The Corner

Elections

Beto Is a Disaster for the Gun-Control Movement

Beto O’Rourke (Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters)

​​​He almost certainly doesn’t realize it, but Beto O’Rourke is likely to be the worst thing to happen to the gun-control movement in decades — and, if he continues in this mode, he may turn out to be the worst thing to happen to the Democratic party in a long time, too. In Houston last night, O’Rourke abandoned his cloying euphemisms (“mandatory buybacks”) and delivered a deliberate, carefully scripted endorsement of gun confiscation, which, within minutes, his campaign began to sell on t-shirts. “Hell yes,” Beto said, “we’re going to take your AR-15.”
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​​Thus, upon the instant, did two decades’ worth of Democratic rhetoric go up in a puff of smoke.
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​​Beto’s increasingly unhinged rhetoric is not only at odds with political reality — is he unaware that that the Democratic House failed this week to marshall enough votes for ban on the sale of “assault weapons,” let alone for confiscation? — it also chronically undermines the assurances on which the Democratic party’s more modest gun-control proposals have been built. For years, Democrats have insisted that “nobody is coming for your guns,” and they have used that line to explain why their coveted registry and desired licensing systems do not pose a threat to anyone but criminals. The current push for an expansion of the background check system rests heavily upon this assurance: “Don’t worry about the de facto registry,” advocates like to argue, “it won’t affect you at all.” With reckless abandon, O’Rourke just blew straight through that, screaming, “yes, it will!”
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​​And in the worst possible way, too. When O’Rourke first decided that he was in favor of confiscation, he was at pains to promise that enforcement would be unnecessary because Americans would comply, and that the punishment would be a fine and nothing worse. With his “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15” language, O’Rourke has abandoned even that. And for what? So that he might increase a few percentage points in a poll that he is never, ever going to win, and then disappear from electoral politics forever?
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​​A year from now, when O’Rourke is a contributor on MSNBC, the people who stayed in the arena are going to look back on this period and curse his name. “Did that guy help us?” they will ask. “Hell, no.”
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