At the end of the 1995 movie (spoiler alert), The American President, Michael Douglas playing President Andrew Shepherd, breaks into a press briefing (note: the press used to be briefed by the White House), and says the following:
“You cannot address crime prevention without getting rid of assault weapons and handguns. I consider them a threat to national security, and I will go door to door if I have to, but I’m gonna convince Americans that I’m right, and I’m gonna get the guns.”
During last Thursday’s presidential debate, the former Texas congressman said, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47, and we’re not going to allow it to be used against your fellow Americans anymore.” Three days later, O’Rourke appeared on NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” . . . He then brought up the 22 people were killed in a Walmart in his hometown of El Paso last month.
“Talking to those doctors and trauma room surgeons who treated those victims in El Paso, they said these are wounds of war — that high-impact, high-velocity round, when it hit their systems, just shredded everything inside of them,”
In response, another candidate, “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg replied on CNN’s “State of the Nation” that O’Rourke may be destroying a chance for real change—for his own, personal, political gain.
“. . . the clip of the former O’Rourke’s statement about AR-15s and AK-47s “will be played for years at Second Amendment rallies with organizations that try to scare people by saying Democrats are coming for your guns.”
Buttigieg said, “Look, right now we have an amazing moment on our hands. We have agreement among the American people not just for universal backgrounds checks, but we have a majority in favor of red-flag laws, high-capacity magazines, banning the new sale of assault weapons. This is a golden moment to finally do something.”
Buttigieg was right. While O’Rourke’s words were still echoing, Donald Trump was already using them.
Trump warned at a Republican retreat in Baltimore, “Democrats want to confiscate guns from law-abiding Americans, so they are totally defenseless when somebody walks into their house.”
It’s amazing that the gun lobby is so effective, since fewer than one-in-three Americans own a gun (30%), according to Pew Research, most prevalent among older white men.
But that 98 million (mostly older white men) own 393 million guns–that is, a full 46% of all privately owned guns in the world. However, O’Rourke may be onto something using the gun issue in the Democratic primary campaign, since only one-in-five (20%) Democrats own guns.
Politico quotes O’Rourke as disregarding criticism that his new approach is playing into the hands of the NRA and their allies.
Speaking with NBC’s Chuck Todd on Sunday, O’Rourke said those concerns “just show you how screwed up the priorities in Washington, D.C., are.”
“I refuse to even acknowledge the politics or the polling or the fear or the NRA,” O’Rourke said on “Meet the Press.“ “That has purchased the complicity and silence of members of Congress.”
About an hour into Thursday night’s Democratic debate, David Muir, one of the moderators, turned to the recent string of deadly mass shootings in the country. . . Muir asked Beto O’Rourke, the former congressman from El Paso, about his decision last month, in the wake of the tragedy in his community, to call for a mandatory buyback of assault weapons. . .
Unlike legions of past Democratic candidates, O’Rourke didn’t flinch. “I am,” he said. “If it’s a weapon that was designed to kill people on a battlefield—if the high-impact, high-velocity round, when it hits your body, shreds everything inside of your body, because it was designed to do that.”
Buttigieg is not the only one who thinks O’Rourke’s approach could be counterproductive, not only politically, but also in an effort to bring about better gun laws.
Delaware Democratic Sen. Chris Coons, who has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden, told CNN on Friday that he thinks the plan plays into the talking point from Republicans that “Democrats are coming for your guns” and said that he thinks the proposal isn’t “wise.”
And Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Patrick Toomey, who has been one of the more prominent Republican voices working to strengthen gun background check requirements, called the plan “an awful and extreme idea” that “undermines and hurts bipartisan efforts to actually make progress on commonsense gun safety efforts.”
O’Rourke’s campaign was circling the proverbial drain going into the third debate. He apparently thought it was time for a “Hail Mary Pass.” In other words, he had nothing to lose, and hoped that the general public’s increasing interest in new gun laws might revive his fortunes. But after the third debate, O’Rourke is still running third behind Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren—in his own home state of Texas, according to Fox.
That’s despite the fact that 145 CEOs of major corporations sent a letter to Congress demanding action on background checks and “red flag” laws.
“Gun violence in America is not inevitable; it’s preventable,” they continued. “There are steps Congress can, and must, take to prevent and reduce gun violence.”. . . A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll also showed similar results, with 86 percent of Americans supporting extreme risk “red flag” laws that allow guns to be taken from people deemed a danger to themselves or others.
Two recent polls showed that even Republicans want action on guns.
Two polls released Monday show that vast majorities of Americans support new gun safety measures. . .Republican voters are open to stricter gun control. But official Republicans? . . .
Yes, a number of Republican politicians say they’re now open to gun control laws. On Friday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick of Texas, a staunch defender of gun rights, publicly endorsed expanding the state’s background checks. Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio released a plan to expand background checks. And there has been some chatter among Republicans in the Senate about various proposals, with some warning that if they don’t take some action soon, the country could end up with far broader restrictions later on.
But the decision about whether to move forward with new proposals in Washington largely rests with one man: President Trump. . .
After initially voicing support for “very meaningful background checks,” Mr. Trump appears to have softened his resolve after a visit from the head of the National Rifle Association. His campaign has warned that supporting gun control measures would be unpopular with his base.
The bottom line is that O’Rourke may or may not buoy his chances on the gun issue in the Democratic primary campaign, but if the past is any guide, no meaningful legislation will come from it, and confiscation hysteria will certainly solidify Trump’s base.