WAY TO GO, JOE

01.16.13

Joe Scarborough’s Gun-Control Crusade Is the Only One You Should Pay Attention To

Piers Morgan, Jamie Foxx, and countless others have said their peace on why we need gun-control reform. But MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough says it better than any other pundit does.

The gun-control reforms  President Obama introduced Wednesday have their fair share of big-name supporters.

Since the Sandy Hook shooting, Piers Morgan’s CNN talk show has been a weeks-long sermon shouted from the TV mountaintop, a notorious blowhard delivering ratings-gold rants that amounted to little more than publicity and an asinine deportation debate. Well-meaning movie stars like Jamie Foxx and Jeremy Renner pleaded for an end to gun violence ... as their über-violent shoot-’em-up blockbusters racked up millions of dollars at the box office.

Finally, then, emerging as the celebrity world’s best gun-control advocate is MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, the man behind the one argument for reform that you should be following.

For the past 24 hours Scarborough’s Twitter stream has featured a takedown of the National Rifle Association’s extremism, 140 characters at a time. On Morning Joe over the past week, he’s slammed the organization as “sick” for, among other things, apparently releasing an iPhone videogame that allows users—age 4 and up—to take target practice. On his Politico blog, he warns the NRA of future extinction if it ignores a public that increasingly wants reform and continues with its “tone-deaf” ways.

Sure, these are things that his talking-head colleagues have said, in various ways, before. But Scarborough is different. For one, he is a Republican. He is of the same party that so many people on one side of the debate—those for sweeping gun-control reform—consider the bad guys. He is a longtime supporter of the Second Amendment and a believer of the original intention behind the formation of the NRA, calling it a good and “proud” organization that has been “besmirched and diminished” by a few powerful but out-of-touch gun lobbyists. “How sick are these people that have commandeered the NRA and turned them into an extremist operation for survivalists and gun manufacturers?” he says. And as a former representative, he knows the legislative difficulty that any meaningful reform will encounter.

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Scarborough’s rants—as much as rational, reasoned arguments can be called rants—are rooted in advocacy. As much as he is decrying the recent spate of gun violence and the current mindset of the NRA, he is encouraging members of the Republican Party, to which the group is closely tied, to force it to reform its ways and make its way back from the edge of alienating and ultimately counterproductive extremism.

His message cites the stats, throwing out recent poll numbers about Americans’ support out “as a wake-up call” to the NRA and the Republican Party in general. “If they keep their feet in cement,” he says, “they’re going to be run over—not by Joe Biden, buy by Middle America, by people that want to protect their children.”

And it’s not just the NRA he’s going after. He’s including gun manufacturers in his condemnation of the gun industry for “ginning up fears” that the government will reactionarily ban guns entirely following the Sandy Hook shooting, a fearmongering tactic that has goosed gun sales. “Hey, they can’t take your guns away—we’ve got something called the Second Amendment in the Constitution of the United States,” he says. “Justice Scalia said in 2009 they can’t come and take your guns away. You can have a handgun to protect your family. But after that, they can regulate guns.”

So much of the antigun argument has relied on passion and anger to make a point—and there’s certainly a place for that—but Scarborough is boiling the debate down to logic, and survival. His take on the gun debate isn’t an opportunistic takedown of an out-of-touch organization, but a much needed canary in the coal mine for a major presence in American politics that doesn’t seem to be paying close enough attention. Quite simply, he says that if Republicans continue to back the NRA as it promotes its current stances, they would be “driving off the cliff into political oblivion.”

“The only way we will be able to change is if [gun lobbyists’] audience, their constituents, their membership, says this time must be different,” Obama said in his address Wednesday, “that this time we must do something to protect our communities and our kids.”

Scarborough, for one, is doing his best.