The issue of gun control continues to dominate the political landscape, but like any sensitive issue, the most extreme voices tend to get the most attention.
Before the tragic shooting in Newtown, Dan Baum, a self-professed "gun guy," took an 18-month trip across the country. He bypassed the NRA and extreme anti-gun activists to speak directly with gun owners.
The results are in his new book "Gun Guys: A Road Trip." He joins Soledad on "Starting Point" this morning to talk about what he learned on his trip and some of the biggest misconceptions people have about gun owners.
Officials at an elementary school in Maryland are suspending seven-year-old for taking a breakfast pastry and shaping it into what looked like a gun, and allegedly saying "bang bang" with it.
Second grader Josh Welch and his father share what happened on “Starting Point” today.
“I was trying to shape it into a mountain, and it turned out to be a gun,” Josh says. “And I did not say bang bang.”
"I believe there needs to be some common sense," dad BJ Welch says. "I believe when you compare the caliber of the offense to the caliber of the punishment, they don't match up. It's a lack of common sense, in conjunction with the use of rules. Honestly. I believe there's some personal bias in the decision as well."
Park Elementary School's principal was unable to talk with CNN, but the school sent a letter home with the students saying "one of our students used food to make inappropriate gestures that disrupted the class."
Josh will be suspended for two days, but says he doesn't do anything inappropriate.
"When I'm trying to create stuff like drawing...I don't try to draw inappropriate stuff," he saysl.
This morning on "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien," Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) weighs in on Wednesday's hearing on gun control and gun violence.
Grassley, who voted against requiring background checks on all firearm sales at gun shows, says the issue of background checks is “something that’s going to get a good look and it ought to have a good look. But expanding it...I’m not sure that we know where we’re gong in that direction.”
He adds that there are several other areas where Congress will be legislating regarding the prosecution of straw purchasers, beefing up the database in Washington D.C. and doing more in the area of mental health.
Regarding assault weapons Grassley says he does not believe a vote to ban them will pass due to the Second Amendment, noting that the Columbine High school shooting took place while the federal assault weapons ban was enacted. He adds that the stolen guns used in recent high-profile shooting tragedies in Tucson and Newtown would not be covered by the ban.
During the hearing, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin cited the death of a 15-year-old Chicago teenager killed just a week after she performed in President Obama's inauguration as more evidence of the need for stronger gun control. But Grassley says the focus in Chicago should be on “the issue within our society of black violence on blacks.”
One sheriff in Wisconsin is encouraging citizens to "get in the game" and learn how to use a gun. Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. says you can't count on local law enforcement because of cutbacks.
On "Starting Point," Sheriff Clarke explains to Soledad why a citizen would be better off handling their own personal protection rather than relying on police officers.
"There are certain situations, and I think most people get that where 911 is going to be of no use," Sheriff Clarke says. "And in those situations, there are certain things that you can do to protect yourself. It's a public safety message, and I'm just here to let the people know, give them the information as to what's going on and to give them options, if you will, as to how to defend themselves in those situations."
"My message is for law abiding citizens in certain situations, not to go out and enforce the law," he adds. "There are certain things that you can and should do to protect yourself. It's always been my belief that personal safety is an individual responsibility."
In a few hours, Vice President Joe Biden will be in Richmond, Virginia to make the case for a ban on assault weapons, and President Obama is also set to hit the road to promote the plan.
This move comes on the heels of the introduction of a new bill by Senator Diane Feinstein that would renew the ban on assault weapons, including the AR-15s, the type of weapon used to kill children in Newtown.
Feinstein's bill is likely to face a stiff battle on both sides of Congress, a reality that the California Democrat acknowledges.
Richard Feldman is the president of the Independent Firearms Owners Association and he joins Starting Point this morning to explain his opposition to the legislation, stressing that "instead of focusing on the gun, we need to be focusing on the problem which is always who’s hands are the guns."
"It really is the animal house approach to legislating policy," Feldman says of the proposed assault weapons ban. "We outlawed these guns 20 years ago. It didn't work then. Why do we think that by putting American gun owners on double secret probation that we’re going to have any different impact this time around?"
Vice President Joe Biden is preparing his final recommendations for President Obama on reducing gun violence that he will deliver Tuesday.
Biden is expected to recommend universal background checks and limiting high-capacity magazines as well as encouraging more research into the links between violent media and gun violence. The Vice President is also likely to suggest stronger mental health checks.
CNN's Senior Political Analyst and Editorial Director of The "National Journal" Ron Brownstein joins “Starting Point” to discuss the politics of gun regulations.
The NRA has announced it will participate in a meeting this week with Vice President Joe Biden's gun violence task force. The Vice President will also hold meetings with victims groups, gun safety organizations and representatives of the entertainment and video game industries. One person who will be attending the meetings is Virginia Tech survivor Colin Goddard. Goddard who was shot four times during the rampage is now the assistant director of federal legislation for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. He joins “Starting Point” this morning to weigh in on the upcoming gun violence meetings.
Goddard says his “job is to represent the voice of the overwhelming majority of Americans… that want some comprehensive, commonsense changes to our gun policy.” He adds that the focus on gun legislation moving forward should not just be on “the last major shooting but…the 32 Americans…who are murdered with guns every single day.”
Morning panelist, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) disagrees. Johnson says he is not sure where Goddard sees evidence regarding the majority of Americans wanting reform to gun policy. Johnson adds the people of Wisconsin who he represents and others “really want to protect gun rights and they realize it’s a second amendment right.”
Goddard says, “There are common ground solutions that respect the second amendment but also make it more difficult for dangerous people to get their hand on a gun in the first place…like a background check.” He says background checks should be conducted on everyone mainly because “40% of gun sales every year in this country go unchecked – that’s just bad policy. That doesn’t stop a law abiding citizen from owning a gun, they’ll pass that background check every time but somebody with a history of mental illness, somebody with a domestic violence restraining order, somebody with a felony record – they need to get checked otherwise you’ll never know about that.”
Goddard who still has three bullets logged in his body agrees the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut was the “tipping point for a lot of people.” He says phones in his Washington office are constantly ringing “off the hook.” He adds, “our activists out in the field across the country are getting so many new members saying ‘I just can’t keep watching these things and not do something about it.’ I think there were multiple factors that played into this but I’ve seen overwhelming support for something to be done.” The 2008 Virginia Tech graduate concludes by saying the meetings on Capitol Hill are very encouraging and urges all Americans to “please keep this up – we’re going to get this done.”
An attorney in Connecticut has withdrawn a request to sue the state for $100 million in the wake of the Sandy Hook School shooting after facing strong disapproval from people across the country. The New Haven attorney represents the family of a six-year-old girl who witnessed and survived the shooting. The lawyer says the state failed to take steps to protect the children from harm. After this statement Pinsky received a flurry of comments on his Facebook page blasting the lawsuit and accusing him and his client of trying to profit from last month's tragedy. This morning the attorney Irving Pinsky joins “Starting Point” to discuss why he dropped the suit and his plans to file again sometime within the year.
Regarding the outpour of disapproval on filing the lawsuit Pinsky says, “It’s a natural reaction to get that backlash.” He adds that he was doing his job which is to save the evidence and that he “can’t wait for the attorney general to get their evidence or the police to get their evidence. As a lawyer I’m looking for different evidence then they are. So I had to go in early and that was not made clear to the public because there’s so much of the fog of disaster.” On the topic of where the backlash was stemming from Pinsky says, “I didn’t have any problem with the people of Newtown… but out of 340 million people in this country if that you’re going to have all kinds of people including some crazy people who are going to start issuing death threats left and right” and labeling him a “greedy lawyer.”
Legally Pinsky says “this shouldn’t happen. A crazy young gunman shouldn’t be able to walk into a school and start doing this over and over and over.” While it has been reported that the shooter shot through the glass to gain entry to the school, Pinksy argues the glass was supposed to be bulletproof. Pinksy adds, “It had to be assumed that this was going to happen eventually somewhere.” He goes on to say, “I cannot tell you for sure at this point…I cannot tell you beyond a reasonable doubt…that this would have happened or should have happened or they should have known.” He says regardless his job is to follow the evidence, “authenticate it, make sure it credible…and if the evidence shows that there’s no case – I don’t bring a case.”
Pinsky says his mission now is to “stop this from happening again,” although he says it is going to happen again even though he does not want to admit it. He says his lawsuit aids the process to “get higher standards for security in the schools.”
It's been two weeks since a gunman broke into Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 26 teachers and students. The nation continues to mourn, and since then, there's been an ongoing debate about how to prevent another tragedy from happening. Some have even suggested arming teachers to combat violence in schools.
Teachers in West Valley City, Utah are taking this suggestion seriously. They were being taught how to properly handle a gun, among other lessons, in a six-hour seminar yesterday. The course was free and made possible by Clark Aposhian. Aposhian is the Chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council and has trained teachers how to use guns in Utah in the past. Kasey Hansen is a special education teacher who trained to use a gun at Clark's class. They both join “Starting Point” live from Salt Lake City with more.
A New York based newspaper has sparked outrage this morning after its decision to publish a map pinpointing the addresses of people with gun permits. Published in The Journal News, which is based in White Plains, New York, the map shows homes where public records indicate someone living there holds a gun permit. It was part of an article called "The Gun Owner Next Door," and the newspaper says the information shown came from public records. It has readers online furious. Blogger Christopher Fountain is one of those readers, and he decided to strike back by posting the home address of most of the leadership and staff of The Journal News.
Fountain, who is a gun owner, says that The Journal News defended publishing the gun permit owners' addresses for safety purposes, but Fountain disagrees with the correlation between gun ownership and gun violence. He tells "Starting Point" that he decided to post the journalists' information because he felt that the newspaper "was bullying gun owners by conflating ... West Chester County gun owners with a horrible incident in Newtown, Connecticut ... one has nothing to do with the other." He adds, "I felt that they were using this to harass gun owners ... so I harassed them back."
Fountain's blog, "For What It's Worth", can be found at christopherfountain.wordpress.com