Beto O’Rourke is loud, he likes to curse, he likes to jump up on tables and cars and yell while wildly flapping his arms with the sleeves rolled up, and apparently he used to enjoy dressing in a bunny costume and singing punk songs.
The point is, if any of the 2020 Democratic candidates were going to be the one to reveal the unspoken truth behind their party’s real gun policy, it was always likely to be O’Rourke. And so far back is he now in the polls, that he really has nothing to lose by doing so.
But where are all the Democrats insisting, nay, demanding that nobody is trying to take away your guns? How has that strong talking point, excellently portrayed in this Washington Free Beacon super cut, been absent in the Democrats’ response to O’Rourke?
What has been telling in the days since O’Rourke said, “Hell yes, we are going to take your AR-15s, AK-47s,” is the nature of the Democratic response. Nobody is attacking O’Rourke for a blatant attempt to violate the Second Amendment by seizing American’s guns. Rather, they are suggesting it’s bad politics at a time when more modest gun control measures could be realized.
Pete Buttigieg was asked on cable news if he agreed with Sen. Chris Coons, a Joe Biden supporter, that O’Rourke’s comment would be played at Second Amendment rallies for years to scare Americans into thinking Democrats want to take their guns.
Mayor Pete replied, “Look, right now we have an amazing moment on our hands. We have agreement among the American people not just for universal backgrounds checks, but we have a majority in favor of red-flag laws, high-capacity magazines, banning the new sale of assault weapons. This is a golden moment to finally do something.”
He said nothing about the right of the American people to own guns and be secure in their property, nothing about the impractical nature of a forced gun buy-back, in fact, no indication that he does not actually support the policy, but simply that he sees more modest gains as more reachable at the moment.
Two of the other 10 candidates on stage last week, Kamala Harris and Corey Booker, support a mandatory buy-back, despite it potentially being bad politics. Rep. Adriano Espaillat of New York came out in support of it on CNN today. It received enormous cheers inside the debate venue; this is not some extreme Democratic Party policy position. It is the logical extension of their entire program on guns.
The reason the NRA and other gun rights organizations claim that Democrats’ end goal is to take away your guns is that the end goal of most Democrats is to take away your guns. They aren’t protesting O’Rourke’s position by saying it’s something we should never do; they are protesting the political timing of it.
It is as if pro-life organizations, in seeking limited restriction on abortion, pretended their end goal was not overturning Roe v. Wade and eliminating all or most abortion. Of course it is. The only way to solve the problem they are addressing, the killing of babies, is to put a ban on abortion, even if they work in the meantime to reduce its frequency through more modest measures.
Democrats are in exactly the same position on gun control, yet they refuse to admit it as if we can’t all see it. After New Zealand swiftly enacted new gun laws last year in the wake of the Christchurch shooting, Democrats almost in chorus asked why we couldn’t act so quickly and effectively. The main thrust of that New Zealand program was a mandatory buy-back, almost exactly what O’Rourke is calling for.
The only way gun violence could be reduced to the levels of other developed nations, the Democrats’ goal, is to adopt gun policies similar to theirs that include forced buy-backs. This is the crux of the whole gun control debate. Progressives believe that the uniquely American freedom to own powerful guns is outweighed by public safety concerns. Conservatives believe freedom is more valuable than safety.
Regardless of what Coons and Buttigieg think of the politics of O’Rourke’s loud threat to take away Americans guns, there is every reason to believe it announces a sea change in the gun debate. Gun confiscation is clearly on the table now in the Democratic Party. Frankly, it probably has been more secretly for many years. Wherever this fight over gun control leads, at least today we know where we really stand.