FLORIDA, January 23, 2013 — Everyone has their own view about what the Second Amendment means. Can it reasonably be perceived as allowing for the ownership of all firearms? Speaking of firearms, can crime really be controlled by cracking down on gun possession?
Across the political spectrum, new media outlets have emerged to challenge established sources. Might this be a result of bias, or could it be due to other factors? People often say that bias is more prevalent on the left than it is on the right. What can be said about this view?
Ben Shapiro is one of the American conservative movement’s most recognizable voices. As an author, columnist, and now the editor-at-large for Breitbart News, he has consistently articulated his ideas, even though these tend to attract more than a bit of controversy. In this first part of our discussion, he shares his answers to the aforementioned questions and tells us about the trouble with academia.
Joseph F. Cotto: The Second Amendment is subject to a plethora of interpretations. Do you believe that it can reasonably be construed as allowing for the ownership of all firearms?
Ben Shapiro: I believe that the Second Amendment was designed to restrict federal encroachment on private ownership of firearms. It did not restrict state encroachments, although state constitutions typically have their own versions of the Second Amendment (some of the more liberal states are exceptions, such as California, New York, and New Jersey). Most of the state provisions have similar language to the federal amendment. That being said, so long as the entire Bill of Rights is going to be incorporated to apply to the states, there is no blanket right to own anything that could be construed as a firearm.
Firearm ownership is designed for self-defense, as well as defense of the community and the state against threats foreign and domestic. That means that the people have a right to firearms that will achieve those purposes. Just as with all Constitutional rights, there are limitations at the margins – the right to free speech, for example, does not encompass defamation. The right to bear arms does not encompass the right to own a helicopter gunship (which would not be an “arm” that you could “bear” in any case), or a rocket launcher.
Whatever gun legislation is considered must be calibrated to achieving a public safety purpose. Banning so-called “assault weapons” does not achieve that purpose in any case, and is merely an incremental step in the left’s ultimate plan of large-scale gun confiscation.
Cotto: Many people believe that crime can be controlled through curtailing firearm possession, while others believe the exact opposite. What do you think?
Shapiro: Crime cannot be controlled through curtailing firearm possession of the general populace. Britain has multiple times our crime rate and virtually no private gun ownership. Norway has a private gun ownership rate six times that of Britain, and a gun murder rate about 40% lower. New Hampshire is one of the least regulated states in the nation in terms of gun ownership, and has the lowest gun murder rate. Chicago is heavily gun controlled and is the nation’s gun murder center. Mexico has 15 privately owned guns per 100 people, and a gun homicide rate of 9.97 per 100,000. The United States has 88 guns per 100 people, and a gun homicide rate of 2.75 per 100,000.
In short, guns don’t kill people. People kill people. And we shouldn’t be surprised that where criminals are prevalent and gun ownership among non-criminals is low, crime is high.
What we can do to stop crime is to embrace a culture of anti-crime values, including the presence of fathers in families; prevent the mentally ill from getting guns; and creating harsher criminal penalties for criminals (keeping criminals in prison is a fair guarantor of them not committing crimes), and preventing them from obtaining weapons.
Cotto: On both sides of the political spectrum, new media outlets have emerged to seriously challenge established sources. Does this have anything to do with bias, or might other factors be at work?
Shapiro: Certainly the changes in the methods of distribution of the media have challenged the established sources, making news more fun, faster-moving, and more responsive to audience needs. But the plethora of news outlets that aren’t merely Buzzfeed-style meme-generators is due to media bias. At Breitbart, we embrace the idea that journalism is rarely if ever objective, and that objectivity is often a lie wielded by the mainstream media to push their viewpoint without having to answer for their ideology.
The public is beginning to recognize that those who claim to be “above the fray” are anything but – and they don’t trust those sources anymore.
Cotto: Some say that media bias is more prevalent on the left than it is on the right. Do you have an opinion on this view?
Shapiro: Of course it is. The basis of media bias is claiming objectivity, and the right rarely does that. I don’t claim to be an objective journalist. David Gregory does. He’s a liar. I’m not. More importantly, my biases are clear up front, and his aren’t. Nobody on the right sees Karl Rove, a Bush war room guy, as an objective journalist. But those on the left insist that George Stephanopoulos, a Clinton war room guy, is an objective journalist. That’s media bias.
Cotto: Academia is embroiled in controversy these days, from rising tuition costs to perceived political discrimination. From your standpoint, is the latter really a big issue?
Shapiro: Political discrimination at the universities is an enormous issue. It is not always conscious discrimination; there is no back room where nefarious professors sit around thinking up ways to prevent conservatives from entering the faculty. But those in the ivory tower are convinced of the rightness of their political opinions — so convinced, actually, that they don’t consider their opinions to be opinions, but fact. That means that those who disagree aren’t wrong on politics, but unqualified to teach.
Those who enter college faculty must generally have a faculty mentor. That means that this discriminatory system is self-perpetuating. Noam Chomsky isn’t going to approve any Young Republicans for the MIT faculty.
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