Every cable news anchor gets his or her share of hostile tweets. But CNN's Piers Morgan might be the first to spark a petition to the White House demanding deportation. More than 80,000 signatures have been gathered from pro-gun activists angry over the British journalist's repeated calls for an assault-weapons ban in the aftermath of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 children dead. They can sign all they want — but he's not backing down.
"I don't really care about how much flak I get," Morgan says. "This is not about people threatening me. It's about the debate being heard on the public stage and not disappearing until things are done. I think there is going to be action this time. I think this is a tipping point."
Morgan's intense feelings about gun control are rooted in his experience as editor of Britain's Daily Mirror, where he oversaw coverage of the 1996 mass shooting that killed 16 children at a primary school in Dunblane, Scotland. "Members of my reporting team were in tears and asking to come off the story," he recalls. "They said they couldn't take it anymore because it was just so harrowing."
The atrocity spurred the passage of a national handgun ban — with bipartisan support — in the United Kingdom, which has not had a school shooting since. Memories of Dunblane consumed Morgan as the Sandy Hook story took over his program for seven straight nights. His blood pressure appeared to go up with every staunch gun-lobby spokesperson who opposed any action against assault weapons. "I found them so callous in the way they react to these things," he says. "It never crosses their mind that the gun is the problem. All they want to do is stir up fear."
Morgan says he respects the constitutional right to bear arms and has no issues with those who keep guns for hunting or to protect their families against home invasion. "I'm not saying get rid of all guns in America," he says. "The problem is the availability of assault weapons to commit mass murder in minutes."
CNN bosses, says Morgan, have no problem with his on-air advocacy. "It's not about being liberal," Morgan says. "I just want a safer America."