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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT
President's Gun Control Proposal
Aired January 16, 2013 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: Tonight calls to arms on guns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Americans of every background stand up and say enough. We have suffered too much pain and care too much about our children to allow this to continue, then change will come.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: I'll talk to people on both sides of the gun debate, and gun advocates who think I'm just plain wrong on the right to bear arms.
Also, Al Roker stays up late. Last time he schooled me on American weather.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL ROKER, NBC'S "TODAY SHOW": It's hurricane.
MORGAN: Not in my country.
ROKER: Well, you're not in your country now.
MORGAN: I wasn't employed to be an American.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: I'm expecting another stormy time tonight.
This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.
MORGAN: Good evening. Well, the latest breaking news on the American hostage situation overseas later. But we begin with the most important issue facing this country right now, the issue that President Obama put his agenda today. A little over one month since the brutal shooting at Sandy Hook.
The president changed the rules on gun with a stroke of his pen. Signing 23 executive actions he says will strengthen background checks and expand safety programs in schools. The president is also calling for action in increasingly gridlocked Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The most important changes we can make depend on congressional action. Ask your member of Congress if they support universal background checks to keep guns out of the wrong hands. Ask them if they support renewing a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Ask them what's more important, doing whatever it takes to get a A grade from the gun lobby that funds their campaigns, or giving parents some peace of mind when they drop their child off for first grade?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Joining me now is Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He wants to target ammunition sales and require background checks on anyone who buys bullets.
Senator, your reaction, as the senator for Connecticut, to President Obama's very bold and ambitious plans today for new gun legislation.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: It is a sweeping set of proposals. And what is so encouraging about it is it relies on executive action. That is what the president can do on his own, as well as congressional action. The president's proposing, for example, preference for hiring new police with cops grants to work in schools. Also strengthening that national database that is so important to criminal background checks.
And I'm hopeful that Congress will act to extend those background checks, not only to the firearms sales that now fit within the gun show loophole. About 40 percent of all firearm sales every year, but also to ammunition sales, which are really the black hole of gun violence prevention.
There is a historic opportunity here for the Congress to act on the president's proposals. And I'm very hopeful that we can act cooperatively.
MORGAN: The NRA has come out with a statement today in which they say a number of things. But they also say that only honest law- abiding gun owners will be affected if we, quote, "if anyone is attacking firearms and ignoring children. That's not the solution to the crisis we face."
Of course their position has always been this. And clearly that is going to be a very tough battle for the president. And it will rely on many Democrats who are in red states and who have felt the full force of the bullying NRA stand up and be counted. Are they going to do that? BLUMENTHAL: I think that the issue remains a very open -- one in the minds of many of my colleagues because they are hearing from their constituents that we really need to do something about gun violence. In fact, I heard that said to me personally again and again and again in the days that I was in Newtown after this horrific tragedy. The days and the weeks that I spent huge amounts of time there.
People in Newtown, people in Connecticut and across the country are saying we have to do something about gun violence. And let's remember, one of the president's proposals actually deals with criminals who try to buy weapons and use straw purchasers, as they're called, or in other words, people who falsely claim they're buying the gun for themselves when in fact it's for the criminal.
And he wants stronger punishment for that kind of purchase by criminals. So it's not simply, though, lawful gun owners, responsible gun owners, hunters and recreational people, but the criminals who are often a target of these set of proposals. And the proposal I've made, which requires, for example, that ammunition purchases be subject to background checks means that we would have tougher enforcement of an existing prohibition.
That is when people go into stores to buy ammunition, if they are fugitives, felons, drug addicts, people under court orders for domestic violence or people who are dangerously mentally ill, they are already forbidden to buy ammunition. But a background check would prevent them from breaking that law.
MORGAN: Senator Blumenthal, thank you very much for your time. I know you're busy. Then I really appreciate you taking time out to talk to me.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
MORGAN: The NRA wasted no time today coming out against the president's gun proposals. But my next guest says, and I quote, that does nothing but offend the reasonable people that make up the bulk of the country and the bulk of their own membership.
Mark Glaze is director of Mayors against Illegal Guns, and he joins me now.
Mr. Glaze, pretty predictable response from the NRA, really. They've never countenanced any kind of gun control. They're not going to start now. Where does that leave the president?
MARK GLAZE, DIRECTOR, "MAYORS AGAINST ILLEGAL GUNS": Well, the NRA never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity. I mean, the reality is that 74 percent of NRA members think everybody should have to get a background check. They all take background checks and pass them. So should everybody else. Where it leaves the president is with a significant advantage because he is sort of where the country is.
Everybody thinks that a lot of this stuff is what we, I think, still called no-brainers if that's not too bad a cliche. You know, people ought to get serious penalties if they buy a gun that they intend to pass on to a criminal. People ought to be able to pass a background check which takes about 90 seconds out of -- out of their lives. I mean, he is in kind of the big middle of this country where 800 mayors are, where about 80 percent of the country is. And the NRA is increasingly marginalizing itself. I can't quite figure out why.
MORGAN: You see, my issue is this, with the political part of this, is that I can understand certain Republican congressmen and women who are in red states and who genuinely believe that actually these proposals are wrong. But there are a number of Republicans I think who actually would be persuaded on some of these arguments, but who won't even think about going there because of fear of retribution from the NRA.
And as for the Democrats who apparently are threatening to stand up to the president on this, I just don't believe them. I think they're only doing that for political expediency.
GLAZE: Well, and the weird thing about this is if you actually look closely at the NRA's electoral strength, it's far less than they crack it up to be. I mean, we had a piece of research done by a guy named Paul Waltman, who is a researcher at the American spectator. It's on the Thinkprogress Web site, where he analyzed the NRA's endorsements, the NRA's PAC contributions and the NRA's independent expenditures, and found that in fact you're pretty hard-pressed to find more than a handful of races where the NRA's involvement ever made a difference.
And they had a really bad year in November. They endorsed only seven Senate candidates where they spent more than $100,000 in those races. Six of those candidates lost. They spent more money I think on defeating Barack Obama because he was going to erase the Second Amendment from the Constitution than they've ever spent to defeat anybody before, and yet there he was today at the White House behind the podium talking about reasonable commonsense gun laws.
MORGAN: I thought the NRA's advertisement lambasting the president for the security around his children was particularly offensive and a new low even by the leadership of that organization's standards today.
GLAZE: You know, we talked to NRA members and we talked to gun dealer. And we polled them. And the truth is the average NRA member has not been very happy with the performance that they've been seeing out of the NRA's Washington lobbyists lately. You know, NRA members are people who hunt, who want to defend themselves and who want to be left alone, like much of the country.
The NRA's Washington leadership lives and breathes for an entirely different purpose these days. They're selling guns and they're raising money and they're trying to elect Republicans to Congress. That is the bottom line. And when you go after people's kids, I think you start to annoy people like John McCain, who had been there back in the political races of his day and who understand that, you know, there are some things that are off limits, especially kids who I'm guessing would really rather during puberty not have Secret Service agents following them around to the prom.
MORGAN: Mark Glaze, thank you very much for joining me.
GLAZE: Thanks for having me.
MORGAN: Let's turn to the other side of the gun debate now. Dana Loesch is a conservative radio talk show host of "The Dana Show," and Scottie Hughes is the news director for Tea Party News Network. Her young brother was a victim of gun violence.
Welcome to you both.
Scottie, what was your reaction to what the president said today? And what did you agree with him about?
SCOTTIE HUGHES, BROTHER WAS MURDERED BY NANNY'S SON: Nothing. Because it was propaganda. From the second he opened his mouth, I thought the Golden Globes were done a couple of days ago. But from the second he opened his mouth to when he went over and high-fived those kids, exploited the kids --
MORGAN: Right. So let me just get this clear.
HUGHES: Nothing -- sure.
MORGAN: You don't agree with universal background checks for gun sales?
HUGHES: In French, back to the Bill of Rights. Strict constitutional.
MORGAN: You don't agree with that?
HUGHES: Infringe on my rights. I think there is a certain thing to be said. But let's point this out here.
MORGAN: Well, hang on, hang on.
HUGHES: You're sitting -- hold on.
MORGAN: How can it possibly infringe anybody's rights to have a background check for a potentially lethal firearm given that gun owners, the people that -- sorry, gun store owners have to have them? What possible infringement of your rights is it as a member of the American society if you want to buy a gun that are background checked?
HUGHES: Well, here's the deal. I'm a legal gun owner. So I'm going to have it. I'm not going to object. You might find a stolen Oreo cookie in kindergarten in my background but I'm going to be cleared, and I got cleared. The criminals, though, are not going to do it. That's the key to this. If you think the criminals are going to say, hallelujah, and they're going to have a complete come to Jesus meeting and go get a background check, that's completely false. If the criminals --
MORGAN: But that is about people planning to break the law. That's down to law enforcement people to enforce the law. It's a different issue.
HUGHES: Well, the key is, though, that once again, you're doing a federal mandate.
MORGAN: You don't agree with any of this? You don't agree with --
HUGHES: I really don't. I think he totally exploited --
MORGAN: What you -- what --
HUGHES: -- the situation.
MORGAN: Never mind -- never mind your view about his exploitation skills. Would you cap ammunition magazines to a 10-round limit?
HUGHES: Because it doesn't say so in the Constitution. Where do you bullet points the Constitution?
MORGAN: Where does it say you can have an assault weapon that can fire 100 bullets in a minute in your Constitution?
HUGHES: Piers, more importantly where does it say I cannot?
MORGAN: Right. So where's the limit?
HUGHES: Well, there is not because it doesn't say it. It does not say it.
MORGAN: But there -- but there are limits. There are more than 50 gun control limits already. There a reason for it.
HUGHES: Because I don't agree with those.
MORGAN: You don't?
HUGHES: They shouldn't matter --
MORGAN: So you want a tank?
HUGHES: You know what? When is the last time you saw a terrorist attack? Let's be realistic --
MORGAN: Do you want the right to have a tank? Do you believe the Second Amendment gives you, Scottie Hughes, the right to have a tank?
HUGHES: You know what, honestly, I don't see bullet points in the Constitution, sure. I don't want one. MORGAN: Well --
HUGHES: I think my mayor would be upset.
MORGAN: OK. Dana Loesch, do you think that Scottie is right? Do you feel you have the right to have a tank?
DANA LOESCH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO TALK SHOW HOST, "THE DANA SHOW": That's an interesting question, Piers. I want to explain something just very briefly.
MORGAN: That is the question. How can this be a sensible conversation?
LOESCH: No -- listen, listen, listen, listen -- no, listen.
MORGAN: Dana, you represent a lot of people --
MORGAN: -- who believe what you say and trust you. How can you possibly --
LOESCH: I want to answer your question.
MORGAN: -- say you want the right to a tank?
LOESCH: I haven't even said anything yet. You've just presupposed what my answer is going to be.
MORGAN: Well, tell me you don't want the right to a tank.
LOESCH: The interesting thing about the writing of our Constitution is that, Piers, our founding fathers were very specific on what was and was not mentioned in terms of the Second Amendment. Musket is not mentioned in the Second Amendment. Firearms is what's mentioned. Arms, period, is what is mentioned in the Second Amendment.
And there are two reasons why we were successful in the Revolutionary War. Number one, guerrilla tactics. Number two, we had the same weapons capability as those against whom we were fighting. And I think that that -- if you can't glean my answer from that, I think it's pretty definitive.
MORGAN: Your country, America, has 5,000 nuclear warheads. I'd say you're pretty covered on the threat of an overseas tyrannical regime.
I come back to this question, though, because Scottie wants the right to have a tank. She says there are no limits in terms of the firearms that she can have. By your answer just now, the logical assumption from that is that you also believe there should be no limitation of firearms if a potential enemy has the same thing.
So let me ask you again, Dana. Do you think you should have the right to have a tank under the Second Amendment?
LOESCH: I think the Constitution is clear and it says that we have a right to bear arms under the definition of arms. We have the right to firearms.
MORGAN: Does that include a tank?
LOESCH: If that is how arms is defined, I'm going to let you draw your conclusions on that.
MORGAN: No, no, no. Because I'd be following --
LOESCH: Our founding fathers are clear.
MORGAN: I'd be following this very carefully.
LOESCH: Piers, the founding fathers are clear.
MORGAN: On your Twitter feed you've been espousing yourself --
LOESCH: Yes. So have you started using the term -- have you stopped using the term assault rifle?
MORGAN: Dana, Dana, Dana -- I'll come to that in a moment.
MORGAN: But you have been espousing very strongly your interpretation of the Second Amendment.
LOESCH: I've been quoting the Second Amendment.
MORGAN: So -- this is not a time to be shy. Do you believe --
LOESCH: Oh, I'm not.
MORGAN: The Second Amendment gives you, as Scottie believes, the right to have a tank?
LOESCH: I believe that the Second Amendment gives us all the right to bear arms. That's how I -- that's how I see it.
MORGAN: Does that include a tank?
LOESCH: If that's how -- if it falls under the definition of firearms.
MORGAN: Do you think it does?
LOESCH: I -- if it falls under the definition of firearms.
MORGAN: Do you think it does, Dana?
LOESCH: If I say so, you're going to -- you're going to fire back.
MORGAN: Do you think it does?
LOESCH: And accuse me about my interpretation.
MORGAN: No, I'm asking you -- you've been interpreting it all week. I've been reading your Twitter feed. Do you think --
LOESCH: No, I've been quoting the Constitution.
MORGAN: Does your --
LOESCH: What I think --
MORGAN: Does your personal interpretation --
LOESCH: What I think is more of interest is your use of the term assault rifle.
MORGAN: Does your personal -- Dana, answer my question.
LOESCH: It's your use of the terms assault rifle. I have twice.
MORGAN: Does the -- does your personal interpretation of the Second Amendment include your right to have a tank?
LOESCH: My personal interpretation of the Second Amendment isn't a personal interpretation. It is what it is, and it states what it states. We have the right to own firearms. We have the right to bear arms.
LOESCH: Now all of that which falls under the definition of firearms, that is what is guaranteed to us.
MORGAN: Does that include a tank?
LOESCH: If it falls under the definition of firearms, Piers.
MORGAN: Scottie has --
HUGHES: When is the last time you heard somebody want a tank and buy a tank?
MORGAN: Scottie has --
HUGHES: When is the last time you --
MORGAN: Scottie, with respect, with respect, you've already said that you think it does. Dana won't answer the question. And --
LOESCH: I have answered the question. You just don't like my answer.
MORGAN: I don't understand why. Well, my question is -- LOESCH: So now you --
MORGAN: It's your personal interpretation that you want --
MORGAN: That's not funny.
LOESCH: No, no.
MORGAN: Because actually --
HUGHES: It's ludicrous. This question is ludicrous.
LOESCH: Piers. Piers, with all due respect, I find it so interesting that you're trying to nail down this definition when you can't even accurately talk about what is or is not an assault rifle.
MORGAN: I will come to that. But here's why -- here's why it's such an important question. Because it's precisely the definition and interpretation of the Second Amendment that has got America into this horrific mess, as I see it, in terms of --
LOESCH: We disagree on that.
MORGAN: In terms of the right to bear arms and what those arms are. I have no --
LOESCH: We disagree on that.
MORGAN: I know. But I have no problem with Americans who defend themselves in their homes with a handgun or a pistol or a shotgun. I have a major problem, as you know, with the more military-style assault weapons.
Now you say that the weapon used in Aurora and the weapon used at Sandy Hook was not an assault weapon. I ask you what is an assault weapon? If it's not a weapon that can kill 20 children in a few seconds or unload 100 bullets in a movie theater in 90 seconds, what do you term that kind of weapon if it's not an assault weapon?
And the reason I put it to you is that the last time there was an assault weapon ban, that particular weapon was included in the ban. And people got rounded by modifying it. But it was included. So it's defined in 1994 as an assault weapon.
LOESCH: Actually, it was -- it also discussed the cosmetics that you could add on to such a weapon. First of all, let me address your initial question. There is no such thing as an assault weapon no more than there is such a thing as an assault unicorn. And if there is one that exists, I would love to capture it.
As for assault rifle, you like to use the term military-style assault rifle.
MORGAN: Yes. LOESCH: I'm not quite sure what constitutes to you military style, but I will tell you this. As a --
MORGAN: Well, let me -- let me --
LOESCH: Well, let me -- let me explain.
MORGAN: Well, let me make it easy for you.
LOESCH: Let me explain.
MORGAN: Let me make it easy for you.
LOESCH: OK. Go right ahead.
MORGAN: My brother is a British -- my brother is a British army colonel.
MORGAN: And he says that from his testing --
LOESCH: So you're an expert?
MORGAN: Well, my brother is, yes. He's fought alongside American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
MORGAN: He says he's only belonged as does General McChrystal and General Colin Powell on a military field because they perform in a military-style capability.
MORGAN: When a young deranged man --
MORGAN: Well, it's not funny. Stop laughing, Dana.
LOESCH: I'm not --
MORGAN: I don't like anybody laughing in this conversation. These are --
LOESCH: I want to answer your question. You just -- you won't let me answer.
MORGAN: These are -- these are fundamental -- I am letting you answer. I'm telling you that in my view --
LOESCH: I know what the answer is.
MORGAN: Any rifle that can unload 90 bullets or 100 bullets in 90 seconds has to be an assault weapon.
LOESCH: Well, again, assault -- when you use the term military- style assault rifle, you do realize that you're trying to conflate the terms, and you're giving the impression that Adam Lanza and these other individuals actually owned military standard rifles. An assault rifle, if you want to use this term for the sake of argument. You're talking about either a weapon or a firearm that's capable of select fire, which I'm sure you know what that means.
MORGAN: I do, yes.
LOESCH: Being that you're discussing it. Or it's semiautomatic, automatic, or it's capable of select fire.
MORGAN: Now you see --
I'm actually not, though. I'm actually not. I'll talk to you about it --
LOESCH: Citizens -- but let me tell you.
MORGAN: I'm talking about it -- no, no, Dana.
LOESCH: As a firearm owner, as a member of the NRA.
MORGAN: Dana. Dana.
LOESCH: As someone who has shot fully automatic weapons and who owns semiautomatic weapons.
MORGAN: Yes. Yes.
LOESCH: Let me tell you that a citizen cannot go out and purchase a fully automatic weapon.
LOESCH: They are regulated to ban. So when you use this terminology, it is from this knowledge base that you were using to cast aspersions on to our second amendment rights.
MORGAN: You don't -- you don't dispute -- you don't dispute that the AR-15 was banned under the last assault weapons ban?
Excuse me, Scottie, wait a minute.
MORGAN: You don't dispute that?
LOESCH: And Columbine happened, and Columbine happened after that. MORGAN: No, no. That wasn't the question, Dana. Do you dispute that it was banned?
LOESCH: And Columbine happened after that.
MORGAN: Dana, you're having trouble tonight answering any of my questions.
LOESCH: No, I'm not. I'm answering all of your question.
MORGAN: Just clarify and tell me this one second.
LOESCH: You not liking my answers does not constitute me not answering.
MORGAN: You say -- you say the AR-15 is an assault weapon. Why was it banned then under the 1994 assault weapons ban?
LOESCH: Because people don't like scary-looking guns. Do you realize you can get a pellet gun that looks like a military-style assault weapon --
MORGAN: OK. You don't want to answer the question. OK.
HUGHES: And because -- it's because Joe Biden was at the lead of it. Joe Biden was the one.
MORGAN: Let's take a break. Let's take a break, come back. I'll try some more questions. Why don't we see if we can get some answers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Obama uses kids as human shields. The Democrats use kids as human shields. He brings these kids supposedly who wrote letters to the White House after Newtown, bring them up there to present a picture of support among the children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Rush Limbaugh today. Back with me now, Dana Loesch and Scottie Hughes.
Scottie Hughes, why shouldn't President Obama bring these children to the White House to illustrate a point that he is making these proposals now in direct relation to the slaughter of children?
HUGHES: Why sit here and say to these -- to bring these children up on stage and give them high-fives and then sit there and your White House claims that the NRA ad exploits his own children? I mean, across the board, he is exploiting children. He sat there and is complaining double standard completely. He brought his children on every chance he could during the campaign. And now his White House is coming and saying this new NRA ad is actually attacking his children and that's just wrong? Hands off my kids?
The same thing he did today with those four. And to you point, I'll be honest to you, people own tanks. People own cannons. Hey, people own jet fighters. When is the last time you heard a crime done by one of those people?
MORGAN: OK, Dana Loesch, let's ask you that question which is about the magazine clips. Do you think that there is any reason why any civilian needs a magazine -- or magazine drums at it is now, over 10-round limit or more?
LOESCH: I think that there exist reasons that exactly why we should have more than. I know what -- New York bans seven. I can think of a story just a headline that just hit the papers today in New York. There was a man who was attacked by a gang of men with bats and tire irons. There were I believe more than seven of those individuals that attacked him. I can't think of that --
MORGAN: What is the point of that anecdote?
LOESCH: And also, and also, Piers --
MORGAN: But Dana, why do you tell that story?
LOESCH: Well, because it's to highlight that if someone has a firearm and they're able to defend themselves --
MORGAN: Have you seen that video? Have you seen the video?
LOESCH: Or -- I've seen -- I actually have screen shots of it.
MORGAN: OK. I bet you -- I bet you you've --
LOESCH: But Piers -- but Piers --
MORGAN: Well, hang on. Hang on. You can't just say these things. I took the trouble to watch that whole video.
LOESCH: Yes, OK.
MORGAN: An unfortunate man involved in a pizza argument at 5:00 a.m. in the street gets attacked by a group of people who were clutching a bar of some sort.
LOESCH: A tire iron.
MORGAN: But he is a live. He didn't get killed. He wasn't shot. Is your solution to that fight in a street --
LOESCH: I made a suggestion.
MORGAN: And we don't know who caused or what.
LOESCH: I didn't say it was the solution.
MORGAN: It's your suggestion that somebody pull a gun out and shot somebody.
LOESCH: If you have to defend yourself against more than one attacker, then absolutely. And, Piers, you also have -- have you ever fired a -- have a fired a weapon?
MORGAN: So that young man should have shot those people?
LOESCH: I'm not saying that. I'm saying that if someone has --
MORGAN: What are you saying then?
LOESCH: There are instances where there is more than one people, more than one person coming at you. There is an instance where you have --
MORGAN: Let me ask you. OK. Let me ask you.
LOESCH: But, Piers, here's the thing.
MORGAN: Let me ask you this.
LOESCH: It's the founding fathers --
MORGAN: What do --
LOESCH: -- wanted this limit that would have enumerated that and the Second Amendment.
MORGAN: OK. We've already stopped as you don't believe there are limitations. So that's fine. So every one can have a tank.
Why would anybody -- why would anybody need an AR-15?
LOESCH: Have you ever fired one?
MORGAN: I haven't fired one. No. Why would anyone need an AR --
LOESCH: OK. Let me tell you right now. Let me --
MORGAN: Dana, let me just finish my question.
LOESCH: I want to answer this because --
MORGAN: Let me finish my question.
LOESCH: Piers, this will help so much. This helps so much.
MORGAN: Nobody -- nobody -- let me --
(CROSSTALK) MORGAN: Let me ask the question.
LOESCH: OK, go ahead.
MORGAN: Why would anybody need an AR-15 that has a magazine with 100 bullets in it, as with the shooter at Aurora? Why would anybody need that?
LOESCH: Well, first and foremost, if you've never fired an AR- 15, as a woman, who also has self-defense -- has -- uses guns for self-defense and likes to know that I have that security they're a lot easier to fire than other rifles simply because of the recoil.
MORGAN: So you think all women should all be armed with AR-15s?
LOESCH: My goodness, now are you going to go off on a tangent every single time I say one thing? You just go off to make up another --
MORGAN: I'm trying to clarify what you actually believe.
LOESCH: Come on, now, Piers. Stay with me here. Stay here with me.
MORGAN: I'm trying to clarify what you believe.
LOESCH: Well, I'm trying to explain it to you, but you keep putting words in my mouth every time I try. So stop, let me finish, and we'll get somewhere with this. No, an AR-15 is -- honestly, it's just like any other rifle. I don't understand why some individuals can become so scared of this, because they think it's a scary-looking weapon. It's not. This is not like the military-style assault rifle that, you know, fully automatic or capable of select fire.
MORGAN: It shot 17 Americans -- it shot 17 Americans in a movie heater in 90 seconds. It murdered a group of New York state firemen.
LOESCH: Do you know there are -- there are pistols --
MORGAN: And killed 20 schoolchildren in an elementary school.
LOESCH: There are pistols made by Armalite.
MORGAN: Yes. But this particular weapon has been used in the last four mass shootings and still nobody can explain to me why any civilian --
LOESCH: How are law-abiding Americans responsible for that, Piers?
MORGAN: -- need that? Or one of these high-capacity magazines?
LOESCH: Piers, how are law-abiding --
MORGAN: I don't get what their need is.
LOESCH: How are law-abiding citizens like me responsible for that? I follow the law. And I'll admit it. I own an AR-15. I follow the law.
MORGAN: James Holmes was a law-abiding --
LOESCH: I went through my background checks. I've taken the classes.
MORGAN: Dana --
LOESCH: I'm a responsible owner.
MORGAN: James Holmes --
LOESCH: Why should I be punished?
MORGAN: James Holmes was a law-abiding citizen. He bought his guns legally. He bought the ammunition over the Internet. And he went in and shot 17 Americans in a movie theater. So I'm afraid when the NRA --
MORGAN: When the NRA says taking our guns, attacking our guns today --
LOESCH: No. No.
MORGAN: Wait. The NRA said today attacking our guns will only hurt law-abiding gun owners like --
LOESCH: I want to focus on something for a second, Piers.
MORGAN: Do I presume then -- do I presume --
LOESCH: I want to focus on that. He was --
MORGAN: Let me finish, Dana.
LOESCH: He was on medication and he was seeing a psychiatrist.
MORGAN: Do I presume -- Dana, I don't dispute that.
LOESCH: No, let me answer this. I want to bring this up. This is an important point, Piers.
MORGAN: I'm telling you, though, that he was a legal gun owner.
LOESCH: And it needs to be made.
MORGAN: As was Adam Lanza's mother.
LOESCH: No, here's the thing. This is where people who are --
MORGAN: Adam Lanza's mother was a legal gun owner.
LOESCH: Piers, Piers --
HUGHES: But Adam Lanza's mother did not shoot people up, Piers. You have to realize that.
LOESCH: And Piers, you need to realize, too, that this is where the people who are supposed to be telling -- see, look. I'm going to use the case of Jared Loughner as an example. Do you realize that that -- he could have been reported in terms of being mentally unfit, reported to NICS when they did the background check they would have determined that he was mentally unfit. He would have been unable to purchase a firearm.
The same thing with Holmes. But you have these laws in place.
Piers, what good are laws if they -- if no one wants to follow them.
MORGAN: Scottie --
LOESCH: Do you realize --
MORGAN: Scottie said earlier --
LOESCH: No. Do you realize that there are laws that have been passed to incentivize states recording these people?
MORGAN: Scottie said early that she --
MORGAN: OK. I hear you. Scottie said earlier she doesn't agree with a single thing that President Obama said today. What's your view? Is there anything there you agreed with?
LOESCH: You know, I'm really -- because I think that he was moved by what happened at Newtown, which I think anybody would have been. And at the same time --
MORGAN: Was there anything you agreed within the president's proposals?
HUGHES: And instead of -- today instead of having those four children --
MORGAN: You know that's it. You know something?
HUGHES: -- I would have liked to have the mother from Georgia that sat there.
MORGAN: The pair of you would like to have the right to have a tank and you don't agree with a single --
LOESCH: Why are you making -- now you're committing --
MORGAN: With a single one of President Obama's proposals.
LOESCH: Now you're committing the straw man, Piers. Now you're committing the straw man.
HUGHES: Because all you're doing --
MORGAN: And you know something? It makes me sick when I hear people say that kind of thing.
HUGHES: Piers. Do we need to --
LOESCH: Piers, when did they say that, Piers? It makes me sick when I hear people --
MORGAN: Coming up, (INAUDIBLE) the gun debate and the president's sweeping proposal.
MORGAN: As you heard in my rather heated discussion moments ago, gun rights advocates are slamming the president's gun control plan. They say it's all wrong, it's all unconstitutional. "New York Times" columnist Nick Kristof has a lot to say about this and he joins me now.
Nick, I find it almost impossible to stay calm and rational when I'm confronted with an argument from two people there who are quite well-known in the conservative community in their own rights, neither of whom could see a single thing in the president's very lengthy proposals -- 26, 27 proposals about what to do about gun violence. They couldn't find a single thing they agreed with. And they believed the right to bear arms includes the right to own a tank.
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I wondered if they think it includes the right to control small tactical nuclear weapons or something.
MORGAN: There is no limit in their eyes. That's why that argument, to me, is important to have with them, to understand the mentality which is basically there are no limits. KRISTOF: Right. And I think it's very important to make the point, as I think you did, that the question isn't do we draw lines. Of course we draw lines, you know, whether it's between a semiautomatic and an automatic, or between tanks or nuclear weapons. The question isn't whether we regulate arms. It's where we draw that line.
In terms of the president's proposals today, very detailed, I thought very bold. One of his -- to me, and I have an agenda on this, which I made very clear. But one of his best days as a president. I thought it was a day he became a real leader. But he does it knowing that trying to get half of this stuff through the Senate, never mind the Congress, is going to be almost impossible.
MORGAN: Some people tell me. How can he do it?
KRISTOF: Well, he has this stuff he chose precisely because he doesn't have to send it through the Senate or the House. A lot of things are -- he can authorize new research into weapons. One of the craziest things about this is that we don't even really understand what the damage that guns cause. I saw today that there have been I think 57 studies by National Institutes of Health on Diptheria. There have been three on guns, which are a leading cause of death in the U.S.
So there are some things he can do already. I think he's got a pretty good shot at getting universal background checks, which is the single thing, I think, that would save the most number of lives here. It's very popular, even among NRA numbers. I mean, the heavy lifting is going to be on the assault weapons ban.
MORGAN: But should he just keep heavy lifting? Is this one of those moments when the president of the United States has to look at the fact that 100,000 Americans are hit by gunfire every year. But on the question of assault weapons, the last four mass shootings have all involved the very similar AR-15 style, military style rifle. And Americans are getting slaughtered with these things.
No one has given me a reason why a civilian needs them, let alone adding 100 bullet magazine.
KRISTOF: Well, I mean I agree with you that there should be an assault weapons ban. But I do think that in the 1990s, those who were in favor of gun control made a tactical mistake, that they put all their eggs in that basket, in favor of an assault weapons ban that, for a number of reasons, didn't really accomplish much.
MORGAN: It had far too many loopholes.
KRISTOF: It did have a lot of loopholes. But at the end of the day, also, we have about 150 assault weapons murders each year. Meanwhile, you have more than 11,000 with guns as a whole. If we just focus on assault weapons, then we've lost.
MORGAN: I totally agree. I think the other measures he brought in are very much in particular dealing with the handgun problem that criminals get handguns.
KRISTOF: With gun trafficking.
MORGAN: I totally agree with all those things. But I just think if you're going to be doing this as a reaction to Sandy Hook, the least you owe the families of those poor children is to look at the weapon that was used and ask yourself a humane question. What role do these weapons play in a civilized society? There is no role. They are killing machines.
MORGAN: They fire 90 to 100 bullets in a minute. And yet I still get being told they're not assault weapons. Well, what the bloody hell are they?
KRISTOF: I grew up on a farm in a world surrounded by guns. Nobody -- you have a deer rifle, which may be a 30-06. You don't take an AR-15 out deer hunting. And if you can't shoot a target with ten rounds, then, you know, better go back to the target practice.
MORGAN: It's not hunting. It's not sport. What are you left with?
KRISTOF: Well, it's fun. Frankly, it truly is.
MORGAN: Is fun a good enough excuse?
KRISTOF: No. I think the cost is so enormous. It's also fun to drive at 110 miles per hour down the road. But for a lot of good reasons, we don't allow that. I think for the same reason, we need to restrict assault weapons.
MORGAN: Let's turn briefly, if we could, to the situation in Algeria, the terrorist situation, as Panetta has called it tonight. What do we know about this? We know that three Americans may be among the hostages, I think?
KRISTOF: We know very little about this. There are a lot of very confusing reports coming from Algeria, coming from various foreign capitals, coming from Mauritania. And it's a little bit mysterious because there is a natural business line of al Qaeda affiliates there to kidnap foreigners, especially Europeans. And it's very profitable.
One element of that is terrorism. Another is that -- this is like Somali piracy. You can get real ransoms. In this case, they're in this southern Algerian gas facility. They haven't been able to take those hostages away. At the end of the day, I think they're going to end up getting killed. Unfortunately, some of those hostages may as well.
But I can't help wondering if this wasn't a failed attempt to kidnap hostages and ransom them.
MORGAN: We'll find out I guess over the next few days. Nick, as always, great to talk to you. Thank you for coming in.
KRISTOF: Good to be here, Piers.
MORGAN: Nick Kristof. I'll be right back with Al Roker.
MORGAN: Al Roker may be the busiest guy on TV. He is a co-host of "The Today Show." He's also got his own show on the Weather Channel. He is a best-selling author. His new book is "Never Going Back: Winning The Weight Loss Battle For Good."
Al, welcome back.
AL ROKER, "THE TODAY SHOW": I'm just Tweeting right now. I'm Tweeting that I'm on your program. How are you doing?
MORGAN: I'm good. Thank you How are you?
ROKER: I'm feeling great.
MORGAN: Other than wasting away. We'll come to your decrepit physical condition.
ROKER: Barely holding on.
MORGAN: Barely hanging in there. Let me talk to you about -- I saw a recent thing you did in which you went to a range and fired some of these assault weapons and so on. What is your take on what was a very momentous day today for President Obama and his administration, and I think for America?
ROKER: Well, look, I think this is a really polarizing issue. There are people who, you know -- I think most Americans are pretty reasonable out there about this, whether you're in the NRA or not. That there is some sort of limit. Can you have a tank? I mean, I'd like to have a tank. I think that would be kind of fun.
MORGAN: We would all love to have a tank.
ROKER: I'd like a locomotive too, but I don't have one.
MORGAN: Do you believe the Constitution gives you the right to have a tank?
ROKER: Well, I think the Constitution -- when the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, I don't think they envisioned, you know, rapid-fire weapons or anything like that. Much like, you know, when they wrote certain things in the Bible, they didn't know anything else. So it was of the time. So I think this is something that is open to interpretation.
MORGAN: How do you get through the impasse of this debate, when I have two conservatives on there who basically say they didn't agree with a single one of the president's proposals today, not one. They couldn't find any common ground in anything?
ROKER: But those are just two people. I think, you know, there are people, whether they are conservative or Republican or liberal or Democrat, that -- I think there is a lot of common ground. I think most Americans are pretty reasonable and believe that, you know, there -- that there is nothing wrong with a background check. I think -- poll after poll shows that.
Look, most NRA members believe that. So, you know, I think, you know, look, you can find fringes on either -- extremes on either end of the spectrum, ban everything or ban nothing. But there is a common ground that I think most Americans believe exists.
MORGAN: I hope you're right. I hope we get to that. I think something has to be done.
Turning to the other big story of the week, Lance Armstrong. You met him once.
MORGAN: Did you get to know him?
ROKER: He basically, you know, asked me what the weather was going to be, and then kept moving.
MORGAN: Did you say, for you, mate, pretty stormy.
ROKER: Exactly, yeah. Who knew? But this was before all that stuff was happening.
MORGAN: What do you think of it?
ROKER: Well, look --
MORGAN: You're a sports fan.
ROKER: Hey, look, not really. But the thing is, this guy is really -- he suffered a lot. He has also let down a lot of people. But he has done a lot of good. So I don't know. It's a really difficult issue, you know.
MORGAN: See, my problem is I think sport for people, particularly in America -- and Britain is the same. People feel such great passion for it.
MORGAN: It's escapism, and it's about having heroes.
MORGAN: And it's about having people who excel in what they do. You would all love to be a professional sports star, because it sounds so impossibly glamorous. Yet it is intense. They put all this work in. And when they're exposed as cheats, every single time, something inside me just dies. When I watched Ben Johnson win that 100 meters that time, I loved that for a day. And then it was all crushed.
My favorite sport is cricket. I found that the huge game turned out to be rigged. And it killed me. And then I heard about Lance Armstrong, and I thought, not him as well. So he was guilty. He did cheat the whole time. Nothing is right about that.
ROKER: Right. And look, a lot of people say, well, everybody in that sport is doing that. I don't know. I don't bike. I'm not going to ever run the Tour de France, you know. But you feel bad -- badly that there is so much pressure that everybody feels, well, if the other guy is doing it, I have to do it.
MORGAN: I hate it for my children. I have three teenaged boys. All play sport, love sport, very competitive. I don't want them thinking the way to win is cheating.
ROKER: But you know what? I think -- I don't think they see that. I don't think our kids do. I think they see what we want, what we put out. If, as a parent, you -- you espouse fair play and honesty in not just sport, but your life, I think that's what they see. You know, look, I think Lance Armstrong and all those, any big sports person, sure, they like to look at, they like to go see. But I think at the end of the day, they care more about what you think and what you do than what a Lance Armstrong or a Barry Bonds does.
MORGAN: That may be true. And talking of evil blood sports and big competition, let's turn to your war with GMA. They've been kicking your butt for a while. You're fighting back a little bit at the moment. Joking apart, I'm a great fan of Matt's. But I saw you launch a spirited defense of Mr. Lauer the other day. I thought quite right because he remains a brilliant broadcaster.
He is taking an absolute pummeling. It's brutal, your morning battles.
ROKER: Look, I think, Piers, what sells more papers or more clicks online than the negative? That's -- they have to -- look, there is a lot of schadenfreude. For 17 years, they had to write we were number one. And now we're not, OK. Good on GMA. Good for them.
But the fact of the matter is I've known Matt Lauer since 1990. I've worked with him in local news. And he is a terrific human being. He is a great person. He had nothing to do with anything that happened on our show. Was it a great thing that Anne left? No. We were all heartbroken about it.
But the fact of the matter is she is still at NBC News, contrary to what people are reading about her coming over here. She is still at NBC News. She has a unit, a whole unit to do the stories that she does best. So, you know, at the end of the day, it's not the worst thing to get a kick in the slats, because it --
MORGAN: Let me ask you that. You've been there a long time. Do you feel like it's got you all energized again?
ROKER: I think, look, we were always energized. But I think we feel like, you know what, this is what we do. We're not changing what we do. We're just going to work at it that much harder. And, you know, look, the good news is the numbers are coming back.
And look, it's great -- it's great fun when you have competition. And now we've got a good competitor in GMA. We'll continue to have a good competition. We're glad that Robin Williams -- Robin Williams? Robin Roberts is feeling better, is doing great, is healthy, because, you know, it's always -- it's always good to compete against the best.
MORGAN: Well, I enjoy both of your shows, which is the most diplomatic way of looking at it. And I thoroughly enjoy the competition. But I do feel for Matt, who I think is -- he is worthy of a lot better treatment.
ROKER: No. Look, he is a terrific guy. He is a loyal friend. And he does -- people don't realize what he does and what Anne and Savannah and everybody before that, it's not easy to do that job, because you have to be part Tom Brokaw, part Regis Philbin, part Jay Leno. They're all these things, part Martha Stewart.
MORGAN: And you get no sleep, and you have to wake up to Al Roker. It's a pretty rough gig.
ROKER: It's bad!
MORGAN: Let's take a break and come back and talk about how you managed to lose 106 pounds. It's the ever disappearing Al Roker.
ROKER: That's right. I'm going to vanish right here.
MORGAN: Back now with Al. I'm going to switch to your favorite catch phrase, and ask you about what's happening to the woods in the back of your neck? Because your neck -- that's a pretty labored segue.
ROKER: It was a long way around, but you're getting there.
MORGAN: -- on the back of your neck, Al Roker. Your neck is disappearing, like the rest of you, at a rate -- you've lost an unfeasible amount of wait, 350 pounds down to -- fighting wait now?
ROKER: Right, 205.
MORGAN: Amazing. Do you feel better?
ROKER: It is work. There's no question about it. Look, I had -- 11 years ago, I had a gastric bypass. My dad was dying of lung cancer. He said, listen, we both know I'm not going to be here for my grandchildren. You have to get healthy. You need to swear to me you are going to lose weight. And I did.
I had a bypass about four months after he died, lost the weight, kept it off for eight years. Then I had -- my mom got sick. The interesting thing, people think, oh, you have a gastric bypass, A, you have cheated, you are taking the easy way out, and B, that that's it, you're done. No. You can eat through a bypass. People have done it, Carney Wilson, just one of the most famous.
So I gained 40 pounds of that weight back. I thought, you know what, I lost my mom, I lost my dad. I had no control over that. I am not going to lose this battle as well. And so I changed the way I ate. I changed the way I worked out. And now for almost five years, I've been between 200 and 205.
MORGAN: What are the key simple things that anybody who is overweight can actually do? Because you can have all the diets and things in the world, but until your head's right -- what are the things that you felt were most effective?
ROKER: A, in this country, we need to cut back on portions.
ROKER: Huge portion. I was at my mom's -- I held on to my mom's house. I have a couple of nieces and nephews living there. I was looking at some dishes down in the basement. And the plates were smaller then. So now we have these huge plates, huge portions. We are eating too much.
Again, the exercise is to me one of the keys. Food is important. You have got to exercise. We tend to -- until I really made a commitment -- the first thing I would cancel in my day was my work- out. Any excuse to cancel the work-out. You can't do it. You have to. There is no magic bullet. It's less food, more exercise.
MORGAN: It's a crazy idea.
MORGAN: Actually, what it is, above all else, is mental discipline. It is about having the discipline to do it when there are so many ways you can do something else.
ROKER: And look, I hate it. I started training and started running. I ended up running the New York City Marathon. And you know what, in the nine months I trained, never once did I get the runner's high. There is no runner's high. Have you ever seen a happy runner?
MORGAN: Let me tell you about a high work out. I had a work-out this week with this barbarian of a trainer I have called Mark. He decided to beast me -- that I needed a beasting after my Dr. Oz show where I had been deemed unfit. He thought it reflected badly on him.
He beasted me for about an hour. I was so sick afterwards, I had to sit down in the middle of the freezing cold pavement and be fed emergency Gatorade to revive me. ROKER: They have emergency Gatorade.
MORGAN: Well, he went and got one. As I lay there sweating and nearly vomiting, I thought, what the hell am I doing? I am 47 years old. This is about as good as it is ever going to get. I am lying in the middle of a New York street slurping Gatorade to stay alive, in an effort to keep fit.
ROKER: That's a regular Saturday night for your executive producer.
MORGAN: Can we mention the elephant in the room.
MORGAN: The White House incident, probably the most revolting story I've ever heard on national television?
ROKER: I am sure there is worse, but here is the deal.
MORGAN: I couldn't think of one. I was trying this afternoon.
ROKER: I can give you five.
MORGAN: Serious point --
ROKER: We don't have time. There is the white house. Look, the fact of the matter is --
ROKER: I was in the press room. The fact is, a gastric bypass is a serious surgery. I won't recommend it to people. One in 200 people die. You have to, for the rest of your life, take multivitamins, because you -- and I was a month out of having the surgery in 2002. If you eat the wrong things, you are going to have gastric problems. That was the point of it.
But as I say, look, the title of the book is, "Never Going Back." I have been back to the White House about 10 times and never had a problem again.
MORGAN: I saw you there. If I would have known, I would have given you a very wide berth.
Can we have you read the tease to the break, please?
ROKER: All right. It is just here. It is here. But my camera is there. We'll be right back. But here is what's happening in your neck of the woods. Look at the back of my neck. Look at that.
MORGAN: Al Roker, it's been a total delight. In one word, what will the weather be like tomorrow?
ROKER: It's going to be spectacular.
MORGAN: Fantastic. You are spectacular. It's a great pleasure to have you. And thank you for coming in.
ROKER: Thank you.
MORGAN: That's all for us tonight. Anderson Cooper starts now.
ROKER: 360, woo!
MORGAN: Without Al Roker.