I bought my first gun when I was 28 years old. I grew up in a home without guns; I never even fired a gun until I was in law school. Like a lot of people raised in Los Angeles, I had a knee-jerk aversion to firearms. Although in principle I supported the founding argument for the Second Amendment — I believe that an armed population acts as a final check on the possibility of a tyrannical government — I never felt the necessity to get a gun for home defense.
All that changed in 2013 — ironically, after a debate about gun control. That January, I appeared on CNN with Piers Morgan, who had spent the previous few weeks decrying the prevalence of firearms ownership in the United States, in response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. Most of all, Morgan had relied on shallow emotional appeal: He had suggested, wrongly, that those who disagreed with his gun control proposals were hard-hearted regarding the deaths of the children.
During my interview with Morgan, I said he was acting like a bully — that he was standing on the graves of the children of Sandy Hook to push his political agenda. I pointed out that everyone on both sides of the aisle cares about the murder of innocent children, even if we disagree about the best ways to prevent such murders.
Within hours, I began to receive threatening messages. One such message noted my home address. I had a security system installed, and I purchased a Mossberg 500 pump-action shotgun, on the advice of a police officer.
During the most recent election cycle, I again received a bevy of death threats — this time thanks to my opposition to President Donald Trump’s candidacy. I received approximately 40 percent of all anti-Semitic tweets directed at Jewish journalists during the election cycle. I received threatening letters and death threats by phone. And so I purchased a Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun, again on the advice of a police officer. I have often considered carrying it in violation of the law, though I have never done so; the old Second Amendment adage “better to be tried by 12 than carried by 6” began to hit home during those difficult days.
Now, for owning two weapons for self-defense, I’m being labeled immoral again. All gun-owners are, collectively. How else are we to read the comments of Parkland, Fla., student Cameron Kasky, from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who told Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that thanks to his support for gun rights, Rubio resembled the Parkland shooter? How else are we to listen to the comments of Parkland student David Hogg, who said that National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch “doesn’t care about these children’s lives”? I know Dana. We’re friends. She has two children, and she cares deeply about their safety. If she were local, there’s no one else I’d call first if my family were in danger and I needed help.
We’re all Americans. And we all care about the slaughter of children.
We’re all Americans. And we all care about the slaughter of children. That’s why I’ve called for the revision of federal law to allow gun violence restraining orders, a way for family members and friends of dangerously mentally ill people to apply to courts to restrict Second Amendment rights. That’s why my media outlet, The Daily Wire, has stopped naming and showing the faces of mass shooters, in an attempt to curb the publicity that often spawns such shootings. That’s why I’ve suggested a dramatic hardening of school security around the country: I went to YULA Boys High School, where security is top-notch — and I was there when the West Valley Jewish Community Center mass shooter drove right past our school, saw the security there, and kept driving. All children should feel just as safe as I did in high school.
Yes, we all care. And what’s more, I’m not going to give up my guns just because gun control advocates browbeat me. The Parkland students were failed by the FBI, which was warned twice about the shooter but did nothing. They were failed by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, which received literally dozens of warnings but did nothing — and then they were failed again when armed deputies refused to storm the building.
The last line of defense isn’t the government. It’s me and my weapon. I’m keeping that weapon, and standing for Second Amendment rights, specifically because I care about my children. I assume those who disagree with me care about my kids, too. But there’s no way we’ll ever be able to find rational solutions if we shout at one another that our disagreements are evidence of our malice toward innocent children.
Ben Shapiro is a best-selling author, editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire and host of the podcast “The Ben Shapiro Show.”