MSNBC anchor Alex Wagner and her band of left-wing panelists sneered at the legislative recall effort currently underway in Colorado on Tuesday’s NOW with Alex Wagner. Serial MSNBC contributor Joy Reid even went so far as to refer to the NRA, one of the groups behind the recall, as “Neo-Confederate.”
Wagner was slamming the NRA, which seemingly everyone at MSNBC loves to do, when Reid joined the conversation and introduced the racial element into the mix: “Yeah, it’s interesting. There is a sort of Neo-Confederate thread that runs through these sort of pro-gun movements and the NRA movement.”
It’s not surprising that MSNBC would tie pro-gun rights conservatives to the Confederacy in a ham-handed attempt to associate advocacy of gun rights with repression of the rights of black Americans. But such a connection has no grounding in American history. Both before and after the Civil War, many Southern state governments passed laws to prohibit or restrict gun ownership among blacks, but not whites. [Harry Jackson Jr wrote an excellent column on this topic in March.] In other words, gun control was used in the Old South as a weapon of racism, as a way to ensure that blacks could not defend themselves.
What's more, leaders in the civil rights movement like the Deacons for Defense and Justice used armed patrols to help protect peaceful civil rights demonstrators from angry mobs and abusive racist local law enforcement officers. According to about.com:
"In 1966, [Martin Luther] King [Jr.] was convinced to allow Deacons to provide security for the March Against Fear from Memphis to Jackson, Miss. In his book The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement, Southern Institution for Education and Research Executive Director Lance Hill wrote that Deacons helped diffuse a potentially violent situation at a Jonesboro high school. When picketing black students had fire hoses turned on them, DDJ members began loading shotguns in view of police officers stationed at the school. Officers responded by turning away the fire trucks.
Perhaps most importantly, the DDJ forced enforcement of the Civil Rights Act after armed Deacons tangled with Klan members in Bogalusa. As a result, federal authorities forced the Klan in the area to disband in a move that was symbolic of the direction in which the civil rights movement was headed.
No longer able to attack African-Americans without fear of retaliation from gun-wielding Deacons, the Klan began to lose its power-hold on the region. Local and state authorities that had been reluctant to enforce the 1964 Civil Rights Act had little choice but to react to the DDJ’s presence. In 1966, Louisiana Gov. John McKeithen required Jonesboro officials to diffuse the city’s racial disputes."
It should go without saying that the NRA --the nation's oldest civil rights organization, founded in 1871 -- advocates for limiting gun restrictions for all Americans, regardless of color. What's more, even granting that the NRA's membership may skew heavily white in racial demographics, concern for Second Amendment rights knows no skin color, and the organization has sought to diversify its outreach with excellent defenders of gun rights like Colion Noir.
The NOW panel may have sensed that the recall effort will succeed, because they already started making excuses for why the two Democratic state senators in question might lose their seats. Josh Barro of Business Insider worried that most of those who turn out for the election will be gun rights supporters: “It's one of these political issues where these sorts of measures like in Colorado are broadly popular, but the people who actually really care about them and go into the voting booth on election day and say the issue I really care about is guns, many of those people are opponents of gun control.”
Salon.com contributor David Sirota blamed the judge who ruled that most voters in this election will need to cast their ballots in person: “[I]t was normally going to be a low turnout election anyway. And now you’ve potentially got a situation where most Colorado voters are used to voting by mail, are now not going to be able to vote by mail. So there’s the potential for many voters in these districts to think that they're ready to vote on these recall elections and then not realize that they're not getting a ballot in the mail.”
It seems that MSNBC and its contributors fear a perfectly democratic recall election that may eject two legislators who share their liberal views on gun control, especially in a state like Colorado, the home of the 2008 Democratic National Convention which first nominated President Obama.
Below is a transcript of the segment:
ALEX WAGNER: Joining us now from Denver is Salon.com contributor and syndicated newspaper columnist David Sirota. David, as with so many other things related to gun safety measures this smacks more of political opportunism than actual policy. Why is the NRA going after Morse and Giron, these two state senators?
DAVID SIROTA: Well, I think they want to make a statement. I think the New York Times, the way it alluded to the national implications of this is right. They want to make a statement using two isolated, I would say isolated, examples to send a message to Colorado and to the rest of the country to legislators that if you vote for, I would say, pretty common sense modest gun control measures, you will face a price, and they've selected the right kind of districts, politically speaking. They've selected a working class Democratic district in Pueblo and they’ve selected a very, very closely contested swing district in the very conservative city of Colorado Springs. So they've chosen Democratic seats that are held right now by Democrats, but that these culturally conservative wedge issues can be played in to great effect.
WAGNER: You know, Joy, David mentioned with a wink and a nod the -- well actually no, he wasn't being facetious. He said these are common sense gun safety laws, and they are, but they have been sort of described by gun rights advocates as outrageous. To be specific, what Governor John Hickenlooper has done is mandated background checks for all private and online gun sales, the fascist that he is, and banned magazines that contain more than 15 rounds of ammo. These are very practical measures. It is a testament to how high tempers run and just how much ground the NRA is unwilling to cede that there are now recall efforts for some of the people that voted in support of these gun safety laws.
JOY REID: Yeah, it’s interesting. There is a sort of Neo-Confederate thread that runs through these sort of pro-gun movements and the NRA movement and they believe in sort of tentherism and trying to pull back from federalism in everything but this. Because when a state decides that it wants to pass gun laws, they say oh, no, no, no, no. We won't even let a state decide its own gun laws. We’re going to go in and upend and pull back anything that restricts gun ownership, and they’ll go state by state and do that. They’ll try to challenge it in states – even blue states like Illinois. So there’s this sense that even states don't have the right to restrict gun use within their borders. The NRA will come in, helicopter in, and undo that.
WAGNER: They're the ones coming in the black helicopters.
REID: That's right. Exactly.
JOSH BARRO: And the NRA has never really been a small government lobby. They are aligned with conservatives but they’re not buying into the overall conservative vision of government. I mean, you saw right after Newtown, you had the president of the NRA coming out, calling for a national database of people with mental illnesses, which should concern people.
WAGNER: And armed guns in schools.
BARRO: Yeah. And so it's anything but restrictions on guns. It's one of these political issues where these sorts of measures like in Colorado are broadly popular, but the people who actually really care about them and go into the voting booth on election day and say the issue I really care about is guns, many of those people are opponents of gun control. So I think the interesting thing to see in these recalls, when you have a low-turnout recall election, is that a time when gun rights supporters are able to marshal their people out and win these? But I’d be interested to know what David thinks. Are these guys gonna hold on in these recalls?
WAGNER: Yeah, what is the story on the ground there, David? Are these recall efforts going to be successful?
SIROTA: Look, I think the ruling that you alluded to, with the Denver judge ruling on mail ballots is going to be – is a real X factor here because as Josh just alluded to, this is going to be -- it was normally going to be a low turnout election anyway. And now you’ve potentially got a situation where most Colorado voters are used to voting by mail, are now not going to be able to vote by mail. So there’s the potential for many voters in these districts to think that they're ready to vote on these recall elections and then not realize that they're not getting a ballot in the mail. So there's a potential for a huge amount of confusion. So the problem that you may end up with is, whether these, whether or not these candidates actually survive these elections, these Democrats. If they don't survive, the NRA will cite this as a national win, even though everything has colluded to make this a very, very low turnout election that is simply a referendum on whether a tiny segment of the population can be motivated to come out to vote on this one set of issues.