Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke used the city of El Paso as the backdrop to a reset of his struggling presidential campaign on Thursday while calling for a ban on semi-automatic rifles and a mandatory “buyback” of tens of millions of rifles currently legally possessed by millions of Americans.
“I see more clearly than I ever have — that not only do we need universal background checks; not only do we need red flag laws, that would stop somebody when they pose a danger to themselves or someone else; not only do we need to end the sale of assault weapons and weapons of war, that were designed for the battlefield and have no place in our communities,” he said. “We must as a country buy those weapons, take them off the streets altogether.”
O’Rourke, who has previously said he was “open” to such a measure but has stopped short of explicitly endorsing it, joins fellow Democratic candidates New York Mayor Bill De Blasio and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in calling for a mandatory federal buyback program. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has also indicated support for the measure.
Rep. Eric Swalwell was the first Democrat presidential candidate to call for a ban and a “buyback”, though it failed to raise his popularity in the crowded Democratic field above 1% of potential voters and he dropped out of the race weeks after first proposing the sweeping anti-gun legislation.
O’Rourke is clearly hoping that his push will be different, and the embrace of the proposal by other candidates like De Blasio and Booker demonstrate the growing acceptance of the draconian measure among the two dozen or so Democrats hoping to challenge Donald Trump in 2020.
Like Swalwell before him, O’Rourke announced his support for a ban and a compensated confiscation program without getting into any details of how his proposal would actually work, or what the penalty for non-compliance would be.
I asked @BetoORourke about his call for a mandatory gun buyback. Interesting answer — including him copping to not pushing it before because “it’s not politically easy.”
“It’s frankly why far too few people have proposed it; it’s frankly why I have not proposed it in the past.” pic.twitter.com/k5Ju5jKZrg
— Eric Bradner (@ericbradner) August 15, 2019
O’Rourke says the proposal isn’t “politically easy”, but the bigger challenge is how it would be effective, practically speaking. There are at least 16-million AR-15-style rifles in the United States, and there’s no such thing as a federal gun registry that would allow the government to know who owns them. If Americans decide not to comply with any such ban, what’s Beto’s proposed response? How much prison time would he demand for anyone found in possession of one of Beto’s banned guns?
“How would you enforce the law you want to put on the books?” is not a gotcha question. It’s not trolling. It’s actually one of the first questions every reporter at Beto O’Rourke’s press conference should have asked the candidate, and as far as I can tell, not one reporter bothered. If this is a serious proposal then that has to be a part of the discussion. Otherwise, you’re not talking about real legislation, you’re talking about the political version of spellcasting. Pass the law and the guns will magically disappear.
Beto O’Rourke says you have to “speak the truth and be clear about where the solutions are”. In suggesting that the solution to violent crime is a ban on semi-automatic firearms, coupled with a demand that Americans turn them in or face some unknown consequence, Beto fails on both counts.