The money quote: “Much like we don’t go door-to-door to enforce almost any law in the United States, in fact I don’t think we do that for any law in the United States, this would not be something that we would do.” Presumably he’d treat an assault rifle like any other form of contraband. No one will come looking for it, but if you’re caught with it in your possession, you’re cooked.
But I don’t know that he’s thought that far on the subject. He keeps coming back to the point that he has faith that Americans will comply with the law after it’s passed and surrender their AR-15s without a fuss, which is sweet and all but unrealistic. Some will comply. Most, perhaps. Not all. What happens one day when a cop pulls some guy over for speeding, sees that he has an AR-15 in the backseat, demands it, and the guy says no? If a shootout follows, how many cops nationwide will want to risk confronting people about their guns after that? Conversely, how many gun-control fans will begin demanding a more aggressive effort to seize contraband AR-15s than just waiting around and hoping owners hand them over?
Another hypothetical: There are so many assault rifles in circulation that it’s a fait accompli some will be used to carry out new mass shootings even after a buyback plan takes effect. What’s the political fallout from that when it happens? Gun-rights advocates will say, “See? We told you the buyback wouldn’t end mass murder.” Gun-grabbers will say, “See? We told you the policy of asking people nicely to give up their guns wouldn’t work.” What then?
To make the hypothetical extra zesty, imagine that a mass shooter turns out to hail from a rural area in a red state where local cops have effectively decided that they won’t enforce the buyback. Reporters sniff around and find out that no one caught with an AR-15 is being arrested by the sheriff’s office as a matter of policy. What’s the White House’s reaction to that? Does President Beto call for quadrupling the size of the ATF and sending agents out into those rural areas to compel compliance?
I think it’d end up like Prohibition, which is … not known as one of America’s shining policy successes.
Watch to the end of the clip below and you’ll see that he’s asked about Chris Coons’s criticism that Beto has set back the gun-control movement by pushing such a radical idea. I’m not a radical, O’Rourke insists, I’m where most Democrats are on this issue and it’s time our leaders in Congress caught up. Is he right? Some Dems agree with Coons that mainstreaming the idea of a buyback does the party more harm than good…
By all accounts, Trump needs to run up the score in rural areas to win reelection next year. The 2020 outcome is expected to depend heavily on a trio of Rust Belt states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — that have large numbers of rural voters, many of whom are gun-owners or sympathetic to owners on this issue. And Democrats’ hope of winning control of the Senate rests on states with high rates of gun ownership, like Arizona and Texas…
“The lines like, ‘We’re gonna come and take your AR-15,’ just play into the fears that the NRA has been stoking, and a proposal like that is just going to make rural Iowa and I think probably rural areas elsewhere more red,” [Democrat Warren] Varley said. “I think that’s just a bridge too far for most rural folks, and it conjures up images of the government coming in and invading your home and images of big government trampling over the rights of individuals.”
…but then again, polls like this keep trickling out:
Sixty-three percent of Democrats claim that it’s “mostly accurate” to describe the NRA as a domestic terrorist organization. Yesterday I flagged a WaPo poll from earlier this week that showed 74 percent of Democrats(!) favor a mandatory buyback. Last year after the Parkland massacre, one poll found 74 percent of Dems in favor of banning all semiautomatic rifles (not just “assault rifles”) while another found 82 percent support for banning all semiautomatics. Not just rifles — all semiautomatics.
They’re pretty farking radical. Which is not to say that Coons et al. are wrong: Getting crazy with the gun-control cheez whiz may play spectacularly well in California, say, while killing Democrats in Michigan. Guess which state is more important next fall.
Exit question via Drew McCoy: Isn’t Beto giving away the game here by stressing his belief that Americans will comply voluntarily with the law? People willing to surrender their weapons upon a lawful demand by the feds are by definition “law-abiding.” If you’re worried about mass shootings but unwilling to go door to door to look for assault rifles, it’s inevitable that virtually all of the people whom you end up disarming are people whom you didn’t need to worry about in the first place.