Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) battled “Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough Wednesday on MSNBC over the constitutionality of owning AR-15s. The two exchanged intense barbs during an unusually contentious segment.
The day after Cruz won the GOP nomination for a second term in the U.S. Senate, he joined the “Morning Joe” panel and discussed calls to ban rifles described in the mainstream media as assault rifles.
Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former student, used an AR-15 to kill 17 people during the February 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Things got heated when Cruz challenged Scarborough’s claim that Americans don’t have the constitutional right to own AR-15s because the Supreme Court hadn’t officially taken up a case and ruled on the matter.
The slugfest began when Cruz — referencing the Supreme Court’s pro-Second Amendment ruling in 2008 in District of Columbia v. Heller — observed that “the court often, on an area of constitutional litigation, will let the federal Court of Appeals, they call it ‘percolating’ — which is to let them debate it back and forth. And a denial of cert has no precedential impact.”
That remark from Cruz prompted a clearly agitated Scarborough to respond, “Senator, there are a lot of people, lawyers, right now that are rolling their eyes at what you’re saying because this percolation has been going on for 10 years.”
The Heller ruling declared that although “the Second Amendment right is not unlimited,” the firearms that are protected are those “in common use at the time.”
“And remember, my career was litigating before the Supreme Court,” said Cruz. “So actually, this is not an uncommon thing. I recognize that’s not what you do. But the court —”
Scarborough, bristling at that jab from Cruz, cut him off and exclaimed, “I don’t need you to lecture me on what the Supreme Court does and what it doesn’t do.”
Scarborough — a former lawyer and politician — then added, “If the Supreme Court denies, sir, time and time again — and they have since 2010, and they’ve allowed Connecticut’s laws to stand in place that actually ban assault-style weapons. Right now, the court is sitting back and they are allowing that to remain in place and allowing that. That is constitutional right now.”
Scarborough also said there is not a constitutional right to own AR-15s, “and you know it. And you can talk down to me all you want to. But you know there is not a constitutional right.”
Cruz then said to Scarborough, “Who’s talking down to whom?” and noted that the MSNBC co-host earlier had said that “lawyers ‘are rolling their eyes’ at me.”
“You said, ‘This is what you do. I understand it’s not what you do, Joe,'” Scarborough said to Cruz, mimicking his words from earlier. “But I do understand this: 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.”
But Cruz again pointed to the Heller ruling and argued that an AR-15 is commonly used and fits the Supreme Court’s test for protection, “under the test of Heller.”
“I give you credit for swatting away what is reality, what is legal reality,” said Scarborough — who continued to interrupt Cruz and try to speak over him throughout much of the interview.
Cruz also noted that what was not effective in trying to solve the problem of mass murderers in this country was gun control. “What is effective is targeting violent criminals,” said Cruz.