As you’ll see, O’Rourke has no answer to this perfectly predictable question except to mumble something about weapons of war. But why should we focus on weapons of war, asks Columbine survivor Evan Todd, when they’re responsible for only a fraction of all gun violence? The Columbine massacre itself wasn’t carried out with assault rifles, he notes. Ed sent me a spreadsheet in which he ran through the FBI’s most recent statistics for murder by firearms and found 10,982 in total in 2017, of which exactly 403 were committed with rifles — a rate of 3.67 percent. There were many more murders committed by “unknown firearms” but even assuming (falsely) that every last one was committed with an assault rifle, that would still put the total of murders by rifle at just a third or so of all firearms murders.

The realistic best-case scenario if Beto’s mandatory buyback plan were implemented, then, is that mass shootings would become marginally less lethal and *possibly* marginally less frequent. Lunatics would still strike but would be relegated to less powerful weapons, like semiautomatic handguns. Maybe a few would be deterred altogether by being unable to fulfill their “soldier” fantasy in precisely the way they imagined, wielding a weapon that resembles a machine gun. But certainly the massacres will go on, facilitated by weapons like semiautomatic pistols that allow for rapid fire and fast reloading.

So what then? President Beto throws up his hands and admits defeat? Of course he’d have to target all semiautomatics. The fact that he can’t explain why he’s drawing the line arbitrarily at “weapons of war” is proof that, for all his bravado about refusing to accept the political status quo any longer, O’Rourke’s making a political calculation here. He’s not going to get 100 million semiautomatic handguns confiscated, and he knows that it’d be even more of a political catastrophe to make that demand than calling for confiscation of assault weapons is. He’s focusing on assault weapons because they’re the weapon of choice in mass shootings but obviously not the only weapon capable of carrying out a mass shooting. And rank-and-file Democrats understand that: Remember, last year after the Parkland shooting one poll showed 82 percent support within the party for banning all semiautomatic weapons, not just rifles. That’s the position you’re forced to take if, like Todd, you’re concerned about gun violence broadly, not with making symbolic gestures a la O’Rourke.

Beto’s caught and he knows it. Which explains why, as you’ll see, he felt obliged to tell reporters afterward that he’s open to any and all ideas, including Todd’s, on how to reduce gun violence. Two days ago he assured CNN that he was after assault rifles and only assault rifles. Two days later, after a single difficult question, everything’s on the table.

I’ll leave you with another short clip of a confrontation he had yesterday in lieu of an exit question. It’s amazing to me that, on top of wrecking his chances for statewide office in Texas with this ploy, O’Rourke’s now also seizing the opportunity presented by this campaign to make enemies of the Democratic leadership. Is he trying to end his political career?