Looks like it’s time to walk back yesterday’s theory that he might use the El Paso shooting as a reason to parachute out of the presidential race and into the Texas Senate race against Cornyn. No Democrat, even one as naturally inclined towards gun-grabbing as Beto, would take a position like this if he had any intention of ever running again in Texas, right?
The Daily Wire notes that his position on gun confiscation was different as recently as five months ago. We should halt sales of assault weapons, said O’Rourke in March — but if you already own an AR-15, keep it.
Certainly that’d be more feasible legislatively than a mandatory buyback:
Beto O'Rourke: "If you own an AR-15, keep it. Continue to use it responsibly and safely. I just don't think that we need to sell anymore weapons of war into this public." pic.twitter.com/uqMA1jWOTf
— The Hill (@thehill) March 17, 2019
Five months later, he’s having A Moment after terror was unleashed on his hometown. Not only that, he’s been drifting left generally on policy since the start of the race. Last year I thought O’Rourke might run as a center-leftist, knowing that he’d never get to Sanders’s and Warren’s left on economic policy. The progressive field was crowded; it was the center, dominated by Joe Biden, that seemed ripe for a young upstart to compete. Instead Beto’s been hyper-woke on virtually everything — climate change, immigration, and now gun-grabbing.
That makes him the most prominent Democratic presidential candidate favoring that idea. pic.twitter.com/Rb0xsSPlav
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) August 6, 2019
It’s true that Republican voters are more open to gun control than Republican politicians are. Whether they’d be open to something as draconian as a mandatory buyback — i.e. confiscation — is a separate question. It’s a testament to how far out this suggestion is, in fact, that we haven’t heard more about it in the Democratic presidential primary campaign. The 2020 contest thus far has been a competition among liberals to one-up each other in how progressive they’re willing to be to appeal the party’s left-wing base. (My favorite example is Bernie trying to Elizabeth Warren’s student-loan bailout by guaranteeing total debt forgiveness, not just forgiveness of the first $50,000 in loans, a policy that would favor the most profligate debtors.) But even the Democratic field has tended to stay away from calls for gun confiscation, knowing how this might play in coveted states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania next fall. Now that Beto’s thrown down the gauntlet, what do the others do?
Kamala Harrisseems willing to say anything to protect her left flank in the expectation that she can walk it back without penalty once she’s the nominee. Will she accept O’Rourke’s challenge by embracing mandatory buybacks? It was only a few days ago that she promised to send cops to people’s doors if need be to confiscate banned firearms. A buyback mandate is just an extension of that.
If this idea does go mainstream in the Dem primary, presumably it’ll be narrowly tailored to a small class of weapons at first — not just AR-15s, say, but maybe a limited class of those. It’d be too much to ask the other party to spook the electorate by promising wholesale confiscation of all firearms. In the meantime, keep an eye out for how Democrats respond to Trump’s proposal for Extreme Risk Protection Order laws, i.e. red-flag laws, which would allow family members or law enforcement to petition a court to seize the weapons of someone with certain “red flags” in their behavior. Those laws could/should reduce access to weapons by people who are disturbed, not just limiting mass shootings but cutting into the epidemic of suicides by firearm that the country endures. But to vote for Trump’s bill would be to hand him a major legislative victory and potentially neutralize any political advantage Democrats might enjoy next fall as the party of gun control. According to the website The Trace, the entire Dem field is on record as supporting red-flag laws. How many, I wonder, will find something to dislike in a Republican Senate bill that will give them a pretext to vote no?
In lieu of an exit question, just to show that the other party doesn’t have a monopoly on infeasible anti-crime ideas, here’s Hannity last night calling for a volunteer police force of many hundreds of thousands of people to guard the perimeter of schools and malls.
Presidential adviser Sean Hannity: "I'd like to see the perimeter of every school in America surrounded, secured by retired police … have one armed guard on every floor of every school, all over every mall, the perimeter and inside every hall of every mall." pic.twitter.com/Renh47IiBY
— Brendan Karet 🚮 (@bad_takes) August 6, 2019