I never thought that I would say this, but I miss the old Beto O’Rourke.
When the former Texas congressman started his campaign, the whole appeal seemed to be that he was a complete cipher. He was as boring as he could be. The thing he seemed most adept at doing was apologizing for his privilege.
As for policies, well, those could come later.
That got him nowhere in the polls. Then came the El Paso Walmart shooting — a shooting which happened in Beto’s hometown and was perpetrated by a racist. He immediately rushed down to Texas and redefined cynical opportunism by appearing in front of any and every video camera there was and said the president was a white nationalist who shared blame for the attack.
Then he seemed to take a break from things in order to go back to his hometown and help the healing process — which was really just campaigning of a different sort.
On Thursday, he returned to the campaign trail and we saw what Beto 2.0 is going to look like.
The biggest takeaway: He’s coming for your so-called “assault weapons,” or “weapons of war,” as he put it.
“I know that this is not politically easy,” O’Rourke said, according to the El Paso Times. “It’s frankly why far too few people propose it. It’s frankly why I have not proposed it in the past.”
But he’s on board with it now. Oh man, is he ever.
On Friday, as what Politico’s David Siders said was “[p]art of a proposal to address gun violence and white nationalism,” O’Rourke said he would ban so-called “assault weapons,” mandate their buyback and fine those who didn’t turn their weapons into the government.
I see more clearly than I ever have that we not only need to stop the sale of weapons of war in this country but we need to get them out of our communities altogether. That’s why I support a mandatory buyback of assault weapons. pic.twitter.com/FDkyVMKBQ1
— Beto O’Rourke (@BetoORourke) August 17, 2019
It gets worse from there.
“O’Rourke on Friday called for a ban on assault weapons, trigger cranks, silencers, bump stocks and high-capacity magazines, and he pledged, if elected president, to work with Congress to enact universal background checks, red-flag laws and other restrictions,” Siders reported. “In the gun-licensing and registry system he proposes, gun owners would have to complete gun safety training and register their guns. O’Rourke would limit licenses to people 21 and older, with an exception for younger gun owners who have hunting licenses.”
Some of this has the support of congressional Republicans, which should scare people. Those provisions are, for the most part, distasteful but at least arguably not unconstitutional.
The rest is both frightening and a clear attempt to significantly qualify — if not abrogate the spirit of — the Second Amendment.
Gun ownership by legally qualified adults isn’t just something our government allows. It’s in the Constitution. The rights enumerated there are extended to every adult — that is, everyone over the age of 18.
Yes, certain states qualify the ages at which someone can own certain weapons — but I’ve never heard a proposal to raise that age above 21 for every weapon.
Nor, indeed, have I heard a proposal for a national gun safety course. We’ve heard plenty of people talk about how so-called “red flag” laws could be a backdoor provision to seize guns if used by dishonest politicians or local law enforcement. If you think that’s a Trojan horse for gun-grabbing, just consider what a national gun safety course might morph into when put in the hands of legislators who think the only safe gun is a gun that’s been taken out of your hands by the federal or state government.
Oh, and just in case you hadn’t guessed, Beto doesn’t particularly want you having weapons that aren’t “weapons of war,” either.
His plan includes a voluntary handgun buyback and limits on how many firearms you can purchase in a given period. Gun violence would also be classified as a national emergency, giving President O’Rourke broad powers beyond just these talking points.
But this is going to be Beto 2.0. He was once chided for not having a real opinion on any issues. Now he seems to have very strident opinions, but only on two issues: Guns are very bad and Donald Trump and his supporters) are racists.
These two things in synergy with one another is a recipe for domestic terrorism.
“The terrorist attack on El Paso, fueled by the racist rhetoric of Donald Trump, was not only an attack on America, but an attack on the aspirational ideals of this nation,” a prepared statement from O’Rourke said.
“Congress’ failure to act has resulted in a democracy that is unwilling to confront an epidemic of gun violence. It’s time for those in positions of public trust to stand up, tell the truth and offer bold solutions without fear of political ramifications so we can finally start making progress and saving lives.”
This “epidemic of gun violence” doesn’t actually exist, it’s not being “fueled by the racist rhetoric of Donald Trump” and these “bold solutions” are just going to take guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens.
But angry Beto is certainly getting more press than Annie Leibovitz/Vanity Fair cover/apologetic rich white guy Beto was.
In the aftermath of the shooting in El Paso, MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle asked one of her guests a question: “As bad as this may sound, could this moment be a chance for Beto to gain some momentum?”
It may have sounded bad, but in retrospect, I think we should have given Ruhle more credit for bringing this issue up than we originally did. O’Rourke has re-arrived with a vengeance.
No more livestreaming dentist visits, no more tripping over himself to apologize for solecisms of privilege, no more of that cipher schtick and talk about trying to unite people.
No, instead you’re going to get talk like this, like what Beto said to the El Paso Times: “We’ve accepted the murder of six- and seven-year-old children where they sat at school. We’ve accepted high school students being hunted down in the halls of institutions like El Paso High right behind me.”
That’s assumedly a reference to the Sandy Hook shooting — a shooting in which neglected mental health issues played no small part. Don’t expect Beto to mention that part, though.
Instead, he knows the real issue here.
“We must take the fight directly to the source of the problem,” Beto said. “That person who has caused this pain and placed this country in this moment of peril, and that is Donald Trump.”
Beto isn’t the only person who’s floated a mandatory gun buyback program in the Democrat field, Sider notes at Politico. Kirsten Gillibrand has, too. To say Gillibrand’s campaign is on life support is an inapt metaphor inasmuch as life support, last I checked, is supposed to keep people alive.
Beto’s campaign was heading that way, too. El Paso changed that.
Remember, it’s still a long ways away from Iowa and New Hampshire, and no candidate in the Democrat field has ever lost traction for flinging unjustified rage at the president and then proposing to take a sledgehammer to the Second Amendment.
And then there’s the fact that this shooting happened in Beto’s hometown, which has given rocket fuel to his sick opportunism.
Americans who care about the Second Amendment should be very afraid about Beto 2.0. It’s not just because this reboot might give him a shot at the nomination.
It’s that his ideas — and his anger toward the president and those who support him — could easily become the new normal in the Democrat field.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.