Maybe someone should send Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke a copy of “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” At a small meeting of prospective supporters, O’Rourke brought up the need for more gun control in Texas, which suggests that this took place in Austin. (I kid, I kid … kinda.)
O’Rourke took aim (SWIDT?) at the progressive bete noire AR-15 rifle, used by the shooter in Uvalde, and insisted that this had to be banned. O’Rourke argued that the AR-15 was designed for combat — falsely — and that it had been designed for use in Vietnam — again, falsely. When O’Rourke tried mimicking a combat stance to underscore both of those false points, someone in the audience understandably laughed out loud.
Beto didn’t like that much, although we can probably count on the media to eat it up:
"It may be funny to you motherf—er, but it's not funny to me": Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke snapped at a man during a town hall on Wednesday who started laughing as O'Rourke discussed the gun used in the deadly Uvalde mass shooting. pic.twitter.com/sHCXh2mIpW
— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 11, 2022
While discussing some details of the tragedy, somebody in the crowd laughed, prompting O’Rourke to swiftly turn around.
“It may be funny to you, motherf—er,” he said, “but it’s not funny to me.”
O’Rourke earned a round of applause from the crowd for the response.
O’Rourke wasn’t discussing “details of the tragedy” when the laughter occurred, as The Hill reports. He was talking about how the AR-15 was designed to kill Charlie in ‘Nam and offering up his version of a combat stance. All of that was eminently laughable, as Beto clearly has no idea what he’s talking about here.
The rifle we know now as the AR-15 was not designed for combat — not in Vietnam, nor anywhere else. The precursor AR-10 was designed initially as a potential new military rifle in the early 1950s, but ArmaLite lost out on the contract to Springfield. They got another chance in 1957 when the Pentagon wanted to reconsider the M14. They lost again, and Armalite sold the AR-10 and new AR-15 designs to Colt in 1959. Colt redesigned it for general military use in 1960, well before the US began any sort of combat operations in Vietnam, but that ended rather shortly thereafter. By the time the US had any significant military commitment in Vietnam, the Pentagon had chosen the M16 and Colt shifted a redesigned semi-automatic AR-15 entirely to domestic sales, including significant use by law enforcement agencies.
Millions of these rifles are already owned by Americans, who make peaceful and lawful use of them. The rifle isn’t the issue; it’s the user in Uvalde who was the issue, as well as the family, school, and law enforcement establishment there who did nothing to intervene despite a sea of red flags involving this perp.
So Beto’s history is entirely laughable, but so are his political instincts here. He’s clearly talking to a small group of supporters in this incident. What politician calls his own supporters “motherf*****s”? Rather than ask what the criticism might be, O’Rourke’s first instinct is to attack and posture himself as supremely virtuous rather than defend his argument. That’s a bad look for any politician, but especially risible for a gun-control radical stumping for office in Texas, of all places.
I’m sure that the media will try to spin this into another win for Beto, just as they tried to do with Beto’s appalling stunt in Uvalde shortly after the shooting. That will be just as laughable as Beto’s attempt to take out Charlie while arguing for taking away Texans’ guns.
Update: I’m getting a lot of dumb reaction on Twitter that insists that the AR-15 was designed for combat. And as I wrote above, it was … in a previous design. After the Pentagon rejected it for that purpose, they redesigned it for civilian and law-enforcement use, and it has been in popular circulation for almost 50 years since that point. The version people have bought for decades is not particularly suited for combat.
But even conceding that point … so? Other firearms are just as deadly, and are legal for purchase too. Long-barrel firearms account for a tiny percentage of homicides, even when narrowing those down to firearms-related homicides:
Furthermore, I then discussed the distribution of firearms homicides in the US as detailed in FBI data. In 2020, the the US had 17,813 homicides, the vast majority by firearms of one type or another. However, only 455 of those homicides were committed by rifles (which would include all “assault rifles” too) and another 203 by shotguns, which combine up for 658 homicides by long-barrel firearms. In the same year, 662 homicides were conducted with “personal weapons” — hands, fists, feet, and so on, and 1,739 were committed by knives or cutting instruments.
Most homicides are committed with handguns (8,029), not rifles, a phenomenon which is remarkably consistent every year. Another 5,000 cases involve firearms where the weapons are not specified, which is also pretty consistent year on year. It’s highly likely that the distribution of firearms involved mirrors the very large sample of identified firearm types in the same data. Why? Because handguns are easier to conceal, easier to handle, and easier to master.
Update: My friend and firearms expert Cam Edwards confirms my account of the development of the AR-15. He also takes on another part of O’Rourke’s argument about banning sales of long-barrel rifles to anyone under 21:
It’s an emotionally appealing argument, especially to non-gun owners or those who wouldn’t be impacted by a ban. Why not do this one simple thing if it would stop shootings like this from taking place?
There are lots of reasons, including the fact that a ban on gun ownership for those under the age of 21 is unconstitutional, but I don’t think O’Rourke or his supporters care about than any more than he cares about the accuracy of his retelling the history of the AR-15. But while O’Rourke and other Democrats want to focus on the gun used by the killer, they’re ignoring the individual responsible for pulling the trigger.
Be sure to read the whole thing.