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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT

Guns in America

Aired January 15, 2013 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Good evening. This is the PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT special, "Guns in America."

You're looking live at White House where tomorrow President Obama will unveil his gun control plan for the nation, believed to be the most sweeping and controversial since the creation of the Second Amendment. Press secretary Jay Carney says the president's proposals will be significant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has made clear that he intends to take a comprehensive approach, including the assault weapons ban, including a measure to ban high-capacity magazine clips, including an effort to close the very big loopholes in the background check system in our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Is the White House plan enough? Tonight I'll talk to experts on both sides of the gun battle.

Plus victims' families and big city mayors leading the charge for gun control.

And listen to this. Adam Lanza murdered 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook. At least 917 Americans have been killed by guns. Well, the NRA reports an unprecedented surge in membership, up 250,000 over the past month. Add to that, record sales of AR-15 assault rifles.

So what's the solution? More weapons or stricter laws?

We'll talk about all of that tonight with our studio audience. It's our version of the town hall, the most important issue facing America right now.

Here's what the president is going to propose tomorrow. He will press for a ban on high capacity magazines with more than 10 rounds. He will push for universal background checks and increase criminal and mental health checks. He'll press for an assault weapons ban and the president will request that money be made available to treat mental illness and provide schools at all levels support to enhance safety.

If you've been watching our show in the last few weeks, indeed months, you know that I agree with most of that and have campaign for it. All this comes on a day of two new school shootings. One in Kentucky that left two dead, another in St. Louis in Missouri that left two men injured.

Tonight, I want you to be a part of the discussion on guns in America. Join the conversation on Twitter, @PiersMorgan. Use our hash tag which is gunsinAmerica.

Let's get started. Joining me now is Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and his police commissioner, Charles Ramsey. And here also James Fault, a Northeastern University criminologist, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, the son of Vice President Joe Biden, and Danny Webster. He's the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.

Welcome to you all. Let me start with you if I may, Mr. Mayor. You're a mayor of a major American city, a violent city, like many of the big cities in America. From what you understand of what the president will be revealing tomorrow, as what he wants to push forward with, is that enough?

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER (D), PHILADELPHIA: It is a fantastic start, Piers. And the problem is we haven't done enough in the past. So first and foremost, President Obama and certainly the work of Vice President Biden needs to be commended. This will not be easy. We all know that. And so for all those -- if there are going to be those voices already saying, is it enough, how about joining the fight to make sure that we're successful, and then we'll keep pushing forward.

MORGAN: Police Commissioner Ramsey, there are two issues here, it seems to me, in terms of the type of violence. You have the predominantly handgun violence of criminals and gangs. And then you have the mass shootings, which have escalated in recent years. I think half of the 12 worst mass shootings in American history have come since 2007. Most of them now happen with the AR-15 style assault rifle.

It seems to me that they're almost two different issues to deal with, certainly from a policing point of view.

CHARLES RAMSEY, PHILADELPHIA POLICE COMMISSIONER: Well, semiautomatic handguns pose the biggest threat to us in cities. Last year in Philadelphia, we had 331 homicides, 85 percent were committed with a firearm and a vast majority semiautomatic handguns and 9 millimeter being the most important.

I think all these laws have to fit together. It's not an either/or proposition. Banning assault weapons in and of itself is not going to solve the problem. You have to do it in combination with a variety of things. So I'm pleased that the administration is moving forward. I agree with the mayor. It's a start but it's not the finish.

MORGAN: Right. Let's turn to Beau Biden.

I mean, the reality, Beau, isn't it, that this will not solve the gun crime problem in America, it's not going to stop mass shootings. What it is, it seems to me, is an imminently sensible reaction to the horrors of what happened in Sandy Hook and, indeed, in Aurora and the other seven mass shootings in 2012.

BEAU BIDEN, DELAWARE ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I think what we're going to see tomorrow is a common sense approach to dealing with the issues you've laid out, both mass shootings, tragedies like what happened in Connecticut but also what's happening on the streets of my city and the city I love and used to work in in Philadelphia, whether it'd be the market street in Philadelphia or market street in Wilmington, Delaware.

You see a -- you know, a proliferation of weapons being used, you see younger and younger people using them, being used on them and against them. So this is going to be a comprehensive approach to deal with all these issues.

You know, three kind of legs that this stool is going to be built on. One is dealing with gun violence. Two is dealing with school safety. And three, I think, is dealing with the mental health category and making sure you have a rational approach to making sure that people who have mental illnesses, not just those who have been adjudicated as such, have less access to weapons.

And I hope that what we're going to be hearing about that tomorrow, that's what we're going to be talking about in my state.

MORGAN: But certainly you've seen both in your state and now New York with Governor Cuomo bringing pretty stringent laws to a state that already had tough pretty laws. As it seems to me they are, as the commissioner said, they're attacking now all aspects of this. Because there are many threads to how you deal with gun violence in America.

You know, I have a particular interest in the assault weapon ban because I just simply can't understand why these military-style weapons are even in civilian hands. But you have to add in mental health, the potential impact of video violent games on deranged people, Hollywood movies, even. But certainly the handgun situation as well.

Beau, your father has obviously put in a lot of time in this, as he did before. One of the big reality checks tomorrow is going to be whatever the president says on your father's recommendations, can it get through Congress? Can it actually become law?

BIDEN: Well, that remains to be seen. Congress has an obligation to act. You know, I'm not going to preview what the president is going to say and what my father has recommended to him. I'm going to attend tomorrow. I look forward to hearing what they're offering. I know it's comprehensive, I know my father has put a lot of thought and effort, meeting with all the stakeholders from the NRA, they are to victims and survivors in Connecticut, to other sportsmen as well as people that have been on the fight to have a sensible gun policy in America. But, look, on the assault weapons piece of this, look, I served in the military. I was assigned an M-16 for the majority of my career. These are weapons designed for battlefields, not -- not our cities and communities. So that's a part of it. But a big part of it, Piers, and something you've talked about very eloquently, is right now under the 1968 Gun Control Act, one of the categories of people that are prohibited are people that have been adjudicated mentally ill.

I have a view and again, I talk to the leaders here in the state about whether or not that's too narrow a group. Whether or not how do we deal with the person who's adjudicated rather diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. Should they be able to walk out of their diagnosis from their psychiatrist and go to the Wal-Mart and buy a weapon?

Under the current law, they can because unless they've been adjudicated mentally ill they can. So these are going to be difficult issues. You're going to involve privacy folks who are very great defenders of privacy, a line with defenders of the Second Amendment. These are difficult issues we need to work through. I'm confident that the administration's package is going to attack those things as we are here in the city of Delaware.

MORGAN: I'll turn to you, Dr. Webster. You've spent the last two days at more than 20 of the world's leading gun policy experts, formulating research, based policies to reduce gun violence in the United States. Tell me this. How does the United States compare to other countries? Take the most industrialized countries in the world. Is it as shocking as many would have us believe?

DANIEL WEBSTER, DIRECTOR, JOHNS HOPKINS CENTER FOR GUN POLICY AND RESEARCH: Yes, it is. If you compare United States homicide rates with other high-income countries in terms of their average homicide rates, ours is approximately six times higher than other countries of similar wealth. If you look at our firearm homicide rates, our rates are 22 times higher than other countries.

MORGAN: Dr. Fox, you're an expert of school and mass shootings. And I suppose the obvious question for people like me that reacted with such horror to Sandy Hook and demand these assault weapons be removed from circulation, is this. Would it actually make any difference? Are they choosing these weapons because they're easy to get ahold of? Will they just go and find some other weapon that can do the same job for them?

DR. JAMES FOX, NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY CRIMINOLOGIST: Well, this is like Sandy Hook certainly to motivate us to do some reasonable, sensible things that we -- that we must do about gun violence. But they will have the least likelihood of impacting mass murder.

Mass murder is a very deliberate, very determined to reach their mission. And they will do whatever they need to do to get a weapon, no matter what we put in their way. All these strategies the White House is talking about are good ideas, but the fact of the matter is that there's, unfortunately, far too many weapons already in circulation, which a mass murderer can acquire.

And even if he can't get a gun, by the way, the largest mass murder in America was with bombing, that's Oklahoma City. The second largest, with fire, in the Bronx. So these are all good ideas. But if you -- if you expect that this will prevent the next Sandy Hook from occurring -- and I hear people saying that -- you'll be bitterly disappointed.

MORGAN: Mr. Mayor, let me ask you. You're a mayor of a huge city, like I said, with a lot of these problems you have to deal with directly on a daily basis. Clearly there's no easy fix to this. Underpinning it all is that you have a culture of guns and of gun violence in this country.

NUTTER: Right.

MORGAN: Which is unlike almost anywhere else in the world. How do you deal with that issue? How do you deal with the Americans who say, no, you're not having any of my guns, it's my Second Amendment right to bear arms, I can have all this?

NUTTER: Well, first of all, no one is talking about taking anyone's weapon. But even the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear, in Chicago ruling and the Washington, D.C. ruling, that you can place reasonable restrictions on guns. Many, many states have a variety of -- almost a menu of restrictions in terms of type of weapon, type of ammunition, et cetera, et cetera. I commend Governor Cuomo and the assembly in the Senate in New York. They're respecting the Second Amendment. But they're trying to make their state that much safer.

So, I mean, this is not about the second amendment. As you have said earlier, I have said certainly many, many times, why does a civilian need a military-style assault weapon? Why does a civilian need body armor? You cannot buy hand grenades. Those are weapons. But somehow they are prohibited. You can't buy an F-15 just because you think that you'd like to have that kind of device. So, I mean, we need to talk about more serious things.

MORGAN: So you have, actually, a lot of gun control in America. This is the myth of this debate. There's already substantial gun control.

Commissioner, let me ask you this. I mean, lots of things are banned already. It's merely a question, really, of degree. And I have yet to hear a good argument for why an AR-15, which is a military-style weapon, why that should be in civilian hands. No one can say anything other than they're fun to use. Well, that's not good enough anymore, is it?

RAMSEY: Well, listen, I agree with you. I think there's no legitimate reason for a civilian to have those kinds of weapons. But the kinds of laws that I would like to see across the board, and I think it has to be done at the federal level because Pennsylvania is a very good example of very weak gun laws, just the opposite of New York. But registering firearms. If you want to -- sell the firearm, there should be -- gone through a Federal Firearms License dealer where there's a background check done, there's some transfer of title just like if you sold your automobile. You just can't give your car away and not transfer the title.

MORGAN: Well, this is what gets me, is that they always throw back at me on Twitter or whatever it may be, yes, but what about cars? They kill more people than guns. But of course cars have another purpose. They transport people.

RAMSEY: They do.

MORGAN: Guns have just the one person.

RAMSEY: Yes. Yes.

MORGAN: And in relation to driving a car you have to go through all sorts of regulations.

RAMSEY: You have to be licensed.

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: Americans go along with that. So this kind of invasion of your rights, I don't get. A gun is more dangerous than a car.

NUTTER: They're not particularly serious arguments and they're not people who want to be serious about public safety. They don't get the phone calls. They don't get the e-mails and text messages about another body in the streets. And so this is what we deal with on a daily basis. And we mourn, certainly, the tragic loss in Newtown or Aurora or Tucson. But in cities all across America almost on a daily basis, someone is shot and people are killed, and we do have a culture of violence issue in the United States of America that we must address.

MORGAN: Thirty-five Americans are killed with guns every day.

NUTTER: Yes.

MORGAN: More than double that take their own lives every day.

NUTTER: Yes.

MORGAN: And then you can add another whole load who get hit by gunfire, and thanks to developments in modern surgery they survive.

RAMSEY: Well, we're very fortunate. I mean, we've got excellent trauma centers or the numbers would be a lot higher than they are now. But, I mean, Dr. Fox mentioned that, you know, it's not an absolute that will stop mass shootings. I understand that. I think everybody understands that. But we need to put in place as much as we possibly can to try to minimize the opportunity for people who should not have guns to get their hands on them and use them.

MORGAN: Dr. Fox, do you want to jump in here?

FOX: Yes. Yes, let me add one thing. The Mayors against Guns brought this up just yesterday in their report. We also have to deal with how guns get into the illegal gun market. This is not necessarily just gun show issue or background checks. But we need to repeal the Tiahrt Amendment. That's the amendment that prevents people like me and other researchers to identify the rogue dealers who just aren't doing what they should be doing in terms of keeping the best records and making sure that the wrong people don't buy guns.

We know, for example, that less than 1 percent of gun dealers in this country are responsible for about half the guns that are used in violent crimes. We need to identify those dealers and perhaps make sure that they upgrade their business practice.

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: Well, but also you have --

FOX: That requires you also have to do something about the Tiahrt Amendment.

MORGAN: Right. I mean, you have the (INAUDIBLE) of Chicago which gets blamed for this horrific gun violence they have. But half of the illegal guns they find in Chicago come from Indiana, where they have much more lax control.

Keep everybody here. Let's take a break. When we come back next, gun rights advocates will join me and my panel to defend the NRA. And why they say more gun control is wrong for America.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Welcome back to my special "Guns in America," thanks to everyone for joining us. With me is again Mayor Michael Nutter, Commissioner Charles Ramsey, also James Fox, and Beau Biden and Daniel Webster.

Want to bring in now Scottie Hughes. She's the news director of the Tea Party News Network. Her brother was shot and killed when they were children. Also Nicholas Johnson, who's a professor of law at Fordham University School of Law and co-author of "Firearms and the Second Amendment," and Lou Palumbo, he's director of the Elite Intelligent and Protection Security firm, also a former police officer.

Welcome to you all.

Scottie, let me start with you. You obviously had an awful tragedy in your early life involving firearms. Despite that, you have quite strong views that there should be no more gun control, as such. Why is that?

SCOTTIE HUGHES, NEWS DIRECTOR, TEA PARTY NEWS NETWORK: Well, because evil is going to happen. That is the thing. They will find a way. If someone wants to do somebody harm, they're going to do it regardless if they use a gun, a knife or any sort of tool. And all this is doing is punishing the legal, good citizens of the United States and taking away rights that were given to us by our founding fathers.

MORGAN: Do you think the founding fathers ever had in mind, when they framed the Second Amendment, at a time when muskets were the preferred weapon of choice and took maybe 15 seconds to reload, an AR- 15-style Bushmaster rifle that could unload perhaps 100 bullets in a minute?

HUGHES: Well, with that same thinking, though, you could look at the First Amendment and you could say, could the founding fathers imagine something like the Internet and maybe cable news networks? And if we're going to sit there and we're going to start applying it to the Second Amendment and to different weapons, where do we stop? Where do we draw the line?

MORGAN: But the First Amendment refers to the freedom of expression, on speech and for the press. I mean, that hasn't changed depending on the medium. But the apparent ability of an AR-15 compared to a musket to cause mass carnage and mass murder is significantly different.

NICHOLAS JOHNSON, LAW PROFESSOR AT FORDHAM UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW: Piers, the other thing to think about here, though, is the variation between the power of the individual and the power of the state. At the time that you're talking about in 1787, the government had muskets and individuals had muskets. There was a very close correlation between the power to use violence on both sides.

The other thing that you have to take into account, and this is something I haven't heard in this debate, and that is, that if you look basically to the middle of the 19th century, 1862, the Winchester Henry rifle, a report on that rifle that I just cited in a recent paper showed that it fired 15 rounds in less than 10 seconds.

The fact of the matter is that repeating technology is 150 years old. And one of the worries here, I think, for people who are on the other side of this is that when we go through this bad gun analysis that there's not really a solid boundary between the current category of assault weapons, particularly rifles, and any other gun that is out there.

MORGAN: Why -- why ban machine guns then?

JOHNSON: Machine guns were banned in 1934 as a result of the National Firearms Act.

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: Why ban --

JOHNSON: I think you can make a coherent distinction between semiautomatic firing and automatic firing.

MORGAN: Explain to me the distinction. JOHNSON: Well, the --

MORGAN: Between an M-16, say, a military machine gun.

JOHNSON: Sure. Sure.

MORGAN: And an AR-15 semiautomatic that may have been modified, for example.

JOHNSON: Well, you added modified, but the fundamental distinction is that the machine gun will fire -- first of all, it's crew-served. It will fire from a belt. The machine guns that are mainly targeted under the National Firearms Act are guns that you could categorize as requiring multiple individuals to operate. So the idea --

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSON: No, so the idea that --

MORGAN: Right. Because AR-15 with 100 bullets in a minute and somebody like the shooter in Aurora, Holmes, used a magazine with 100 bullets and an AR-15, they are effectively machine guns. Are they? I mean --

JOHNSON: No, they are not. The --

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSON: No, they're not.

MORGAN: I know they're not in terms of potential (INAUDIBLE) description. But in terms of their fire power, they behave like a machine gun.

JOHNSON: No, they don't. And in terms of their fire power they're really not that distinct from lots of other repeating technology. So -- so one of the things that you have to do if you're serious about this, and I think -- and, you know, I'm not here to defend anyone or any particular group but if you're serious about this, you have to acknowledge that there is a thin distinction between the repeating capacity of the AR-15 and a whole list of things that appeared on the good guns list in 1994.

One of the problems with what happened here --

MORGAN: Let me ask you --

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSON: -- is that we're going to make things worse. We're going to make things worse. And here's how -- here's how --

MORGAN: The whole (INAUDIBLE) to me -- JOHNSON: No, here's how it happened in 1994. It happened in 1994 that we focused on handgun control and we saw it before, no longer interested in handgun bans. Josh Sugarman wrote a memo that said, let's focus on this other thing, people mistake them for machine guns. And what happened was we took guns that had -- that were in the inventory at about a rate of a couple of hundred thousand, 300,000, 400,000 of these guns.

And this law juiced the demand. So now we've got millions of -- probably have 10 million AR-15s in the inventory.

MORGAN: Right.

JOHNSON: And then as a consequence partly of the --

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: Let me get -- I mean, this is part of what the president said earlier, though, isn't it? In the week, that the problem is the NRA and the gun lobby now have such a powerful voice and they play off this fear factor that exactly that happens, the volume of guns sold, the amount of ammunitions sold rockets every time there's any conversation about gun control or in the immediate aftermath of any massacre.

I mean, I've read a staggering statistic today. Did you know that more Americans bought guns in the last two months, December and November, than would fit the entire Chinese and Indian armies?

I mean, Beau Biden, when you hear that --

BIDEN: Well, Piers, can I -- can I --

MORGAN: What does that tell you about -- as a reaction to Aurora and then Sandy Hook?

BIDEN: Well, Piers, look, the reality is, is that gun sales sigh rocketed upon the election of Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in 2009. They skyrocketed again in this recent election and well before the tragedies in Connecticut. There's a lot of misinformation out there on the part of gun owners. I'm a -- I'm a gun owner. I have a shotgun. I'm in the military, I have an M-16 that was assigned to me, as I said, for most of my career.

There -- as the mayor said, who I have great respect for, and the chief from -- just 25 miles from my hometown, the Second Amendment and the Supreme Court has spoken. United States Constitution has guaranteed a right to bear and keep arms. But that doesn't mean it's an absolute right just as you referenced at the First Amendment. You cannot yell fire in a crowded theater.

Justice Scalia has spoken eloquently in his opinion that the fact is that you can regulate the types of firearms that are actually -- can be -- can be regulated.

There has to be commonsense approach to this. They are very difficult issues. We propose an assault weapons ban. But what we're focused on also in my state is a universal background check.

MORGAN: OK, let me --

BIDEN: Something that those on the far --

MORGAN: Sorry. If I may, Beau, I want to bring in Lou Palumbo, because he got lots of experience in firearms. You know them probably better than anybody in this room. When you hear people say there's just no comparison between, say, the M-16 military weapon and an AR- 15, what is your reaction?

LOU PALUMBO, DIRECTOR, ELITE INTELLIGENCE & PROTECTION: Well, I understand what his position is and it's a little bit of semantics. The fact of the matter is, is that these semiautomatic AR-15s cycle at such an extreme rate that they're capable of inflicting an immense amount of damage in a very short window of time.

The issue here also with the NRA, who should be behind this. We apparently need to address the vetting process that isn't in place for civilians that is in place for us in law enforcement. In other words, as a condition, I had to comply with psychological screening to get a handgun so I could work with it. The general public walks in with a driver's license and in two days they walk out with a handgun.

It's not sufficient any longer for us to know the only thing about you is the fact that you haven't been convicted of a felony. And that's just the reality check. And it's part of the evolution and -- of our culture. We need to know more --

MORGAN: Scottie, when you hear this, I mean, no one has told me yet is why anybody would need an AR-15. What do you actually need one for?

(CROSSTALK)

HUGHES: It doesn't -- our Bill of Rights --

NUTTER: You don't need one.

HUGHES: -- doesn't say bill of needs. It says bill of rights.

NUTTER: You need one -- Piers.

HUGHES: It is our right. Hundreds of thousands of men and women have died --

MORGAN: Scottie, Scottie.

HUGHES: -- so we could have that right to own it.

MORGAN: You're not answering my question. Why do you need one? What does any civilian need one?

HUGHES: To protect myself and protect my family. Let's look from history. Right now we might like our government but you've got Cambodia, you've got Russia, you've got Germany. MORGAN: Right. So just to --

HUGHES: Governments go corrupt.

MORGAN: Just to clarify. You believe that an American government in the modern age is going to turn tyrannical?

HUGHES: No, I'm not saying --

MORGAN: And you need an --

HUGHES: But I have a right to be able to own a gun just in case.

MORGAN: I just -- I want to clarify what you're saying to me. That you would need an AR-15 to protect yourself against your own government?

HUGHES: Well, let's look at it right now. Tomorrow we have 19 executive orders coming down. I wouldn't say that's a tyrannical government but kind of sounds like they're mandates. The last six years we have actually had natural disasters where police have cleared out of those cities and the people that had weapons were safe.

We don't know what's going to happen today. We might have a bright, sunny America. But who's to say what's going to happen in the future?

JOHNSON: How about this one? You're a young gay couple or you're a young interracial couple, you're in a rural area and the next morning there's a Klan march downtown. And the next night you go home and you wonder what the night holds and what the next several weeks hold.

I would venture that you could talk with a variety of people in that context and they would say, I think I would like a gun.

MORGAN: OK.

JOHNSON: And those people might actually -- and those people --

(CROSSTALK)

NUTTER: Or you might want to call the police.

MORGAN: Yes. And let me --

HUGHES: But here's the deal. Here's the thing about police. Look what all these crimes have in common.

MORGAN: OK.

HUGHES: We're sitting here to talk about all these vicious crimes. The one thing they have in common, the police came after the crime happened.

MORGAN: All right. OK. HUGHES: The rapes, the murders, the suicides, the police weren't there when they happened.

MORGAN: Scottie, hold that thought.

JOHNSON: Can I respond to the mayor? Because this is just core.

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: We're going to take break.

JOHNSON: This is central. There is a window of imminent threat.

MORGAN: Let me hold --

JOHNSON: In which the government --

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: Hold your comments to the mayor until we come back after the break. I think the point I would make to that is exactly what he said. You can call the police. And by the way, I have no problem, nor does he, with Americans having a gun at home to protect their family. That's not this issue.

And when we come back, we'll debate more of this and the president's plan for universal background checks.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Back now on my special Guns in America. We left it on a point that you raised there about calling the police. You have an issue with that.

JOHNSON: I want to emphasize this, because it sharpens the point of our disagreement. People who own guns have kids. They have families. They love them. They've got a different view about how to maintain their individual security.

And what we're talking about in response to your comment, call the police, is that there is a window of imminent threat that's recognized by our law of self defense, that says the government's monopoly on violence is something that we create an exception to.

MORGAN: Here is my response. I don't think anybody in this room, or very, very few people --

JOHNSON: Legitimate violence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Government's monopoly on violence?

JOHNSON: No, the government has a monopoly on legitimate violence. The government can execute people. The government can imprison people. When you go into a civilized society, the idea is that only the government can use violence.

MORGAN: Let me interrupt here. I think we're drifting slightly off the point, because here's my response. Most people in this room have no issue with Americans having a gun at home to defend themselves. I come back to, Scottie, to what I said earlier. What is the purpose and what is the need of an AR-15, which can have a magazine of 100 bullets? Nobody can give me any reason why a civilian needs that.

Your explanation appears to be you fear a tyrannical government attacking you.

HUGHES: Because I have the right. That's my first explanation. I have the right. Hundreds of thousands of men and women for the last 250 years have died for me to have that right.

MORGAN: To have an AR-15?

HUGHES: To have any gun.

MORGAN: Why do you need an AR-15?

HUGHES: Because I do want to protect my family. And God forbid something happens in this country -- Piers, we have 16 trillion dollars in debt. Our economy is teetering. What would happen if our economy collapsed? Who is to say what would happen?

Look at L.A. riots. Look at everything that happened like in New Orleans. Things happen in this world.

MORGAN: There's a reality check.

HUGHES: This is reality check.

MORGAN: We're not back in the 18th century, right? George III is dead. Let me explain one other thing to you. If your government does turn tyrannical, they have 5,000 nuclear warheads at their disposal to come after you and your guns. So let's wake up and smell the coffee.

HUGHES: You know, if they want to drop a nuclear bomb in Tennessee --

MORGAN: Let me bring in James Fox. James Fox, you want to jump in.

HUGHES: That's just ludicrous.

FOX: I just want to say, we seem to be focusing too much just on AR-15s and assault weapons. Actually, a small percentage of homicides are committed with assault weapons.

HUGHES: Exactly. Exactly.

MORGAN: Wait. Wait. Let me respond to that. Because the reason that I've been focused on that, in particular -- I'm aware it's a small percentage of the killings in America. But last four mass shootings in America, Aurora, the Oregon shopping mall, the terrible case of firemen lured to their deaths before Christmas, and then Sandy Hook, all of those have involved an AR-15. It's become the preferred weapon for mass shootings.

FOX: No, no.

MORGAN: The reason is they are killing machines.

FOX: -- are not with assault weapons, actually.

MORGAN: I said the last four.

FOX: They were semiautomatic weapons, but not assault weapons. During the assault --

(CROSS TALK)

MORGAN: With the greatest of respect to everybody here, especially you, Mr. Fox, with the greatest respect, if a madmen can go up to Sandy Hook Elementary School and in the space of a few minutes kill 20 children and six others -- look, 20 kids were hit by between three and 11 bullets each. I'm sorry, that is an assault weapon. What else do you call it?

FOX: You and I agree. But the only thing -- I think there's a broader problem, a broader issue. We can't just focus on the AR-15.

MORGAN: But nor can you dismiss it.

HUGHES: You said it yourself, a mad man. That's the issue right now. We don't need to be dealing with the guns.

MORGAN: That's part of the issue.

HUGHES: No, madman. He was going to do harm no matter what. He had handguns.

MORGAN: Why don't you make it as hard as possible for him to get his hands on it? Where did he get the guns from? His mother.

HUGHES: Irresponsible parenting.

MORGAN: Fine. That's not good enough. Daniel Webster, let me bring you in here. Irresponsible parenting, to me, is not a way to try to tackle this problem. You can't say you have to be better parents to try to stop an Adam Lanza.

WEBSTER: Right. I just want to respond to some of the comments earlier that I think are really off the mark. The idea that if they don't have a gun, they'll use something else. That's why we have a homicide rate in the United States at six times higher than other high-income countries. It's not because -- we actually -- our violent crime rates are not all that different.

We don't have any real differences with mental health, in terms of having more mentally ill people. We don't have kids who are more troubled or bullied or depressed. We have more guns. That's why we have more homicides.

HUGHES: Actually, sir, we have number one -- yes, we have more guns, 88 guns per 100 people. There's no doubt about that. But we are ranked number 28 in the world on actual homicides behind Honduras, Jamaica and El Salvador. It is because we allow the good people to be able to defend themselves. That's the real reason.

MORGAN: Your answer has nothing to do with --

(CROSS TALK)

MORGAN: This argument, Mr. Mayor, about the good people who are apparently protecting America's position -- I mean, the reality -- this is the reality check again. Take Britain, take Australia, both had massacres. I've got a lady here from Dunblane, Scotland, 16 school children killed at age five years old, a terrible tragedy.

We brought in a national handgun ban, national assault weapon ban. Ever since then, the average number of gun murders in Britain has been between 30 and 60. Ever since --

HUGHES: Your violent crime rate is through the roof, number one.

MORGAN: Scottie, let me finish. I'm not disputing that Britain doesn't have numerous elements of problems with knife crime and robberies and burglaries and all those things. The thing we got right was gun crime.

HUGHES: People now use knives. They find other ways.

MORGAN: Australia found two things. When they brought in their ban, they found that the murder rate came down, but also, significantly, so did the suicide rate; 18,000 Americans kill themselves with guns every year. The question is, how many would if they didn't have guns in their homes?

HUGHES: They would find something else. There are other ways to commit suicide.

JOHNSON: On the suicide data, you actually -- that is the stronger -- if you look at the data, suicide data is the stronger argument here, because there is an indication that if you look at what happens with firearm suicides, that when young people attempt suicide, if they attempt it with a gun, their success rate is higher. Often times you interview them afterwards, they don't have the gun, they survive and basically change their minds.

MORGAN: I'm keen to try to keep the debate on an even keel. It's a passionate debate. Everybody gets emotion. And I respect both sides and I totally respect the Second Amendment people who say you are breaching my rights. I get that's an argument that many, many Americans feel.

How do you convince them this is not an attack on their rights, if you like?

NUTTER: It is not an attack on their rights. But citizens in our city and many cities across America are being attacked by criminals who have weapons who shouldn't have them. There are a lot of weapons in cities all across the United States of America. So this is about reasonable, common sense steps that can be taken to make sure that inappropriate folks don't have weapons in the first place, and that our streets are safe.

So much of this discussion, quite honestly, with every respect -- and I'm sorry for your loss -- has nothing to do with what goes on in most cities across the United States of America trying to make sure people are safe.

HUGHES: How do you explain to me --

(CROSS TALK)

HUGHES: explain to me, how can the cities with the largest ban, the strongest rules are the ones with the highest crime rate? Chicago, California, your own city right now has an issue with this crime.

MORGAN: Scottie, wake up a moment.

HUGHES: I am awake.

MORGAN: Chicago has strong gun control. But the states around it have weak gun control.

HUGHES: And the criminals are still going to get the guns.

MORGAN: Until you have a federal consistency, nothing will change.

JOHNSON: Piers, supreme court acknowledged that when you look at the gun ownership rate in places where the rate is high versus, where the places is low --

MORGAN: Let's take a break.

JOHNSON: -- high gun ownership rate is corresponding with lower gun crime.

MORGAN: What is indisputable is that America has 11,000 to 12,000 gun crimes a year. Australia has mid-40s, Britain has 35, Japan has about 10. Let's come back and debate by those hit hardest by it. The family members of the victims of gun violence join our discussion.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

MORGAN: Back with my special, Gun in America. Joining me now in the audience are Kindle Fahlenkamp-Morell and Heather Dearman. Their cousin, Ashley Moser, was wounded in the Aurora Theater Shooting, and her daughter, Veronica, lost her life that day. Welcome to you both.

I notice you have getting, both of you, emotional in this debate. It must be very difficult for you. You have an ongoing tragedy. And you also lost this beautiful little girl. Heather, tell me how you feel about the way you've heard people talk about this issue.

HEATHER DEARMAN, ASHLEY MOSER'S COUSIN: Well, I'm with you, piers. I'm concerned that these laws that the vice president and the task force have worked so hard on won't pass, because what I'm hearing is one side being so adamant on saying that they're right, instead of doing the right thing. And we lost family members.

And we know that it has to take small steps to get somewhere. And I just wanted to say that I don't think people understand that -- I don't hear anyone saying that anyone wants to take the guns away or not let you have the right to bear arms. I just keep hearing people saying I'm right, I'm right, and then they don't want to listen to the other side. And I'm afraid nothing is going to be done.

But you can't do nothing. I mean, how are you going to tell my children that nothing has been done after what happened to our family?

LOU PALUMBO, DIRECTOR, ELITE INTELLIGENCE & PROTECTION: But, Piers, the truth of the matter is this. These assault rifle bans are not going to change this dynamic in America. Wait, wait, wait. Let me finish what I'm saying. A heart to heart about how we handle mental illness, the enforcement issue, the vetting of people who get these firearms and an overall education for Americans who possess them is going to change this country.

MORGAN: Let me -- I think that's all very valid. I do. I think these are all very relevant points. When you have a family like this who has been destroyed over what has happened -- you saw, Ashley -- Kendra, when you hear people try to just insist on saying these AR-15 weapons are not assault weapon, what do you say to that?

ASHLEY FAHLENKAMP-MORELL, ASHLEY MOSER'S COUSIN, : It's really impossible for me to understand that the killers could get that kind of power in their hands. It doesn't make any sense at all to me. I don't blame honorable gun owners. I don't want to take away your Second Amendment rights. But I need to know that you'll stand up for me, too.

I mean, you should be carrying that Second Amendment right with honor and being proud that that's not accessible to everybody.

MORGAN: Let me ask you, the man that ruined the lives of this family, he has just been in court recently. He got 6,000 rounds of ammunition on the Internet anonymously. He armed himself with four weapons. And then James Holmes dressed up as the Joker and walked into a movie theater, planned the whole thing, and hit 70 Americans, killing 12, killing their little niece, paralyzing their sister.

And for them to have to hear you say these aren't assault weapons and we shouldn't take them away from civilians, it is hurtful to them. They want to hear you say, I'm a gun owner. I understand this is not about anyone taking my weapon from my home to defend myself, but these military weapons have got to go.

HUGHES: Let me say this, first of all, the pain you've gone through, been there. It's horrible. You will never recover. Your family will never recover for generations. And I'm so sorry for that. But the question is, he obtained those guns illegally. Those were not his legal guns. We have to realize that.

And if we look at all these shootings where they've happened, schools, malls, theaters, there's one thing they all have in common. They are gun-free zones. There was no one there with a gun to be able to stop them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I could argue that point.

HUGHES: That's my question. Tomorrow Barack Obama is going to -- really, if this was so high on the president's agenda --

MORGAN: Tell me something, Scottie, I keep hearing this gun-free zone. Most mass shooters get killed during the mass shootings. They don't give a damn if they live or die. Why do they care about going to a gun-free zone? They're going to kill dozens and dozens of innocent people.

HUGHES: And probably kill themselves in the end.

MORGAN: They assume they're going to get killed.

(CROSS TALK)

MORGAN: -- saying because it was a gun-free zone. I have never seen anybody find any evidence that they thought it was a gun-free zone.

HUGHES: If you're going to sit here and commit a crime, I'm not going to go to a place where everybody has guns. That's why you don't hear gun shows --

(CROSS TALK)

MORGAN: We're going to take a break, come right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(APPLAUSE)

MORGAN: Welcome back to my special, Guns in America. Joining me in the audience now is Neil Heslin, whose son died at Sandy Hook Elementary, and Paul Ercolino, whose brother was killed at the shooting at the Empire State Building.

Before we go to you, to correct you, if I may, Scottie, on a couple things. One is you said that James Holmes, the Aurora shooter, purchased his guns illegally. In fact, he purchased them all legally. o that argument is shattered.

Secondly, of course, you said that they always operate in gun- free zones. Well, Columbine wasn't a gun free zone. There was an armed security man there. Virginia Tech had a lot of armed security around. Ft. Hood, of course, was the most heavily armed secure place possibly in America, when a madman went berserk there and killed lots of people.

(CROSS TALK)

(APPLAUSE)

HUGHES: But Columbine --

MORGAN: I want to correct you on those two.

JOHNSON: Wisconsin they also --

(CROSS TALK)

MORGAN: There was no evidence that any of them ever thought gun- free zone. But let me turn to you, Neil. I have interviewed you several times now. You are always extremely moving about, as you played me in the Green Room last night after the show a little tape you have of your little boy singing you Happy Birthday. And it broke my heart. I can't imagine what it is like. I know you have been getting emotional here too.

When you hear people talk in this way and just have no apparent comprehension, I think, of why you want these kind of weapons taken away, what is your reaction?

NEIL HESLIN, SON JESSE LEWIS DIED IN SANDY HOOK SHOOTING: Well, I agree with this lady about it is our Constitutional right to have -- bear arms. That I can respect. But I still don't understand why somebody would, especially after what happened to my child, Jessie, want or need an assault-type rifle, an AR-15 for protection.

A shotgun or handgun would be more than sufficient. We have the strongest military in the world. And one person or a handful of people with assault rifles isn't going to protect our country.

MORGAN: Are you encouraged by what you think is coming tomorrow from the president? Do you think he's got it about right?

HESLIN: I hope to see a ban on assault rifles or much stricter possession of them. As for the restrictions years ago, there were -- machine guns -- we have -- they have to be registered in a federal registration, stronger background checks on it.

MORGAN: And I think like everyone -- we talked about this. All the other things come in to play, the mental health, the obsession of some of these people.

HESLIN: I think there's many factors. I think mental health is a big issue. What to do with people that have mental health issues, as to how to treat them, whether they should be institutionalized or what. MORGAN: Let me bring in, if I may, the man next to you, Paul Ercolino. His brother Steve died in the Empire State Building shooting in August, 2012. There was another incident at the Empire State Building recently where police opened fire on a man and killed him. What was significant was the two policemen trained -- men trained to fire guns actually hit nine bystanders. And they are trained people at close proximity.

What it said to me was this sort of casual idea of arming everybody to try and deal with this, even the professionals find it very, very hard.

PAUL ERCOLINO, BROTHER DIED IN EMPIRE STATE BUILDING SHOOTING: I want to direct this to Scottie. Could you imagine if in the Empire State Building, 9:00 in the morning, all those people -- if we were all armed, if it was armed? It would have been like the wild west after my brother was shot there in front of the Empire State Building.

It's time for this common sense approach that Mr. Biden was saying, what the Brady Campaign is talking about. We have to take steps, big steps like Lou has been mentioning. This is -- we can't have what happened to his son happen to anybody anymore. It is outrageous that we accept whatever it is, 10,000, 11,000, 12,000 murders in this country. It is outrageous that we accept that as a nation.

We are a nation that -- you are going to compare us to Honduras and these other countries that you said. This is America. We cannot stand to have this many murders.

MORGAN: That's an excellent point.

(APPLAUSE)

MORGAN: We'll be right back with something from the NRA that may interest you after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: We want to play you the new ad that the NRA released today. It slams President Obama and his push for more gun control. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are the president's kids more important than yours? Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their schools? Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, but he's just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security. Protection for their kids and gun free zones for ours.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: The new NRA ad, which I may say I personally find utterly pathetic. Earlier, we spoke to the cousins of Ashley Moser. They have a website. Log on to HelpAsh.org if you would like to help. I want to thank my guests for joining me tonight. Tomorrow, the man who called me a bully for my take on guns. Ben Shapiro returns.

Before we go, leave me with an overview really of how you feel it has gone tonight.

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, it has been a good discussion. But something has to happen. I hope the president takes some very strong measures tomorrow. And I hope Congress has the courage to back him with the appropriate legislation. Although I have my doubt because their past has not been any indication that they will take strong action in the future. But I will try to be optimistic.

You know, listen, I have heard people talk about reality checks. I have been a cop for 42 years. I have been to hundreds if not thousands of crime scenes. I don't know how many homicide scenes you guys have been to. But I have seen what happens out there on the street.

We are not losing them 26 at a time. One at a time, two at a time, but every life has value. When you see the carnage on the streets every day.

(APPLAUSE)

MORGAN: That's the perfect way to end what's been a classy debate. Thank you all very much, indeed. I appreciate it very much.

That's all for us tonight. "AC 360" starts now.

(APPLAUSE)