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.