“I never heard of anyone who needed an assault weapon to kill a deer.” — Larry Flynt

An assassination attempt left Hustler publisher Larry Flynt a paraplegic. He continues to build his empire and fight for First Amendment rights, and crusades to expose hypocrisy in government. He shared his views with Variety’s Peter Caranicas.

You’ve been a victim of gun violence. Do you still support the Second Amendment?
Yes, I support it, but I think many people have abused it. I don’t think the founding fathers intended people to have assault weapons, bazookas and grenade launchers. The problem on this issue is not with the American people. We all want to keep our children safe. The problem is with Congress. More than 50% of (its members) are beholden to the NRA in order to get elected. When you’ve got that strong a lobby and your job is riding on it, you’re going to vote the way they want you to vote. This makes it difficult for people who want to see legislation that will deal with gun violence. Let’s face it, the kids who died in (the Newtown) massacre were just babies; if you’re for assault weapons, then you’re also for what happened to them.

Do you favor limitations on gun ownership?
I never heard of anyone who needed an assault weapon to kill a deer. No one wants to take away people’s hunting rifles, and they don’t want to take away people’s ability to defend themselves if someone breaks into their homes. But with the amount of guns we have on the street, and people dying from guns every day, it’s got to be stopped. But there’s polarization between Congress and the American people, and it’s going to be interesting to see who has the willpower to see this thing through. If the American people don’t get legislation they want, but are willing to vote those guys out of office, that’s all it takes. Congress will see that if they don’t cast the vote that’s in the best interest of the American people, they’re going to go job hunting.

You’re also a big supporter of the First Amendment, which gives film producers the right to make any kind of movie they want.
I support both the First and the Second Amendments. It sounds like a paradox, but I think I have the right not to be shot. Guns just do not mix well in society. In Europe and Australia and other places, they have very few homicides by guns.

Why is it different here? Are Americans losing their moral bearings?
I think it’s deeper than that. In this nation, we have babies having babies; over half of these babies are born in the ghetto, and we wind up warehousing them in prisons. The whole fabric of our society has become tattered. Everybody used to be proud of their country. It’s hard to be proud or positive when you see a bunch of lawmakers acting like juveniles, who need adult supervision before they can even vote on a bill.

You’ve often taken lawmakers to task. Would you do so on this particular issue?
I’ve been accused of exposing people’s sex lives, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about opposing hypocrisy. I see that as the biggest threat to democracy that exists. On the issue of guns, it’s the same thing.

You mean legislators are hypocritical in their positions?
Of course. If their job wasn’t at stake, they’d vote their conscience 100% and get rid of assault weapons in society.

So it’s a matter of job security and political ambition?
I think it boils down to that. A few people are obsessed with guns and feel that a black helicopter is going land on you, arrest you and take all your guns. Those people are like the birthers; they’re never going to go away. That’s the price you pay to live in a free society. You have to tolerate things you don’t necessarily like so you can be free. Just like I tolerate Fox News.