O'Rourke talking up gun confiscation on campaign trail

AP Photo/LM Otero

After several months of trying to convince Texas voters that he’s no longer interested in “taking anything from anyone”, Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke is back on the gun confiscation bandwagon.

Fox News reports that in the days before the shooting in Uvalde, Texas in which an 18-year old murdered 19 fourth graders and two teachers, O’Rourke told several audiences on the campaign trail that not only should modern sporting rifles like the AR-15 be banned from sale, but that the millions of Americans who lawfully possess them shouldn’t be allowed to keep them.

“I think we are fools to believe anything other than that these weapons of war will continued to be used with greater frequency against our fellow Americans,” O’Rourke told a group of veterans during a town hall meeting in Abilene on May 21.

“It’s why I’ve taken the position that I don’t think we should have AR-15s and AK-47s in civilian life,” he said. “They belong on a battlefield.”

Earlier in the day, during a town hall with veterans in San Angelo, O’Rourke suggested he’s open to confiscation of existing semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15.

“My kids are my conscience,” he said. “And I may win or lose this race, but I’m always going to have to face them and answer for what I’ve done or failed to do when I had the chance to do something. And I just took the position that may not be politically popular or maybe too honest that only should no one be able to purchase an AR-15 or an AK-47, because they’re designed to kill humans and that high-impact, high-velocity round will just tear up everything inside you. You’ll bleed out before we can get you back to life.

“But I don’t think that the people who have them right now in civilian use should be able to keep them,” he added.

At another event in Killeen, Texas, O’Rourke again reiterated his support for a ban on so-called assault weapons, but shied away from discussing his call for confiscation.

… when questioned about assault weapons on the campaign trail, O’Rourke often says he does not believe civilians should have them. He reiterated that during a veterans town hall in Killeen the day before the Uvalde shooting, where an audience member asked O’Rourke about his stance on AR-15s and said he thought O’Rourke had “changed or softened your stance on that.”

“My position on this is consistent, and I know that not everyone here is gonna agree with me,” O’Rourke said. “I don’t think any civilian should own an AR-15 or AK-47.”

O’Rourke steered clear of the buyback idea in the rest of his answer, pivoting to universal background checks, safe-storage laws and his opposition to permitless carry.

O’Rourke’s campaign recently edited a section of its website on guns to strengthen his position against assault weapons. The section had said as recently as April 1 that he wants to “reduce” the amount of those weapons on the street. It now says, “I don’t believe any civilian should own an AR-15 or AK-47.” A campaign spokesperson said the language change was “part of a routine update to our website in the spring that included aligning the campaign’s issue page with how Beto consistently talks” about topics on the campaign trail. A video that was on the same page before and after the change featured O’Rourke saying he does not believe civilians should carry assault weapons.

If you don’t think that existing gun owners should be able to keep their guns, shouldn’t you be willing to talk about how, exactly, you propose to go get them?

O’Rourke’s spent this entire campaign sticking his finger in the wind and trying to figure out how to triangulate his positions to find a sweet spot with the electorate, but so far the strategy hasn’t paid many dividends. To the best of my knowledge no polls on the governor’s race have been conducted since the murders in Uvalde, but a poll from mid-May found Gov. Greg Abbott with a 7-point lead over his Democratic challenger. In fact O’Rourke hasn’t led in a single head-to-head poll against Abbott, but he’s clearly hoping that his re-embrace of a gun ban and confiscation will win over undecideds and independents who’ve bought in to the idea that we can ban our way to safety.

If that’s really where Beto wants to go, then he owes it to voters to lay out in detail how exactly he hopes to accomplish that task and his reasoning behind it. Who would be responsible for collecting guns that must be turned in? What should the criminal penalty be for those gun owners who lawfully purchased their firearm and don’t hand them over? Would O’Rourke also support a ban on the sale and possession of ammunition in common rifle calibers like .223? And given that handguns are used in far more crimes than rifles of any kind, why shouldn’t Texas voters be concerned that Beto might one day decide “hell yes I’m coming for your pistols too”? After all,  he’s not just campaigning against owning the most commonly-sold rifle in the country; he’s attacking the state’s new Constitutional Carry law as well.

O’Rourke’s anti-gun talking points are aimed at curtailing the rights of the law-abiding citizens and blaming them for the actions of criminals, and while that might very well goose enthusiasm for his campaign among disheartened Democrats, Beto’s gun ban plans are liable to draw far more replies of “hell no” and “come and take them” from most Texas voters.