Ted Rowlands takes a look.


MICHAEL BARBER, BLIND SHOOTER: Good shot. Come down, squeeze real slow.


BARBER: That was a nine.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michael Barber is completely blind and has been since birth. Even though he can't see his target, he thinks he has every right to own a gun to protect himself and his wife, Kim.


BARBER: I'm comfortable. I am. And I'm convinced that I could do what needs to be done if the time ever came.

ROWLANDS: This was the first time Michael practiced shooting his new handgun. He missed some shots but also hit the target a number of times, including a few bulls eyes.

BARBER: I would aim by hearing, by feel. The person will be in close proximity to me. I hope I never have to do that. I really do. I would just as soon not. If I had to protect myself, yes, I would.

ROWLANDS: Not everyone is comfortable with blind people carrying guns. Cheryl Thomas is with Iowans for Gun Safety.

CHERYL THOMAS, IOWANS FOR GUN SAFETY: Where we have an issue is in this conceal and carry, that a person who's visually impaired and cannot see would be in public with a gun and potentially endangering public safety.

ROWLANDS (on camera): Lawmakers here in Iowa changed state gun laws three years ago. Before, if you wanted to carry a gun, you needed permission from your local sheriff. Now, if you meet the minimum requirements, you can get a permit to carry a gun online, including someone who is completely blind like Michael.

(voice-over): Warren Wethington is the sheriff of Cedar County east of Iowa City. He thinks the law is just fine as is. And with a daughter in college who is blind, he believes those who are concerned don't understand guns or blind people.

WARREN WETHINGTON, SHERIFF, CEDAR COUNTY, IOWA: People think that they're going to shoot blindly, just start shooting at noises. And people don't understand that visually impaired people are reasonable people, too.

BARBER: I certainly wouldn't just begin shooting willy-nilly to protect myself. You know, and especially if I didn't know for sure where it was coming from. I don't want to shoot innocent people. I'd duck and hide some place.

ROWLANDS: Michael says he plans to keep practicing it at a gun range with an instructor so he's ready to use his gun if he has to.



ROWLANDS: Ted Rowlands, CNN, Des Moines, Iowa.


BANFIELD: It's a thought-provoking argument, blind people owning guns, shooting guns, the right to do so. Doesn't the Second Amendment state anyone has the right to bear arms?

First, let's take a look at what legally constitutes blindness, what we consider legal blindness or what the state of Iowa does to define it. It is when a person is able to see straight ahead of them in 2200 or less in his or her better eye with correction. In determining legal blindness, visual field or side vision is also considered. A visual field of 20 degrees or less is considered to be legally blind. So 20/200 vision means a person can see clearly at 20 feet what a perfect-sighted person could see at 200 feet. I hope that's all clear.

I want to go to our legal panel on this and dig into what this all means.

I was thinking about this. Randy Zelin and Midwin Charles, I'm glad you're here because I often fall back on this old argument that we have a constitutional right to free speech. And my constitutional right to yell whatever I want can't infringe on your right to safety. I can't yell "fire" in a movie theater. It's my favorite analogy. Why is this unlike yelling fire in a movie theater?

RANDY ZELIN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY & FORMER PROSECUTOR: There are two important things that need interpretation that we could spend hours if not days on. First of all, the Second Amendment, does the Second Amendment say that everyone has the right to bear arms? Quite frankly, it's not even grammatically correct. What it really says if that we need to have a well-stocked militia. Then, there's a comma. Then, "the right to bear arms shall not be abridged." It doesn't define the right. It just says that the government shall not abridge whatever that right is. Then, can we inject common sense into this discussion? Would a visually challenged person apply for a job as an air traffic controller or a pilot? We're going to put a gun in the hands of a visually challenged person? We don't drive the speed limit in a snowstorm even though technically we can.

BANFIELD: You're allowed to do.

So Ben Ferguson was the sound bite we heard going into this. Look, legally blind doesn't mean blind. Don't we have an Americans with Disabilities Act that should protect people who -- let me put it to you this way? They're in their own home, they hear something go bump in the night and they can't have a gun to defend themselves even though they can see, say, maybe 20, 30 feet pretty clearly.

MIDWIN CHARLES, ATTORNEY: We do, but what happens if that thing that goes bump in the night is a child, a grand child or a family member --


BANFIELD: I could make that mistake. And I have pretty good vision with correction.

CHARLES: But that's the problem. That's the problem. And the right to bear arms, as everyone likes to refer to it, is not absolute. Right? You have to obtain a gun permit. In the word is permit. You are permitted to carry a gun or a concealed weapon if you pass certain tests, right? That essentially is what the statute says in Iowa, that even those considered legally blind still have to go through the process of taking a test and being certified in order to obtain the permit. So this idea, this notion that anyone can carry a gun at any time whenever they feel like it is actually incorrect. You still have to get a permit.

BANFIELD: I have to say, Stevie Wonder was on Piers Morgan earlier this year and he actually said, imagine me with a gun, it's just crazy.

CHARLES: If you watch that video with him shooting, it was crazy.

BANFIELD: At the same time, not everybody is at the level that Stevie Wonder is.

It's a great debate and it makes for awesome Piers Morgan viewing. I will say that.


Randy Zelin, Midwin Charles, thank you. Good to see you both.

The world is about to get into a cat-and-mouse game if the Russian plan for Syrian chemical weapons actually gets any momentum. Finding them, chasing them, getting them, destroying them. Have you ever wondered how many qualified people there are in this world who can do that job? When you see the numbers after the break, you might shudder. It's coming up.


BANFIELD: 188 countries have signed on to the International Ban on Chemical Weapons. Five countries haven't signed. One of those countries is Syria. In fact, up until a couple of days ago, it denied having chemical weapons. Now that's all changed. This week, Syrian leaders actually agreed to a Russian plan to destroy chemical weapons in that country, every last one of them, agreed to sign on to this convention. But just think about how massive the job is to ever put that plan into action.

Let me just give you breaking news I've been getting. The international body that oversees this convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention, it says that an agreement -- it's received a request from the Syrians for technical assistance in carrying out this agreement. Technical assistance as relates to what is stated in the intention of signing is up for the ban. Which means, if you're going to sign up, you have to get rid of your stuff. Getting rid of your stuff, very hard to do. Syrians now officially asking those who oversee the convention to help out.

Joining me to talk about this is CNN analyst, David Kay, a former U.N. chief weapons inspector.

The question, David, is this, this requires specialized talent, specialized qualifications. Not just anybody can do in and find chemical weapons and destroy them. Do we have enough people around the world to do the task at hand in Syria?

DAVID KAY, CNN ANALYST & FORMER U.N. CHIEF WEAPONS INSPECTOR: I think we probably have enough in terms of absolute numbers of people. But they are often in countries that are probably not suitable for this particular mission. It's not clear to me that the Syrians or the Security Council for that matter will be terribly happy with having a large number of Americans. And I'm not sure we would be happy with having a large number of Russians or Chinese. So it's going to be a delicate balance of finding the talent, coping with the political problems that always crop up in this, and seeing what the match is.

And let me say, the number is also seriously affected by the degree of cooperation you get from the Syrians and by the raging civil war. If you have little cooperation and the civil war continues at its current pace, you'll need a lot of people and a lot of patience.

BANFIELD: OK. I want to put the map up again, just to sort of go through these numbers. Sometimes numbers are deceiving. When you look at these counties, you can see the United States over on the left, roughly -- this is rough guessing at this point -- about 300 of these qualified specialists. Way over to the right-hand side is China and Russia, combined, with 500. The Hague, which is probably one of the safer numbers at 400. There's a big difference between asking Chinese and Russian experts to go into Syria to do this than, say, perhaps getting those 400 Hague experts. Some of them more trustworthy than others?

KAY: Well, is, first of all, let me say, those numbers are big qualifications as to how hard and firm they are. Even with the Hague number, they've carried about 1500 inspections in 16 years of their life and those involve most little inspections of on-going destruction programs, not search and find. In fact, they've never done either a challenge inspection or and inspection in which you had to find suspected is weapons that the state did not disclose. So that's a different group of people. I think they're very well trained. In the U.S. case, for example, at that figure, that's counting really military personnel, mostly who have been specially trained in aspects of this. Whether they're available or not, I have no idea what the politics will say.


KAY: In regard to the Chinese and Russian numbers, will guesses because neither have disclosed what they have. BANFIELD: When you hear the Syrians asking for technical assistance and the notion they would have to provide the heavy lifting, it makes you worry that if they're protecting some of those experts, they call the shots where the experts go. It feels like the fox in charge of the hen house.

I have to leave it there. David Kay, thank you, as always for your insight and the information. Do appreciate it.


BANFIELD: David Kay joining us live on this issue.

If you had fruit with your breakfast or vegetables with your lunch -- this is something weird to say in America -- but you're lucky. You're lucky because there are a lot of people in this country that get neither. Up next, you're going to meet somebody whose mission it is to change that.


BANFIELD: Talk about planting roots and feeding people, you're about to meet someone doing just that. She's today's "CNN Hero."


ROBIN EMMONS, CNN HERO: There's magic in gardening that you can drop a seed into the earth and, from that, there's an amazing fruit that is delicious and so good for your body. That's a miracle to me.

Here in Charlotte, 73,000 people live in low-income neighborhoods that don't have access to this fresh fruit.

You could call this the Miracle Mile. Pretty desolate in the way of healthy food options. There are barely any supermarkets. Once they get there by bus or a neighbor's car or on foot, they are paying a very high price for the food.

I'm Robin Emmons. I believe everyone should have access to fresh fruit so I grow it and bring it to communities in need.

We want our market to be abundant tomorrow. Let's hit it.

We have about 200 volunteers that help us harvesting the food.

These are heirloom tomatoes over here.

Bringing the food to the community and cutting the cost in half compared to a grocery store.

Six months ago, I was diagnosed with diabetes. I'm unemployed right now. Sometimes you have to buy the cheaper things.

These are beautiful.

I couldn't believe all this, fresh vegetables. And the price was phenomenal. It's making me and my family healthier.

I started growing food in my backyard. Today, I grow on nine acres. Since 2008, we have grown 26,000 pounds of food.




EMMONS: I feel like I'm giving them a gift, a healthier longer, more delicious life.



Thanks for watching, everyone. AROUND THE WORLD starts after this quick break.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome. You're watching AROUND THE WORLD. I'm Suzanne Malveaux.