I have only a few words to say about how one media outlet talked about open carry at the Republican National Convention. I was watching some preliminary coverage on the first day, before the whole hate fest began. It was on MSNBC—a network that once—oh, so long ago—claimed to be the progressive alternative to Fox News. The anchor was talking to a reporter outside Quicken Loans Arena, asking for his observations about people who were gathering there. The anchor asked the reporter: “Have you seen anyone exercising their 2nd Amendment rights outside the arena?”
Did you catch that? He framed openly carrying assault weapons as “exercising one’s 2nd Amendment rights.” What’s wrong with that? I’m not going to argue the wording of the 2nd Amendment here, or debate what it means in contemporary society. Maybe the framers of the Constitution did intend for everyone to own a gun, or walk around in public strapped up with assault weapons that can pump out dozens of bullets in a few seconds. I doubt that. Personally, I imagine that, given the Emancipation Proclamation [which made slave militias irrelevant] and the power of today’s guns, the guys who wrote the 2nd Amendment might reconsider the whole idea. But don’t tell that to the NRA.
To my ears, the framing of the news anchor’s question clearly shows he—if not the network itself—has absorbed and adopted a classic Republican/NRA talking point about the 2nd-Amendment-backed legitimacy of assault rifles, and the efficacy of people owning and using them in public for vigilantism or self-defense. [It should be noted that the Republican Party banned guns inside the arena, and that several law-enforcement officials asked the State of Ohio to temporarily suspend its law allowing open carry.]
Anyway, it was jarring to hear a news anchor use that 2nd Amendment framing. Couldn’t he just have said, “Are you seeing any guns out there?” Or, “Are people openly carrying guns outside the arena, as they had threatened to do?”
Of course, this parroting of NRA talking points came from a network that not only features Joe Scarborough, but has more recently engaged radically right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt as one of its news “analysts.” So I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised.