On his Thursday show, CNN's Piers Morgan compared the NRA's Wayne LaPierre to conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and drew parallels between the current gun debate and the civil rights and drunk driving debates of decades ago.
When guest Margaret Hoover described America's "gun culture," Morgan interjected, "There was a racist culture, there was a drunk-driving culture." Even liberal Marc Lamont Hill was taken aback. "A Southern gun owner is not like a Klan member. I mean, come on," he admonished Morgan, who claimed "I'm not saying they are." [Video below the break. Audio here.]
Morgan then accused some gun rights advocates of ignoring a child's right to life. "What I'm talking about is a cultural situation in America that is one position, but could change. To me, putting the rights to bear arms over the rights of a child's life is the wrong way around."
He then lumped NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre in with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and accused both "extreme gun rights lobbyists" of inciting someone to mail a ricin-laced letter to President Obama.
"But what is also true is the likes of Alex Jones, the guy that has screamed abuse at me when he came on the show, a lot of these more extreme gun rights lobbyists, and I would actually put Wayne LaPierre from NRA in that category. They are whipping up the rhetoric to such an extreme level – 'Obama is going to grab your guns, defend yourselves, arm yourselves,' record gun sales after Sandy Hook and so on – is it surprising that you're getting some people now flipping and doing this kind of thing? Doesn't surprise me."
During his failed months-long push for gun control, Morgan has done his best to smear the NRA. He has called LaPierre "America's most dangerous man," called the NRA's agenda "murderous," and dared the NRA to "name the number" of children who would be killed in the next school shooting due to lack of gun control.
Conservative guest Margaret Hoover did get in a parting shot at Morgan at the segment's end, when he pleaded that "the British are not coming for your guns. Alright? Trust me."
"You are!" Hoover playfully shot back.
Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on May 30 on Piers Morgan Live at 9:51 p.m. EDT:
PIERS MORGAN: Let's turn to ricin and guns. What I think is interesting about this is you've got various ricin cases. But focusing on the one involving letters to Mayor Bloomberg and the President in which the author of the letters, which was spiked with ricin, said "You will have to kill me and my family before you get my guns. Anyone who wants to come to my house will be shot in the face. The right to bear arms is my constitutional, God-given right. And I will exercise that right until the day I die. What's in this letter is nothing compared to what I've got planned for you."
Margaret Hoover, I mean –
MORGAN: – the right to bear arms is now a God-given right.
MARGARET HOOVER: It is in this country.
MORGAN: Let's discuss that.
HOOVER: – in this country, as you know, as you have been –
MORGAN: A God-given right? I thought it was a constitutional right.
HOOVER: Well – it is a constitutional right. It's a constitutional right.
MORGAN: Is it a God-given right?
HOOVER: Here's the deal, Piers.
MORGAN: Yes or no?
HOOVER: No. It is not a God-given right. This guy is a nut. He's committing a felony. Worse crimes than that. He is sending ricin to Mayor Bloomberg and to the President. He doesn't represent the majority of responsible gun owners in this country.
MORGAN: This is the point I'm going to make to you. And I'm sure that's true. But what is also true is the likes of Alex Jones, the guy that has screamed abuse at me when he came on the show, a lot of these more extreme gun rights lobbyists, and I would actually put Wayne LaPierre from NRA in that category. They are whipping up the rhetoric to such an extreme level – "Obama is going to grab your guns, defend yourselves, arm yourselves," record gun sales after Sandy Hook and so on – is it surprising that you're getting some people now flipping and doing this kind of thing? Doesn't surprise me.
HOOVER: Look, I think you always have crazies. By the way, they were saying "Obama's going to take your guns" before Sandy Hook, before any of this happened –
MORGAN: The rhetoric is getting angrier. Marc?
MARC LAMONT HILL: The rhetoric is definitely getting angrier. But again, like Margaret I would caution us from allowing this one crazy person to become a representative case of people who advocate the Second Amendment or people who advocate gun ownership.
MORGAN: I wasn't saying that.
HOOVER: – responsible gun owners.
MORGAN: I was curious about his link – it's not just a constitutional right, but a God-given right.
LAMONT HILL: Well there are a lot of people who believe that these are natural rights and that these inalienable constitutional rights are given to us because we are endowed them by our creator. I mean, that's part of the document as well. And so it's not –
MORGAN: Is that right?
LAMONT HILL: Absolutely!
MORGAN: Give me an education on the Constitution here. I always believed the Constitution was a legally-framed document drawn up by the Founding Fathers who were the sort of senators of their day. Now I'm being told this is a God-given right to have an AR-15 machine gun?
LAMONT HILL: That's illegal.
HOOVER: You're taking it crazy seriously.
MORGAN: Is it ille – you're trying to argue to me that it may be a God-given right.
LAMONT HILL: You went from gun to AR-15. There's a space in the middle where you could say gun ownership is a reasonable, constitutional right. It's a right of all citizens to have –
MORGAN: What stood out to me was this line about it being a God-given right. I hadn't heard that, even from the more extreme gun rights people I've heard. Don't try to pretend to me that their right to have an AR-15 came from God.
HOOVER: It's entirely possible he's conflating the Declaration of Independence and a God-given right to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness –
LAMONT HILL: That's exactly what he's doing.
HOOVER: – with the Constitution. That's what's going on here. He's also a nut! So, I mean, we shouldn't give him too much credences.
MORGAN: Is he a nut, though, being driven, whoever this person is, by nutty rhetoric from extremists?
LAMONT HILL: Absolutely. There is a "they're taking our guns" narrative that has emerged over the last really not just ten years or five years, but really the last 40 years. And whenever there's a Democrat in office or anyone who gives any resistance to the Second Amendment in their minds, you hear this "they're taking our guns," "the country could turn into tyranny and we need to be able to defend ourselves from it" –
MORGAN: Do you think – let me ask you about it. Do you think that the gun debate will ever change in the way that the drunk driving debate changed in the '70s, the civil rights debate changed from the '60s onwards? Do you think it's one of those things that in the end, it will change?
LAMONT HILL: I think it could, but the difference between that and say civil rights and that and these other issues is big money. There's so much big money invested in protecting the gun lobby. Even though they don't represent the majority of the American people.
HOOVER: It's not just big money, Marc. You and I both know that there's a culture in the United States, a gun-owning culture. And it is the difference between rural and urban, coastal and the middle of the country –
MORGAN: There was a racist culture, there was a drunk-driving culture –
LAMONT HILL: A Southern gun owner is not like a Klan member. I mean, come on.
MORGAN: I'm not saying they are. What I'm talking about is a cultural situation in America that is one position, but could change. To me, putting the rights to bear arms over the rights of a child's life is the wrong way around.
HOOVER: When our country fought the revolution from the country that you're from, the imperative, the part of it that made it distinct was that they were able to do it with their own militias because they had their own guns. It is fundamental to the American founding.
LAMONT HILL: But it's also anachronistic. Come on. We couldn't resist the American government with our shotguns right now.
MORGAN: Sadly I have to leave it. But I have to reassure you, Margaret, the British are not coming for your guns. Alright? Trust me.
HOOVER: You are!
MORGAN: I don't want your guns! I want less of you to die from gunshots. That's all. That's it!