Today, President Obama is announcing new gun control measures aimed at curbing gun violence across the country. In the midst of all the gun talk, writer/director Spencer Gillis’ short film “Gun” beat out 8,000 entries to be one of 85 premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. He joins Soledad on “Starting Point” to talk about his film.
The 17-minute short is from the perspective of someone that buys a gun for protection. Gillis says it’s not about making a statement but more about the concept of owning a gun. “It’s about the influence of power on the human mind,” he says. “You have a man who buys a gun and it leads to these dark fantasies that he starts to have and it just takes him down a path that could have very serious consequences.”
Gillis says he was raised with a complicated relationship with guns, growing up around them and strongly believing in the second amendment but having a firm understanding of control. Gillis hopes the film inspires people to get educated on guns.
“I think if people walk away provoked to think about the issue, to sort of re-examine the way that they look at the issue, that would be a success in my eyes because that means people are going to have a conversation about the film,” Gillis says.
Vice President Joe Biden will deliver recommendations on gun control to the president on Tuesday after meeting with gun advocacy groups like the NRA and National Shooting Sports Foundation. The one thing they have agreed on is universal background checks. Richard Feldman of the Independent Firearm Owners Association talks to Soledad.
Feldman thinks the discussions are headed in the right direction, “I thought we had a real conversation and it wasn’t just a lecture. We had some different positions on some issues, but really a lot more agreement on many of the multifaceted aspects of the problem than really sometimes come out in the media,” he says.
The conversation was surrounded by civil commitment, penalties for gun running, problems with alcohol, tobacco, and firearms- all components considered in the gun violence discussion. Feldman sees this as progress compared to past attempts to come to a resolution, he says, “If we focus correctly on the problems, we stand a real chance of doing something and having solutions that are going to work. But, if we go back to the bumper stickers of the past and have two sides just yelling past each other and really not talking about the same issue at the same time, then no we are not going to solve anything.”
The NRA said after the meeting, “We were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the second amendment.” However, Feldman says the discussions have everyone on the same page on taking background checks seriously, “Our organization believes strongly that at gun shows there ought to have background checks on the transfer of a firearm at a gun show. Right now, dealers have to make that transfer, but private citizens don’t. […] But, when we talk about universal checks, people may not understand what that means. That means when you give a gun to your child, or to your spouse, or you sell a gun to a friend or a neighbor, there is an important distinction there. You know who you sold the gun to."
The problem isn’t with people who buy guns lawfully. The problem is that there are 500,000 guns stolen every year in this country. The meeting resulted in common ground on one key issue, he says, “Everybody in the room yesterday, NRA included, was all in favor of enhanced penalties for strawman purchases…a lot of agreement in the room yesterday."
Though he is positive about reaching a compromise, Feldman is confident that negotiations must be made. He says, "There will be disagreement on a couple of key issues and that’s why we have a congress and this issue isn’t coming to an end next Tuesday. There will be hearings on the hill and this is going to be a big fight.”
The possible nomination of Republican Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense has Republicans pushing back at the president. Freshman Democratic senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut had much to say in his first chat with Soledad.
He says, “I think Republicans are spoiling for a fight. I think they recognize that this guy’s coming into his second term with a head of steam, that he’s very well regarded on issues of foreign policy and Republicans are used to holding an advantage on that matter. They have lost it to an extent and so they just want to pick a fight.”
Pointing out that an official nomination has not been announced yet, he admits that he has not done his research thoroughly. But, on the surface, Murphy says, “The things I know about Chuck Hagel tells me he’d be a very strong pick here. He’d be the first Vietnam veteran, first enlisted soldier as Secretary of Defense. He’s a guy with foreign policy chops and someone who, frankly, hasn’t been afraid to depart from his party when he thought they were wrong.”
His military experience and well versed knowledge of foreign policy will help in the upcoming years of transforming the military, saying “We’re going to be withdrawing from Afghanistan. We’re going to be figuring out our new footprint in the world and the president trusts Chuck Hagel. […] He has been widely regarded as one of the smartest people on defense and national security issues on both sides of the aisle.”
Obama’s move was referred to as an “in your face” move by Senator Lindsey Graham. Murphy sees an advantage to appointing cabinet members with differing views from the president. He says, “The bottom line is that any secretary of defense, just like any other cabinet post, is going to implement the beliefs and views of the president of the United States. And we’ve gotten into this world today in which you almost can’t pick anybody who has previously independent views because somehow that will be perceived as being contrary to the views of the president. […] The fact is we need strong leaders in these positions, and strong leaders come sometimes with positions in the past which might not have always directly aligned with the president’s.”
A preliminary hearing begins today in Aurora, CO to determine whether James Holmes should stand trial. With a list of 70 witnesses, the prosecution gives a preview of the case. Lisa Wayne is a Criminal defense attorney and former public defender that trained the two lawyers defending him. She stopped by the break down the insanity plea.
The preliminary hearing gives the lawyers an opportunity to describe Holmes’ condition before, during, and after the shooting. Eyewitness accounts have depicted him as looking blank and not really aiming at anyone. Since he sought out psychiatric help prior to the shooting, she says, “It appears here- this isn’t something that was made up, that this is guy who was sick before it happened, makes the insanity defense credible.”
As for what she thinks will happen, Wayne says, “I’m like everybody, I don’t have the inside scoop on this. But, if you look at the presentation of him in the courtroom, which I think will be consistent throughout this week, if you look at the evidence of this case, I mean, here’s a guy that didn’t have any motive to go inside a theatre and shoot people. I think that you will finally see the defense scrutinizing the evidence in this case and showing another side of people that will support that he was deranged and out of his mind.”
Whether or not Holmes gets the insanity defense, the legal system will punish him for the crime or get him the help he needs to prevent him from causing harm to others and/or himself. Wayne explains, “The beauty of the system is we don’t punish people in the same way. The American people know if you are found not guilty by reason of insanity, it doesn’t mean I don’t’ take responsibility. It means I can’t take responsibility and they are going to throw away the key and lock him up either way in a mental institute or a prison. “
Football, politics, the press. For Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, New Jersey, these are all things he can share friendly banter on. Recently announcing his intention to run for senate, he feels it’s too early to discuss a campaign, or any details. He stops by for an exclusive interview with Soledad.
He says, “I announced my intention to run. The reality is, we have a good senator, been loyal, been there a long time. He has a decision to make. I am focusing on my job for now.” Until any official campaigning begins, Booker looks to continue his work in the city of Newark, saying, “I swore an oath to do my job. I would hate to leave early to do another job.”
Usually praised by the media, a recent New York Time article said Booker was a “better marketer than a mayor.” To this, he says, “It was probably one of the more frustrating articles of my career. I feel like they glossed over what we have done, since instituting articles of my career. They glossed over what we have done, since instituting court reform, prisoner entry reform, doubled the amount of affordable housing to dealing with veterans’ issues. Sometimes you won’t get flowing press. The press sometimes likes to build you up and take you down.”
The politics world is abuzz on President Obama potentially nominating Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary. The Nebraska Republican and Vietnam War veteran has been criticized for his commitment to Israel’s security and his harsh words toward the homosexual community. Booker believes, “We should give him [President Obama] a lot of deference for decision making, and the good news is, these issues have been highlighted and he tried to address them. And I think in the coming days, he will even more so.”
To pull the conversation away from the seriousness of politics, Booker has a few thoughts on Washington Redskins’ rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III’s, RG3, knee injury this weekend. He says, “I’ve played the game and it’s very difficult to take a guy out. I have seen the same thing at Stamford. I’ve played injured. It would have taken a crowbar to take me out of the game.”
A new photo was released by “hacktivist” group Anonymous of the victim in the center of the Steubenville rape case. Mike DeWine, Attorney general in Ohio, was called in to help with the investigation and handle the prosecution. He speaks with John and Brooke.
The case gained a spotlight when a video was released of the local high school's football players talking about the victim. With so much emphasis on social media today, these two pieces shared through social media take center stage of the case. As for the case being affected by the media, DeWine says, “I guess I have two reactions, one is this case needs to be tried not in the media, not in the social media, but in court, in front of a judge and it will be on February 13th.”
However, the D.A. is open to receiving any evidence pertinent to the case. He's just not fond of releasing it through social media before allowing a court to examine it, saying, “People have a first amendment right, but my focus is on prosecuting the case. We have two experienced prosecutors who are handling the case. I think we need to confine this case to a courtroom. The evidence will come out."
He is confident going into this trial. DeWine feels that if the trial runs according to the American legal system, a verdict will be found and the victim will be served justice. Altering that system may set off a cycle of unfair treatment. “That’s the way our system works, that’s the way it should work. I think the second thing that is obvious in any rape case is that it is a great tragedy. This one is different only in the sense that the victim has been victimized but each time something goes up on the internet, the victim is victimized again," he says.
Penn State is back in the news. This time Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the NCAA on the grounds that its punishments for the university are “overreaching and unlawful.” This lawsuit asks the federal court to throw out the penalties including a $60 million fine and still has the university complying with the punishment. He joins John and Brooke on Starting Point.
Though his main concern is on the victims of this case, he is filing the lawsuit alone on the behalf of his constituents. He says, “I did not have conversations with the board of trustees or with the president because I did not want them to be punished further by the NCAA for any actions that we took. I’m filing this on behalf of the citizens of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania number one.”
While Jerry Sandusky was on trial, one of the biggest criticisms against the school was for making football its number one priority. The same criticism is now gaining momentum against Corbett for waiting until the football season was over to file. He says, “I didn’t want to interfere with the momentum the team had. Coach O’Brien had done a great job with the team. The final decision to go forward wasn’t made until October. The lawsuit was then drafted, we went through many variations and at the end of the season was when I made my decision.”
He stands by his defense, stating, “This is going to be a very long case and the start of that case could easily wait until after the end of the football season.”
For hurricanes in the past, the government has passed relief bills quickly to aid the victims; for Hurricane Katrina, it took ten days, for Hurricane Andrew, 31 days. So, why has 67 days passed since Hurricane Sandy hit land and nothing been done? Speaker Boehner abruptly pulled a bill to help Hurricane Sandy victims, getting a brash response from Gov. Chris Christie who stated he was “disappointed and disgusted” at the politics involved. New York Republican Congressman and Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee Peter King talks to John and Brooke about getting his constituents the help they need and deserve.
Representative King showed aggression and anger while responding to Speaker Boehner’s disregard for Sandy victims. He says, “When it comes to fighting for my constituents, I had an obligation to do it and the danger was this wasn’t just a delay of one day. What I was concerned about was it being pushed over into the new congress- this could delay it for months, that’s why the speaker yesterday agreed to expedite this and get it done. That was the most significant thing.”
The expedited bill involves $60 billion in relief aid. $9 billion will be infused into flood insurance and once the bill is decided on the first day of voting on January 15th, the remaining $51 billion will fall into place.
As for Representative Darrell Issa’s accusation that the bill is filled with pork, King says, “I wish Darrell Issa had looked into that before he went public and said that my constituents should not get their homes built, should not have the waste management plants rebuild, the Governor Christie should not be given the opportunity to rebuild New Jersey and Governor Cuomo New York.” Part of what took this bill so long to reach this point is all the damage having to be accounted for. He says, “Every dollar that Governor Christie, Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg requested has been documented, the speaker will tell you that, the majority leader will tell you that. There is no pork. And to somehow say that $33 billion is pork, Darrell Issa is 1,000% wrong, I say that again, 1,000% wrong. The speaker disagrees with him. If he wants to take it up with somebody, call Governor Christie.”
While the House struggled to reach a compromise, President Obama released his two secret weapons: Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Mitch McConnell. CNN contributors John Avlon and Margaret Hoover discuss their success.
Hoover says, “We found the secret formula, the Biden/McConnell alchemy works, the president and John Boehner can’t get it done together.”
Avlon sees the broader picture of where the process failed. He points the finger at the Republicans in the House of Representatives, saying, “Speaking of losers, the House Republicans’ reputation is the problem child in Washington. It has been solidified by this whole last-minute scramble and that is a serious problem. They’ve always been the least popular cohort in Washington. Never popular to begin with, they’re seen in their own conference as the problem."
Hoover commends their experience and their time spent a different world of politics in Washington. She says, “A lot of people are asking why doesn’t Washington work the way it used to. In a former iteration of Washington, senators, congressmen knew each other personally; they knew how to sit down and negotiate at the bargaining table. In the end, these two men are vestiges of the old Washington and in the end they saved the day.”
As for John Boehner's colorful words for Harry Reid at the White House a few days ago, Avoln sees it as a prediction for the months ahead. He says, “Never forget, politics, in the end of the day, is people in a room, personalities and how they work and sometimes things get ugly. […] But, that bad blood is an indication of why we’re in for a rocky time especially in the next two months, but also the next two years.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in the hospital with a blood clot in her head between her brain and her skull. CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta breaks down Mrs. Clinton’s condition.
Simply stated, he says, “Blood goes to the brain and blood has to leave the brain. If the blood does not leave the brain, the brain will start to swell. There’s no place for the blood to go and that’s why it’s so important to make these clots go away.”
Her doctors have been very positive with the Secretary’s condition. Dr. Gupta says, “They’ve been very detailed, no stroke. This can cause a stroke, which hasn’t happened. No neurological complications as a result of this. I’ve read these statements very carefully to make sure they’re saying the things we need to be hearing.”