Politics

A tale of two Scarboroughs: From rabid gun rights crusader to gun control advocate

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Jeff Poor
Media Reporter

Over the past four months, former Florida Republican Rep. Joe Scarborough has used his “Morning Joe” program on MSNBC as a platform to be an outspoken critic of the National Rifle Association and anyone else standing in the way of what he calls “common-sense” gun control legislation.

On more than one occasion over the past month, Scarborough has accused NRA-loyal Republicans of putting the interests of “rapists” ahead of other Americans.

“I can’t believe those Republicans are going to allow the entire Republican Party to be the party that basically put rapists’ rights over parents’ rights to keep their kids safe when they go to school,” Scarborough said on his April 8 program.

And after Republicans blocked an expansion on federal background checks for gun purchases last week, Scarborough declared that they were driving their party toward extinction.

But Scarborough hasn’t always been so passionate about restricting gun rights. In fact, prior to the 2003 start of his cable television career, he was among the most vehement defenders of gun rights.

In National Rifle Association questionnaires obtained exclusively by The Daily Caller — dated Aug. 23, 1994, Sept. 2, 1994, and June 7, 2000 — Scarborough declared his strong opposition to any federal effort to restrict gun rights.

Scarborough submitted two versions of the same questionnaire in 1994 because the first was apparently misplaced. TheDC has obtained both.

“The NRA must elect & support candidates who will view the gun rights issue as a constitutional battle,” Scarborough wrote on a 1994 questionnaire. “The founding fathers did not give us the 2nd Amendment to protect our rights to shoot ducks. Our constitutional right to bear arms is so we may protect our family in the manner we choose. No compromise!

The year of his first round of questionnaires, 1994, was the same year California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. Then-President Bill Clinton would sign that legislation into law on Sept. 13, 1994, creating a nationwide ban that would last for a decade on manufacturing military-looking firearms.

But just weeks before, Scarborough told the NRA that his personal definition of an “assault weapon” was “anything the government would deny the people from protecting themselves against the government” and “anything the government would fear the people could use to protect their rights.”

Aug. 23, 1994:

Sept. 2, 1994:

And despite his modern day support for background checks, in 2000, then-Rep. Joe Scarborough was, without qualification, a full-throated opponent to expanding federal background checks.

Among the three available multiple-choice answers, Scarborough circled, “I believe that gun sales by private citizens who are not engaged in an ongoing firearm business should not be subject to federal background check requirements, whether the sales take place at a gun show or elsewhere, as is the present practice. If elected, I would oppose further legislation.”

Also in that survey, Scarborough sided with the NRA by opposing federal limits on magazine capacity, licensing requirements from a government agency to “buy and/or own” a firearm, firearm registration and bans on certain types of ammo including “armor-piercing” ammunition.

Read entire questionnaires:

Scarborough questionnaire from Aug. 23, 1994

Scarborough questionnaire from Sept. 2, 1994

Scarborough questionnaire from June 7, 2000

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WATCH: Scarborough says GOP ‘moving toward extinction’ after blocking gun legislation