By Billy Edwards
Eric Swalwell and Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke each proposed radical gun control policies such as gun buybacks on “assault weapons” and AR-15 confiscation as major selling points of their campaigns.
Now both are failed candidates – forced to drop out of the race due to immense pressure, lackluster polling, and pathetic fundraising. Although both are gone, their ideas represent a radical shift in typical gun control policies amongst Democrats.
Ideas matter, and presidential campaigns, whether they’re a failure or a success, offer the best national platform to promote them to the masses.
For years, the staunchest pro-gun advocates have been labeled “fringe” or “crazy” for suggesting that Democrats’ anti-gun rhetoric was merely a ruse for much larger gun control schemes, such as nationwide registration and confiscation.
Law-abiding gun owners were told that they should only take these anti-gun talking points at face value, and not read much into them – they were only something to drum up the liberal base.
Now that the Overton Window is shifting in the Democratic Party, we have one segment of American ideologues that are hell-bent on destroying one of our great nation’s historic liberties. It’s now abundantly clear that so-called “gun buybacks” will play a major role in their schemes to dismember the Second Amendment.
O’Rourke, who established himself as the most anti-gun candidate in the 2020 race, demanded a mandatory buyback on all “assault weapons.” Under his program, O’Rourke would have increased excise taxes on gun manufacturers and fines on gun traffickers to fund his unconstitutional scheme.
Although O’Rourke dropped out of the 2020 presidential race on November 1, his ideas still live on. Other candidates such as Kamala Harris and Cory Booker support the idea of a mandatory “assault weapons” buyback.
For anti-gunners, buybacks are just one of many paths towards their dream of a drastically neutered Second Amendment and an eventual gun-free America.
Commonly implemented for so-called “assault weapons,” a government buyback usually involves law enforcement purchasing firearms from private individuals with the aim of reducing civilian firearm ownership. Of course, the buyback is mandatory, and gun owners are rarely compensated for the actual value of their firearm(s).
Although such a procedure seems innocuous to the common eye, it is simply government-forced gun confiscation by another name.
The mandatory nature of such a program criminalizes the ownership of the weapons targeted by the buyback – and refusal to turn firearms in to the police results in countless gun owners becoming criminals, compelling them to hand over their weapons lest they face criminal penalties.
On top of that, it’s an ineffective tool in curbing gun violence.
Just think about it, what criminal would voluntarily turn in their firearms? Knowing their behavior, they will do whatever it takes to stay in the shadows and make sure their weapons never appear on the government’s radar. The only people turning in their firearms will be well-intentioned, law-abiding individuals.
These buybacks are anything but effective.
Dr. John Lott explains that after the infamous Port Arthur Massacre in Australia, 1 million firearms were turned in between 1996 and 1997 during a mandatory buyback. However, this program did not have any noticeable effect on reducing gun violence.
In fact, private gun ownership exceeded its pre-buyback levels — going from 2.5 million in 1997 to 5.8 million in 2018. Nevertheless, the anti-gun crowd insists we follow in Australia’s footsteps.
In today’s post-fact world, emotions reign supreme while facts are cast aside in favor of misleading narratives that serve an agenda of control and domination.
For that reason, the anti-gun left proceeds more boldly with their gun-grabbing projects as they mislead and shock the public into accepting their unconstitutional schemes – placing gun owners in a precarious position.
Before, anti-gunners were rather dispersed and incapable of organizing effectively, despite the media hand wringing. Now, however, the environment is changing. Supposedly, pro-gun Republicans are slowly embracing gun control, while the media and corporate interests work in tandem to shift public opinion.
Gun buybacks will likely encounter roadblocks, but make no mistake about it, the anti-gun left is playing the long game. By applying relentless pressure, they’ll settle for the low-hanging fruits of rabidly anti-gun states like California. Then they will proceed to states with weak-kneed Republicans, who will likely break, if the pressure is strong enough.
Gun owners would be wise to take these buyback proposals seriously and make sure to discredit them in the court of public opinion and in legislative halls, should these bills present themselves. This is one battle where we can’t afford to sit out.
Billy Edwards is the public policy manager for the National Association for Gun Rights.