The eyes of Texas — and Politifact — are on Robert “Beto” O’Rourke and his attempts to eat his cake and have it too on firearms confiscation. The Houston Chronicle and its partner Politifact Texas reported last night that O’Rourke’s claim that “I’m not talking about confiscating anybody’s guns” is a flat-out lie. The rating from Politifact is a week old, but the Chronicle is making sure that Texas voters didn’t miss it (via our colleague Karen Townsend):
The claim: “I’m not talking about confiscating anybody’s guns.” — Beto O’Rourke, Democratic presidential contender.
O’Rourke made the statement on Oct. 16 on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” responding to the opening question from co-host Joe Scarborough.
PolitiFact ruling: False. O’Rourke has said “yes” and “hell, yes” when asked about confiscating assault-style weapons. And his mandatory buyback proposes taking those weapons from people, even if it involves a purchase.
O’Rourke has a larger problem with truth when it comes to gun control, which we have covered at length this cycle. That’s especially the case with Beto’s half-baked proposal for mandatory gun buybacks, which for some reason never implicates the threat of force in O’Rourke’s mind. It certainly does for others, as the word “mandatory” clearly expresses legal and/or physical force for compliance.
Usually O’Rourke just elides over that point, but in this Morning Joe exchange on October 16th, he falsely denied it while never explaining how his program would succeed without forced confiscation. The lie comes in the first minute of the interview:
To be clear, I’m not talking about confiscating anybody’s guns. But I do think that, for those weapons of war — AR-15s, AK-47s — these were designed and sold to the militaries of the world to kill people on a battlefield and there are more than 16 million of them in America. And we’ve seen the devastating effect that they can have in Dayton, Ohio, or El Paso, Texas, or Odessa, not too far from where I live. Those must be bought back or else each of them are an instrument potentially of terror in this country.
And to his credit, Joe Scarborough didn’t exactly let O’Rourke off the hook here, either. He asks Beto what would happen if people chose not to obey his mandatory-confiscation law, which O’Rourke dodged by claiming that people would follow laws even when they disagree with them, a point to which we will return in a moment. Scarborough keeps pressing:
SCARBOROUGH: Okay, but let’s just assume there’s a rancher in Texas that doesn’t, that says ‘I’m not going to do this because this is an unjust law and it’s unconstitutional.’ What’s the next step? I think that’s what we need to concede because there will be people who don’t turn the guns in. What’s the next step for the federal government there?
O’ROURKE: Yeah, I think just as in any law that is not followed or flagrantly abused, there have to be consequences or else there is no respect for the law. So in that case I think there would be a visit by law enforcement to recover that firearm and to make sure that it is purchased, bought back, so that it cannot be potentially used against somebody else.
What does one call an operation where law enforcement forces entry to seize weapons? Confiscation. Even if the confiscatee, so to speak, gets a check for his trouble, the weapon has been seized, not “bought back.” “Bought” implies a consensual commercial transaction, not a trade made at gunpoint.
But this won’t be necessary, O’Rourke claims, because he has “faith” that his fellow Americans will respect his mandatory buyback and fully comply with the law:
O’ROURKE: But my faith is in this country and in my fellow Americans following the law, and listening to people who own AK-47s and AR-15s who concede they don’t need it for self-protection, they don’t need it to hunt. It’s real true purpose and use is on a battlefield.
Excuse me? If all Americans fully complied with the law, we would have no need for this conversation or gun control at all. The only reason for gun control is gun crime, which is by definition a percentage of O’Rourke’s fellow Americans not following the law. Murder has been against the law at least since Moses came down from the mountain, and that was an actual law of faith.
Stick with the rest of the interview to be reminded that O’Rourke doesn’t have any idea what the statistics of gun crime actually are or say, but we knew that much already. The larger point here is that anything mandated by law eventually has to be enforced with government power, and that involves the threat of violence. In its original “Lie” assessment, Politifact makes the obvious point even obvious enough for Beto to grasp it:
“It is unreasonable to call what Mr. O’Rourke is proposing anything other than confiscation,” gun law expert George Mocsary, a law professor at the University of Wyoming, told PolitiFact.
“Imagine the situation when an owner of one of the weapons refuses to sell. He or she is issued a fine. The owner still has the weapon, however. Does paying the fine mean that he or she can now keep the weapon and it is perfectly legal? Certainly not,” Mocsary said.
“There is no scenario under which the owner of one of the designated weapons gets to keep it. That is confiscation.”
That’s so obvious that the Houston Chronicle feels compelled to share it with its readers today. Good luck with that political career in Texas once you disappear from the national stage, Beto.