20 Questions, One Bias: CBS's Couric Fires Anti-Gun Slant In Online Interviews

April 27th, 2007 5:00 PM

Last Friday on her "Couric & Co." blog, CBS "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric asked gun control advocate Paul Helmke 10 questions in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings. I critiqued her agenda of questions to Helmke here. Today, Couric gave equal time to gun rights advocate Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho).

Yet a review of the questions to Craig betrays Couric's leanings towards Helmke's pro-gun control position as well as some ignorance of the modern history of gun control (see her 10th question, for example).

Below are the questions to Craig with my comments/snark included in italics. Portions in bold are my emphasis:

1. Senator Craig, do you want any changes in America’s gun laws?

2. You’ve served on the board of the NRA since 1982 and have talked tough about Democrats wanting to take away people’s guns. Were you surprised that the leaders of the new Democratic Congress didn’t speak out for more gun control last week?

3. We now know that in 2005 a special justice declared Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech killer, mentally ill and a danger to himself—but that that information never made its way into his background check. Should it have been there?

4. Rep. John Dingell, a Democrat and strong NRA ally who served with you on its board, is currently negotiating for a bill that would strengthen the background check system to include mental health records. You’ve said you’re unsure whether you’d support it. What are your reservations, and can they be overcome?

Remember that Craig is a defender of a constitutional right. Isn't a better way to put this, "are you afraid the law could be interpreted too broadly and restrict gun rights for some people who are of sound mind?"

5. According to the New Yorker, "on a recent list of the fourteen worst mass shootings in Western democracies since the nineteen-sixties the United States claimed seven." How can we conclude that that level of violence is related to anything but our comparatively relaxed gun laws?

First, she cites a publication that is liberal in editorial bent. Secondly, the question roughly translates to: "C'mon, senator, you know this only happens because we don't have enough gun control laws."

6.What does the phrase "well-regulated militia" from the Second Amendment mean to you?

The subjectivity of the question cuts against the constitutionality of the text. A better question would have been "what does the phrase mean in historical context, as you read it?"

7. You opposed the assault weapons ban--and so did the NRA. Why do Americans need automatic or semi-automatic weapons (one of Cho's guns was semi-automatic) in order to hunt or protect their families?

I dunno, Katie, why do Americans need the right to write a blog when handing out pamphlets is just as expressive? And does she not get the concept of a semi-automatic weapon and what it means for self-defense? Does she think single shot muskets are appropriate for home defense or is she willing to grant that revolvers are okay too?

8. Is there compelling research that suggests anything but a direct relationship between tough gun laws and less gun crime?

That sounds remarkably like the media meme that the only scholarship on climate change is that which supports the anthropogenic model where humans are causing global warming.

9. We train and license people to drive cars--and nobody takes a licensed person's car away unless there is a lawful reason to do so. Why not require training and licensing for people to own guns? Wouldn't that--along with a stronger background check--make sure that deadly weapons aren't getting into the wrong hands?

Craig answered this by saying gun ownership is a right, not a privilege like driving a car, but her even asking the question betrays a view of the 2nd Amendment as a second-class item in the Bill of Rights.

10. Are there any examples of guns being taken away from law-abiding citizens in this country? Has that ever happened in any sort of systematic way?

Is she aware that in 1976 such a law was passed in D.C.?

By contrast, here are the questions to Helmke. Again, portions in bold are my emphasis:

1.Mr. Helmke, it almost seems too early to discuss a policy response to the tragedy at Virginia Tech. And yet, people are already lining up behind various ideas including more gun control-which your group obviously supports. Are there any measures that could have been taken to prevent this tragedy?

2.What do you say to those who argue that Virginia Tech had already implemented several gun safety measures on campus-banning guns in classrooms and dorms-that apparently did nothing to help?

3. A leading Virginia gun rights group said that if one of the victims were carrying a concealed weapon, this massacre might have been averted. What's wrong with that argument?

4. Are you disappointed by the dearth of national politicians calling for more gun control as a response to this?

5. The conventional wisdom is that Democrats are now averse to gun control because it cost Al Gore three states-Tennessee, West Virginia, and Arkansas-any one of which would have made him president. Why should Democrats risk political defeat to argue for gun control?

6. You are a Republican. Why do you think formerly pro-gun control members of your party, like Rudy Giuliani, are now backing away from that position?

7. President Bush says he supports an assault weapons ban-which the Republicans in Congress let expire. Groups like yours criticized the White House for not doing much to help re-authorize it. First of all, how do you define an assault weapon (as opposed to the semi-automatic that was apparently used at Virginia Tech)? And what have been the consequences of not renewing the ban?

8. Isn't it true that people kill people-as the cliché goes-and that a criminal will always find a way to get a gun?

9. If tragedies like Columbine and Virginia Tech won't cause gun control legislation to pass, will anything?

10. You went to Yale Law School with Bill and Hillary Clinton. Do you think Senator Clinton would take action on this issue if she is elected president?