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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT
Deadly Shooting at Oregon Mall; Gun Control in America; Astronaut Mark Kelly Talks Gun Control Legislation
Aired December 12, 2012 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, CNN ANCHOR: This is the 22-year-old man that police say shot up a mall in Oregon crowded with Christmas shoppers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His name is Jacob Tyler Roberts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: This is the type of gun the police say he used. An AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.
Do the founding fathers really have weapons like this in mind when they granted the right to bear arms? Did they ever envision an America with more gun stores than grocery stores?
Tonight eyewitnesses tell me what they saw when the shooting started.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TYLOR PEDERSEN, WITNESS: I wasn't sure if it was for real, at first.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is coming. He's coming. And we start running inside again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: I talked to the gun advocate who says there should have been more guns in that mall. And the mother of one of the Aurora, Colorado, victims who says the opposite.
Plus my all-star panel on the stories America is talking about and arguing about. Guns, North Korea's nuclear threat and Washington's countdown to crisis. And a man who knows both sides of the gun debate, Gabby Giffords' astronaut husband, Mark Kelley.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK KELLEY: President Obama hasn't really addressed the gun issue at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT. Good evening. Our big story tonight. America armed. The day after another gun outrage. A young 22-year-old shooter of a mall full of Christmas shoppers in Oregon.
Here are statistics that you may -- you may find as shocking as I did. There are more than 129,000 federally licensed firearms dealers in this country. That's according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive.
To put that number in perspective, there are mere 36,000 grocery stores and 14,000 McDonald's restaurants. Far, far more places to buy guns in America than groceries or burgers. But the statistic that is most shocking of all, 47,856 people murdered in the U.S. by firearms between 2006 and 2010. Two more murdered last night at Clackamas Town Center and it could have been so, so much worse.
When the shooting began, thousands run for safety while others ducked for cover.
Joining me now two survivors of the mall shooting, Jocelyn Lay, and the man who helped her escape, Allan Fonseca.
Welcome to you both. Jocelyn, let me start with you.
JOCELYN LAY, MALL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: Thank you.
MORGAN: This is everyone's nightmare. You go Christmas shopping in a busy mall and somebody walks in with an assault weapon and just -- begins indiscriminately shooting. What was the first that you discovered this was going on? Where were you and what did you hear?
LAY: I was inside Macy's at the Lancolme counter which is close to the entrance of the mall area where the shooter was. And I was being helped by Allan, and he was almost done with my transaction when this loud boom happened and I first thought that, you know, something had broken. But then immediately there was a second gunshot and then repeated ones. And I knew right away that this was gunfire and we had a terrible situation.
And so Allan and I just looked at each other and it's like we understood that we had to do something and we crouched down by the Lancolme counter.
MORGAN: And Allan, I mean, there have been a number of gun outrages in America in recent months. Was this worst fear coming through and what goes through your mind when you realized what is happening?
What was going through my mind, and I really don't have an explanation for is really nothing. The only thing that was going through my mind is that I had to do my best possible to get as many people out of the building as I could because I knew that a lot of people didn't have access to where the exits were because a lot of them are just holiday shoppers and they don't know where some exits where in the mall. So pure instinct, I just did what I thought was right.
And Allan, do you have training as a Macy's employee? I mean, do most people who work in shopping malls now in America have some kind of training for this kind of thing?
ALLAN FONSECA, MALL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: No, they don't have training for shootings. All we know is that if there is a fire alarm or, you know, something goes off that we just need to exit out of the building. But there was no precise training for a gunshot.
MORGAN: Jocelyn, we know that the shooter who took his own life in the end, but we know that his rifle jammed. It was an assault white rifle. He had several magazines capable of firing multiple, multiple bullets. It could have been an awful lot worse given that he appeared to have gone to this mall with the pure intension of killing innocent people.
What is your view about this ongoing debate in America which I'm vociferous about, many people don't want it all about gun control and about the ability of people like the shooter to get their hands on a weapon of this power and magnitude?
LAY: Well, I feel like that, you know, there is not enough consequences in the United States and, you know, unfortunately, it starts from the home and the home is destructing. And, you know, we don't have, you know, proper authority with the husband and wife and, you know, just different situations like that. That, you know, gunmen are able to be -- you know, we just had an incident here in Portland where an 11-year-old and a 7-year-old were having firearms. So it's just -- it's an unfortunate situation and something has got to change.
FONSECA: For me personally I think that the whole gun thing -- I mean, it's dangerous because a lot of people are allowed to have guns. But I think there is a more deep rooted thing that needs to be pointed out and it's the -- what would cause a young man like the one that did the shooting to do what he did, because he was just a regular person, you know? People saw him as a kind person. And just out of nowhere, he just goes into this. So I don't think it's so much just the guns but what is really going on, you know, in our society --
MORGAN: I think --
FONSECA: -- that is causing young men to do this.
MORGAN: Yes, I think it is -- it is a combination of things. I want to thank you both, Jocelyn and Allan.
We're going to go to somebody now who actually can probably answer all those questions or maybe able to. Friends tell CNN that Jacob Roberts was a good guy. They say they were stunned to learn he was the gunman behind the shooting rampage.
Joining me now is Faye Aleshire who is a childhood friend of Roberts'.
Thank you for joining me, Faye. Obviously an incredibly difficult time for the family, for friends, anyone that knew him. By all accounts he seemed a relatively normal character and this seems completely out of character. What is your view? FAYE ALESHIRE, CHILDHOOD FRIEND OF JACOB ROBERTS: Well, it just -- it felt like a shock. You know, my fiance woke me up this morning and let me know what happened and it felt like I was being lied to. You know, I didn't believe that Jake was capable of such a thing.
We all knew him as a kind person. He was generous. He was -- he was the guy that if you -- you were having a bad day he could make you laugh no matter what.
MORGAN: There is a report, a suggestion, not confirmed yet, that he had sold all his possessions and was planning to move perhaps to Hawaii. Nobody who knew him well quite understood why. Friends who've been with him recently that he was acting in a curious way, very detached.
What can you tell us about that?
ALESHIRE: I -- I mean, I saw the post that he was moving to Hawaii. I didn't hear anything about him selling his belongings or anything so I can't shed too much light on that. But I did see that he was planning on going to Hawaii.
MORGAN: The police are saying that he stole the gun from a friend. Have you any idea where he may have stolen the gun?
ALESHIRE: That -- I'm not aware of any of that.
MORGAN: Obviously, I mean, you seem very shocked by what's happened here. It does seem very out of character. Was there any sign at all, in all the time you knew him, that he would be suffering any kind of mental illness, that he wasn't quite balanced? Did he ever have any flare ups, any behavioral issues at all that would have suggested to you he could even be capable of this?
ALESHIRE: No. Absolutely not. Jake was the last person on my mind that I could have ever thought that would do something like this?
MORGAN: Did he have any family issues that you were aware of?
ALESHIRE: Not that I'm aware of.
MORGAN: It's completely baffling to you?
ALESHIRE: It absolutely is.
MORGAN: You seem very upset, it's hardly surprising. Is the whole community just in deep shock about this?
ALESHIRE: Yes, you know, all of our friends just are trying to comprehend what he may have gone through or what could have happened that led him to do such a drastic thing.
MORGAN: On his Facebook page, there are pictures of him shooting. We're looking at one of them now. He admits to liking shooting. Were you aware of his love of shooting? Of his affiliation to guns at all? ALESHIRE: I mean, I have seen it on his Facebook. But, I mean, there's a lot of us out there that like shooting. I don't think that that was the cause of why he did what he did.
MORGAN: Well, Faye, thank you very much for joining me. I know that you are clearly very shocked and upset by this. And it's probably understandable. But I appreciate you joining the show tonight.
MORGAN: One of the worst mass shootings in this country's history happened in Aurora, Colorado, this summer. Twelve people killed including Jessica Ghawi who previously escaped a mall shooting in Toronto. Jessica's mother Sandy Phillips joins me now, along with her husband, Lonnie Phillips.
Welcome to you both. Thank you for joining me.
SANDY PHILLIPS, DAUGHTER KILLED IN AURORA SHOOTING: Thank you for having me.
LONNIE PHILLIPS, JESSICA GHAWI'S STEPFATHER: Thank you.
MORGAN: The reason I wanted you on is you tweeted me on the night that I interviewed Bob Costas on Monday about gun control.
S. PHILLIPS: Yes.
MORGAN: He obviously is at the center of this big controversy over his halftime comments and he was extremely passionate and articulate about why he believes this country needs more gun control. When you heard about this latest shooting, as I'm sure you must be with all shootings in America now that make the headlines, your heart must sink and it must just take you right back to the nightmare that you went through.
S. PHILLIPS: Yes. Absolutely. Not only myself, but my husband, and the other 11 families that lost a loved one in Aurora. We were all, you know, texting back and forth last night and all of us were shaking and some of us were crying and we understand the pain that those families are going through. That lost loved ones. And those that were traumatized by the event. It's a horrible state of affairs that we're in in America right now and it really needs to be addressed.
And when we have leaders like Lindsey Graham that was on your show the other night that said we're not going to do anything about it because we believe in the Second Amendment, it makes you even more curious as to where this country is heading, because I too believe in the Second Amendment. I, too, a gun owner. So is my husband. And to not address these issues is ludicrous.
MORGAN: Lonnie, the argument that keep being thrown back in my face when I try and raise this after all these outrages is if everybody at Aurora, in that movie theater, had been armed they could have all shot the shooter. I'm sure that the gun lobby would argue the same thing again about what happened in the mall. But if these Christmas shoppers had all been armed, they could have killed him and so on.
What is your response to that particular argument?
L. PHILLIPS: My response to that would be that would not be a good idea to have everyone in that theater or even a few people in that theater with a gun.
I'm a gun owner. As a matter of fact, Grant Lowack, who was with my daughter when she was killed, and I went to a gun show this weekend. I could have bought an AR-15 and many rounds of ammunition and walked out of there without signing anything other than the bill of sale.
So they're readily available. Having a gun in a theater, in a crowded -- any kind of crowded environment -- Brent is a good shot and may have gotten a chance to shoot, but I think his best course of action was to -- exactly what he did, he tried to protect my daughter, he was wounded in the process.
He has a license to carry. And I'm going to get a license to carry because I want to protect my home. I have a shotgun, my wife used to be a member of the National Rifle Association. So we are gun owners and we believe in the Second Amendment. But we believe that there needs to be a dialogue.
Our country needs to talk about some type of gun control. I believe that having our citizens armed and licensed to carry. I would carry a gun in my car, I would not carry one in my person. I don't think I would want to try to shoot somebody and I would not want to face the fact that I missed him and hit somebody, an innocent victim.
S. PHILLIPS: We just had that shooting at the Empire State Building where nine people were injured in -- by officers who are well trained in arms. So, you know, it can happen at any time, any where, but more guns is not necessarily the answer.
S. PHILLIPS: I think stricter controls, when 40 percent of -- when 40 percent of the guns that are bought and sold in America are bought and sold without any background checks, we've got a problem.
MORGAN: Well, you raised some fascinating issues there and I think ever more powerful coming from the position you come from of having lost somebody that you loved to an atrocity like this. I'm so grateful to you for coming on and for talking to you tonight.
Thank you both very much.
S. PHILLIPS: Thank you for having us, Piers.
L. PHILLIPS: Thank you.
MORGAN: Coming next, the big debate. Are more guns the answer or less? We'll get into that after the break.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERIFF CRAIG ROBERTS, CLACKAMAS COUNTY, OREGON: During this attack he was armed with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. The rifle was stolen yesterday from a person known to the suspect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: That's the sheriff talking about the Oregon shooter and how he got his weapon. It's become almost polarizing the issues in America now. The constitutional right to bear arms.
Joining me is Alan Gottlieb, the founder of the Second Amendment Foundation. Also here is Dan Gross, president of the Brady Center and the Brady Campaign.
Welcome to you both. Just had a very moving interview there with the parents of a young woman who lost her life in Aurora. The connection between what happened there or what happened in Oregon is that both of these shooters used an AR-15 semiautomatic weapons.
I suppose my obvious question to you, Allan Gottlieb, is this, is why would anybody in America who is not in the military or the police force need to ever have one of these weapons?
ALAN M. GOTTLIEB, FOUNDER, SECOND AMENDMENT FOUNDATION: Well, first of all, these aren't fully automatic weapons like you get in the military and many police departments have. The semiautomatic may fire one bullet to pull the trigger just like any other semiautomatic rifle that may not look like a military style rifle. So when you try to demonize a gun by what it looks like, you should really look at how it functions.
Some of these AR-15s actually fired .22-caliber bullets. But you're a lot smaller than what -- a hunting rifle would be, as an example. So that's really --
MORGAN: But that is --
With respect, sir, that is not the case in either the incident in Oregon or Aurora, as you well know. And I come back, you look at it -- you can look at it one way. I'm just -- I'm baffled as to what anybody would need a weapon of this sophistication for if the purpose is simply to defend yourself. Explain to me.
GOTTLIEB: Well, the weapon isn't that sophisticated but to be honest about it, why, on your network, on CNN, I remember watching during the L.A. riots Korean merchants on tops of the rooftops of their buildings making sure they weren't robbed or burned down. That was happening all around them.
And the area in Los Angeles, those are the only people who's businesses survived, who's had these types weapons on their rooftops and they were looters, the rioters, the arsonists went elsewhere. There's a good reason. I watch it on your network.
MORGAN: Right. But you may also seen in my network the coverage of the Aurora shooting. James Holmes, the killer there, had four weapons including one of these AR-15s, but he also bought 6,000 rounds of ammunition on the Internet. Het was armed to the teeth and he also had protective gear on him which also what happened with Jacob Roberts in Oregon. They planned this meticulously and they went in with rivals and they went in with these rifles, and had the weapon not jammed in the mall yesterday, we could have been looking at a death toll higher than what happened in Aurora.
Again, I say to you, why do people in America, outside of the military and the police need to have the ability to have an AR-15? I don't understand.
GOTTLIEB: Well, I just gave you -- I just gave you one example in the L.A. riot.
MORGAN: Well, you're saying that --
GOTTLIEB: And more importantly --
MORGAN: If there's a riot, 20 -- a riot 20 years ago, well, hang on.
GOTTLIEB: Hypothetically --
MORGAN: Hang on. Hang on. You're talking about a riot 20 years ago as being the only reason --
GOTTLIEB: Well, we also had --
MORGAN: The only reason why --
GOTTLIEB: Hurricane Andrew --
MORGAN: Unstable young people in America are able to walk in and buy AR-15 semiautomatic rifles and go into shopping malls and to movie theaters and to blow away as many Americans as they possibly can, using these magazines which can carry up to 100 rounds a minute in the case of James Holmes. And we don't know yet about Oregon. But we know he had several magazine --
GOTTLIEB: They don't do 100 rounds a minute because it is --
MORGAN: Well, James Holmes shot 17 people, didn't he?
GOTTLIEB: It only shoots one round --
MORGAN: James Holmes shot 17 people.
GOTTLIEB: I want you to be a little factually correct.
MORGAN: Let me give you some facts.
GOTTLIEB: You're not being accurate.
MORGAN: Let me give you some facts.
GOTTLIEB: Let me give you some facts.
MORGAN: Let me give you a fact.
GOTTLIEB: (INAUDIBLE) the equation.
MORGAN: Let me give you a fact.
GOTTLIEB: In 2012, you're --
MORGAN: Wait a minute. Wait a minute, sir.
MORGAN: You want to talk facts. Let me give you a fact.
GOTTLIEB: If you want to get --
MORGAN: Can you stop talking?
GOTTLIEB: If you want to get a good solution you've got to look at both sides of the equation.
MORGAN: Hey, can you stop talking?
GOTTLIEB: If you want to have a debate, you've got to look at both sides.
MORGAN: Yes. It's debate, you've got to let me speak. Let me speak. It's my show.
Here's a fact for you. James Holmes in Aurora shot 17 people. He killed 12. I spoke to the parents of one of the people he killed just now. This debate is not about the right to defend yourself in a home. It's about why America continues to allow deranged young people to buy these semiautomatic AR-15. I don't get it. You explain to me why other than the riot of some 20 years ago --
GOTTLIEB: Well, Piers, I don't think -- listen.
MORGAN: -- that they should be allowed to continue to easily purchase or steal these weapons?
GOTTLIEB: I don't think -- Piers, I don't think deranged people should be able to have a gun. Piers, deranged people shouldn't be able to have a gun. But if we talk about that, that's one thing. But your position is nobody should have a gun. You think the Second Amendment only protects muskets as you tweeted. The fact of the matter is --
MORGAN: That's not my position at all. (CROSSTALK)
MORGAN: That's not my position at all.
GOTTLIEB: Well, you tweeted that. You tweeted that.
MORGAN: Stop twisting my words. I was talking about the way --
GOTTLIEB: I have a copy of the tweet right here.
MORGAN: I know what I tweeted.
GOTTLIEB: You tweeted it.
MORGAN: I tweeted it. Obviously I know what I tweeted, it was my tweet.
GOTTLIEB: So then why --
MORGAN: Here's what I said. I said -- it's not funny. Why are you laughing?
GOTTLIEB: Because you're not telling the truth. That's why I'm laughing.
MORGAN: Why don't you stop laughing? It looks creepy. All right?
Let me turn to you Dan Gross.
Let me turn to you, Dan Gross. I don't find any of this remotely funny. Let me turn to you, Dan Gross. The reference I made in my tweet after what happened before was that I don't believe that the founding fathers constructed the Second Amendment that they ever imagined that young people in America would be able to buy AR-15 semiautomatic weapons and go into movie theaters and to shopping malls and kill as many innocent Americans as they could their hands on with these very high powered weapons, capable of firing off multiple bullets at a very high speed.
What do we do about this? I mean, we've already heard these parents very movingly. Both of them own guns. One was a former member of the NRA. I -- you know, I don't have any issue with an American's right to defend themselves in their home. I have a massive issue with the ease of it. People who are clearly unstable who just get their hands on AR-15s and commit these atrocities.
DAN GROSS, PRESIDENT, BRADY CENTER AND BRADY CAMPAIGN: Yes, you know, listen, at the end of the day it doesn't matter what I think. And it really -- with all due respect -- doesn't matter what you think. It matters what the vision is of the American public. And, you know, we, all the nation, we know we are better than this. That's why we started this Web site and this petition, Wearebetterthanthis.org, because, you know, we're better than a nation with 32 more murders every day, shootings in malls and movie theaters and places of worship.
And the reality is we need to have an open honest conversation about what we can do to solve the problem. The American public, you know, do they think that the answer to violence is more violence? That the answer to guns is more guns, you know, I would love to open that up in the public discourse and have the American public decide.
Because I think what we would find is that this issue isn't nearly as polarizing as the reaction of Mr. Gottlieb would imply. The overwhelming majority of Americans know we're better than this and they support solutions than can prevent tragedies like what happened to your last guests and what happened in Portland -- in Oregon last night.
You know, another solution I would put out there is background checks. Mr. Gottlieb said, let's talk about keeping guns out of the hands -- excuse me, sir. And Mr. Gottlieb said, let's keep guns out of the hands of mentally deranged people.
You know, 40 -- as those guests, very well educated guests said in your last segment, 40 percent of all gun sales are not subject to background checks in our country. So you at the top of the show, Piers, talked about how many federally licensed firearm dealers there are. Not only represent 60 percent of gun sales where there are background checks, so there are 40 percent.
So, you know, keeping a gun out of the hand of a convicted felon, out of a convicted domestic abuser, out of the hands of somebody who's dangerously mentally ill has nothing to do with the Second Amendment. And I would hope that Mr. Gottlieb agrees and you know, I'm -- my hope is that we can find --
GOTTLIEB: I agree.
GROSS: Good. And -- so my hope is that we can find a middle ground that together we can advocate for sensible solutions like criminal background checks on the other 40 percent of gun sales that aren't subject to them. And maybe we can have the civil discourse that's going to be necessary to solve this problem that the overwhelming majority of Americans wants to have.
MORGAN: OK, Mr. Gottlieb, let me ask you this. Would you genuinely believe that if everybody had been armed in the shopping mall this would have prevented the shooter from killing anybody? And would you encourage people who go to shopping malls in America tomorrow to go armed?
GOTTLIEB: Piers, first of all, (INAUDIBLE) -- would I encourage everybody to be armed? I never encourage everybody to be armed. All I --
MORGAN: Who do you encourage to be armed? GOTTLIEB: You should have the right to be -- you should have the right to be armed. The shopping mall had a sign at every single door going into it that said no firearms allowed. The theater in Aurora had a sign no firearms allowed. It's become killing zones for criminals. They can go in, it's a victim disarming zone. That's not the way to do it. If you look at almost all these mass shootings, where do they happen? In gun free school zones. On college campuses where we can't have a gun. In malls where you can't have a gun. In movie theaters where you can't have a gun.
Doesn't that give you any alarm bell?
MORGAN: I'll tell you what -- I'll tell you what makes alarm bells to me is that until 2004, following the ban on these assault weapons, then there was a ban on these AR-15s and now there isn't.
Why not? Why did you go backwards? Why do you feel comfortable if that's what you do, Mr. Gottlieb? What do you feel comfortable in allowing young people who may or may not be deranged to have such easy access to these particular type of assault weapons?
I just don't get it.
GOTTLIEB: OK, well, first of all, Piers, let me say that there really wasn't a ban. There was a ban on new production of them. (INAUDIBLE) we had when -- and in the year where they discussed banning them, there's a 10-year supply they sold in one year because people wanted them for self protection before they were banned. And the ban disappeared at sunset at 10 years later. All the ban did was put the guns on the street 10 years earlier. And what was the effect? No increase in crimes using those particular kinds of firearms at all.
Unlike Britain and U.K. where firearms are banned, this past year you've had a 35 percent increase in gun crime. Gun crime has gone up every year for the last four years.
MORGAN: Do me a favor, honestly --
GOTTLIEB: Ban guns in the U.K.
MORGAN: Do me a favor, do you now how many people got murdered with guns in Britain on average in the last three or four years? Do you have any idea?
GOTTLIEB: Yes. Yes. Less because the large population of the United States --
MORGAN: How many? How many?
GOTTLIEB: But to be honest with you --
MORGAN: Let me just --
(CROSSTALK) MORGAN: Let me give you -- you're keen on facts. Mr. Gottlieb --
MORGAN: Again, can you stop talking? Let me just interrupt.
GOTTLIEB: Well, why don't you look at both sides?
MORGAN: I'm going to give you both sides. You've just said there is a massive surge in gun crime in Britain. Let me tell you the reality.
MORGAN: Right. In America, in the last three or four years, you've averaged 11,000 to 12,000 murders from guns in a population of, what, 330, 340 million? In Britain, we have 60 million people.
GOTTLIEB: That --
MORGAN: About sixth of the population, we have 35 to 40 maximum murders from guns a year. You do the same math that I'm doing?
GOTTLIEB: Yes, OK. Well, explain to me why it's double in Britain it was before the ban and why it's up 35 percent this year if you have a ban? Gun control doesn't work. Criminals don't obey laws. That's why they're called criminals.
MORGAN: It's just -- it's just total claptrack to argue that. It's total claptrack. And again, let me just leave you with one last question which you haven't answered.
Do you feel comfortable, given what happened in Aurora and now in Oregon, do you feel comfortable that tomorrow another unstable 21, 22- year-old kid who may have seen these stories in the papers, maybe watching this very show, and maybe inspired to go out and do exactly the same thing, and can easily go and purchase in many states in America an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and magazines on the Internet that can explode hundreds of bullets in rapid fire time?
Do you feel comfortable that that is easy to do in your country, Mr. Gottlieb?
GOTTLIEB: It should be easy for law-abiding people, for people who are mentally -- mentally deranged or people who commit violent crimes know it shouldn't be and we need to work on that. That's 1 percent of the population. That's where the effort should go. Not attacking the right to the other 99 percent of the population.
MORGAN: OK. Let's leave it there. Mr. Gottlieb and Mr. Gross, thank you both very much for joining me.
GOTTLIEB: My pleasure. MORGAN: Coming up, "Battleground America." My all-star panel on the stories the country is talking about tonight. We're going to talk about guns obviously and then the dysfunction in Washington today over the fiscal cliff, and the very serious nuclear threat from North Korea.
MORGAN: Now to my all-star Battleground American panel, the stories this country are talking about tonight, and arguing about. Joining me now is Carol Roth, author of "The Entrepreneur Equation," Abby Huntsman, host of Huff Post Live, and Charles Blow, the op-ed columnist for the "New York Times."
Let's go around to guns because another day, another atrocity. Charles, what is going to happen here, if anything? I thought the most moving thing tonight was the interview with the two parents of the young woman who lost her life in Aurora, who were both gun owners. They're not anti-gun.
And I think that's the way you have to frame this debate. It is not about being anti-gun. America is a country with the Second Amendment. You have to respect the right of people to have a gun to defend their families, if they want it? What do we though about this proliferation of these things, these assault rifles? I don't know why anybody in America needs one of these if they're not in the military or the police.
CHARLES BLOW, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Right. And I think that that is the problem and that is kind of the challenge, is that we have to change our relationship to guns. It's not about banning people's access to guns. I'm from a small town in Louisiana, a farming community. People hunt. You have to keep the snakes out of the grass, the vermin out of the garden. People use guns for that. There are probably more humane ways of doing that, but there is not a cheaper, more efficient way of doing it. A lot people use guns for that purpose.
Also, because it is rural, you can't just pick up the phone and call 911 and expect someone to be there in five minutes. It's going to take an hour. So if you have to protect your home, a lot of people do have handguns for that sort of thing.
So it is not about saying you cannot own a gun for your protection or for sport or for whatever. However, there are guns that were specifically designed for military use, including AR-15s. And only in the '60s did they begin to be sold to the public. And I think that we do have to reexamine our relationship to military style guns being in the civilian population.
And I think that what is happening, and I think the most dangerous part, is that we are now getting to sort of a critical mass. Because there are so many being sold, if you were to stop now, then there are so many out there that you now have a real problem.
MORGAN: Well, that to me seems the big problem. Abby, you Tweeted today, "for one, no one needs an assault weapon. And two, what's it going to take to enforce background checks?"
ABBY HUNTSMAN, HUFF POST LIVE: I think the Founding Fathers would be absolutely shocked if they were witnessing what is going on in our country right now. This really comes back to, as we have all been saying, protecting the Second Amendment. If that means banning assault weapons, if that means providing background checks, I think the American people are common sense enough to realize that that's exactly what we need to do.
I mean, your interview just a few moments ago with Jessica's mom, she's like so many Americans that say, I own a gun. I am all about --
MORGAN: That's why I found it powerful. It's not about banning all guns.
HUNTSMAN: But --
MORGAN: Defend to me, this Carol --
MORGAN: Explain to me why anyone in America should have one of these?
CAROL ROTH, AUTHOR, "THE ENTREPRENEUR EQUATION": It is about this or a bomb or any weapon. It's about the people. And I think that that's the crux of the issue when we're talking about the legislation, let's talk about what is going on in our culture that would cause people to take any weapon --
MORGAN: Carol, three children under 10 in America in the last week got hold of fire arms in their family homes and either killed or critically injured siblings.
ROTH: And it is tragic.
MORGAN: But you say to me, it's not about the guns. It's about the people. Are they evil children?
ROTH: Of course not.
MORGAN: Then what do you do about this?
ROTH: People choke on hot dogs. People fall into pools and drown.
MORGAN: You're equating somebody using a gun --
ROTH: Can I make my point? The point is that accidents happen. If we want to have a productive dialogue, this is a very emotional --
BLOW: These are not accidents. I think that you have to separate -- It is about the brutal efficiency of high powered, semiautomatic and/or automatic weapons, assault weapons. In that case, it actually is about guns.
MORGAN: -- had several loaded magazines and an AR-15. He may as well have been a commando in Afghanistan. And he was --
HUNTSMAN: I think the only thing we disagree on, all of us, is the assault weapons part. That's why -- the question is why should anyone -- anyone have an assault weapon?
ROTH: They exist. Let me ask you this --
MORGAN: Is that the justification?
ROTH: If you ban them, do you think that it keeps it out of the hands of criminals? Has that worked for drugs? Has that worked for prostitution? Has it worked for anything that we ban? Does it keep it out of the hands of the people who are irresponsible?
MORGAN: Do you believe -- does the Second Amendment allow you to have a tank?
ROTH: I think actually it does. I think there are people with a class three license who can have a tank.
MORGAN: Are you comfortable with everybody having a tank?
ROTH: I think that that is not the debate. And you're trying to sensationalize.
MORGAN: I'm not actually. I'm talking about the interpretation of the Second Amendment. , The right to bear arms has to have limitation. And it should involve limiting these.
ROTH: But limiting the people. I believe let's legislate the people. I'm all for - who should not have these? If there are people with violent backgrounds, that's fine --
BLOW: That is the problem. This is not "Gun Smoke." We're not all going to walk around with a gun strapped to our waste. I believe that people have the right to bear arms because it makes them feel safer. I also believe that you have the right to not bear arms and feel safe in this society. And when you get to the point where you no longer can feel safe in the society by choosing not to bear arms --
MORGAN: I'm saying that now we don't even have a conversation because the moment that someone brings up the idea of getting rid of -- one second -- getting rid of assault weapons, like both Romney and President Obama discussed in one of their debates, the NRA jumps in, spends millions of dollars --
(CROSSTALK) MORGAN: No, it is about assault weapons. It is. James Holmes in Aurora and this shooter in Oregon both used this weapon. It is about this. They were banned. They are not banned anymore. The way to deal with criminals with these is not to arm everybody on the streets with the same weapon.
ROTH: If you think that that had been illegal, do you think that would have stopped them from killing people, Piers?
MORGAN: I think you have to try, haven't you? In a country with 11,000 to 12,000 gun murders a year, you've got to do something.
HUNTSMAN: Carol, I think the argument that we need assault to protect ourselves from those that have assault weapons, I don't think that's a good enough argument. I think people are responsible to not respond with an assault weapon.
But you asked the question in the beginning, what do we do about. And you brought up the point, the fact is it is not being talked about by our political leaders. It's not being talked about because it's so politically sensitive. And it is up to them to start this.
MORGAN: I think it's one of the shameful things. Mark Kelly, who I interview at the end of the show tonight, he says exactly that point. He should know. His wife is Gabby Giffords. Let's take a break.
We're going to take a break and come back to discuss this more, and other big issues.
MORGAN: Back now with my all star panel, Carol Roth, Abby Huntsman and Charles Blow. We will get to the fiscal cliff, but I've decided to abandon that, because nothing has happened today. They are a bunch of little children and until they all grow up in Congress and Washington, I'm not interested.
So why don't you sort yourselves out. And we'll come back to you when you have done a deal, hopefully before Christmas, so we can all enjoy ourselves.
Let's turn to North Korea, because that is actually quite worrying and quite serious. Just quite quickly, Charles, is it posturing by North Korea's rulers towards its people, to show a bit of power, flex a bit of muscle? Is it something genuinely to be worried about, do you think?
BLOW: I think it is always something to be worried about. I think we had some hopes that maybe with a new leader, with Little Kim, they call him, that we would turn a corner and maybe he would be a little bit softer, less aggressive. That has turned out not to be the case.
What I think is encouraging, though, at least in this last round, is China's response. They have been a little bit tougher than I expected them to be. It is still to be seen if they will move to add sanctions or to tighten sanctions or whatever. But I think moving them into the crowd of the rest of the world view about nuclear proliferation and --
MORGAN: It is important. Abby, you have lived in China. China is pivotal not just there, but it's pivotal in Syria, with Iran, with almost everywhere at the moment. Everyone's looking to China for leadership. And they've shown a bit of it on this, I think..
HUNTSMAN: Let's be clear, North Korea, all they really have is military power. And what keeps them afloat? China. So every time we talk about North Korea, we're really talking about our relationship with China. And it is such an important one. And so this really signifies the magnitude of importance here.
China is a tough relationship. It really reminds me of a game of Chess. It is not a game of checkers. In Chess, you really need to think 10 steps -- 10 moves ahead when you're dealing with China. So if you want to talk to them about human rights, then you are going to have to take something else off the table. You have to move forward in a way that we can work with China, because it is a challenge, but it's also potentially an opportunity.
MORGAN: Well, it is crucial. Carol, China is pivotal economically, increasingly military, politically certainly. It is the place that everyone has to look to for guidance and leadership on all of these issues.
ROTH: Right, and I think that the big question here is can we believe that China really is all up in arms, excuse the pun, over the situation, or are they really secretly behind the scenes? And if they are, we are in big trouble. Because if we go to in to some sort of a war over there, we are not going to be able to finance it, because we get our money right now from China.
We can't get it from Japan. We can't get it from Europe. We have 16 trillion dollars in debt. So back to the fiscal cliff that we just went by.
MORGAN: We jumped the shark. You mentioned the dreaded cliff word, at which point I'm cutting you all off. So Carol, Abby and Charles, thank you. You have been one of the liveliest panels and certainly the most aesthetically pleasing that I have had since yesterday.
Anyway, when it comes to guns, my next guest knows the problem all too well, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords husband, Astronaut Mark Kelly, coming up next.
MORGAN: As we've seen here tonight with the debate on guns, they are a divisive issue in this country. And a man who can see both sides of it probably better than most is Mark Kelly. He's former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' husband, also an astronaut, and he talked to me earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MORGAN: Welcome back to you, Mark.
MARK KELLY, NASA ASTRONAUT: Hey, good evening, Piers. It's great to be here.
MORGAN: I saw a story in the last few days that said that Smith and Wesson had increased gun sale by 44 percent since Barack Obama was re- elected. And they've never had higher numbers of people applying for a clearance and licenses and so on.
I found that vaguely terrifying. I've got to be honest with you. What is your reaction to this extraordinary proliferation in gun sales?
KELLY: Well, it's surprising. President Obama hasn't really addressed the gun issue at all after he was elected the first time, you know, during his first four years in office. While the issue has come up, there hasn't been much done to try to address the problem. Though, you know, Walmart also saw record sales in ammunition following his first Inauguration.
So I'm quite surprised by that. I didn't hear that statistic from by Smith and Wesson, but it's pretty interesting to see.
MORGAN: When I have this debate -- I have it a lot -- a lot of Americans say to me, listen, it's the Second Amendment. It's our Constitution. We have a right to bear arms. And primarily we want to have guns to protect ourselves and our family. You will have heard that argument many times.
Clearly, guns did not protect your family. What is your answer to that? Do you understand it? Do you empathize with it? What is the answer?
KELLY: Well, I personally believe that people have a right to protect themselves in their home, that they should be allowed to have a gun to protect them and their family. But I also think that we have an issue with the access that people have to guns, that it's so easy to buy a gun, especially in certain states. And in certain circumstances, people that are mentally ill can acquire a gun or even, you know, in some cases a former felon can.
So these are problems that I think need to be addressed. You know, we elect some smart people that should be able to work out these issues. They've just -- they've just neglected to do it on -- in this particular case. And there are reasons that politicians tend to ignore this issue.
MORGAN: Let's turn to things up in space. Forty years ago, Apollo 17 lifted into the night and sent the last humans to the Moon. Do you think we'll ever see human beings on the Moon again, in your lifetime, in my lifetime?
KELLY: Well, you initially said ever, and ever is a long time. But in our lifetimes? I think there's a good probability we will get somebody back on the Moon. Maybe it's not the United States of America. Maybe it will be a Chinese astronaut on the surface of the Moon next. I hope that's not the case.
I think we have strong reasons for going there. Mars, on the other hand, is a much bigger problem. To send somebody to Mars and safely get them back to Earth would be one of the greatest challenges we've ever taken on as a species.
MORGAN: Would you like to do that?
KELLY: Well, I would. It's a long trip. If you're going to stay there for more than two weeks, you're going to stay there for 500 days. And 500 days is a long time. My brother is getting ready to go into space a couple years from now, but he's going to go into space for a year. A year is a very long time. But imagine doing a 500-day trip. That's kind of -- that brings us back to when ships left Europe and didn't plan to come back for years. We're looking at that kind of mission.
MORGAN: I'm just trying to imagine the scene where you tell Gabby, hey, I'm just off to Mars for 500 days.
KELLY: Yeah, I don't think she would be digging that all that much.
MORGAN: Tell me about your book, "Moustronaut," beautifully designed and illustrated. A lot of fun. It's a nice children's book Why did you decide to do this?
KELLY: On my first space flight, we carried 18 mice on board for an experiment. And 17 of them were not having a good time. They were terrified, stuck to the inside of the cage. But one of them -- and this is the true part of the story -- really seemed to enjoy the experience.
MORGAN: It's a lot of fun. It's a lot of fun. I'm going to look forward to showing it to my little daughter, I think. Mark, it's great to talk to you again. Good luck with all that you do. Send my very best to Gabby. How's she doing?
KELLY: She's doing very well, Piers. You know, she's got a great attitude about her recovery, about where she's going. You know, she's getting involved in -- not exactly back to work, but we've been involved in a new organization called the National Institute for Civil Discourse.
MORGAN: That's great. Nice to talk to you.
KELLY: Thanks for having me on, Piers. Appreciate it.
MORGAN: That's all for us tonight. "AC 360" starts in a few moments.