Op-Ed By Sandy Hook Promise Board Member Against Mandatory Buyback

A lot of groups that spring up in the aftermath of mass shootings are very clear in their purpose. They want to push gun control under the misguided belief that it would somehow have spared their loved ones.


What we don’t find very often are those who embrace anti-gun policies opposing any gun control measures. It’s why we don’t believe Shannon Watts when she says she and her group aren’t anti-gun, for example.

However, in an op-ed at USA Today, a board member of Sandy Hook Promise openly opposes mandatory buybacks.

“Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.”

That was former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas at the Democratic debate in Houston in September, underscoring his commitment to a new gun policy idea. He wanted not only to ban the sale of new assault weapons but also to impose a mandatory government buyback of the assault weapons already in private hands. Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California support that idea as well.

I understand the sentiment. I’ve worked on the gun issue for nearly two decades. I sit on the board of Sandy Hook Promise. And I know well that assault weapons contribute to the obscene carnage of mass shootings, including at a Walmart in O’Rourke’s hometown of El Paso. These are weapons of war and should not be in private hands. If we could wave a magic wand to take them away, I would be all for it.

But we can’t. As former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg noted in last week’s debate, a mandatory buyback isn’t feasible policy. And it’s very bad politics for Democrats.


Matt Bennett doesn’t oppose mandatory buybacks because they’re morally wrong or unconstitutional, but for political reasons. In particular, this is the “wrong” time for them and would likely push people to oppose gun control generally.

He’s probably not wrong about what would happen if anti-gun lawmakers pushed for a mandatory buyback.

Bennett also points out how ridiculously difficult enforcement would be.

Let’s start with the policy. There are a lot of assault weapons out there. The gun dealer trade group National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates that 15 to 20 million such rifles are in circulation.

But whose hands are they in? Nobody knows. America has no central registry of guns or gun owners. That means that the authorities have no idea how many are out there, who owns them or where they are.

O’Rourke says he wouldn’t send the authorities “door to door” to collect them, which is good news. As Castro noted, in communities of color like where he grew up, “we weren’t exactly looking for another reason for cops to come banging on the door.”

Moreover, it would be quite an undertaking. Consider that the authorities have trouble getting their hands on the small number of guns we are already supposed to be taking back. Right now, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives should be collecting guns from people who failed background checks but who got their firearms anyway under a “default proceed.” That means if the check takes too long, the sale goes through. And it often takes too long because there are red flags in the potential buyer’s record.


Then there’s the fact that many Americans would actively resist such a confiscation scheme–because I don’t care how flowery you make the language and whether you give me a few bucks, taking my property against my will is confiscation–and resist it violently if need be. That’s the line in the sand for a large number of Americans, and they’re willing to die for their beliefs.

I can’t say that I blame them, either.

The important point here is that while Beto O’Rourke’s mandatory buyback proposals started getting some legs shortly after he proposed them, those days are over, and not just because of gun rights activists. When gun grabbers are opposing your gun grab, it’s safe to say it doesn’t have a hope in hell.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member