When second-string Democratic Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke says “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” is Beto full of it? Probably.
Did his defiant stand on guns help the Democrats? Probably not.
When Beto made his promise during last Thursday’s televised Democratic presidential debate, at best he was drawing a symbolic line in the proverbial sand. That is what the media apparently saw.
At worst, earnest Beto alienated a large segment of lukewarm Democrats already worried about the self-proclaimed socialists in the party’s left-wing giving traditional liberals heart burn.
Being Democratic and liberal does not necessarily imply that those so labeled don’t love the flag, their guns, and the 2nd Amendment. It is politically dangerous to make those assumptions.
Despite the Democratic Party leadership’s claim that the party is all inclusive, some of them act like the huge segment of mainstream Democratic voters with common sense traditions are suddenly a hindrance to progressive liberal thought.
Doing so will hurt the Dems more than the Republicans when Trump’s right-wing zealots scream foul. Tentative, fence-sitting Democrats watching their conservative neighbors wrapping themselves in the flag and declaring for assault rifles on principle is a powerful force to resist.
Beto’s ironclad pronouncement already does not sit well with Democratic good ol’ boys and girls from the Midwest’s working class who pay union dues, ride big bikes, dance the Cotton-Eyed Joe and look forward to deer season with their newest rifle. It is likely it is the same everywhere else.
Despite all the good that making ownership of military-style weapons and their appurtenances unlawful will provide, many gun owners are voters already uneasy with any proposed law that abridges their right to own firearms. The so-called “gun culture” most owners subscribe to runs far deeper than the same voter’s ties to a particular political party.
As painful as it seems, the right course is a slow, methodical approach to gun control that addresses ownership, gun rights, and voluntary and mandatory surrender in digestible bites. Making gun confiscation the centerpiece of any gun control proposal will provoke political disaster.
The voting public needs time to believe that banning assault weapons is not an attack on the Second Amendment. That won’t happen until skeptical voters see that gun violence can be reduced by limiting the types and availability of sporterized killing machines.
Whether or not Beto’s utterances help tip the scale in the Dem’s favor, they gave his cause traction in the hearts of the millions of Americans who know assault weapons have no place in American society. It is a beginning.
So is his assertion that, “We’re not going to allow it [assault weapons] to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.”
More than half the country is reputedly ready to remove assault-style weapons from the playing field, but at what price?
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the Fed’s gun experts, don’t know too much about how many guns and what kinds of guns are available in the USA.
ATF can tell you that in 2018 about 4.1 million pistols and revolvers, 2.8 million rifles, and exactly 1,008,537 miscellaneous fire arms, including roughly 535,000 unspecified weapons of .50 caliber, were manufactured in the U.S.A.
A .50 cal. rifle in the hands of a marksman can shoot down an airplane and kill people a mile away.
Meanwhile, about 40,000 Americans were shot to death in 2018, six in ten of them with self-inflicted wounds, the government says. Gun apologists say it is unfair to lump gun suicides with violent crimes. Dismissing suicides as unimportant reduces the number of deaths to about 26,000, almost half the number of all Americans killed in the 13-year Vietnam War.
The National Rifle Association (NRA), America’s favorite gun apologists, in 2018 told McClatchy there are somewhere between 8.5 million and 15 million assault rifles in the US. That is enough assault rifles to equip the riflemen in about 500 U.S. Army infantry divisions. In World War II the U.S. Army fielded about 100 infantry divisions.
It’s a sorry state of affairs that the best estimates for how many assault rifles are in the U.S. comes from the premier lobbying organization for gun manufacturers who sell them. Considering the source, their statistic with a margin of error of plus or minus 6.5 million isn’t very comforting.
The NRA’s guesstimate of “known” assault rifles that is a mere fraction of the estimated 300 million firearms in the U.S.A. That immense number does not include the black market trade, where guns can be had on a whim.
Rest assured, gun experts will tell you, there are arsenals laying around in basements that outgun the most powerful police forces in the country.
Unlike the defunct 1994 federal assault weapons ban, O’Rourke’s proposed plan includes prohibiting the sale of all assault weapons and an ATF-supervised mandatory buyback of existing stocks.
Why nobody on the campaign trail is suggesting that doing so could incite a violent response is self-serving. Evoking violence to end violence is counter-intuitive.
Beto’s draconian suggestions are merely the loudest among the spate of gun control measures being proposed. The most toothless and useless come from Republicans trapped in a web of cynicism spun by Moscow Mitch McConnell, the NRA and Donald Trump.
They include mandatory background checks that already mean nothing, “Red Flag” confiscations of guns from effusive whack jobs, and stronger mental health laws, most of which would apply to Donald Trump. There is no machinery to begin a program immediately and probably never will be one that considers delving into people’s minds, being that such a law conflicts with equally sacred privacy laws.
Either way, be it Republican soft pedaling or a draconian Democrat gun grab, millions of Americans won’t easily accept any across the board law that suddenly makes gun ownership an anathema instead of a right.
The right of gun ownership is a sad, uniquely American commentary on irrational selfishness that will probably take generations to resolve.