Along with the far left wing of the Democrat party’s insistence on pushing for impeachment (which ended any chance of federal legislation on background checks or red flag laws), Second Amendment supporters have been given a huge, beautifully wrapped early Christmas gift in the form of Robert Francis O’Rourke’s all-out, unapologetic, full-throated declaration that he and his party are coming for Americans’ guns.
“For years liberals have said we’re not coming to take your guns and now Beto O’Rourke has said we’re coming to take your guns,” says Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles and the author of “Gunfight: the battle over the right to bear arms in America”. Long after Mr O’Rourke has dropped out of the race, he says, the main pro-gun lobbyist, the National Rifle Association (NRA), will continue to elide Mr O’Rourke’s confiscation plan with the more moderate gun-control proposals of other Democratic candidates. That is liable to boost turnout for pro-gun candidates—including Mr Trump—in 2020.
Democrats have tended to tread carefully on gun-control in order to avoid that prospect. Until recently, they avoided talking about it much in the run-up to elections. Many in the party believed campaigning for gun-control cost them control of the House in 1994 and the presidency in 2000. But even before Mr O’Rourke’s intervention Democrats had been more outspoken on the issue. All the party’s candidates for the presidential nomination say they want to make background checks universal, make it easier to remove guns from people who appear to be unstable, and ban the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
But most believe that forcing Americans to give up their weapons would be a big mistake. Mandatory buybacks in other countries, including Australia, have drastically cut the number of gun deaths. In America, the scale of gun ownership makes such a law near impossible to implement. There are thought to be up to 20m assault weapons in circulation in the country, but with no central registry of guns or gun owners, no one really knows how many there are or who has them.
A bigger problem for Democrats is that such a proposal is disastrous politically. George Mocsary, a law professor at the University of Wyoming and an expert on the Second Amendment, says gun owners in America feel so strongly about the idea of having their guns confiscated that NRA need not work particularly hard to generate concern over Mr O’Rourke’s plan. Of Democratic candidates touting more moderate gun-law plans, “gun owners will be thinking, we just don’t believe you, we don’t believe that you don’t want to confiscate our guns,” he says.
– The Economist in How Beto O’Rourke has helped America’s gun lobby