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White House invokes First Amendment amid calls to deport Piers Morgan

Mario Anzuoni / Reuters file

The United States government will not be asking television personality Piers Morgan to return to Britain because of his comments about gun control.

After hearing from nearly 110,000 people fired up about CNN host Piers Morgan, the government has spoken back. The White House formally responded Tuesday night to a petition to have the British journalist and television personality deported back across the pond.

Morgan’s offense was not being mean on “Celebrity Apprentice,” or making children cry on “America’s Got Talent,” or posing nearly naked in an ad for Burger King perfume. Instead, his on-air comments about gun control in the United States sparked a furor that almost broke the Internet.

Morgan ripped into pro-gun guests on his CNN show in the wake of the Dec. 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Twenty-six people died at the school, including 20 children. A week after the tragedy, a “Deport British Citizen Piers Morgan for Attacking 2nd Amendment” petition began on the White House’s “We the People” website.

“We demand that Mr. Morgan be deported immediately for his effort to undermine the Bill of Rights and for exploiting his position as a national network television host to stage attacks against the rights of American citizens,” the petition said.

The White House has pledged to respond to petitions with more than 25,000 signatures, and the Piers Morgan petition garnered more than 100,000 in a little more than two weeks. In responding to it, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney discussed the importance of both the First and the Second Amendments.

“Let’s not let arguments over the Constitution’s Second Amendment violate the spirit of its First,” Carney wrote. “President Obama believes that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. However, the Constitution not only guarantees an individual right to bear arms, but also enshrines the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press — fundamental principles that are essential to our democracy.

“Americans may disagree on matters of public policy and express those disagreements vigorously, but no one should be punished by the government simply because he or she expressed a view on the Second Amendment — or any other matter of public concern.”

Carney then linked to a message from President Barack Obama about reducing gun violence.

The official White House response came as radio host Alex Jones’ Monday appearance on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight” made headlines and became a trending topic on Twitter. At one point during the appearance Jones — an ardent backer of the petition to deport Morgan — yelled: “1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms! It doesn't matter how many lemmings you get out on the street begging for them to have their guns taken! We will not relinquish them! Do you understand?”

Other recent White House petitions have called for building a “Death Star” and preventing Psy from performing at a charity Christmas concert. 

Connect with TODAY.com writer Laura T. Coffey on Facebook, follow her on Twitter or read more of her stories at LauraTCoffey.com.

NBC's Peter Alexander reports on the White House's ambitious online petition program, "We the People," which gives Americans a voice in government.