Monday, October 14, 2013

USA: A journos fight with the pro-gun lobby




My phone rang at 6am, which is never a good thing. I switched on CNN, to find that a young man had gone berserk with guns in a movie theatre during a midnight screening of the new Batman movie in Aurora, Colorado.The shooter, a , shot 70 people, killing 12, wounding 58. It's the single worst civilian mass shooting in American history, in terms of the number of people shot by one person.Holmes apparently dyed his hair red, told police he modelled himself on the Joker from Batman, and used four guns, all of which he bought legally in three local stores a few weeks ago.What is wrong with this country? Who is going to do something, anything, to stop this gun slaughter?I got to the office, and my producer Jonathan Wald could sense I was in a volatile mood. "Try and keep it cool out there," he warned.I began interviewing one of the victims, a young woman called Patricia Legarreta. She'd been at the theatre with her boyfriend, Jamie, her four-year-old daughter from a previous relationship, and four-month-old son."At first we were thinking, 'Oh, it's a prank, a joke,'" she said, her voice trembling. "But you see the flashes coming out of his gun and that's when I was like, this isn't a joke, this is real."Suddenly, I had to divert to a live press conference with Aurora police chief Dan Oates, who revealed some astonishing new information. Holmes had purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition on the internet, and multiple magazines, including one 100-round drum for his AR-15 assault rifle.Oates said: "I've been asked, was the weapon automatic or semi-automatic? I can't answer that question now. Even if it was semi-automatic, I'm told by experts that with that drum magazine, he could have gotten off 50 to 60 rounds within one minute."Just unbelievable. What on earth does any civilian need that kind of firepower for?My next guest was a Denver University professor called David Kopel, known for his pro-gun views. "Honestly, Piers, I think this is the wrong night to be doing this," he said. "And I really wish you'd waited to have this segment until after the funerals."I couldn't believe what I was hearing. "If I may, let me challenge you on what you just said," I replied, trying to control my rising temper. "The day to debate it would have been yesterday, to prevent this happening."My voice rose. "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!""Because we don't even know the full facts of this situation yet," Kopel retorted. "If your whole point is there's too many guns, we've got to get rid of lots of them, drastically constrict things, and you think somehow that's going to make it better, well, there's no real evidence that it will."He stared at me defiantly. And I stared equally defiantly back. "I respect the Second Amendment," I said. "I respect the average American's right to defend themselves in their own homes with a firearm, if they need to. That is a totally different issue from what we're talking about today. It's got nothing to do with that right whatsoever."And it doesn't. The founding fathers didn't imagine deranged young students slaughtering fellow Americans in movie theatres when they drew up the Second Amendment. They imagined people having muskets to defend themselves against an invading army such as the British. Well, let's get real here. The British aren't going to be invading America again anytime soon. And nor is anybody else, given that the US has half the world's military firepower, including a reputed 5,000 nuclear weapons. And if, as some Americans believe, they need weapons to protect themselves against their own government turning tyrannical against them, let me point out the bleeding obvious: a few assault rifles aren't going to be much good against a nuke.I came off air feeling utterly incensed."That was brilliantly handled," Jonathan said. "You were angry but not too angry, and you argued your point really well.""I wanted to punch him," I replied."I know. I'm glad you didn't. You know something - I think you found your voice tonight."


I was sitting idly around my apartment this morning when my colleague Conor Hanna emailed: "."PEOPLE FLEE THE SHOOTING AT SANDY HOOK SCHOOL, CONNECTICUT, DECEMBER 2012. Photograph: Shannon HicksEarly reports on this kind of incident, as we both knew from our time working together at the Daily Mirror, are nearly always unreliable. It often takes at least an hour or two for any hard facts to emerge. At 12.30pm, though, the highly respected CBS crime correspondent John Miller tweeted: "Preliminary information indicates a couple of dozen shot in CT school." Jesus.A few minutes later, ABC reported: "Twelve people, including schoolchildren, dead in CT school shooting."I called Jonathan. "This is huge."CNN showed a live scene outside the school, and my heart sank as I saw frantic parents running toward it. My mind raced back to 1996 and the Dunblane massacre in Scotland. These were almost the exact same horrible images on TV that I had watched then.My wife Celia came back from a walk and I hugged our daughter Elise tightly to my chest. In three years, she may well be off to an American elementary school like this herself. Newtown is only an hour up the road.By the time I went on air at 9pm, the full scale of the tragedy was clear. A young man namedhad shot his mother dead at the home they shared, stolen her gun collection, driven to nearby Sandy Hook school in Newtown, forced his way inside, shot and killed 26 people, including 20 children aged six and seven, with an AR-15 assault rifle, then killed himself with a handgun as first responders arrived. It is the single worst school shooting in American the nation, making it clear he intends to do something "meaningful" about this. I don't doubt his sincerity, but it's almost the exact same rhetoric every American president has come out with after every mass shooting in the past 30 years - something that was proved by a viral video on YouTube splicing almost identical clips from various post-massacre addresses by Obama, Clinton, and Bush.As I spoke to CNN's reporters on the ground, Sandy Hook parents and various politicians, I could feel the fury inside me start to spill over. Those poor kids, they'd gone to school for God's sake - and had their brains blown out in their classrooms.We'd booked a pro-gun author called, whose book is More Guns, Less Crime. "He fired over 100 rounds and killed 20 children," I told him. "Twenty children! At what point do you gun lobby guys say: 'We get it. It's time for change'?""Right, it is time," he replied, to my astonishment."Time to do what?""To get rid of some of these gun laws that cause -""To get rid of gun laws?"He nodded. "Look at what has happened. All these attacks this year have occurred where guns are banned. Look at the Aurora movie theatre shooting"Unbelievable. This clown had actually come on my show on the night of this dreadful atrocity to advocate getting rid of existing gun control laws? I stared at Lott, who has weird pointy bushy eyebrows, and a permanent sneery half-smirk on his face. I wanted to reach across the desk and slap it off him. "There are about 35 gun murders a year in Britain," I shouted. "There are nearly 12,000 murders a year from guns in this country. When are you guys going to focus on that and stop telling me the answer is more guns? It is not the answer. Three hundred million guns in America isn't enough for you? How many more kids have to die before you guys say we want less guns and not more?"Lott said: "How else can you stop someone from shooting people?"And there, right there, was the utter insanity of the pro-gun lobby laid bare. They genuinely have no idea how you stop someone shooting people unless everyone else has a gun too.It's like the wild west has been beamed into modern-day America. And it's as terrifying as it's stupid.I ended the show by looking directly at the camera and saying: "It's time for action. It's time that America's politicians just did something. Stop worrying about the gun lobby, which makes billions of dollars out of this trade, in what often leads to appalling death. It is time for some moral conviction and some moral courage."Then I stormed off home, feeling drained and furious. And so unbelievably sad for those poor children.The final thing I read before going to sleep was an email from Barbra Streisand: "Keep up your fight for sanity! Go get 'em."


Watched a gun store owner on CNN this morning, smiling as he boasted how sales of AR-15s have been soaring since Sandy Hook. I was left steaming with anger again. What is wrong with these bloody people?, executive director of a group called Gun Owners of America. He was sneeringly arrogant and defiant. "America is not the wild west you're depicting," he smirked. "We only have problems in our cities and in our schools where people like you have been able to get laws on the books that keep people from being able to defend themselves."This moron was actually blaming me for the Sandy Hook massacre. I stopped and stared at him for a second or two, trying to stay calm. Then I lost it. "YOU'RE AN UNBELIEVABLY STUPID MAN, AREN'T YOU?"Jonathan wasn't happy afterwards."You shouldn't have called him stupid.""Why not? He is.""He's got an opinion you don't agree with, but one that many Americans do agree with. If you call him stupid, you're calling every American that agrees with him stupid. That's not smart."But within minutes, the "stupid" clip was blowing up on Twitter. And most of the reaction was strongly supportive. "I don't want to curb your passion, or anger," Jonathan added. "Just don't be rude to them, don't call them stupid.""All right, all rightI'll call them idiots."Jonathan sat back in his chair and sighed.


on the official White House website to have me thrown out of America. It's been posted by an organisation called InfoWars, led by an extreme rightwing radio host called Alex Jones. Entitled "Deport British Citizenfor Attacking Second Amendment", it states: "British Citizen and CNN television host Piers Morgan is engaged in a hostile attack against the US Constitution by targeting the Second Amendment. We demand that Mr Morgan be deported immediately for his effort to undermine the Bill of Rights and for exploiting his position as a national network television host to stage attacks against the rights of American citizens."PIERS MORGAN ARGUES WITH PRO-GUN ADVOCATE ALEX JONES ABOUT HIS CAMPAIGN TO HAVE HIM DEPORTED. Photograph: CNNI asked my manager John Ferriter if this could actually be successful. "Well, they tried to deport John Lennon, but failed," he said, encouragingly. "Mind you, he did write ."


A second petition has now sprung up on the White House website, from a British man. It reads: "We want to keep Piers Morgan in the USA. There are two very good reasons for this. First, the First Amendment [right to free speech]. Second, and the more important point, no one in the UK wants him back. Actually there is a third. It will be hilarious to see how loads of angry Americans react."This instantly began attracting thousands of signatures too. At this rate, I'll have to be dropped off somewhere in the mid-Atlantic.


I flew back into America tonight after a vacation, not entirely sure if I would actually be allowed back in. But as I nervously approached the immigration counter at Newark Liberty international airport, feeling like that drug runner in Midnight Express, a burly armed policeman spied me, smirked broadly, and said: "Relax, Mr Morgan, we're not going to deport you."Jonathan rang in a state of high excitement. "We've booked Alex Jones for tomorrow.""Who?""The guy who started the petition"I Googled Jones, and discovered a series of clips from his radio show that suggest he is a very noisy and rather angry human being. This could get lively.


just before we went live on air, and was already working himself into a fearful frenzy - stomping around my studio, sweating profusely, and talking to himself like a UFC cage fighter seconds before a fight."Why do you want me deported?" I asked when the interview began. And off he went, ranting and raving like a gorilla at the zoo that's just seen the morning bucket of bananas arrive. "Hitler took the guns, Stalin took the guns, Mao took the guns, Fidel Castro took the guns, Hugo Ch vez took the guns. And I'm here to tell you, 1776 will commence again if you try and take our firearms!""How many gun murders were there in Britain last year?" I asked.His eyes almost popped out of their sockets. "How many great white sharks kill people every year, but they're scared to swim?" he yelled.I persisted. "Let's try again, how many gun murders were there in Britain last year?""HOW MANY CHIMPANZEES CAN DANCE ON THE HEAD OF A PIN?"I sensed that Jones's extraordinary behaviour was turning into a more powerful advocate for gun control than anything I could possibly say. I eventually wrapped it up after he informed me that President George W Bush had deliberately caused 9/11 - then suggested we settle things next time in a boxing ring: "I'll wear red, white, and blue, you wear your Jolly Rogers!"Backstage, Jones continued to harangue my staff in an unhinged, explosive manner until he was led away by CNN security.He owns 50 guns - a comforting thought.


The Jones interview has become a global internet sensation, trending on Twitter for two days, gaining millions of views on YouTube, and sparking comment all over the world. Even better, Barack Obama has decided I can stay in America.Tonight, as I was on air, a formal White House response to the deportation petition said: "Let's not let arguments over the Constitution's Second Amendment violate the spirit of its First. President Obama believes that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. However, the Constitution not only guarantees an individual right to bear arms, but also enshrines the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press - fundamental principles that are essential to our democracy. Americans may disagree on matters of public policy and express those disagreements vigorously, but no one should be punished by the government simply because he or she expressed a view on the Second Amendment - or any other matter of public concern."Mark Kelly [retired astronaut and husband of former Congresswoman and shooting victim Gabrielle Giffords] emailed: "Gabby and I are watching your show tonight. Congratulations on getting to stay in the US. We need you!"


Everywhere I've gone in LA over this Oscars weekend, I've had stars come up to me wanting to talk about my gun campaign on CNN. Jamie Foxx collared me in an elevator at Soho House about it, and was so animated we had to step outside and wait for another one. "We have to deal with this problem now," he said. "It won't be easy, but I grew up a young black man in Texas. I learned how to compromise with people on emotive issues."Tonight I was dining with friends when Kiefer Sutherland walked over, shook my hand, and said: "I just want to say something to you. I've been watching all the gun stuff you've been doing on CNN, and it's one of the bravest things I've seen anyone do on American television for a very long time."I was genuinely astonished."Just don't stop," he added firmly. "It's too important. We're all behind you."And then he was gone. Jack Bauer had given me my orders.


The US Senate today made its decision on gun control - and rejected every single proposal. No curb on assault weapons, no banning of high-capacity magazines. Not even universal background checks got passed, despite all recent polls saying 90% of the American people want it.I watched as tearful Newtown families broke down inside the Senate, and shared their sense of utter disbelief and fury. They have been betrayed in the most cowardly way imaginable. Politicians, in many cases, voting against their conscience to save their seats. Power before principle., but the truth is that he's failed those families too. He promised he'd get something done, and he got nothing done.Sarah Palin raced to Twitter to declare a jubilant "victory". What a revolting piece of work she is.


of any wrongdoing over the death of Trayvon Martin. A jury in Sanford, Florida decided he was not guilty of either murder or manslaughter when he shot the teenager dead, despite the fact that Trayvon was unarmed and walking home at the time.I don't blame the jury. They applied the law of Florida, which allows self-defence with a gun if you can justifiably claim you were in fear of your life.But one thing is certain: if Zimmerman had not been armed with a gun that night, he would probably have never left his car to follow Trayvon, the altercation would never have happened, and that poor young man would have never been shot dead.I blame the gun.THIS IS AN EDITED EXTRACT FROM SHOOTING STRAIGHT, PUBLISHED ON 17 OCTOBER BY EBURY PRESS AT EUR18.99. TO ORDER A COPY FOR EUR15.19, INCLUDING FREE UK MAINLAND P&P, GO TO OR CALL 0330 333 6846.source
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