Piers Morgan Pushes Gun Control, Bristles at Notion of Delaying Political Debate

CNN anchor Piers Morgan devoted a considerable portion of his Friday program to pushing for more gun control, breaking with those who have advised delaying such talk until after a period of mourning for shooting victims in Aurora, Colorado.

Morgan not only began Piers Morgan Tonight with a "Piers' Special Commentary" calling for more gun laws, but, later in the program, he included three guests who argued in favor of more gun control, with only one to argue against, with whom the CNN host ended up becoming agitated as Denver University Professor David Kopel scolded Morgan for not waiting longer before launching into a divisive political debate.

Shortly after beginning the show, Morgan played a clip of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg advising the presidential candidates to talk about the gun control issue, and then began his commentary:

(Video can be found here.)

I agree with Mayor Bloomberg. I fully respect the Second Amendment and every American's desire to defend themselves in their homes. But I simply don't believe the Framers of the Constitution would have ever envisioned a disturbed young man utilizing his right to bear arms by legally buying four guns including an assault weapon capable of firing hundreds of rounds a minute, specifically to murder fellow Americans. There are now almost as many guns in America as there are people, and this can only surely lead to more senseless deaths. Something has to be done, and that debate will start tonight.

A bit past 9:30 p.m., after a press conference on the Aurora shootings had aired, as he interviewed a couple who witnessed the massacre, Morgan raised the issue of gun control with them:

When you heard - I don't know if you heard the police just now revealing some of the details of the armory that this killer had built up - 6,000 rounds of ammunition he bought on the Internet, four weapons, including this assault rifle. What is your reaction to that? There's a huge debate going on all around America today about gun control and so on. What is your reaction to the fact that this young man was legally able, in the last two months, to obtain four weapons, including an assault rifle, and so much ammunition and commit this atrocity?

At 9:45 p.m., Morgan brought aboard liberal Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe who argued in favor of more gun laws and slammed the National Rifle Association as an obstacle. At one point, Tribe complained:

There's no reason in the Constitution why we, as a civilized society, couldn't get our hands around a problem like that. The reason is the National Rifle Association and all of the people who, frankly, make a living out of restricting the political possibility of gun control. We have to do something about it. I don't know how many killings, how many slaughters it's going to take before the nation wakes up to the need to address the problem.

The CNN host ended up lauding the Harvard professor's presentation as "eloquently put."

Morgan then turned to a segment in which two guests supporting gun control, plus Morgan himself, outnumbered Professor Kopel as the only dissenter. After Kopel criticized Morgan for getting political so soon, the CNN host ranted:

(Video can be found here.)

Let me challenge you on what you've just said. A lot of people have said that today. A lot of people who don't want strengthening gun control have said this is not the day to debate it. I tell you the day to debate it, it would have been yesterday. To have prevented this happening. when you have a young man like this able to legally get 6,000 rounds of ammunition off the Internet to buy four weapons, including an assault rifle, and for all of this to be perfectly legal in modern America, allowing him to carry out the biggest shooting in the history of the United States, that, I'm afraid, means it's too late for this debate, for those people that lost their lives. So don't patronize me about when we should be talking about the gun control debate.

Morgan then demanded:

You tell me a good reason why we should not strengthen the law now to stop another young man like him going into a store tomorrow, buying four more weapons, 6,000 rounds of ammunition on the Internet, and killing and shooting another 70 people in America.

After Kopel was then given some time to speak, he ended up bringing up the topic of delaying political talk until next week, leading Morgan to interrupt him:

PROFESSOR DAVID KOPEL, DENVER UNIVERSITY: Let's wait till we find out the information instead of rushing the country into this pro, con thing that I know sells a lot of commercials on TV, but it's inappropriately divisive now. Nobody's stopping you from having this segment on Wednesday. Can you give people a little bit of breathing room-

PIERS MORGAN: Okay, you made your point on that. Let's move to Dan Gross from the Brady Campaign because I'm not interested in having a debate about whether we can debate gun control.

Morgan then turned to Brady Campaign president Dan Gross and gun control activist and Virginia Tech survivor Colin Goddard to push their views supporting more gun control.

Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the Friday, July 20, Piers Morgan Tonight on CNN with critical portions in bold:

9:02 p.m.

PIERS MORGAN: I agree with Mayor Bloomberg. I fully respect the Second Amendment and every American's desire to defend themselves in their homes. But I simply don't believe the Framers of the Constitution would have ever envisioned a disturbed young man utilizing his right to bear arms by legally buying four guns including an assault weapon capable of firing hundreds of rounds a minute, specifically to murder fellow Americans. There are now almost as many guns in America as there are people, and this can only surely lead to more senseless deaths. Something has to be done, and that debate will start tonight.

(...)

9:32 p.m.

MORGAN, INTERVIEWING A COUPLE WHO WITNESSED THE AURORA MASSACRE: When you heard - I don't know if you heard the police just now revealing some of the details of the armory that this killer had built up - 6,000 rounds of ammunition he bought on the Internet, four weapons, including this assault rifle. What is your reaction to that? There's a huge debate going on all around America today about gun control and so on. What is your reaction to the fact that this young man was legally able, in the last two months, to obtain four weapons, including an assault rifle, and so much ammunition and commit this atrocity?

(...)

9:45 p.m.

MORGAN: What happened in Colorado is a tragedy, but could stricter gun laws have prevented it? It's a debate that many people are having across America. Joining me now is Harvard Law's Laurence Tribe. He's a university professor of constitutional law there. Mr. Tribe, it's a debate that rages every single time there is a shooting of this nature. This is the worst shooting in terms of people who are hit by gunfire that America has ever seen. Is this enough now to prompt stricter gun control? And would stricter gun control have made a difference in this case?

PROFESSOR LAURENCE TRIBE, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: First of all, I want to express my grief and my deep condolences for the victims.  I think gun control is overdue. The Second Amendment does protect the right to people to possess weapons for self-defense in the home. That's what the Supreme Court said. But it certainly does not protect the right to buy 6,000 rounds of ammunition on the Internet, or to buy four guns, including automatic and semi-automatic weapons, in a short period of time.

There's no reason in the Constitution why we, as a civilized society, couldn't get our hands around a problem like that. The reason is the National Rifle Association and all of the people who, frankly, make a living out of restricting the political possibility of gun control. We have to do something about it. I don't know how many killings, how many slaughters it's going to take before the nation wakes up to the need to address the problem.

But I think we fool ourselves if we say that better and stricter gun control would necessarily solve the problem. There are all kinds of things we need to do. We may need to do things about exits of movie theaters so that if they are opened, there's an alarm that goes off if they are not immediately shut. We may need to do something about our educational system. We need to do something about the culture of violence. But I think this is a time for the country to come together, and it's certainly not a time for us to divide over the question of whether we can impose reasonable controls on ammunition. I think everyone agrees that the Constitution permits that. It's simply our political system that has failed to act adequately.

MORGAN: Professor Tribe, very eloquently put. Thanks for joining me.

(...)

9:46 p.m.

MORGAN: Let me start with you. You've heard Professor Tribe: It is time now for gun control to be strengthened. What is your reaction to that?

PROFESSOR DAVID KOPEL, DENVER UNIVERSITY: Honestly, Piers, I think this is the wrong night to be doing this, and I really wish you'd waited to have this segment till after the funerals. This is a time, in Colorado and nationally, when it would have been better to have more of the segments like you did before with the family, and when people could be unified in helping the victims right now, and-

MORGAN: If I could jump in there.

[CROSS TALK BETWEEN MORGAN AND KOPEL]

Let me just challenge you on that. Let me just challenge you, if I may, let me challenge you on what you've just said.

A lot of people have said that today. A lot of people who don't want strengthening gun control have said this is not the day to debate it. I tell you the day to debate it, it would have been yesterday. To have prevented this happening. when you have a young man like this able to legally get 6,000 rounds of ammunition off the Internet to buy four weapons, including an assault rifle, and for all of this to be perfectly legal in modern America, allowing him to carry out the biggest shooting in the history of the United States, that, I'm afraid, means it's too late for this debate, for those people that lost their lives, So don't patronize me about when we should be talking about the gun control debate.

You tell me a good reason why we should not strengthen the law now to stop another young man like him going into a store tomorrow, buying four more weapons, 6,000 rounds of ammunition on the Internet, and killing and shooting another 70 people in America.

(...)

9:48 p.m.

KOPEL: Let's wait till we find out the information instead of rushing the country into this pro, con thing that I know sells a lot of commercials on TV, but it's inappropriately divisive now. Nobody's stopping you from having this segment on Wednesday. Can you give people a little bit of breathing room-

MORGAN: Okay, you made your point on that. Let's move to Dan Gross from the Brady Campaign because I'm not interested in having a debate about whether we can debate gun control.