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Piers Morgan Defends the Nanny State: 'People Need Nannying'

This is Jeff Zucker's CNN? Monday night's Piers Morgan Live featured Morgan defending the nanny state and calling for federal gun control. Meanwhile his guest, new CNN host Morgan Spurlock, pushed for more gun laws and half agreed with Morgan in his support of the nanny state.

"Isn't he right to be a nanny?" Morgan said of New York Mayor Bloomberg's large soda ban. "People need nannying."  He also excused Chicago's strict gun laws that fail to stop gun crime, instead blaming neighboring states with lax gun laws. "So until you have a federal gun control that stops that happening, this will keep happening in places like Chicago," the CNN host said of gun violence.

[Video below. Audio here.]

Talking with Morgan about guns, new CNN host Morgan Spurlock wanted to see "universal background checks," a limit on magazines, and a database for the mentally ill so they can't purchase guns. "People aren't tracked. There's no way to kind of know who those people are and really keep the firearms out of their hands," Spurlock told his host.

Before hosting Spurlock, Morgan had interviewed the parents of Blake Lammers who turned in their teenage son to the police after he had planned to conduct a mass shooting. Lammers had a history of mental illness, and Morgan insisted that mental health information show up on background checks. He also pushed for national gun control to override state laws.

"And the fact that Chicago has quite tough gun control is utterly meaningless, because they all just get in their cars and go outside of the state to neighboring states which don't have strong gun controls. So until you have a federal gun control that stops that happening, this will keep happening in places like Chicago, until they can enforce it properly," Morgan said.

Later on in the show, Morgan and Spurlock talked about New York Mayor Bloomberg's "nanny state" bans on public smoking and large sugary drinks. The laws "demonstrably improve the quality of life of people," Morgan told Spurlock. 

Spurlock acknowledged the success of Bloomberg's smoking ban: "as much as people were against the smoking ban, when that went through a few years ago, nobody's talking about it now. Like everybody loves the fact you can actually go to a restaurant and the guy next to you is not puffing up. It's great.

[Video below. Audio here.]

Spurlock also touted poll numbers that CNN hammered during the gun control debate:

"[O]ne of the things we talk about in the show is 90 percent of Americans, when there was a vote about to come up about having background checks and expanding background checks to any type of a gun sale, 90 percent of Americans approved of that. And 90 percent of Americans don't approve of anything or agree on anything."

"The only thing that people approved on or agreed on more than universal background checks was ice cream," he added. "[T]here are a vast amount of people that want change. There's a tremendous amount of people that want things to be different."

Below is a transcript of the segments, which aired on Piers Morgan Live on June 17:

[9:06 p.m. EDT]

PIERS MORGAN: And the point is, Bill, isn't it, that if you look at the loopholes in the background checks system in America, he could have gone to a gun show. From all the investigations I've seen, he could have walked into a gun show, no questions asked, and bought the same kind of assault rifle there. And when you see Washington reacting in the way they did recently by doing absolutely nothing, not even tightening background checks, what do you feel, as responsible parents who did, you know, almost the unthinkable. Having to hand your son in, because you've just run out of other options, what do you feel about Washington doing nothing?

BILL LAMMERS, turned in son, feared mass killing: It's a – it's going to happen again. I mean doing nothing is the worst thing that you can do. This – we're just waiting for another mass shooting to happen. It's going to happen again and again and again. Something has to be done. And it's appalling to just see that Washington and gridlock and they can't pass anything. I mean –

MORGAN: I can't – I can't buy a Kinder egg in Wal-Mart. I can't buy six packets of Sudafed in Wal-Mart. I can't buy certain types of French cheese in Wal-Mart. All these are deemed too damaging, potentially, to my health. But your son -- and let's repeat this again -- who had been to a mental institution seven times in the previous few years, but because he had never been court ordered to one of the institutions, just didn't show up on the Wal-Mart background check. The same Wal-Mart he'd been in with a meat cleaver to try and harm an employee before. I mean, it almost defies belief, and yet we hear about these things time and again. What do you think it will take, Tricia, to wake people out of their slumber on this issue?

TRICIA LAMMERS, turned in son, feared mass killing: Well, if the Aurora, Colorado, shooting didn't wake people up, and the shooting that happened in California, if that didn't wake people up, I don't think Congress and the government – I don't think you can wake them up. Maybe something needs to happen to their family. Or maybe if they had mental illness in their family, and their son or daughter was arrested, maybe then someone would wake up and see that things need to change.

B. LAMMERS: But we're here –

(Crosstalk)

MORGAN: Because, Bill, I mean – I think what I was saying, Bill, just before you answer as well. The Chicago situation this weekend, over 40 people shot in Chicago in over 20 different incidents. That is one issue involving gun violence. That is an issue involving mainly gang-on-gang related violence. And the fact that Chicago has quite tough gun control is utterly meaningless, because they all just get in their cars and go outside of the state to neighboring states which don't have strong gun controls. So until you have a federal gun control that stops that happening, this will keep happening in places like Chicago, until they can enforce it properly.

But in terms of what happened to your son, what is so relevant is we saw exactly the same thing happening with this young man in Santa Monica 10 days ago. We saw it at Sandy Hook with Adam Lanza. We saw it at Aurora with James Holmes. Each time, disturbed young men who should never be allowed anywhere near these assault rifles and yet they're able to.

B. LAMMERS: Well, so it's probably the health care professional not able to report to the local authorities or to the ATF or the FBI that they just saw a patient that would harm the general public or themselves if they were to buy a weapon. So it's a failure of the healthcare system to not be able to report because they're too – you know, the HIPPA privacy – it's too shielded and guarded information. But yet we're enabling these people with some type of a mental handicap to go out and buy a weapon and use it on themself or others. They're –

(Crosstalk)

MORGAN: And, of course, it comes at a time when – well, it comes at a time when the majority of Americans, according to all the polls, seem quite happy that the NSA can access almost all their private data. So you have a complete hypocrisy here. We have the same Republican – mainly Republicans, I'm not going to say just Republicans because some Democrats are doing it, too. But the ones who shout loudest about we can't infringe the Second Amendment, in terms of background checks because of the information it may unveil, they're the ones saying, NSA should carry on doing what they're doing.

B. LAMMERS: So I really don't think anything's private any more. In the day of the internet, everybody has everybody's information. Yet my son could go in there and buy an AR-15 and there was zero that showed up on his background check. So –

MORGAN: Absolutely extraordinary.

(...)

[9:21 p.m. EDT]

PIERS MORGAN: And I want to bring in Morgan Spurlock. He's the Oscar-nominated filmmaker behind "Super Size Me." But now he's getting a firsthand look at just how easy it is to buy guns in his new CNN show, Inside Man. He goes to work at a gun shop.

(...)

MORGAN: What did you discover in your show?

MORGAN SPURLOCK, filmmaker: What you start to see is, these types of folks, they aren't in a database. People aren't tracked. There's no way to kind of know who those people are and really keep the firearms out of their hands. The shop that I worked in did an incredible job of running background checks on people from a legal standpoint. Did they break the law, did they have outstanding warrants? I mean, they ran all the specs that they had to –  

MORGAN: It was in Virginia.

SPURLOCK: It was in Virginia. Fredericksburg, and I mean, they did everything to the letter of the law. More than probably most other shops. They were great. But this part of the puzzle is one that is very much missing from doing background checks on people.

MORGAN: I mean, how lax is it in reality?

SPURLOCK: I mean, in terms of somebody like that who has mental problems, it's very lax because none of that is reported. None of that goes into a database that ultimately is managed by or controlled by the states.

MORGAN: And there is a hypocrisy, isn't there, between those who campaign for the Second Amendment and say, look, the reason we don't want universal background checks is we don't want this information getting into the wrong hands with the government. And at the same time, they're saying, we're quite happy for the NSA to be tapping everyone's phones, e-mails and so on.

SPURLOCK: Yeah. It's very ironic, and one of the things we talk about in the show is 90 percent of Americans, when there was a vote about to come up about having background checks and expanding background checks to any type of a gun sale, 90 percent of Americans approved of that. And 90 percent of Americans don't approve of anything or agree on anything.

MORGAN: No, never!

SPURLOCK: The only thing that people approved on or agreed on more than universal background checks was ice cream.

(Laughter)

SPURLOCK: 93 percent of Americans like ice cream more than universal background checks. But not baseball, not apple pie, all those were much less than even universal background checks.

MORGAN: What does it say about America's relationship with guns?

SPURLOCK: I mean, it's very much – there's a part of this that is very embedded into our culture. What you see in the show and what you realize over the course – what I realized over the course of us making this is there are a vast amount of people that want change. There's a tremendous amount of people that want things to be different.

MORGAN: But their voice tends to get drowned out.

SPURLOCK: Well, it gets drowned out by both sides. It gets drowned out by the people who are saying, we have to get rid of these for good. We have to have massive reform that gets rid of all the firearms. And then there's people on the other side that are saying, oh no, Second Amendment, we have to have it stand by our rights. That is what our country's founded on. These people in the middle get lost in the conversation.

MORGAN: What is the sensible compromise, from what you went through with your show, could actually make a difference in reducing the gun violence toll?

SPURLOCK: I mean, I feel like if you do universal background checks, is a great start. If you create a database where people with mental problems don't have access to firearms, that's a great place to start. If you limit the amount of high-capacity magazines, that's a great place to start. I mean, I don't think you'll get a – you won't get a AR-15. You won't get a weapons ban.

MORGAN: But when you see that kind of weapon –

SPURLOCK: Yes.

MORGAN: -- and you think about the type of people who have had it in their hands committing atrocities,  Why would any civilian really need one of those outside of hawk hunting?

SPURLOCK: Well, sure. I mean, it's like – I shot one. They are fun to shoot. That's the thing. For somebody who's a sport hunter, somebody who just wants to have them for sport to go shoot – it's a fun –  

MORGAN: Is that enough? They're fun?

SPURLOCK: Just to have fun. I mean, sure, why not? Ultimately, if there's a way that you can have them and you can keep them for people who want to have them because they're fun, just like I love driving a Ferrari because it's fun. Or I love doing these things that are outside of the realm of other people's understanding. I don't own a Ferrari. Hopefully one day that'll happen.

(Laughter)

SPURLOCK: But you know, then we could drive around in our Ferraris and with our AR-15s. It would be a magical day in America.

MORGAN: Maybe it would, but I'm not sure I agree with that.

(...)

[9:32 p.m. EDT]

MORGAN: What do you make of Mayor Bloomberg in New York banning the sugary drinks over 16 ounces?

SPURLOCK: I mean, it's one of those things where part of me applauds the idea of something like that wanting to happen, but part of me hates the idea of having to ban anything. You know, that people – you know, you want to be able to have a responsible citizenry where they can, you know, make responsible decisions.

MORGAN: But does that ever happen in reality?

SPURLOCK: No. Not really. You know?

MORGAN: So isn't he right? Isn't he right to be a nanny? I mean, when we think about a nanny state, I think there's often a time when there should be a nanny state. Yes. People need nannying.

SPURLOCK: This is when you – when you provide kids with helmets or you make kids have to wear helmets, or you have to have seatbelts in cars. You know –

MORGAN: And they demonstrably improve the quality of life of people.

SPURLOCK: That's right. No, it's like --

(Crosstalk)

SPURLOCK: No, as much as people were against the smoking ban, when that went through a few years ago, nobody's talking about it now. Like everybody loves the fact you can actually go to a restaurant and the guy next to you is not puffing up. It's great. You know the difference between that and someone drinking a big sugary drink is not many people die from secondhand obesity.

Like I don't have – I've never had somebody roll over on me. And you know, it's like, that's the problem.

MORGAN: It could happen, though.

SPURLOCK: It could happen. It could happen. That's right.

MORGAN: You'd be around too many thin guys.

-- Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center