NYT Amnesia: Not a ‘Single Instance’ of Self-Defense With Guns

In the aftermath of Sunday’s deadly mass shooting at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Morning Joe’s panel spent much of the broadcast repeatedly calling for gun control and trying to delegitimize the concept of gun ownership for the purpose of self-defense. At one point in the show, New York Times columnist Bret Stephens insisted that there wasn’t a “single instance” that conservatives could point to of anyone “us[ing] their guns to protect their liberties.” Bizarrely, Stephens had already forgotten that it was a citizen armed with a gun who stopped yesterday’s massacre from becoming even more horrendous.

 

 

For the most part, the MSNBC morning show used their discussion of the shooting to advocate over and over again for expanded background checks to prevent people like the shooter from acquiring guns. Regardless of the fact that initial reports (which were brought up on the show) already suggested that the background check system as it exists should have prevented the mass shooter from acquiring guns, the panel repeatedly demonized Republicans and the NRA as having blood on their hands for preventing “common sense” gun control.

In continuation of these inane talking points, the panel had Stephens on to rehash his arguments for repealing the Second Amendment on “conservative” grounds (Stephens originally made his case in an op-ed for NYT after the Las Vegas mass shooting):

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Okay, Bret, repealing the Second Amendment. Go.

(...)

STEPHENS: Look, I'm not against people owning guns. All sorts of people have highly credible and legitimate reasons to own guns. But, so long as we have a Second Amendment, there is no good legal argument -- you’ll, you're gonna disagree [referring to Sen. Blumenthal] -- but there's no good legal argument why someone can't own, say, 45 rifles, why people who don't have criminal records or haven’t -- have passed their background checks can't own small arsenals.

SCARBOROUGH: [interrupting] Okay, but let me-

STEPHENS: And so the result is, the result is -- what we had now just yesterday in Texas is ubiquitous, and we don't even notice. I mean, it's just been a month since 58 people were murdered in Las Vegas and more than 500 injured.

So essentially, Stephens said that as long as there was a Second Amendment, there will be mass shootings because people can assemble “small arsenals” of guns. Stephens did not explain why he thought shooters need an arsenal of guns to carry out their crimes given that, according to Mother Jones (not exactly a right-wing outfit), most mass shooters have only used a handful of guns (1-3 weapons) in the actual commission of their heinous killing sprees. None of the other guests or the hosts bothered to bring this up or ask for clarification though. Instead, host Joe Scarborough and Senator Richard Blumenthal [D-CT] immediately moved on to argue that the Second Amendment doesn’t prevent states like Connecticut from enacting a wide range of highly restrictive gun laws, including an “assault weapons” ban and magazine capacity limits. They mainly made their case by pointing to how the Supreme Court has decided to defer to the states on these types of gun control laws or not specifically rule against them in decisions like District of Columbia v. Heller (2008).

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However, after arguing so forcefully for left-wing gun control measures, Scarborough was clearly already thinking about how pro-Second Amendment people would be responding to what he had to say. In an apparent effort to preempt such criticism, the host insisted that he doesn’t hate the Second Amendment, he just wants your “assault-style weapons”:

What is so maddening to me is, Bret, when you support background checks and somebody goes: Joe Scarborough hates the Second Amendment. No, I’m actually, support the Second Amendment. And the background checks, the assault-style weapons–not even protected by Scalia in Heller.

So this is where Stephens really started going off the rails. He responded to Scarborough’s statement above by launching into an odd, unclear tangent about whether or not the Second Amendment protects a “Constitution of Liberty”:

Yeah, but the profound question is whether the Second Amendment, whether the right to bear arms, protects what you might call the Constitution of Liberty. Or -- and you can make a solid argument that in 1789 or 1791 that it did. That argument becomes increasingly improbable in, in -- when 30,000 people or so many thousands of people are dying of gun violence every single year. And by the way, I would say that-.

Thankfully, Scarborough interrupted Bret's incoherent rambling and got him back on track with a specific question:

So tell me, why do Americans, though -- there are a lot of Americans, a lot of Americans who voted for me in the past, a lot of Americans that you know, who see the Second Amendment and their ability to buy whatever guns they want as deeply symbolic and deeply important as a check against government overreach. Why is that?

Stephens’s reply to this was as stupendous as it was stupid:

Yeah, I, I, I understand that. I think it -- there's a romantic notion that somehow if Leviathan comes to take everything you have, you're still going to have a gun with which to protect yourself. I'd like, I’d like conservatives to point to a single instance -- what is it, the Whiskey Rebellion, was it the Brinks robbery, other acts of political violence in the United States, where conservatives who are [sic] saying they used their guns to protect their liberties? You won’t find a single instance of that.

While his phrasing is a bit disjointed (the meaning is clearer in the video), Stephens appears to be repeating this argument that he made in his post-Vegas op-ed:

From a personal liberty standpoint, the idea that an armed citizenry is the ultimate check on the ambitions and encroachments of government power is curious. The Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s, the New York draft riots of 1863, the coal miners’ rebellion of 1921, the Brink’s robbery of 1981 — does any serious conservative think of these as great moments in Second Amendment activism?

If Bret Stephens could not recall that it was an armed citizen who defended the people of Sutherland Springs from further carnage by shooting and chasing down the mass killer, one would suspect that he could at least have remembered the American Revolutionary War, where thousands of ordinary Americans used their guns to fight for the independence of our country. Or, Bret could have looked up how anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of people defend themselves and their loved ones with guns from violent criminals every year. How many thousands or millions of people need to protect their most important liberty–the right to life–before Bret will consider it a “single instance"?

None of the other panelists seemed to even notice how insane Stephens’s claim was, let alone respond to it.

With such staunch conservatives like Bret over at The New York Times, who needs liberals?

See below for a transcript of the segment:

7:41 AM EST

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Okay, Bret, repealing the Second Amendment. Go.

BRET STEPHENS [NYT, COLUMNIST]: Um.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: By the way, I'm shocked I did not see this.

BRZEZINSKI: I know, we missed this one.

STEPHENS: Yeah, so-

SCARBOROUGH: I mean, I mean, we've already --

BRZEZINSKI: What the, what?

SCARBOROUGH: -I mean, Elise and I have already declared ourselves supporters of the Second Amendment,-

BRZEZINSKI: Exactly!

SCARBOROUGH: -and I thought, we thought you'd be number three. Holy moly!

BRZEZINSKI: It -- on the list.

STEPHENS: Look, I'm not against people owning guns. All sorts of people have highly credible and legitimate reasons to own guns. But, so long as we have a Second Amendment, there is no good legal argument -- you’ll, you're gonna disagree [referring to Sen. Blumenthal] -- but there's no good legal argument why someone can't own, say, 45 rifles, why people who don't have criminal records or haven’t -- have passed their background checks can't own small arsenals.

SCARBOROUGH: [interrupting] Okay, but let me-

STEPHENS: And so the result is, the result is -- what we had now just yesterday in Texas is ubiquitous, and we don't even notice. I mean, it's just been a month since 58 people were murdered in Las Vegas and more than 500 injured.

SCARBOROUGH: [interrupting] Okay, so this is gonna be very, very strange for people, Second Amendment supporters, at home, what's about to happen. So sit down, if you're in your chair, because Richard Blumenthal and I are going to explain why the Second Amendment works.

BRZEZINSKI: [interjecting] I sorry for whatever he’s about to do.

SCARBOROUGH: Alright, so, no. So I would argue that the Second Amendment does work. If you look at Heller in 2008, Scalia and the court said the Second Amendment means what the Second Amendment means. You can have a gun in your home to protect your family. Beyond that, the state of Connecticut, if they want expansive gun safety laws passed, the state of Connecticut can do that without touching the Second Amendment. And that is, that is -- what the Second Amendment is is what the Supreme Court says it is, which, they -- in Heller they said you’ve got a right to keep and bear arms in your home and no state can take that away from you. Beyond that, the states can regulate how they want.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL [D-CT]: And that's exactly right as a statement of the current law. There are common sense measures, Connecticut has implemented them, that have actually reduced gun violence. These laws work. Common sense steps like background checks, a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines, these bump stocks that enabled semi-automatic to be turned into a machine gun-like automatic, all consistent with the Second Amendment under the Heller decision.

SCARBOROUGH: Under the Heller decision.

STEPHENS: [interjecting] And that's not going to change.

SCARBOROUGH: And so far the Supreme Court has not overruled what Connecticut or other states have done which means that is the established law of the land.

ARI MELBER [NBC, LEGAL ANALYST; MSNBC, CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT]: Yeah. I think the Second Amendment is not going anywhere, and we haven't repealed the Bill of Rights, any of those core amendments. I don't think we're going to. But I think what has happened is the NRA has positioned a lot of policy arguments, which are what we all debate for public safety, inside the Constitution, and that has been a very deft rhetorical move, but it doesn’t have a lot of legal grounding.

SCARBOROUGH: What is so maddening to me is, Bret, when you support background checks and somebody goes: Joe Scarborough hates the Second Amendment. No, I’m actually, support the Second Amendment. And the background checks, the assault-style weapons–not even protected by Scalia in Heller.

STEPHENS: Yeah, but the profound question is whether the Second Amendment, whether the right to bear arms, protects what you might call the Constitution of Liberty. Or -- and you can make a solid argument that in 1789 or 1791 that it did. That argument becomes increasingly improbable in, in -- when 30,000 people or so many thousands of people are dying of gun violence every single year. And by the way, I would say that-.

SCARBOROUGH: [interrupting] So tell me, why do Americans, though -- there are a lot of Americans, a lot of Americans who voted for me in the past, a lot of Americans that you know, who see the Second Amendment and their ability to buy whatever guns they want as deeply symbolic and deeply important as a check against government overreach. Why is that?

STEPHENS: Yeah, I, I, I understand that. I think it -- there's a romantic notion that somehow if Leviathan comes to take everything you have, you're still going to have a gun with which to protect yourself. I'd like, I’d like conservatives to point to a single instance -- what is it, the Whiskey Rebellion, was it the Brinks robbery, other acts of political violence in the United States, where conservatives who are [sic] saying they used their guns to protect their liberties? You won’t find a single instance of that.

(...)


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