Emotional Joe Scarborough revises view on gun rights

Joe Scarborough received the highest possible rating from the NRA during his four terms in congress. In his subsequent years as a pundit, he has always supported gun rights. But this morning on “Morning Joe,” he did an about face:

Nothing can ever be the same again… I knew that day that the ideologies of my past career were no longer relevant to the future that I want, that I demand for my children.

Scarborough gave an emotional 10-minute speech explaining his feelings. He expressed support for restrictions on assault weapons. He says that his changed views are not merely to do with guns but also with mental health services. He cited the fact that his own son has Asperger syndrome. Joe also stood opposed to the violent entertainment culture fostered by Hollywood. As a long time viewer of “Morning Joe,” I have to say that this is an unusual soliloquy and a remarkable turnaround from Joe. Watch the rest above. The text of his remarks is below.


Today, we as a nation grieve. Today, we as a people feel helpless. Helpless to stop these random acts of violence that seem to be getting less random by the day.

It may the geographic proximity of Newtown to my hometown, or the fact my children’s ages average those of the 20 young children tragically killed on Friday, or the fact my second son has Aspergers, or the fact that too many other facts associated with Friday’s nightmare strike so close to home… that for me, there is no escaping the horrors visited upon the children and teachers of Sandy Hook.

The events that occurred in a short, violent outburst on Friday, December 14, 2012, were so evil that no words that I know of have yet been invented to sufficiently describe the horror experienced by 20 precious first grade students, their heroic principal, their anguished parents or the shocked New England town that will never be the same.

There is no way to capture the final moments of these children’s short lives or the loss and helplessness their parents must feel today. There is nothing they can do, there is nothing any of us can do, to ease their pain this morning, or to cause these little children to run back into the loving arms of their family members this Christmas season.

Soon, we will watch the burials of these babies. We will hold up their parents in prayer. And we will hold our own children tighter as we thank God every afternoon watching them walk off their school bus and into our arms.

But every American must know — from this day forward —  that nothing can ever be the same again.

We have said this before: after Columbine, after Arizona, after Aurora, after so many other numbing hours of murder and of massacre.

But let this be out true landmark; let Newtown be the hour after which, in the words of the New Testament, we did all we could to make all things new.

Politicians can no longer be allowed to defend the status quo. They must instead be forced to protect our children.

Parents can no longer take “No” for an answer from Washington when the topic turns to protecting children.

The violence we see spreading from shopping malls in Oregon, to movie theaters in Colorado, to college campuses in Virginia, to elementary schools in Connecticut, is being spawned by the toxic brew of a violent pop culture, a growing mental health crisis and the proliferation of combat-styled guns.

Though entrenched special interests will try to muddy the issues, the cause of these sickening mass shootings is no longer a mystery to common-sense Americans. And blessedly, there are more common-sense Americans than there are special interests, even if it doesn’t always seem that way. Good luck to the gun lobbyist or Hollywood lawyer who tries to blunt the righteous anger of ten million parents by hiding behind a twisted reading of our Bill of Rights.

Our government rightly obsesses day and night over how to prevent the next 9/11 from being launched from a cave in Afghanistan or a training base in Yemen. But perhaps now is the time to begin obsessing over how to stop the next attack on a movie theater,  a shopping mall, a college campus or a first grade class.

The battle we now must fight, and the battle we must now win is for the safety and sanity of our children, and that is the war at home.

It’s not all about guns, or all about violent movies and videogames. But we must no longer allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. And we must not excuse total inaction by arguing that no single action can solve the problem and save our children.

I am a conservative Republican who received the NRA’s highest ratings over 4 terms in Congress. I saw the debate over guns as a powerful, symbolic struggle between individual rights and government control. In the years after Waco and Ruby Ridge, the symbolism of that debate seemed even more powerful to my colleagues and me.

But the symbols of that ideological struggle have since been shattered by the harvest sown from violent, mind-numbing video games and gruesome Hollywood movies that dangerously desensitizes those who struggle with mental health challenges. Add military-styled weapons and high capacity magazines to that equation and tragedy can never be too far behind.

There is no easy ideological way forward. If it were only so simple as to blame Hollywood or the NRA, then our task could be completed in no time. But I come to you this morning with a heavy heart and no easy answers. Still, I have spent the past few days grasping for solutions and struggling for answers, while daring to question my long held beliefs on these subjects.

I have always taken a libertarian’s approach to Hollywood’s 1st Amendment rights and gun collectors’ 2nd Amendment rights. I stood by those libertarian beliefs after Columbine, Aurora and Arizona. Those young men who slaughtered innocents were crazy, after all, and they would have found another way to kill their victims if their guns of choice were not available.

But last Friday a chilling thought crossed my mind as I saw the Times Square ticker over ABC spit out the news of yet another tragic shooting in yet another tortured town by yet another twisted son of that community.How could it be that I knew within seconds of reading that scrolling headline that the shooter would be an isolated middle class white male who spent his days on his computer playing video games? How did I know that it was far more likely that he had a mental condition than a rational motive? And how did I know the end of this news story before the reporting even began?

I knew the ending of that story because I’ve seen it all too often before. I also knew that day that the ideologies of my past career were no longer relevant to the future that I want for my children.

Friday changed everything. It must change everything. We All must begin anew and demand that Washington’s old way of doing business is no longer acceptable.

Entertainment moguls do not have an absolute right to glorify murder while spreading mayhem in young minds across America.

And our Bill of Rights does not guarantee gun manufacturers the absolute right to sell military-styled high-caliber semi-automatic combat assault rifles with high capacity magazines to whoever the hell they want.

It is time for Congress to put children before deadly dogmas. It’s time for politicians to start focusing more on protecting our school yards than putting together their next fundraiser. And it’s time Washington stops trying to win endless wars overseas and instead starts focusing on winning the war at home.

We have already given up too much ground across America. We have already ceded too many schoolyards and shopping malls, movie theaters and college campuses. We will give no more ground.

Abraham Lincoln once said of this great   and powerful nation…

“From whence shall we expect the approach of danger? Shall some trans-Atlantic military giant step the earth and crush us at a blow? Never. All the armies of Europe and Asia…could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track on the Blue Ridge in the trial of a thousand years. No, if destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we will live forever or die by suicide.”

For the sake of my four children, I choose life. And I choose change. It is time to turn over the tables inside the temple, for the sake of our children and for the sake of this great nation that we love.


  • Frank Turk

    Denny — I’d say there’s not one thing about this video which Joe gets right except for the horror experienced by the parents of the children murdered by a madman. I’d be willing to discuss that item for item with any person willing to do so without hyperbole or venom.

  • Josh King

    I agree for the most part. In activity should not be accepted because no single activity can fix everything. The defense of access to military grade firearms is ridiculous.

  • Patrick Duncan

    This isn’t very surprising to me. Joe says that he’s a strong conservative, but I’ve watched his show from time to time and if I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard him throw fellow conservatives under the bus, I’d be a rich man. That is not an honest statement on his part, IMHO.

    Some of what he says does make sense, like meaningful restrictions the sale of semi-automatic weapons, magazines, ammunition, etc. However, at no point in Joe’s commentary did he question why the school and schools in general do not have a responsible person on staff (like a designated teacher or the principal) who had a weapon available in the office to use in the case of a situation like this. Even if you make guns totally illegal, these kinds of unstable people can and will acquire weapons illegally and they will be more inclined to use it against unarmed schools, churches, shopping centers, etc.

    Most of these guys are truly cowards, including this latest shooter, who offed himself the minute he heard police/armed individuals coming for him. If they believe that the school has armed people ready to defend children, they will either never carry out their acts or will be stopped much sooner than we’re seeing in these situations.

  • Christiane

    I have no voice here. I am silenced by the blog owner which is his right. But something IS changing. This time, something is changing. I can’t even bear to read the comments of those who have no hope for change . . . the ‘status quo’ ? those who are smug in their ‘rights’ will be confronted, not by me, or by ‘liberals’, or by any earthly force . . .

    THEY will confronted by the faces of twenty little dead children

    and this time, that THEY don’t listen won’t matter anymore

  • Andrew Hunt

    His quote from Lincoln goes against his point. We as “free” men cannot be defeated. A country of free men cannot be defeated. The defeat comes when we surrender our freedom. That is, I think, the suicide Lincoln refers to. When you give up freedom for the sake of safety you lose both.

  • Johnny Mason

    “..we did all we could to make all things new…. It is time to turn over the tables inside the temple, for the sake of our children and for the sake of this great nation that we love.”

    It appears Joe wants that table turner to be the US government and not the Savior. Only the Savior can make all things new. Not society or government or the works of men. Why isn’t he railing against the expulsion of God and morality from our culture? Why isn’t he willing to jettison his twisted reading of the 1st Amendment?

    The answer to all this is the Gospel and yet people turn more and more to sinful men. We have removed the Guardian at the gate and now watch in horror as the barbarians run rampant.

  • Adam Gupton

    I have never been violent nor do I ever plan on it, but with all this gun control stuff being tossed around…I’m going to buy me a pistol and an assault rifle…just because they are planning on restricting it in the future and disarming a dissatisfied public is definitely in the interest of our “great” government.

  • Michael King

    A more satisfactory commentary came from Mike Huckaby. I would encourage all to watch that statement from a true Republican conservative, rather than Joe who, sitting alongside Mika has become a Republican in name only.

  • barry joslin

    I heard Joe’s comments this AM via Stitcher. I am not surprised myself. Of course, in his context of Manhattan and on MSNBC, he’s a crazy right-winger. But as a “crazy right-winger,” I can say that Joe is not very conservative. He’s just more so than those around him.

    I will say that I appreciate his passion as a father, and his ability to articulate what a lot of people are feeling in the shadow of last friday. That being said, it’s just bad timing and a bit cold to launch into a soliloquy on gun control. Can we grieve for a while, Joe? The bodies aren’t even buried. The horror is still so very fresh. Pure emotion like Joe’s on such a pubic platform is not helpful. Brit Hume was far more accurate when he wisely urged we get all the facts before we make policy decisions. We don’t know why this guy did what he did. What was his state of mental health? Perhaps we need to address school security before we address disarming our citizens? What about the violence culture? Here was another white male, with mental health issues, who apparently spent vast amounts of time on his computer playing violent games.

    Concerning change, I have a couple of thoughts myself: SCOTUS has ruled on the matter recently, and I just don’t see this changing much in the near future. Maybe I am too pessimistic and wrong. That’s fine and we will see. However, what I have never really understood is why someone might need a military assault rifle, and huge clips for ammo to begin with. They are not necessary to defend your home. We already have gun control – we are not allowed to by any kind of gun we want. So, what’s the deal with limiting such weapons? I’m a gun owner, and would use lethal force without hesitation were I or my family threatened, but I don’t understand why such weapons are for public sale to begin with. Even so – he had other weapons with him besides this particular one and the dedication, determination, calculation, and will to carry out this crime. So, banning “assault rifles” is not going to fix anything. Lastly, and it’s been said ad nauseam, though correctly, even a total ban on all guns is not going to stop criminals from getting them. It will only disarm the public, and those of us who are law-abiding citizens. In fact, in light of this horrific crime (and the growing frequency of them) the protector in me wants to obtain, legally, my own concealed-carry permit. I can think of nothing worse than being in a public place with my family, with an active shooter, and have no way to protect my family or myself. Our founding fathers had no intention of US citizens feeling helpless and powerless when their own lives were at risk at the hands of a mad man. But, as I said, it’s not the time to debate gun control. Guns were just one aspect of this crime. Our violence-saturated culture is far more to blame than the 2nd Amendment.

    Thanks Denny, for posting this. I knew you would the moment I heard it!


  • Marco Vasquez

    For the record, most firearms today are semi-automatic. It just means that when a round is fired, the gun automatically ejects the spent shell casing and loads the next round into the chamber. One trigger pull is required for each shot.

    Firearms that are not semi-automatic would include single or double shot weapons, lever-action, bolt-action, muzzle-loaders, and revolvers. (Although a revolver’s mechanism performs a similar function).

    An automatic weapon has a setting which allows the user to fire multiple rounds with one pull of the trigger. These are heavily restricted and almost exclusively available to military and law enforcement.

    From what I can tell, Lanza did not have any military-grade weapons (i.e. automatic).

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