MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough—until yesterday a pistol-waving poster boy for the NRA—says he has seen the light on gun control. Pardon me if I don’t start a round of “Kumbaya.”
Through four terms in Congress, through horrific massacres at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson and Aurora, Scarborough repeatedly defended the sanctity of the Second Amendment. The right to bear arms was inviolate, he preached, no matter what the consequence.
So why did it take Friday’s nightmare in Newtown to bring Scarborough around? Are the lives of 20 first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School worth more than the 15 lost at Columbine High School or the 32 at Virginia Tech?
Of course not, but perhaps the beatific images of six- and seven-year-olds are more indelible than those of high-school and college-age students. No wonder, then, that some experts predict that Sandy Hook may be the tipping point in the country’s endless legislative inaction over guns.
Politically, it’s a no-brainer, provided the media keeps up the heat. No one, not even the most reactionary Republican, can rationalize the burial of 20 babies. Pro-gun legislators went AWOL from the Sunday-morning talk shows—31 turned down CBS’s Face the Nation alone, said anchor Bob Schieffer.
Morning Joe host Scarborough opened his show yesterday with a heartfelt “Come to Jesus” monologue. He spoke for 10 full minutes about how Newtown had shaken him to his core, and had forced him to re-examine his personal views on gun control.
For Scarborough, Sandy Hook hit close to home. The average age of his four children matched that of the young victims, he said. He added that his second son had Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder that also reportedly affected alleged gunman Adam Lanza.
“From this day forward, nothing can ever be the same again,” Scarborough said. ” … Let this be our true landmark … politicians can no longer be allowed to defend the status quo.”
The horror of Sandy Hook meant “the ideologies of my past career were no longer relevant to the future that I want, that I demand for my children,” he said. The Bill of Rights “does not guarantee gun manufacturers the absolute right to sell military-style, high-caliber, semi-automatic combat assault rifles with high-capacity magazines to whoever the hell they want.”
Pop culture was equally to blame, Scarborough said, for the prevalence of violent images in movies and video games. “Entertainment moguls don’t have an absolute right to glorify murder or mayhem,” he said. Gun lobbyists didn’t escape his wrath, either.
It all comes down to public safety, Scarborough said. If first-graders are at risk, it’s 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 fund-raiser. It’s time for Washington to stop trying to win endless wars overseas when we’re losing the war at home.
“ … For the sake of my four children and yours, I choose life and I choose change.”
Powerful words, but will they last? If history is any judge, Americans will reach Sandy Hook Fatigue in a matter of weeks, if not days. It’s inevitable, given our short attention spans and the specter of the next disaster, natural or otherwise.
Case in point: Twelve people were murdered in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Do you remember the year? I rest my case.