Conversations about gun violence on "The View" reveal that Meghan McCain needs a lesson in empathy

"I'm not living without guns," McCain recently said on the show's Season 23 premiere. "It's just that simple"

By D. Watkins

Editor at Large

Published September 8, 2019 9:15PM (EDT)

Meghan McCain (Getty/Salon)
Meghan McCain (Getty/Salon)

Season 23 of "The View" opened with a rhetorical bang this week when conservative co-host Meghan McCain, a zealous supporter of Second Amendment rights, said she could not live in a world without firearms.

"I'm not living without guns," McCain said Tuesday on the ABC daytime show. "It's just that simple."

After an August marred by multiple mass shootings, including the recent massacre in Odessa, Texas, which left seven people dead over Labor Day weekend, gun violence was an obvious "hot topic" for the series' first show back from summer hiatus. In this particular incident, the shooter "was federally barred from possessing a firearm. Nonetheless, a loophole paved the way for a weapons sale.

Even the fellow Republican on the panel, Abby Huntsman, who like McCain is also a veteran of Fox News and the daughter of a former presidential candidate, appeared to draw the line after returning to "The View" for the first time since giving birth to twins.

"How about we live in a place where we can actually walk in a mall and not look around and be nervous that someone’s going to pull out a shot gun?" Huntsman asked as McCain railed against firearm restrictions.

To put things into perspective, 35 mass shootings occurred in August in a year which has already seen more than 285 such incidents. Despite the ongoing carnage, McCain argued from a tribal perspective when she advocated for more mainstream journalists to be on the “gun beat,” because there are allegedly too many people on TV “talking about guns that clearly have never shot a gun.”

Yes, McCain was hired to sit in the show's "conservative" chair, which was first occupied by Elisabeth Hasselbeck, and it is a role she approaches with true reverence. But the fact that McCain feels that shooting a firearm is a requirement for understanding the pain that guns cause men, women and children all over America goes beyond her routine sparring duties with her more liberal co-hosts.

I'm a good sport who is always up for a good debate featuring the right throwing jabs at the left with the hope of making a better America in which we can all prosper, but tribalism should take a back seat when death enters the conversation. McCain's opinions on gun violence lack empathy, and this was far from the first time she proved so.

Rep. Steve Scalise, who was shot in 2017 during a congressional baseball practice, visited "The View" last year to promote his book, "Back in the Game," which detailed his faith and recovery after the incident. On an earlier segment that day, moderator Whoopi Goldberg refrained from using the word "gun" out of respect for Scalise, who is a friend of the McCain family.

"I know that I've been promised many times before, including on this very show, that we had it. That we did have the smoking gun," McCain said. "And, yes, I will still say 'gun' on national television, and thank you very much."

"I'm sorry. The reason I didn't say gun was because Steve Scalise was coming on," Goldberg said. "And I didn't want anybody to misunderstand the joke. That's why I didn't do it — just so we're all clear."

McCain then proceeded to question whether the word gun was allowed to be uttered on the show.

"Well, two days ago, there was something brought up about guns that we said, 'Oh, guns again,'" McCain said. "So, again, I don't know what the line is today."

At that point, Golberg cut to commercial break saying, "This was just me trying to be thoughtful."

Earlier this summer, Scalise told Fox News' Martha MacCallum that he continues walking with the support of a cane and physical therapy.  Though Scalise remains a strong advocate of the Second Amendment, McCain could have joined Golberg in her attempt to be thoughtful.

Fast-forward to this week's season premiere, when McCain took her divisive rhetoric about guns one step further.

“The AR-15 is by far the most popular gun in America, by far," McCain said on Tuesday. "I was just in the middle-of-nowhere Wyoming. If you're talking about going and taking people’s guns from them, there’s going to be a lot of violence.”

As if there is not enough senseless violence already caused by guns, such dangerous rhetoric could incite even more. The purpose of a AR-15 is not to hunt animals like deer to put dinner on the table but rather to kill as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time. It's the strongest tool a weak man can posses. There have been more than 2,200 mass shootings since the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, evidence that the combination of more guns on the streets and a continued lack of gun control measures have not made America safer. How can McCain not see this?

Shots rang all day long in the east Baltimore neighborhood I grew up in back in 1990s and early 2000s. Gun violence has had a negative impact not on me but every family in my neighborhood, as we buried teenager after teenager and friend after friend. I'll never forget the time when a stray bullet hit that three-year-old who was playing on her porch or the bullet that pierced the breast of my friend's grandma, in the addition to 100-plus obituaries I read by high school.

As she has said on "The View," McCain has shot guns numerous times. Her late dad was a prisoner of war, who knew the pains of human suffering. And Scalise, who was shot in an act of senseless gun violence, was a friend to both. But has McCain ever see a blue flame cut through human flesh in real life? Has she see the exit hole left by a bullet when it popped out? Was the shot from a small gun that delivered those bullets that flicker around before they nip vital organs? Or from a big gun that could blow a tennis ball-sized hole clear through a human shoulder?

McCain knows at least one man who was shot, but has she ever held a person after they were hit by a gun? Or while they were dying from a gun shoot wound, did she hear their last “I love you,” or “Kiss my mom for me” or “See you on the other sides?" These are questions she and other gun-toters should ask themselves before they ignore the pain of victims. Guns were a part of McCain's reality — and recently, her vacation — but the direct impact of gun violence is less so.

Real complaints come from victims or commonsense Americans who are sick of carnage — not entitled gun owners who are too frail to live without their worldly possessions. Anyone can shoot a gun, but I'm sure they aren't willing to take a bullet.

Too may innocent Americans are dying because of our gun problem. Luckily for McCain, she is rich enough to avoid the reality that many others face. I do hope that she never has to bury a family member due to senseless gun violence. All of the experiences I detailed above were my own, and I wouldn’t wish such horrific pain on anyone.

You can watch the segment from "The View" here: 

By D. Watkins

D. Watkins is an Editor at Large for Salon. He is also a writer on the HBO limited series "We Own This City" and a professor at the University of Baltimore. Watkins is the author of the award-winning, New York Times best-selling memoirs “The Beast Side: Living  (and Dying) While Black in America”, "The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir," "Where Tomorrows Aren't Promised: A Memoir of Survival and Hope" as well as "We Speak For Ourselves: How Woke Culture Prohibits Progress." His new books, "Black Boy Smile: A Memoir in Moments," and "The Wire: A Complete Visual History" are out now.

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