Transcript: Piers Morgan talking with Ben Shapiro, Author of Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences Americans:
PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: My next guest has strong words for me. He says I’m off the rails on guns in America. Ben Shapiro is editor-at-large at Breitbart.com and the author of “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences Americans.” So, why am I off the rails, Mr. Shapiro?
BEN SHAPIRO, EDITOR BREITBART.COM: You know, honestly Piers, you have kind of been a bully on this issue, because what you do, and I’ve seen it repeatedly on your show. I watch your show. And I’ve seen it repeatedly. What you tend to do is you tend to demonize people who differ from you politically by standing on the graves of the children of Sandy Hook saying they don’t seem to care enough about the dead kids. If they cared more about the dead kids, they would agree with you on policy. I think we can have a rational, political conversation about balancing rights and risks and rewards of all of these different policies, but I don’t think that what we need to do is demonize people on the other side as being unfeeling about what happened at Sandy Hook.
MORGAN: How dare you accuse me of standing on the graves of the children that died there. How dare you.
SHAPIRO: I’ve seen you do it repeatedly, Piers.
MORGAN: Like I say, how dare you.
SHAPIRO: Well, I mean, you can keep saying that, but you’ve done it repeatedly. What you do, and I’ve seen you do it on your program, is you keep saying to folks if they disagree with you politically, then somehow this is a violation of what happened in Sandy Hook. And you, I would really like to hear your policy prescriptions for what we should do about guns because you say you respect the second amendment. You know, I brought this here for you so you can read it. It’s the Constitution. And I would really like for you to explain to me what you would do about guns that would have prevented what happened in Sandy Hook. If you want to do what you did in the U.K., right, which is ban virtually all guns, that is at least a fair argument and we can have a discussion about whether that’s something that we ought to do or not.
MORGAN: Well, I made it clear what I want to do which is exactly what Mark Kelly wants to do. And in fact —
SHAPIRO: Ok, let’s talk about that.
MORGAN: — Rather than address your comments to me about standing on the graves of children at Sandy Hook, you can address them to Mark Kelly because he agrees with everything I have been saying because he feels the same way, as does his wife. They’re gun owners. They both respect the second amendment of the constitution, they dont want to take away anyone’s right to defend themselves with guns —
SHAPIRO: Well, they want to take away certain types of guns, obviously.
MORGAN: They want to take away assault weapons, which are capable with magazines that we saw in Aurora and Sandy hook, of unleashing a ridiculous amount of —
SHAPRIO: This is what I wanted to ask you, Piers, because I have seen you talk about assault weapons a lot, and I have seen Mark Kelly talk about assault weapons. The vast majority of murders in this country that are committed with guns are committed with handguns, they are not committed assault weapons. Are you willing to ban handguns in this country, across this country?
MORGAN: No, that’s not what I’m asking for.
SHAPIRO: Why not? Don’t you care about the kids who are being killed in Chicago as much as the kids in Sandy Hook?
MORGAN: Yes, I do.
SHAPIRO: Then why don’t you care about banning the handguns in Chicago?
MORGAN: We’ll come to that. Let me ask you this: What was the weapon used in Aurora in the movie theater?
SHAPIRO: It was an assault weapon, sure.
MORGAN: OK. What was the weapon used in the Oregon shopping mall?
SHAPIRO: I believe it was an assault rifle, correct?
MORGAN: What was the weapon used at Sandy Hook?
SHAPIRO: It was an assault rifle.
MORGAN: What was the weapon used in the incident around Christmas, when the firemen were lured to their deaths?
SHAPIRO: And bought illegally? That was an assault rifle.
MORGAN: So, the last four mass shootings in America were with assault rifles —
SHAPIRO: — but the vast majority —
MORGAN: That’s is the reason, Mr. Shapiro. You can smirk at me and you can laugh at me —
SHAPIRO: I’m not smirking.
MORGAN: — and you can accuse me of standing on the graves of dead children —
SHAPRIO: — and being a bully, yes.
MORGAN: But that is the reason that people like me and Mark Kelly and Gabrielle Giffords want to have assault weapons like that removed from civilian hands.
SHAPIRO: Your passion on the issue doesn’t really justify the rationale for why you want to ban assault weapons.
MORGAN: You don’t understand why we want to remove the preferred weapon of choice, these killing machines, from the hands of deranged young men?
SHAPIRO: All I’m asking is for you to be philosophically consistent. If what you’re worried about is the removal of killing machines from the hands for deranged young people then maybe we should talk about a blanket gun ban, and let’s get to what the left really wants here. You know you say that you’re really for the second amendment —
MORGAN: Why is it about left or right? Because in Britain this never is about left or right. Why is it here?
SHAPIRO: Well, we can talk about Britain in a second. I think that the reason it’s about left and right here is because fundamentally the right believes the basis for the second amendment, and they believe in the second amendment. The basis of the second amendment is not really about self defense and it’s not about hunting. It’s about resistance to government tyranny. That’s what the founders said and that’s what the right believe in this country.
MORGAN: Which tyranny are you fearing, yourself?
SHAPIRO: I fear the possibility of a tyranny rising in the country in the next 50 to 100 years. Let me tell you something, Piers. The fact that my grandparents and great-grandparents in Europe didn’t fear that is why they’re now ashes in Europe. This kind of leftist revisionist history where there’s no fear of democracy going userpatious or tyrannical, is just that. It’s fictitious.
MORGAN: Just to clarify your position, then. The answer to Sandy Hook, as it was to Aurora, as it was to Gabrielle Giffords, as it was to Columbine and Virginia Tech is you do nothing. Is that your position?
SHAPIRO: That’s not my position. My position is that we have to calibrate laws that are designed to get guns out of the hands of bad people and keep guns in the hands of good people who want to buy them.
MORGAN: How do you do that?
SHAPIRO: I think one of the ways you do that is better screening for mental illness, I think that you do better background checks.
MORGAN: Was Adam Lanza’s mother a good person?
SHAPIRO: I don’t know if she was a good person or a bad person. I know she was irresponsible with her guns.
MORGAN: Has there been any evidence to suggest she was not a good person?
SHAPIRO: No, but there has been significant evidence to suggest — .
MORGAN : — but your criteria — wait a minute, by your criteria that good people should be allowed to guns and the bad people shouldn’t, she would have been allowed a gun.
SHAPIRO: She was an irresponsible person. She didn’t keep her gun locked up and that should be against the law. If you have a mentally ill person in your house — we’re talking about laws we can agree on. I don’t know why you’re disagreeing with me on this.
MORGAN: Then she becomes a bad person, does she?
SHAPIRO: Well, no. It’s not a question of morally good verses morally bad.
MORGAN: Well, you set the criteria with good or bad. So, is she good or bad?
SHAPIRO: You’re right, Piers, I should have said responsible verses irresponsible, that’s correct.
MORGAN: So she goes from good to bad?
SHAPIRO: No, she goes from responsible to irresponsible.
MORGAN: Let’s take a break and talk more when we come back. Let’s come back and talk more about this because… we don’t agree.
MORGAN: Do you believe if you had an assault weapon ban, statistics prove you could dry out the supply of these guns and make them less accessible to criminals?
SHAPIRO: I don’t know whether you could make them less accessible to criminals. Let’s assume that’s the case, that you could make them less accessible to criminals. Again, my question still remains for you, Piers, and I’m still waiting for an answer from the left on this. They say they’re pro-second amendment, why don’t you want to ban handguns? If you really want to solve “gun violence” problem, if weapon problem, go after all the guns. Why just stop yourself at assault rifles?
MORGAN: Because I believe and respect an American’s, under the second amendment of the constitution — that you kindly brought in — to defend themselves with a handgun or a pistol. What I don’t understand —
SHAPIRO: Most of the murders are committed with those weapons.
MORGAN: As we just established, I talked you through them, the last four mass shootings in America were committed with —
SHAPIRO: Adam Lanza had two pistols on him. He didn’t just have an assault rifle.
MORGAN: He didn’t use them, as you know.
SHAPIRO: And if he hadn’t have had the assault rifle he wouldn’t have used them?
MORGAN: Explain to me this. I can’t buy this. This is six packets of Suedafed, there one of the many companies that make this particular ingredient, which you can’t buy legally in America. There we are, six packets. That is illegal for me to buy in that quantity in Wal-Mart, say, but I can buy an AR-15 military style assault rifle. I can then, as we saw with Holmes — the shooter in Aurora — go and get 6,000 rounds of ammunition from the internet and I can go and blow up a movie theater. Do you think that’s right?
SHPIRO: We can talk drug laws another time, but the question is —
MORGAN: Does that make sense to you?
SHAPRIO: No, I think that what would make sense is laws calibrated to solve the problem. So, if you think the problem is only assault rifles —
MORGAN: Which guns would you remove?
SHAPIRO: I think the ones that have been largely removed from the market, fully automatic weapons would be a good start. I think —
MORGAN: You wouldn’t remove any semiautomatic at all?
SHAPIRO: No, because it means when you pull the trigger once, one bullet comes out.
MORGAN: You understand how an AR-15 performs when it’s been modified and has an … clip … ?
SHAPIRO: I do. I saw it in the north Hollywood shootout. And you know what? It was illegal to do that, and people did it anyway. We have 12 million illegal immigrants in this country. We’re not able to stop people, people from coming in illegally into the country over the southern border into places like southern California, where I live normally. I think you would be very hard pressed to stop guns from coming across that border illegally as well. I mean, California has some of the strictest laws in the nation.
MORGAN: Would you want every American to have an AR-15?
SHAPIRO: No, not every American.
MORGAN: Who would you stop?
SHAPIRO: Anyone with a criminal background, I would stop anybody with a mental illness. And I would ask, well not ask, I would require that if people have somebody with a criminal history or mental illness in a household to keep the gun locked up and safe.
MORGAN: What about the background checks? Forty percent of all the gun sales now are gun trades online not covered by background checks.
SHAPIRO: I believe in background checks.
MORGAN: For everybody?
SHAPIRO: For everybody.
MORGAN: So there should be a database? A national register?
SHAPIRO: If it’s not public. I don’t like what happened with the Journal News putting out gun permits which allows criminals to target particular homes.
MORGAN: When the NRA came out today after the meeting in the White House and just said, “We’re just not prepared to entertain any type of new gun restrictions,” what did you think about that?
SHAPIRO: What is astonishing to me is the left’s attack on the NRA. Because the NRA — they don’t receive a dime of public dollars, they’re an interest group. I don’t see any — it’s funny. The left, they like to also talk about violent video games, for example.
MORGAN: Can you stop framing as left or right? Because I don’t have a horse in the race. I don’t vote either way, as you know.
SHAPIRO: Oh, come on, Piers, you tend to be more to the left.
MORGAN: The NRA, as you know, are very active and well funded and powerful body, and what they do —
SHAPIRO: — Why are you asking — I just want to finish a point. This is very quick, I promise. the point I’m making is this. There’s been a lot of talk by a lot of people about video game violence. I haven’t seen David Gregory interviewing the head of the ACLU and saying, “It’s your broad interpretation of the first amendment that is responsible for this.” But people are bringing on the NRA and saying, “It’s your broad inturpitation of the second amendment that’s responsible for this.” They are an interest group. If you want legislation passed, talk to legislators, don’t go to the NRA which is representing its membership.
MORGAN: Here is what the NRA and people like Alex Jones and others do —
SHAPIRO: Don’t lump me in with Alex Jones.
MORGAN: Fine. After each of these massacres, they come out, all of the gun right supporters come out … and they basically instill fear. They say if everyone —
SHAPIRO: They instill fear?
MORGAN: — If everyone in the movie theater had been armed, everyone in the school had been armed, it wouldn’t have happened. Here is what happens; gun sales and ammunition sales rocket as we seen in the last three weeks.
SHAPIRO: Don’t pass the buck, Piers. I mean, the truth is —
MORGAN: That doesn’t happen?
SHAPIRO: The reason people are buying a lot of guns right now, Piers, is because people on the left are talking very much about banning guns. And so a lot of people are saying, “If I am not going to have the right to purchase a weapon of my choosing in two months, I’m going to go and buy it now.” This is very clear that is what is going on.
MORGAN: Why did Ronald Reagan want these assault removed.
SHAPIRO: You know, I don’t know why Ronald Reagan wanted these assault weapons removed.
MORGAN: You like Reagan, right?
SHAPIRO: I like Reagan a lot of ways, he’s not a god. I don’t agree with him on everything. He also believed in the progressive tax rate, I don’t believe in that.
MORGAN: Did you agree with him about assault weapons?
SHAPIRO: Um, I’ll believe what you’re saying, sure. I don’t know what his position on assault weapons was. Why don’t you tell me?
MORGAN: Well, let me read the letter in full.
MORGAN: This is a letter that he penned along with President’s Ford and Carter in 1994 to Congress: “While we recognize that assault weapon legislation will not stop all assault weapon crime, statistics prove we can dry up the supply of these guns, making them less accessible to criminals. We urge you to listen to the American public and the law enforcement community and support on the further manufacture of these weapons. This is Ronald Reagan.
SHAPIRO: Okay, so? I mean I can disagree with Ronald Reagan.
MORGAN: You keep framing it as right and left debate. I put to you, one of the great right-win Presidents of modern times agreed with me.
MORGAN; So, it’s not left or right is it? Unless you deliberately frame it in that way. And the way the NRA has in the ’80s and ’90s and have deliberately tried to frame this as a left-wing attack —
SHAPIRO: Piers, avoiding the breakdown of left and right here is irresponsible.
MORGAN: — on the American constitution and the second amendment. It’s exactly what you’ve tried to do. You come in, you brandish your little book, as if I don’t know what’s in there —
SHAPIRO: My little book? That’s the constitution of the United States. It’s our founding document, Piers.
MORGAN: I know what its your constitution.
SHAPIRO: Do you really?
MORGAN: I have been debating this for a long time.
SHAPIRO: Then you should read the second amendment again.
MORGAN: I know the second amendment. What I haven’t heard is one coherent reason why any civilian in America needs an an AR-15, military style, assault weapon. Tell me why you need one.
SHAPIRO: I told you, why the general population of America, law abiding citizens, need AR-15s.
MORGAN: Why do they need those weapons?
SHAPIRO: They need them for the prospective possibility for the resistance of tyranny. Which is not a concern today, it may not be a concern tomorrow.
MORGAN: Where do you expect tyranny to come from?
SHAPIRO: It could come from the United States, because governments have gone tyrannical before, Piers.
MORGAN: Do you know how absurd you sound?
SHAPIRO: Here’s where you go into the “absurd” and the bullying. “You’re absurd, you’re stupid.” I understand —
MORGAN: I’m not bullying.
SHAPIRO: Of course you are.
MORGAN: I’m not the one who came in here and accused you of standing on the graves of dead children —
SHAPIRO: Because you’re the one who is doing that. I’m punching back twice as hard.
MORGAN: That’s what I call bullying.
SHAPIRO: You know what I call it? Punching back twice as hard, in the words of President Obama.
MORGAN: That’s what I call bullying.
SHAPIRO: This is astonishing.
MORGAN: What’s astonishing?
SHAPIRO: What’s astonishing about it is for weeks now, you have been saying that anybody who disagrees with your position is absurd, idiotic, and doesn’t care about the dead kids in Sandy Hook. And then when I say that it’s a bullying tactic, you turn around and that say I’m bullying you for saying that. It’s absurd. It’s ridiculous.
MORGAN: Let me ask you again, what is the point of a civilian having an AR-15 assault weapon?
SHAPIRO: The point of it, a civilian having an assault weapon, many of them are ex-military, Right? I have military friends — I don’t have a problem with Colin Powell owning an AR-15.
MORGAN: What is the point of a civilian owning them?
SHAPIRO: It depends on the civilian, if it’s a criminal they shouldn’t own them.
MORGAN: Forget criminals and mentally ill people —
SHAPIRO: No, but you can’t separate that out.
MORGAN: — An average civilian … Why do they need one?
SHAPIRO: To protect against the possibility of eventual government tyranny. This was the purpose of the second amendment originally. It remains the purpose of the second amendment now, and pretending that governments have never gone userpatious before from a democratic position —
MORGAN: Do you believe your own government is going to turn on you In a way that you require an AR-15 to challenge them?
SHAPIRO: It may not turn on me. It may not turn on my children
MORGAN: — in modern day America, is that what you think?
SHAPIRO: They may not turn on me, they may not turn on my children. But the fact is this; history is replete with democracies going tyrannical. It happened in France in the 19th century, in Spain in the last century, happened in Germany, in Italy. It has happened repeatedly, it has happened in Japan —
MORGAN: So the reason we cannot remove assault weapons is because of the threat of your own government turning on you in a tyrannical way.
MORGAN: That is your position?
SHAPIRO: It is because there are countervailing rights and responsibility — Piers, I don’t understand why you can’t — why can’t we agree about reasonable law. You just want to demagogue the issue.
MORGAN: You have made your point crystal clear. People aren’t stupid, They can make up their own minds. Ben Shapiro, thank you.