CNN’s forthright British talk show host Piers Morgan is not afraid to be hated. In fact, he seems to relish the outpouring of vitriol from almost 100,000 gun-crazy Americans who have petitioned the White House to have him deported. His “crime” was to call for stricter gun laws subsequent to the fatal shooting of 20 young children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut — the sixth mass shooting in the US within the past five years.
Despite hate mail and threats, he remains entirely unrepentant with tongue-in-cheek Tweets mocking the petition. His message to his American detractors is “If you don’t change your gun laws to at least try to stop this relentless tidal wave of murderous carnage, then you don’t have to worry about deporting me”. And, as a concerned parent he might seriously consider deporting himself, he says.
The gun lovers contend that Morgan has attacked their revered Bill of Rights proposed by slave-owning lawmaker James Madison Jr and ratified in 1787; in particular, the Second Amendment permitting citizens to bear arms and form militias. Never mind that their quest to get rid of the Brit on those grounds is an infringement of the First Amendment enshrining free speech and freedom of the press. Strangely, Morgan is being accused of being unpatriotic when by virtue of his passport his patrimony has no relation to Uncle Sam.
Moreover, when the Second Amendment was penned, the only firearms available were blunderbusses, muskets or flintlocks, not semi-automatic assault weapons of the type used by the Sandy Hook killer capable of mowing down hundreds within minutes.
Most non-Americans like Morgan do not view the US Constitution as some kind of sacred tract and are astonished that a first world country that never ceases to portray itself as a bastion of civil rights apparently does not care about the rights of children to be safe from psychopaths within the confines of their schools.
Morgan found himself in hot water when during his televised one-man crusade to ban the sale of semi-automatic weapons he turned his fury on a man representing the Gun Owners of America advocating more guns, yelling “You are an unbelievably stupid man”. Morgan also called his guest a liar for bolstering his cause by falsely maintaining that gun crime increased in Britain subsequent to the implementation of strict gun control in 1996.
A father of four, Morgan admits he was emotionally impacted by Sandy Hook. “To even try to conceive of how you would feel if your child was shot multiple times in the head by a Rambo madman at school if just impossible…” he wrote, adding, “But my anger turned to blind rage when I saw the reaction to this hideous massacre in America.” I’m absolutely on the same page. I suspect President Barack Obama, who responded to this latest killing spree with tears, is too, but even he is not courageous enough to take-on the gun lobby that is powerful enough to make or break political careers.
It is true that most TV hosts will refrain from treating studio guests in such a fashion, whatever their personal feelings, but Morgan has built a reputation for saying it like it is. And, in any case, who can blame him for losing his cool when the gun lobby crowd insists that if everyone, including teachers and cinema usherettes, packed a firearm there would be fewer massacres. For people like me who grew up in the UK, without ever clapping eyes on a gun, that idea is not only nutty, it’s obscene.
As the beleaguered Brit has pointed out: “There are 311 million people in the United States and an estimated 300 million guns in circulation … Each year, on an average, 100,000 Americans are shot with a gun … and more than a million have been killed with guns in America since 1968.” And out of the 23 most populous, high-income countries in the world, “a staggering 80 per cent of firearm deaths” occur in the US, he asserts.
Be that as it may, no US president has had the guts to stop this. I watched his show with amazement as I heard even the families of gun crime victims fiercely defend gun ownership. It seems inconceivable that parents who have lost their own children to a bullet remain in love with firearms, but that’s a fact. Another weird truth is that following each senseless massacre, sales of weapons soar. In many states, purchasing a semi-automatic of the type used by the military is as easy as buying a sandwich and ammunition can be ordered over the internet. Furthermore, many families do not bother locking their guns in a cabinet, away from children’s reach. Put simply, murder and suicide are easy peasy in the “Land of the Free” where drug addicts, criminals and the mentally ill are merrily toting.
The US not only terrorises great swathes of the planet with its “Made in the USA” weapons, its own citizens can legally terrorise one another. Just imagine, American shooters have killed a million of their own civilians in just over half-a-century, a statistic that goes unnoticed when compared to the impact 9/11 had on the nation’s psyche.
Keep it up Piers! Who cares if the names on that petition reach two million, three million even! That won’t change the fundamental truth that anyone with functioning grey matter will recognise. You’re right and they’re wrong.
Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org