Joe Scarborough, the host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe," accused Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R.) of talking down to him on Wednesday while the senator defended the Second Amendment rights of Americans to own rifles like the AR-15.
Cruz, fresh off a landslide victory in the Texas Republican senatorial primary, appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" to discuss a number of issues ranging from gun rights to Brooklyn barbecue.
Mike Barnicle first broached the topic of gun control, asking Cruz if it was "common sense" that in some states, an 18-year-old was allowed to purchase an assault rifle but was banned from purchasing a hand gun.
Cruz stated that when it came to curbing gun violence, elected officials shouldn't just look for "common sense" approaches, but rather, should focus on approaches that actually contribute to decreasing violent crime. Cruz pointed out that blanket bans, like the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, often marketed to the public as "common sense" solutions to gun violence, haven't actually worked. He said AR-15 rifles, while looking "scary," are often identical in functionality to the average rifle that might be used for hunting deer.
"What they call an ‘assault weapon' is essentially a scary-looking gun with a plastic handle here, a strap there," Cruz said, pointing to the cosmetic features of weapons.
This argument elicited rebuke from Scarborough, with the MSNBC pointing to a 1981 article in the Atlantic that discussed a rifle "much like the AR-15" that could have been, but was not, used by U.S. soldiers in Vietnam. The rifle was described as "lighter" and more "lethal" than the weapons actually used by soldiers. He therefore argued that the AR-15 was in fact designed "to kill more efficiently, more effectively."
"The firing mechanisms, the lethality, of an AR-15 is indistinguishable from many deer rifles," Cruz said.
"If somebody takes a deer rifle into a high school in Parkland, that deer rifle is going to be as lethal as an AR-15?" Scarborough asked, referencing the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
The conversation turned contentious as the two men, both lawyers by training, began to argue the basis of the 2008 Supreme Court decision rendered in District of Columbia v. Heller. The ruling, which struck down a handgun ban in the District of Columbia, stated that citizens have a constitutional right to possess firearms in their homes for the purpose of self-defense.
"You know though that every American doesn’t have a constitutional Second Amendment right to carry an AR-15? Yes or no?" Scarborough asked.
Cruz, citing his career in law enforcement and as a lawyer arguing cases in front of the Supreme Court, stated that under "the Heller test," and individual's right to own an AR-15 is protected.
"Senator, there are a lot of people, lawyers right now, who are rolling their eyes at what you’re saying," Scarborough responded.
"My career was litigating before the Supreme Court," Cruz said. "I recognize this is not what you do."
"I don’t need you to lecture me on what the Supreme Court does and what it doesn’t do," Scarborough said. "You can talk down to me all you want to."
"Who’s talking down to who? You say lawyers are rolling their eyes at me," Cruz responded.
"There is not a constitutional right, and you know it, and you can talk down to me all you want to," Scarborough said. "Even a dumb country lawyer like me understands that an AR-15 today is not recognized as a constitutional right of Americans under the Second Amendment."
"Actually, under the test the Supreme Court laid out in Heller, whether an instrument of defense is in common and popular usage– The AR-15 is one of the most popular and common weapons in the United States," Cruz argued. "Under the test of Heller, it is clearly protected."
Scarborough questioned the validity of the test, saying if Cruz was correct, "you would think the Supreme Court of the United States would actually accept one of these cases."
Neither Cruz nor Scarborough settled the matter, with both men appearing to leave the encounter confident in the merits of their argument.
On a lighter note, both Cruz and Scarborough were able to find consensus on the grounds that Brooklyn barbecue had nothing on its Texas counterpart.