CBS Lashes Out at Pro-Gun Rights Ruling

CBS Sunday Morning, in both a news story and a commentary, was openly hostile to the Supreme Court's ruling that the Second Amendment acknowledges a private right to own handguns.

In a “news report” marked by its somber tone, CBS reporter Martha Teichner attacked the “originalist” philosophy of Constitutional interpretation underlying the Supreme Court's ruling, and challenged the winning lawyer in the case whether he cares about the people who are killed by handguns.   

Later in the show, CBS commentator Nancy Giles called for the U.S. to implement comedian Chris Rock's farcical suggestion that the U.S. should charge $5,000 per bullet. 

Teichner cited the Centers for Disease Control statistic that “approximately 30,000 Americans are killed by guns every year.” While playing footage of a sheet-covered bloody corpse lying in a city street, Teichner then said “We asked Robert Levy, who brought about the Supreme Court decision, 'Does it matter to you that people might die because of it?'”

Levy responded:  “Well, of course, it matters.  And I think it's indisputably true that there will be people who die because of this ruling.  There would be other people who would have died were it not for this ruling.  So one has to take into account not just the cost but the benefits.”

Teichner failed to balance her story by presenting any evidence about the benefits of gun ownership or the failure of gun control laws to prevent crime.  For instance, in August 2007, CMI reported in its study, “The Media Assault on the Second Amendment,”  that, “according to a 1997 survey by the United States Journal of Criminal Law, more than 2.5 million people use a gun in self defense each year.” 

The CMI study also reported that according to “one of the most comprehensive surveys of gun control laws” conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2003,  “The Task Force found insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws or combinations of laws reviewed on violent outcomes.”


Sunday Morning also aired an editorial by CBS commentator Nancy Giles, who opined that the U.S. should enact a policy originally proposed as a joke: “The comedian Chris Rock had a brilliant idea that maybe, just maybe, both gun owners and gun-control advocates could agree with.  Instead of gun control, he says, we need to control the bullets.  I think all bullets should cost $5,000.  Because if a bullet costs $5,000, there would be no more innocent by-standers.  Okay.  Sounds like a good start to me.”

Teichner attacked the “originalist” interpretation of the Second Amendment that won the day by interviewing two guests who oppose the approach. Originalism requires jurists to rule according to the original meaning of the words of the Constitution as written by the Founding Fathers. 

Emphasizing the word “originalist,” Teichner reported in a condescending tone, “And in Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion, Levy had the perfect match with his own  strict 'originalist' views of the Constitution.  In other words, what the Founding Fathers intended.”

After playing two clips of Scalia explaining originalism, Teichner brought on two expert guests to criticize the doctrine.  CBS news legal analyst Andrew Cohen described the Second Amendment as “horribly drafted,” and added, “The people who drafted the Second Amendment were just as addled and just as conflicted and contradictory as modern-day politicians are when it comes to these tough issues.”

The second expert, New York Law School constitutional historian R.B. Bernstein, actively belittled originalists:  “I'm tempted to say to originalists sometimes that you may believe that there is a Santa Claus bringing neatly wrapped packages of original intent, understanding, or meaning for good little constitutional interpreters, but just as there is no Santa Claus, there is no originalist Santa Claus.”

Julia Seward is an intern at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.