Beto O’Rourke wants to be clear: He won’t confiscate your guns.
The former Democratic congressman from Texas has staked his presidential campaign on promises for aggressive new forms of gun control. He said during a debate last month, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15’s.”
At a debate this week, O’Rourke reiterated his plans for a mandatory buyback of semi-automatic rifles. In a post-debate interview, he clarified: “I’m not talking about confiscating anybody’s guns.”
MSNBC interviewer Joe Scarborough asked O’Rourke how the government would respond if gun owners refused to voluntarily forfeit their weapons.
“In that case, I think there would be a visit by law enforcement to recover that firearm and make sure it is purchased, bought back, so it could not be potentially used against somebody else,” he replied.
So O’Rourke will “take” your guns, “buy back” your guns and send police to your home to “recover” your guns. It’s just that icky “confiscation” word he doesn’t like.
Confiscate, according to the Cambridge Enlglish Dictionary, means “to officially take private property away from someone, usually by legal authority.”
On a campaign trip to Ohio last month, O’Rourke invoked the 1970 Kent State shootings that left four anti-war protesters dead. Students of 20th century history will remember it was the federal military personnel, not armed civilians, who pulled the triggers. Of course, O’Rourke’s plan does not include disarming the government.
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What O’Rourke also never mentions is that, according to the FBI, 297 American homicides were attributed to rifles last year, representing about 2 percent of all murders. That figure includes the guns O’Rourke wants to confiscate — or, I should say, recover — as well as single-shot rifles he would keep legal.
At this week’s debate, O’Rourke’s gun grabbing encountered thoughtful resistance from fellow Democrats. When O’Rourke insisted his plan wouldn’t require police officers to make door-to-door gun sweeps, other candidates pushed back.
“If you’re not going door-to-door then it’s not really mandatory. But also, in the places I grew up in, we weren’t exactly looking for another reason for cops to come banging on the door,” rival Democratic candidate Julian Castro said.
Castro mentioned Atatiana Jefferson, a Texas woman who was shot and killed by a police officer in her own home this month: “I’m not going to give these police officers another reason to go door-to-door in certain communities because police violence is also gun violence and we need to address that.”
The targets of law enforcement will not be the people gun restrictionists fantasize about disarming — old, white guys wearing “Make America Great Again” hats. No, those people have never been the targets. It will be poor Americans, immigrants and people of color, who live in neighborhoods already under heavy police surveillance.
We know how this plays out. Look at the war on drugs — people of all classes do illegal drugs, but poor people of color are overwhelmingly likely to be locked up for it.
You can shroud gun confiscation in poll-tested newspeak, but the effects will be the same.
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