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December 19th, 2012
01:48 PM ET

Clips from Last Night: Alan Dershowitz and Jeffrey Toobin on the constitutionality and politics of the gun debate

In the aftermath of Friday's tragic Newtown, Conn. school shooting, on Tuesday evening "Piers Morgan Tonight" invited a pair of brilliant legal minds to share their perspective on the role of the historical doctrine within the gun debate:

"For a hundred years, the Constitution was interpreted to mean that state militias, essentially state police had a right to bear arms, because that's what the first half of the Second Amendment says," explained CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. "But as of 2008, as a result of years of lobbying and years of Republican appointees to the court, in 2008, the Supreme Court said individuals have a right to bear arms under the Second Amendment. So the law of the land now is that the government is really very limited in how much gun control it could pass, even if it had the political will to do so. It's not clear that it does. But the victories of the Republican party mean that gun control is harder to do in Congress and it's harder to do in the court."

Once a professor of the aforementioned, Alan Dershowitz presented an alternate theory:

"Now, where I disagree with my friend and former student Jeffrey Toobin is I think although the Supreme Court rendered a decision on the Second Amendment, it left open a tremendous amount of room for reasonable regulation," stated the lawyer and political commentator. "I think if Congress has the will to do something today, I believe the courts, with some exceptions, will uphold any reasonable regulation."

As their segment continued, Toobin and Dershowitz referenced potential political ramifications of modifying gun legislation:

"It is political poison in this country to say you're for gun control in about 40 states. I mean, try running for office in Texas and saying you're for gun control. You won't get nominated for dog catcher," noted Toobin.

Pushing for safety, Dershowitz suggested there are better ways in which to protect Americans other than simply arming more individuals:

"I recently was in Congress and in the White House. And to get into any of those buildings, you have to go through one door first. It locks behind you. Then you have to go through another door. And you get tested for metal and everything else."

Responding to his former teacher's argument, Toobin could only mutter: "Good lord, Alan."

Watch the clips, and listen to the interview, as the the former pupil and professor attempt to school one another on the issue of gun control.
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  1. Zizi

    Thank you so much for taking this on and for your passion about the issue of gun violence in the US. In all the discussion about 2nd Amendment rights, the rights of those who choose to arm themselves, hunt and kill innocent animals, and people, there is never a mention of the rights of millions of others to remain safe and protected from madmen and accidents caused by those who are only interested in THEIR rights If I choose NOT to bear arms, not to carry a weapon or have one in my home, why is my right to be safe not equally considered and protected? The crazies are running the looney house and we have allowed them to do it! It's time for this to end. The NRA is a lobbying group for the firearms industry and nutjobs who think this is still the wild west. Times have changed, and it's time for us all to evolve and put aside hatred, violence, killing as a way of life.

    December 19, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • lynx

      We have come to a point where we don’t use reason in argument just extreme position and emotional appeals on one side and staunch pure rights appeal to Liberty on the other.
      Both are purely political and designed to inflame populist messages on either side so nothing happens. There can never be an honest dialogue until we accept:
      The issue is unfettered access to firearms and mental illness.
      1: Everyone being able to have a gun without registration, thorough background checks a waiting period and real firearms training is just as ludicrous as expecting law abiding individuals to accept being unable to acquire firearms to protect themselves. There should be extremely harsh punishment not only fines but Jail time for non- adherence to these protocols
      2: It is a basic human right to protect oneself and knowing that those who attack others seldom will attack someone where they may be at a disadvantage actually makes the case for guns.
      3: It is reasonable to believe that most people who are victims of crime were perceived as vulnerable AT THE TIME THEY WERE VICTIMIZED.
      4: Choosing to be able to protect your person or those you love should be a matter of choice unimpeded by others who choose not to protect themselves.
      5: Police are minutes away when seconds matter.
      6: Law abiding citizens who have never had a felony conviction with no history of any mental illness are not likely to randomly kill people with any weapon.
      7: Once the gang violence and drug people are removed from the numbers along with suicide, gun crime numbers decrease greatly.
      Protecting the public from the violent mentally ill is a minefield of the Right to Privacy that no one wants to enter so let’s blame the Gun today. What will we ban tomorrow when it is a knife, a gas can, or a baseball bat?
      If the arguments concerning Gun Laws are about Safety then why take such harsh positions against Guns and not Alcohol when: 1 person dies every 31 minutes from Drunk Drivers 10s of 1000s of others are maimed at an expense of 20 Billion dollars a year. It is addictive has crushed the lives of millions and we still sell alcohol and even advertise it on TV. It has no benefit to the user. We use disclaimers like DRINK RESPONSIBLY. Do you have a Right to drive a car after drinking alcohol or is the problem the car? Is the problem the alcohol?
      Within a day of the murders at Sandy Hook, in China, there was an attempted massacre of very small Students with a knife. Twenty two children attacked was the report. There have been several attacks with individuals attempting to massacre small children with knives in China. The problem, as in most mass killings and suicides, is mental illness. A determined person will find a weapon with which to kill, be it a gun, knife, homemade explosive or can of gasoline.
      The truly sad story about Sandy Hook and other tragedies is that we don’t want to speak the hard truth. It is the truth that the anti gun fanatics like the bloviating name calling CNN person Morgan and others will not face. It is that when charged with the care and protection of innocents the response to an assault by any weapon being “let’s hide and hope they can’t find us” is inadequate.

      December 19, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • dave

      It is easy, don't want a gun, don't buy one. I choose to protect my family. It is my duty. Maybe you should put a sign in front of your house saying its a gun free zone. I would be curious how many "visitors" you get.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:39 am | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Dave in Delaware

    Piers, I used to own guns no longer do & am very anti gun. I find myself turning off your show when your are unable to elevate your argument with some of your guests and are reduced to calling them names as if you were on the playground about to elevate to a fist fight. I am very disappointed in you and some of your colleagues at CNN in the inability to form a concise argument to confront these folks. C'mon dude it's really not that difficult just don't let you emotions rule your head!

    December 19, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Stevie

    Keep the Guns. No one will take them away. 1/4 Billion guns can stay.

    Regulations on Ammunition is a must. The amount, type and time should be addressed.
    Ammunitions should be able to be tracked on what type, when it purchased and a limit should be place to curb stockpiling.

    The purpose is to defend oneself, family etc.., not with deadly force.
    The ammunitions should also have a new type used for target practice Plastic.

    Types of ammunition should be assigned to certain gun types.
    Like a slow load, non semi automatic hunting rifle for actual killing, may have metal tipped bullets.
    Semi automatic, or revolver types may not.
    A designation, or ticket/permit can be assigned if there has been appropriate step, training to gain a higher powered firearm.

    Without any or few permits that require proper training, a low power firearm can be assigned with a composite bullet the person gain another permit.

    There also should be responsibility with weapons ownership. If a weapon is used in a crime, even if stolen, then the owner can face the punishment of that crime, or a significant punitive measure.

    December 19, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Paul Zuk

      Honestly, are you for real? Just commies and nazi are so huge on gun control. Get yourself together a bit. It's not even about guns. It's about freedom from tyranny the same.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Carol stoakley

    I am not in favor of assault weapons but will never watch piers Morgan again. He is intolerant, biased and crude. We do not need him telling Americns how to regulate guns.

    December 19, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Mary Gonzalez

    Guns are only a small part of the problem the mental health providers in this Country are awful and history will tell you how bad this Country handles mental health. If they want a gun they will find one.

    December 19, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Teri Brackett

    Mr Morgan has lost all credibility as a host on any show! You don't know the statistics, the facts, and are incredibly rude. You should have someone from Australia on your program to tell you how well banning guns has worked for them. What a stupid, stupid man you are!!

    December 19, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • lynx owe

      As an aside to this, it is insulting to many I am sure, that A television host supposedly having a public debate doesn't allow his guests to speak and only bloviates his own position while name calling his guests. I watched this Brit who was run out of England where the most Yellow press corp in the West resides insult people and guests to the point where I had to change the channel. If this is the behaviour of people that you want to affect public discourse then your method is flawed or your agenda hidden and no better than a Limbaugh or a Fox TV. I always held CNN in higher regard. I have watched other programs AC 360 and others where there is obvious bias by the host but a true civil discourse proceeded. Irregardless of Morgans background it is obvious that the credential of civility and honest efforts at discussion not personal diatribe are beyond his ability to sustain. Lecturing us about England and Australia two of the economies that we subsidize and where especially in the UK where the standard of living is horrendously terrible for 99% of the people is again insulting. We are America and our fight was to free us from this type of Bullying which was well on display on his program. Bullies like Morgan shout out, pontificate and name call and insult a guest because they have control over the production and show.

      December 19, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      • Jack

        How dare you say that 99% of Brits are living horrendously! when you have obviously never lived there. The standard of living is pretty good for most people, so before you start giving false accusations, maybe you try living there . You are so paranoid that you need to carry weapons. I thought the USA was suuposed to be the land of the free! How can you say you are free if you have to carry a gun to be free! Unbelievable!

        December 19, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
      • Paul Zuk

        Maybe he's too afraid to do a live show?

        December 20, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Zach Anderson

    Why is Piers still on CNN? If there is something he doesnt aggree with, he will attack his guest with childish nonsense, but if his guest wants to respond to piers, he yells at him to let him finish. What an unprofessional interviewer. The guests are great but they have a hard time getting their point across when piers gets his feelings involved.

    December 19, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. 2theking

    piers morgan is a stupid man. it really shows he doesn't know what he's talking about. what happens when the guns are gone and people start killing with baseball bats, tire tools, hammers, butcher knives etc. when drunk drivers kill on the road they don't ban the cars, they arrest the driver. enough said. larry in tennessee.

    December 19, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. aaron weisenburger

    piers morgan is steering the talking points to his anti-gun agenda and will not let the facts come out. i dont tune in to see a bully over talk, scream and yell until the debate goes his way. he obviously does not understand that hunting rifle will fire just as fast as a military style weapon. semi auto is fast , they are all fast, they just look different.the difference is the amount of shells they will hold. put a police officer in the schools and cowards will not go there. it would not cost taxpayers that much money for a few extra officers and the children would get to interact with the police which would be a great thing. i will not go to businesses or places that do not allow licensed concealed weapons because like it or not ,that is where these people attack.

    December 19, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Paul Zuk

      Great comment!!

      December 20, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • S. Parlette

      since piers moreon hates america so much why does he live here. He should go back to where he came from. CNN needs to fire him and hire a american instead of this jerk.

      December 20, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Tex

    Mr Morgan:
    please keep your rants going
    keep being rude to your invited guests
    keep quoting made up statistics
    Keep being a uninformed bully
    If you don't like guns go back to your own country
    No one takes you serious because you are idiot
    If you would look at the truth you would know you are wrong about your goals to ban weapons
    Gun bans do not deter gun violence
    You invited quests tonight to have a balance debate on guns
    Then you asked questions of your quests but yelled at the pro gun guests and bullied them without letting them give your audience an answer
    An assalt weapon is a made up name to scare people
    The correct name for a AR15 is semiautomatic rifle
    These guns are used in crimes nation wide .3%
    These guns are used in vilolent crimes nation wide .1% the tragedy
    In Sandy Hook would be in this category

    So why do you lie about the truth
    You and all the media are not crediable
    The issue is the liberal media trying capitalize on a tragedy to go after the second amendment
    If you were a true tv journelist your story would be on our failed public health system that does nothing for the mentally ill but treat them with drugs. Parents can't get a mentally ill person committed to a mental hospital till he either a threat to himself
    Or has already hurt someone else.
    When the president and the media threatens to gut the second ammendment
    Gun sales sky rocket so keep up your rants because I love it
    More guns means a safer America
    Got to go I need to go buy some more AR15's
    And ammo and clips

    December 20, 2012 at 1:47 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Paul Zuk

      Preaching to the choir, brother!!

      December 20, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Susan Langton

    Last night when you were ranting on about a band on assault weapons
    you spoke for me. Thank you so much
    I was jumping up in my seat cheering you on Piers. Keep the rant alive...
    You have my support.
    For the Children that were gunned down. BAN ON THESE DEADLY WEAPONS
    Sure you can own one pistol or one rifle for your home protection ....But my lord these assault weapons are for WARs
    Not for Killing innocent Children and Teachers.....many within seconds
    Ban on assault weapons!!!!!!! NOW!!!!

    December 20, 2012 at 8:06 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Paul Zuk

      You really have no clue what you are talking about, don't you?

      December 20, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Zizi

    I'm wondering what all the Faux News watchers, the gun-toting yayoos, are doing watching CNN? Could it be because Murdoch and "his boys" are in sync with the Mayors, Obama, even 75% of NRA members and most of the general public, about clamping down on gun-toting nut cases who are able to commit such hideous atrocities because of the sickeningly lax gun laws in this country? Were they expecting to hear arguments by any sane, informed individual in favor of MORE guns and less regulation, when we already have the most guns (300 million!!!) in the hands of citizens and the highest murder rate in the civilized world?

    Teachers want to teach! We DO NOT want to carry guns into schools where it is likely that we would be unable to stop any madman hellbent on destruction, but would instead wind up causing even further chaos and harm to the innocent. It's time for a reality check! GUNS KILL!!! and the people who use them, use them to KILL! Anger, hatred, jealousy, and a propensity to "shoot first ask questions later", have made us the laughing stock of the civilized world. Some of the suggestions that guns are comparable to cars because they both can kill, could not be more absurd. But hey, you at least need to pass a drivers test, get a license, carry insurance if you want to drive, which is a lot more than what is required of those who can get a gun. Guns, ammunition, and all the paraphernalia that goes with it, are BIG BUSINESS, so don't expect those folks to go quietly into the they continue to fear-monger and rile up the public about the "loss of their 2nd Amendment Rights" which were never meant by our forefathers, to mean what they have come to mean today. We are a sorry lot, a disgusting , schizophrenic species for the most part, who have yet to evolve sufficiently beyond the Neanderthal stage...and so we kill our children, our wives, strangers on the street, a man waiting for a subway; we kill animals, we kill the homeless or kids playing the radio too loud! In fact, we even kill to stop the killing!

    December 20, 2012 at 10:15 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Paul Zuk

      Do Israeli teachers want to carry guns at work? They don't. But they do, because they don't let to hurt their pupils. Why Americans cannot defend?

      December 20, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. GREG


    December 21, 2012 at 2:36 am | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Paul

    The issue isn't whether we have rights, we do. That fights over. The issue is assault rifles, they are legal. The Supreme Court did leave room for how to regulate. I was a Marine I was highly treained with assualt rifles. I used, trained and carried all of them over 8 years. The thing that Marines do is they check their assault rifles out from the armory when they train with them. Only in combat and basic treaining do we maintain our weapons in our personal possesion all the time. It is when not in use in a secured locked area. Perhaps it is time to regulate assault rifles with community armories that are either privatly or government run. When I check my rifle out there is a record of me checking it out. Further. it offers the oppertunity for the NRA to get involved in communities with a consistent and meaningful gun safty agenda. These armories could offer shooting ranges, education, local or national business oppertunities, national accountability, and so forth. And yes let people keep their pistols, and hunting rifles at home. Most people likely do not have a high level of training with assault rifles like our military veterans ( thanks to all who have served, and are serving). People are generally not responsible until the consequences force them to be. It is time for a responsible alternative to an assault rifle at home in the corner with rounds and magazines laying about. Most of the accidental and deliberate shootings happened because the weapons were not secured. When a three year old accidentally shoots theirself the parents always say "i don't know how they got the weapon", I do it wasn't locked up and it was left loaded. When teenagers go to school with assault rifles. We ask how did they get the guns. I know they were improperly stored by the parents that owned them. I would probably be right if I were to say the woman that was killed by her son in CONN, would still be alive if she had properly stored her guns and prevented her autistic son from accessing them, and the children and teachers would not have been the victim of irresponsible ownership. I agree with Greg. I was a Marine and I always kept my assault rifle locked in the armory when not in use.

    December 21, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Paul Zuk

      I don't know if a Marine would write such anti-freedom remarks.

      December 21, 2012 at 11:45 am | Report abuse | Reply
      • Paul

        You see. I've participated in combat missions and can relate to the destruction assault rifles produce. I have small children in school, and the school they go to was a school where a shooting took place before they attended there. I am all for freedom. I am a proponent of guns. People in our country are not responsible for themselves. I am an expert marksman and was a primary marksman instructor. I understand how to use a weapon responsibly to its full potential. I was on my units competative M-60 team. I get it likely more than you. Most people lack proper training and understanding on on how to use, or store a wepon. In a earlier post you say its about freedom . I was born with mine and doubled down on it twice. I enjoy my freedom I earned it, and I am reluctant to have a irresponsible gun owner to blindly claim a right without fully understanding their responsibility assocated with it. All of the villians in the world are being put in their place by a properly trained military with effective application of assault rifles. There is a recruiting station near by, and the Marines will teach you how to use, care for, and apply the wepon in an effective manor in the proper environment. Outside the military they are recreational and should be regulated to prevent people with extreme paranoia from obtaining them and sleeping with them. I support the open carry in my state and it is because people understand the full potential of a wepon and what it is for.

        December 21, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |

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