Well, yes. O’Rourke’s cri de coeur last night about yanking AR-15s out of their owners’ hands happened to come just one day after the NYT published this piece reporting that House Dems have dropped their push for an assault-weapons ban — even though they’re just seven votes shy of a House majority. That’s quintessential Pelosi, not wanting to spend political capital on a measure that can’t possibly become law and which would risk spooking right-wingers into higher turnout next fall, putting moderate Dems in purple districts in even greater danger. Nancy’s plan on gun control is the same as Nancy’s plan on impeachment: Play it safe. Do a little something to make your base happy but don’t do anything that’s likely to enrage the opposition without producing anything meaningful for your side.
“That clip will be played for years at Second Amendment rallies,” said Dem Sen. Chris Coons to CNN this morning of O’Rourke’s vow to confiscate assault weapons. (The full clip is below). Other centrists who have spent months trying to midwife a compromise in the Senate on more modest legislation involving background checks were mortified by O’Rourke’s display:
“This is an awful and extreme idea. Thankfully, there’s not enough support in Congress to do it. But this rhetoric undermines and hurts bipartisan efforts to actually make progress on commonsense gun safety efforts, like expanding background checks,” [Pat Toomey] tweeted.
A Democratic aide said O’Rourke’s comments “only feeds into the NRA’s narrative that Democrats are going to take away your guns.”
“If Beto wants to actually solve of these problems, he should help negotiate or encourage his colleagues to pass common-sense background checks,” the aide said, adding, “if Beto really wanted to help, he would end his failing presidential campaign and run for Senate and give Democrats the vote they’d need.”
I don’t understand the sneering reference to the “NRA’s narrative” that Democrats are coming to take your guns. Democrats are, in fact, coming to take your guns and O’Rourke did gun-rights supporters a favor by dispensing with the subterfuge, notes NRO:
For years, advocates of the right to keep and bear arms have suspected that confiscation was the endgame but have been rebuffed as paranoiacs in the press. Such a rebuffing is no longer possible. If it ever was, “Nobody is coming for your guns!” is no longer true — which means that a host of commonly posed inquiries now have the same simple answer. “Why do you oppose federal licensing?” Because leading Democrats are threatening confiscation. “Why do you oppose ‘universal’ background checks?” Because they would create a registry. “And why do you oppose a registry?” Because leading Democrats are threatening confiscation. Unwittingly or not, O’Rourke and his acolytes have stuck a dagger into the exquisitely calibrated gun-control messaging on which their party has worked for the better part of 20 years. No voter can now say he wasn’t warned.
If it’s just an “NRA narrative” that Democrats are coming to take your guns, how do we explain this data published a few days ago?
Dare I say it but it appears as though Democrats are interested in taking your guns. Good luck convincing Trump to sign a bill expanding background checks now that Beto’s set the terms of the debate for the right this way.
I’ll give you two devil’s-advocate arguments for why O’Rourke’s Leeroy Jenkins moment may not have been a total disaster for lefties, though. First, he probably did help move the proverbial Overton window on gun control to the left. Medicare for All was once a nonfactor in the health-care debate; Bernie kept talking about it; today it’s the favored plan of various Democratic candidates for president. With any wacky progressive proposal, someone has to be the first to champion it on a big stage. Beto’s that guy on gun confiscation, even if he ends up doing more harm short-term than good.
Second, righties shouldn’t be sanguine about the likelihood of modest gun control passing over the next few years, starting with background checks. O’Rourke’s soundbite will be useful in rallying the right but there’ll be more mass shootings and those will galvanize gun-grabbers to try again. It’s fine for Ted Cruz to play to the base by warning Trump that any form of regulation will lead to his defeat but there are too many polls showing the immense popularity of expanded background checks to delay it forever. The next Democratic-controlled government will easily get it done, and may even have public support to nuke the filibuster in the name of doing it if need be.