September 17, 2013

Piers Morgan (Jeff Schear/Getty Images)
Piers Morgan (Jeff Schear/Getty Images)

May it never be said that CNN host Piers Morgan hesitates to jump into debates about gun violence in America.

Just hours after authorities announced the name of the suspect in the Navy Yard shooting yesterday, Morgan had rounded up a panel of pro-gun guys, the better to tell them how wrong they are about arming the country. Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre last December, gun advocates spoke of the need to protect schools with armed force. Morgan saw a problem with that approach in light of the Navy Yard episode: “The NRA has been furiously silent today. NRA doesn’t want to say anything about this. And here’s why. Because the Washington Navy Yard is heavily secured, it is crawling in arms security, people, arms, police. And yet it was still infiltrated by a man with a legally purchased AR-15, who just committed the same kind of atrocity as we saw at Sandy Hook and Aurora.”

Radio host Ben Ferguson stated the anti-Morgan case, wondering why rank-and-filers in the Navy Yard weren’t allowed to be armed: “This is the reason why we’re not calling for armed guards because they cannot work, and today is proof of that. We are saying that if you were in the United States Navy and we trust you with Navy ships and war, why the hell wouldn’t we trust you to carry your weapon to work with you.”

Morgan actually gave him time and space to make his points. As he did with the other guests, author John Lott and Richard Feldman, president of the Independent Firearm Owners Association. In one or two stretches of the debate, it appeared that Morgan was even listening to these polemical enemies of his. Even though he got animated and did raise his voice, he showed a great deal more restraint than he did in similar circumstances in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shootings, when he hectored and bullied and insulted his guests.

An informed source earlier this year told the Erik Wemple Blog that CNN boss Jeff Zucker had had a little chat with Morgan around the time of those Sandy Hook segments. Chill out, came the message from Zucker, said the source. CNN wouldn’t confirm the tete-a-tete, though last night’s show provides evidence that some tonal change is afoot.

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