The Corner

Politics & Policy

Euphemisms and More

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke speaks during the first night of the second Democratic presidential debate in Detroit, Mich., July 30, 2019. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Beto O’Rourke has come out for “mandatory buybacks” of firearms.

Apparently, that is the euphemism we are meant to use now: “mandatory buybacks.”

A party cannot buy back that which it never owned, and a transaction that is mandatory is not an exchange at all, but a seizure. We should call things what they are. That might help us to understand why such proposals are unconstitutional on at least two fronts.

I am also not sold on my friend David French’s “red flag law” argument. I do not think that we can or should suspend the constitutional rights of people who have not arrested and have not been charged with any crime, much less convicted of one. We would not countenance such a treatment of the First Amendment. My understanding of “prior restraint” in regard to the First Amendment is permitted only in the case of “inevitable, direct, and immediate danger”; a similar standard applied to the Second Amendment (assuming, arguendo, that such a standard is appropriate for the First) would be almost useless inasmuch as the mere possession of a firearm does not make any violent outcome “inevitable.”

If we are to have the rule of law, then we must maintain the rule of law and be ruled by it — even when we are terrified, frustrated, or mourning. We should not allow ourselves to be buffaloed into giving up the Bill of Rights.

In Chicago at last check, those arrested for illegal possession of a firearm stand a four-out-of-five chance of escaping conviction on the charge. Many are never tried. In much of the country, straw buyers in firearms cases are effectively immune from federal prosecution, and often from local prosecution. There is no effort made to collect the firearms improperly sold because of defects in the background-check system. Etc. Acts of terrorism such as the one perpetrated in El Paso constitute a vanishingly small part of the criminal violence committed our country; the vast majority of the shootings are the very ones that might be diminished by the competent enforcement of our laws, including our firearms laws.

We should try that before abandoning the Bill of Rights.

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