A fascinating exchange between the Kerry Picket of the Washington Examiner and presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke reveals one major flaw in his plan to ban the most commonly sold rifle in America and demand gun owners turn them over to the federal government in exchange for some cash: he thinks Americans will comply.
“No. I don’t see the law enforcement going door to door. I see Americans complying with the law. I see us working with gun owners, non-gun owners, local, county, state, federal law enforcement to come up with the best possible solution. I have yet to meet an owner of an AR-15 who thinks it’s OK that we have these kind of mass killings in this country,” O’Rourke said when asked by the Washington Examiner about specifics of his plan.
First of all, what does he mean when he talks about working with people to come up with “the best possible solution”? He’s already out there with what he says is the best possible solution: banning semi-automatic long guns (and most likely some handguns as well) and demanding that those who currently legally possess those firearms turn them into the government for some cash. That’s the plan. There’s not a lot of wiggle room, unless you want to talk about how much money you’re going to give, whether state or local law enforcement will take part in the compensated confiscations, and other details. I hate to break it to Beto, but none of those details will make much of a difference in compliance among most Americans.
We have a long history in this country of civil disobedience to laws we consider unjust; from the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798, the Fugitive Slave Act in the 1850s, Prohibition in the 1920s, the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, to more recent examples like states legalizing cannabis in violation of federal law. Specifically when it comes to firearms, in just the past few years we’ve seen massive non-compliance with New Jersey’s magazine ban, New York State’s SAFE Act, and the so-called “assault weapons ban” in Boulder, Colorado. So why would Beto O’Rourke imagine that Americans would comply with a law that turns them into criminals for continuing to possess something they legally possess today?
First off, if Beto actually managed to enact his proposed law, it would face an immediate court challenge, which would likely take several years for the courts to resolve. It’s doubtful that many gun owners would hand over their firearms to the federal government while that court challenge is being resolved, but even if the Supreme Court upheld Beto’s ban, compliance would likely be few and far between. Beto’s ban is simply largely unenforceable, at least proactively, without a massive expansion of law enforcement powers, and while the Left loves itself some gun control, it also has major issues with law enforcement these days. So, Beto is left with platitudes.
When pressed further about how he plans to enforce his proposal for those who would not comply, he responded, “How do you — how do we enforce any law? There’s a significant reliance on people complying with the law. You know that a law is not created in a vacuum.”
According to the candidate himself, enforcement of Beto’s ban is going to be the same as enforcement of any other law. But Beto also believes that the existing criminal justice system is full of inherent racism, so why wouldn’t enforcement of his gun ban run into the same problems that he says exist throughout the criminal justice system today? In fact, O’Rourke has spoken about expunging arrest records for marijuana possession, while seeking to create a new, non-violent crime of possessing a semi-automatic rifle. Does O’Rourke really think young men of color won’t be disproportionately impacted by his gun ban? Emily Bazelon of Slate has pointed out that most of the defendants charged with possessing a firearm who showed up in Brooklyn’s gun court had no arrests or only minor infractions in their past, yet they’re facing years in prison for simply possessing a firearm without a license. In fact, the vast majority of prosecutions for SAFE Act violations in New York take place in New York City, not the more rural areas upstate. Why wouldn’t the same be true for Beto’s gun ban violations?
If Beto were to get his gun ban, here’s what would happen. First, the number of “2nd Amendment Sanctuary” communities in this country would explode. As Effingham County, Illinois Commission David Campbell told me on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co. (you can check out the entire interview below) more than 500 counties and towns across America have already passed 2nd Amendment Sanctuary resolutions pledging that unconstitutional gun laws won’t be enforced within their border. If the federal government demanded millions of Americans hand over their 17-million or so banned rifles, how many more communities would declare themselves havens for the right to keep and bear arms? You want to enforce your gun ban? Go ahead, but don’t expect us to lift a finger to help.
As Cibola County, New Mexico Sheriff Tony Mace told me recently:
As a state Commissioned Sheriff I do not enforce federal law. It would be up to the federal government to enforce their own law but we currently see how that’s working out. As of right now the sheriffs across New Mexico are standing true to their Second Amendment sanctuary status and any gun law they deem unconstitutional that violates their oath of office they will use their discretion and not enforce.
The most likely scenario is that the only real enforcement of Beto’s gun ban would take place in deep blue urban areas, and would likely amount to another charge federal prosecutors could use against a young man already facing far more serious charges. Keep in mind that Beto says violating his gun ban would be punishable by a fine if convicted, not prison time. It’s entirely possible that Beto’s gun ban would end up getting used as a plea bargaining chip, leading to criminals pleading guilty and paying a fine for possessing a banned firearm instead of going to prison for being a felon in possession of a gun.
Meanwhile, in most of the country, people would continue to own their banned rifles without issue or too many concerns. You probably wouldn’t see anybody use an AR-15 to go hog hunting on public land, but I bet there’d still be plenty of sportsmen and women using them on private land. You’d likely see the same with recreational or even competitive shooting; nobody brings their AR to a public range, but private or backyard ranges in rural America would be another story entirely. Heck, 3-gun matches might become the new speakeasy in some parts of the country.
A constitutional challenge, massive non-compliance, widespread civil disobedience, and a disproportionate impact on young minority males. That sounds like a really awful plan to me, but that’s exactly what Beto’s no bueno gun ban would bring us.