January 11, 2013

Piers Morgan dismissed gun-rights advocate John Lott by scoffing at him.
Piers Morgan dismissed gun-rights advocate Larry Pratt by insulting him.
Piers Morgan dismissed gun-rights advocate Alex Jones by saying nothing.

And Piers Morgan struggled to find the appropriate strategy for dismissing Ben Shapiro, editor-at-large of Breitbart.com and a foe of extraordinary polemical agility. He started in on Morgan by contending that the CNN star had exploited the dead children of Newtown:

What you tend to do is you tend to demonize people who differ from you politically by standing on the graves of the children of Sandy Hook, saying they don’t seem to care enough about the dead kids. If they cared more about the dead kids they would agree with you on policy.

Patented outrage spilled from Morgan: “How dare you.” And then the conversation took a turn for the better, as Shapiro cornered the CNN host on a central disconnect of the ongoing gun-violence debate: Proposals are floating around to redo the ban on assault rifles, something Morgan supports. But Shapiro wonders:

SHAPIRO: …Again, my question remains for you, Piers — and I’m still waiting for an answer from the left on this. They say they’re pro-Second Amendment. Why don’t we want to ban handguns?

If you really want to solve the, quote unquote, gun violence problem in America, why for all the guns? Why just stop yourself at assault rifles?

MORGAN: Because I believe and respect an Americans’ rights under the Second Amendment Constitution that you kindly brought in to defend themselves with a handgun or a pistol. What I don’t understand –

SHAPIRO: And most murders are committed with those weapons.

At one point during the clash, Morgan invoked good old Alex Jones, the way-way-out-there radio talk show host who came on the show earlier this week and caused a national media stir. Shapiro balked: “Don’t lump me in with Alex Jones.”
That would indeed be a mistake. Where Jones proved needy of a background screening, Shapiro was rational and on point. Where Jones failed to directly address Morgan’s points, Shapiro went right at them. Where Jones monologued, Shapiro got through his points quickly and shut up.
All those skills came in handy as Morgan tried to trap Shapiro by noting that Ronald Reagan had supported curbs on assault weapons:

MORGAN: One of the great right-wing presidents of modern times agreed with me.

Shapiro’s priceless retort: “So?”
On policy, Shapiro championed extensive background checks but opposed a ban on assault weapons on the grounds that they might be useful in repelling a tyrannical government.

MORGAN: You genuinely believe your own government is going to turn on you in a way that you require an AR-15 to challenge them? You really believe that will happen in modern-day America? Is that what you think?

SHAPIRO: They may not turn on me. They may not turn on my children. But the fact is this, history is replete with democracies going tyrannical. It has happened. It happened in France in the 19th century. It happened in Spain in the last century. It happened in Germany. It happened in Italy. It happened in Japan.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.