close up of handgun (Scott Olson / Getty Images)

CNN’s Piers Morgan has shown in the gun-control debate that he’s not above stooping. In a much-trafficked interview last month, for example, he called Larry Pratt of the Gun Owners of America “an unbelievably stupid man.”

More such stupidity spilled from Morgan yesterday morning. Following a media herd, Morgan tweeted:

SICKENING: Sandy Hook father Neil Heslin heckled as he pleads for ban on assault weapon that killed his son Jesse:

Misleading, at the very best: Heslin, as explained here, actually invited members of the audience at a meeting in Hartford to rebut his testimony. Here’s the relevant transcript:

Heslin: I don’t know how many people have young children or children. But just try putting yourself in the place that I’m in or these other parents that are here. Having a child that you lost. It’s not a good feeling; not a good feeling to look at your child laying in a casket or looking at your child with a bullet wound to the forehead. I ask if there’s anybody in this room that can give me one reason or challenge this question: Why anybody in this room needs to have an, one of these assault-style weapons or military weapons or high-capacity clips…..Not one person can answer that question.”

Crowd/Alleged Hecklers: “Second Amendment shall not be infringed”

Public official: “Please no comments while Mr. Heslin is speaking. Or we’ll clear the room. Mr. Heslin, please continue.”

Morgan’s “sickening” assessment, thus, conflicted a bit with the facts, a point made in stark language by Morgan’s detractors on Twitter. So Morgan roared back with this one:

AN APOLOGY: No, those gun supporters didn’t ‘heckle’ Neil Heslin – they just shamed themselves with their disgusting behaviour. My mistake.

In search of such disgusting behaviour, the Erik Wemple Blog analyzed the entirety of Heslin’s testimony. And boy, did Heslin ever give a heckle-prone gun-rights advocates every conceivable opening to shout him down. Time and again, Heslin called for an activist government response to the Sandy Hook massacre. Regulations, background checks and so on — he called for the whole menu of controls. And time and again, the Hartford audience sat and listened with patience and tranquility. If these folks were such die-hard hecklers, why didn’t they pipe up when he said…


I’m not a gun owner now, and I think a lot of changes need to be made as for the safety of handling the guns, regulations of the guns, handguns, long arms, whatever you want to classify as an assault weapon…

Or this?

I’m not in favor of banning guns or weapons. I’m in favor of , would like to see a lot stricter regulations be it on a federal regulation and a state level. There are a lot of things that should be changed to prevent what happened—mental health being a big part.

Or this?

I look at these weapons that were presented by the state police here. The so-called assault weapons, meaning military-style or military-looking, you can categorize it or classify ’em however you want. I still can’t see why any civilian, anybody in this room, in fact, needs weapons of that sort. You’re not going to use them for hunting, even for home protection. Semiautomatic or automatic weapon is one of the most inaccurate weapons out there.

Or this?

I just hope some good can come out of this…changes for mental health, ban of assault weapons. I just can’t fathom why any of us need that, in our society or in our home. Why do we need 30-round magazines or cartridges?

Or this?

There’s a lot of people here that are in favor of guns, and not changes. But if they opened their eyes and their minds and supported changes, it would give them more rights. If it was on a federally regulated program. It would give them more rights to take hunting weapons in and out of different states.

Or this?

We don’t need these weapons on the street or in our homes. We don’t. And I ask everybody to think about it, and everybody in this room, whether you’re in favor of guns or in favor of banning them, to try to work together and come up with reasonable changes that work. And I think one place to start is with the regulations on background checks, thorough background checks, for everyone who purchases a weapon. Resales have to have thorough background checks. I think a ban on high-capacity magazines and assault-type weapons needs to be in place. More strict guidelines on people who own them, such as the state has the federal government federal government has with machine guns.

Or this?

Getting back to these high-capacity weapons, we’re not living in the Wild West, we’re not a Third World nation. We have the strongest military in the world. We don’t need to defend our homes with weapons like that. I just hope that everybody in this room, as I said before, can support change. Ban assault weapons and high-capacity clips and magazines, and that’s a step in the right direction. And support federal changes and regulations.

Or this?

Any of the massacres or shootings in this country—I believe they all happen with assault weapon, or assault-style weapon, high-capacity clips. Aurora, Columbine, Sandy Hook. And they were, I believe they were all purchased legally, too. Not to say that…assaults like that couldn’t have happened in another way, but you need to cut down on the guns. Those type of guns, there’s no reason for it. They cause destruction, they cause massacre, and that’s what they were made to do. I just ask that they could place a ban on them.

But no: After each of those calls for gun control, Heslin got the full attention of his audience. No interruptions, no heckling, no nothing. It’s only after he twice calls on the audience to rebut his opinions about assault rifles that he draws some audience participation. Had multiple news outlets not mischaracterized the session as a hecklefest, it might well have stood as a model of civil and patient discussion of a pressing public matter.