Beto O’Rourke’s campaign is floundering at the moment. Mired in the low single digits in polling, the candidate will release his third quarter fundraising figures today, and they’re not expected to be anything to write home about. Since his “campaign reset” to focus on gun control after the shootings at an El Paso Walmart, O’Rourke has re-invented himself as the gun control candidate in the 2020 Democratic primary, but while it’s led to increased media attention, it hasn’t amounted to a real boost for his campaign. It’s an open question as to whether or not he’s helped or hurt the gun control movement as well.
In a new article for Politico, O’Rourke acknowledges that his “Hell yes we’re taking your AR-15” comment a few weeks ago may have made life more difficult for his fellow Democrats, but says the party hasn’t “caught up” to where the country is at the moment.
O’Rourke’s own proposal has been criticized as politically impractical or potentially unconstitutional. When CNN’s Chris Cuomo told O’Rourke last month that he doubted the legality of mandatory buybacks, O’Rourke replied that under the Second Amendment, “the government does have a power to regulate those kinds of weapons that are extraordinarily unusual or deadly.” He told Cuomo he is “willing to fight that one all the way to the end.”
The measure O’Rourke is proposing, he says, is not unlike laws banning any other illegal weapon or substance. “We don’t go door to door to enforce any part of the criminal code,” he told me, “nor would we in this case.” When asked whether penalties could include imprisonment, he said, “A fine, certainly. I don’t know about imprisonment. But it’s something that I’d like to listen to.”
What’s really amusing to me about O’Rourke making this argument is that he wants to legalize cannabis, in part because of the damage the ban has done to “communities of color” across the nation.
“We need to not only end the prohibition on marijuana, but also repair the damage done to the communities of color disproportionately locked up in our criminal justice system or locked out of opportunity because of the War on Drugs,” O’Rourke said in a news release. “These inequalities have compounded for decades, as predominantly white communities have been given the vast majority of lucrative business opportunities, while communities of color still face over-policing and criminalization.”