Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke is still officially mulling what’s expected to soon be an official run for governor of Texas, and if so he’ll make history as the first candidate in land of “Come and Take It” to run on a platform of “Okay, I will!”
On Friday O’Rourke doubled down on his “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15” comment made during his failed run for president last year. O’Rourke was appearing at the Texas Tribune Festival in an interview setting with New York Times columnist Kara Swisher when he was asked about the comment and how that’s going to play in Texas politics.
On gun control, most Democrats in the 2020 primaries distanced themselves from O’Rourke’s declaration that “hell yes” he would confiscate AR-15s, AK-47s and similar weapons. The comment came in a televised debate shortly after the El Paso massacre.
Texas, he said Friday, has had “four of the deadliest mass shootings in American history,” including the one in El Paso when “23 people were slaughtered by a gunman inspired by Donald Trump and the white supremacist ideology that he represented, who used a weapon of war an AK-47 to kill all of those people and grievously injured dozens more in a matter of minutes.”
He noted that on Thursday, FBI director Christopher Wray warned Congress of a dramatic increase in domestic white supremacist terrorism.
“Remember,” O’Rourke added, “the El Paso gunman in the manifesto he published minutes before walking into that Walmart said that he came to stop the Hispanic political takeover of Texas. This was political terrorism. January 6 was political terrorism, and we are allowing political terrorists to arm themselves to the teeth.”
How well is a candidate who says “I’m taking your guns” going to do in a state where “Come and take it” isn’t just a slogan, but a part of many Texans’ identity, do you think? The latest poll in Texas has O’Rourke down five points to Gov. Greg Abbott in a hypothetical matchup, and that’s good news for O’Rourke, who was down double digits in polling conducted in the summer.
A poll back in May found that 44% of respondents wanted more gun control in the state, compared to 30% who would keep them as they are and 20% who would expand the right to keep and bear arms. Support for the state’s permitless carry law was underwater, but generally speaking a majority of Texans aren’t in the mood for any new gun control, much less the confiscation of several million legally-owned rifles.
But gun control is as much a part of Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke’s brand as his nickname, which means that even if he wanted to tactically shift towards the center he can’t. But I don’t think O’Rourke has any desire to do so anyway; certainly not before the Democrats have selected their candidate. And O’Rourke isn’t the only other person considering a run for governor. Matthew McConaughey is actually polling ahead of Greg Abbott in a hypothetical matchup, which was also a topic of discussion during his interview on Friday.
“He’s a good guy, he’s done some good work in the state. And he’s a great actor…. I’m a fan of his, and I’ve been so impressed by how he’s used his celebrity and star power to help others,” O’Rourke said before throwing some shade: “He’s a really popular figure whose political views have not in any way been fixed. I don’t know, for example, who he voted for in the most consequential election since 1864 in this country” – that is, the 2020 presidential election.
“I don’t know how he feels about any of the issues,” he said.
Well, I know how McConaughey feels about gun control, and while he’s not nearly as blunt as O’Rourke, he too is in favor of banning AR-15s. On that, there’s not much difference between the two, which is why I recently said that McConaughey actually poses a bigger threat to the Second Amendment rights of Texans. I just don’t see a majority of Texans voting for a man who says “I’m taking your guns away.” Falling for the smooth-talking celebrity who couches his own desire to impose a gun ban in the language of moderation and common ground, on the other hand, seems like a more realistic possibility to me.