O'Rourke still backs gun confiscation, but says Texans won't go for it

AP Photo/John Minchillo

Well, he’s not wrong about that, anyway. More importantly for Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke; Texans aren’t likely to install the guy who wants to take away tens of millions of legally-owned firearms in the governor’s mansion come November. The Democrat has yet to lead a head-to-head poll against incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott, and while surveys have shown that a majority of Texans may be in favor of raising the age to purchase a modern sporting rifle from 18 to 21, those voters aren’t scrambling to support O’Rourke’s campaign. The RCP polling average of the Texas governor’s race has Abbott up by 7.5 points, with a recent Dallas Morning News poll of likely voters showing the Republican leading O’Rourke by 11 points.

What’s a gun ban fan like Beto supposed to do here? Over the weekend the Democrat did his best to pretend that his desire for gun confiscation shouldn’t stand in the way of support from moderates and independent voters.

In an interview Saturday as part of wide-ranging political symposium hosted by the Texas Tribune, O’Rourke told a packed house inside a downtown Austin theater that he still believes no one younger than 21 should be allowed to purchase such rifles as AR-15, modeled after the U.S. military’s M-16, or an AK-47, the battlefield weapon of the old Soviet Union.

But an outright prohibition of private ownership is unlikely ever to gain widespread acceptance in Texas, O’Rourke said.

“The important thing’s to get something done and not to allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good,” O’Rourke told interviewer Lawrence Wright, a staff writer for the New Yorker. “There are many things that we’ll argue, but on this issue of prioritizing the lives of our children, I have sought out and found that common ground Republicans, non-gun owners, Democrats, gun owners alike can agree on raising the age of purchase on a red flag law so we can intervene before it’s too late.”

So O’Rourke believes that banning and confiscating the most commonly-sold rifle in the country today is the “perfect” answer to combatting active shooters, while raising the age to purchase one from 18 to 21 is merely a “good” one.

I’m also a little confused about why O’Rourke talked about “raising the age of purchase on a red flag law”, given that those are two completely different things. “Red flag” laws typically don’t come with age restrictions attached, and can be applied against a person of any age in the states where they’ve been adopted. Was this a case of O’Rourke not knowing what the heck he’s talking about, or just a mumblemouthed response from an anti-gun politician who got his talking points confused? Hard to tell, honestly.

O’Rourke often boasts that he’s been among few Democrats since the Republicans cemented their lock of Texas politics a generation ago to aggressively court votes in conservative rural and exurban pockets of the state where many believe gun ownership is a sacred right.

But, he said that while government confiscation alienates millions of Texans, agreement is possible on such topics as requiring training for purchasers and limiting the ability of people who make violent threats or have been judged to be mentally unstable to legally buy weapons.

“In a universal background check that just simply says if you’re going to buy a gun in Texas, we’re cool with that,” O’Rourke said. “We just want to make sure you’re not going to be a danger to yourself or to anyone else. These three steps will save lives, allow us to defend the Second Amendment while doing a better job of protecting the lives of the people in our communities.”

And that right there is why O’Rourke is so unbelievable when it comes to talking about gun issues. In the very same interview the anti-gun politician goes from describing gun confiscation as his “perfect” and preferred policy in combatting active shooters to claiming that he’ll “defend the Second Amendment”. by imposing new gun control laws on Texans. O’Rourke’s fellow gun control activists may not be bothered by the cognitive dissonance, but it’s clearly turning off a number of the independents and Republicans that he needs if he’s going to win in November, and for good reason. No one’s voting for Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke to protect their right to keep and bear arms, and O’Rourke’s gun-centric policy prescriptions would be completely ineffective at protecting our kids as well. It’s not a matter of perfect being the enemy of good; it’s about putting the focus on the potential perpetrators of these crimes instead of targeting law-abiding Texas gun owners with laws that criminals will simply ignore.