“If this hate speech leads to hate crimes, people like Piers Morgan and Chris Matthews will be partly responsible.”

That’s the word from Second Amendment Foundation Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb on the issue of the vitriol that is being directed both at gun owners and firearms rights organizations in the aftermath of the Connecticut school shooting tragedy.

Gottlieb said the hostile tone against gun owners may lead to actual “hate crimes,” and some of the communications that have come into his office have been “vulgar.”

“We have received some vulgar e-mails from people that want us to vanish for the sake of a civilized world,” Gottlieb said. “This kind of rhetoric does not contribute to any rational discussion.”

He said the level of dialogue is only heightening a violent atmosphere.

“Vitriol like this only promotes hate, but apparently it’s OK to perpetuate bigotry so long as you are an anti-gunner, and a liberal. If anyone is harmed as a result of this hate campaign, we expect them to be prosecuted under the hate crimes laws,” Gottlieb said.

The Examiner reported Texas Democratic Party leader John Cobaruvvias tweeted that NRA supporters should be shot.

“Can we now shoot the NRA and everyone who defends them?” he asked.

Cobaruvvias is not the only one to post an angry tweet. From a Democratic Party Twitter feed came “Murder every NRA member” and another too vile and violent to reproduce here.

Ironically, the NRA reports that in the days following the Connecticut school shootings, the gun group gained membership. One report said that the NRA has gained 8,000 new members each day since the Connecticut shootings.

But the rhetoric on television and in columns has been strident.

One of the clearest examples of the tone in the dialogue is the exchange between Gun Owners of America Executive Director Larry Pratt and CNN host Piers Morgan.

In the interview Pratt said, “I think we need to ban gun control laws that keep people from being able to protect themselves. The problem is not going to go away if we ban this or that gun. We’ve tried that. That doesn’t work. Doesn’t even work in England. You have mass murders there all over Europe. There have been mass murderers.”

The dialogue:

Morgan: “You’re talking complete and utter – you are talking complete and utter nonsense. ”

Pratt: “The solution is for people to be able to defend themselves at the point of the crime and not wait for 20 minutes for the police to come after everybody is dead.”

Morgan: “What you’ve just said, Mr. Pratt, was an absolute lie. The gun murder rate in countries like Britain or Germany or Australia, who’ve all suffered massacres many years ago, similar nature, have – there are 35 people killed a year. Your country has 12,000.”

Pratt: “Your murder rate has – your murder rate is lower than ours, that is true. Your violent – ”

Morgan: “Lower? It’s 75 against 12,000 in Australia. ”

Pratt: “Your violent crime rate – ”

Morgan: “They had a massacre. And they got rid of these assault weapons.”

Pratt: “Your violent crime rate is higher than ours as is the violent crime rate in Australia. America is not the Wild West that you are depicting. We only have the problem in our cities, and unhappily, in our schools where people like you have been able to get laws put on the books that keep people from being able to defend themselves.

“I honestly don’t understand why you would rather have people be victims of a crime than be able to defend themselves. It’s incomprehensible. ”

Morgan: “You’re an unbelievably stupid man, aren’t you?”

Pratt: “It seems to me that you’re morally obtuse. You seem to prefer being a victim to being able to prevail over the criminal element. And I don’t know why you want to be the criminal’s friend. ”

Morgan: “What a ridiculous argument. You have absolutely no coherent argument whatsoever. You don’t – you don’t actually give – ”

Pratt: “You have no – ”

Morgan: You don’t give a d—, do you, about the gun murder rate in America? You don’t actually care. All you care about – ”

See the exchange:

Salon editor Jacob Sugarman contributed to the tone by his report on Pratt’s interview with Chris Matthews. Sugarman compared Pratt to a snake in his article.

“The reptilian executive director of Gun Owners of America, last seen telling gun control advocates that ‘they have the blood of little children on their hands,’ argued that we are less free without automatic rifles and need to stay prepared,” Sugarman wrote, inserting the quote from Pratt.

“Does this mean that the Gun Owners of America’s 300,000 members are preparing to revolt?” Sugarman also wrote.

Citizen’s Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms Communications Director Dave Workman says the current atmosphere isn’t helping the situation and that his group wants to open a real dialogue.

“We want to really study the issue of what causes violence in America. We want to examine the issue of mental health in America and take a hard look at violent video games and television shows,” Workman said.

Workman says his group’s interest is to bring the discussion back to the factors that really cause violence.

SAF President Joseph Tartaro said focusing on guns alone “to the exclusion of possible other causative factors is doomed to failure.”

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.