Beto Was Right On Call To Confiscate Guns… Mostly

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What if Beto ORourke was right?

The former Texas congressman enraged the right and netted himself something that sounded an awful lot like a death threat when he vowed during last weeks debate to ban (and apparently confiscate) AR-15s and other assault weapons favored by mass shooters.

Hell, yes, were going to take away your AR-15, your AK-47,the former Texas congressman said during Thursday nights Democratic primary debate in Houston.

Critics immediately pounced. In a single, emotion-charged sentence, ORourke appeared to confirm the most feverish fears of the NRA and other gun-rights extremists – that the government really is coming for their guns.

My AR-15 is ready for you, Robert Francis,Briscoe Cain, a conservative state lawmaker from Texas, snarled on Twitter, using ORourkes full name, Robert Francis.

It was exactly the sort of reaction youd expect, and it may also have been exactly what ORourke was hoping for, since hes been doing a slow fade in the polls. And now were all talking about him again.

But what if, putting aside the debate stage theatrics, ORourke was right?

Im going to argue that he mainly was.

Its long past time for America to again ban these weapons of war, which were illegal to purchase from 1994 to 2004. And one of the best ways to get them off our streets is through a nationwide buyback program – not through any sort of confiscation program, which would surely lead to unrest.

And, as PolitiFact notes, in raw numbers,researchers at New York Universitys medical school found that mass shootings decreased when the ban was in effect and rose afterward. In fact, the death toll from mass shootings went from 4.8 per year during the ban years to 23.8 per year afterwards.

Last week, Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, whos pushing an expanded background checks measure in the Senate with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, said ORourkes call to confiscate these weapons was an an awful and extremeidea that would derail any efforts at commonsensereform.

I disagree with Toomey on that count. Surely the worlds greatest legislative body is capable of, as the saying goes, walking and chewing gum at the same time. Congress can conduct a debate on both expanding background checks and a potential assault weapons ban.

Toomey is right, however, that the kind of mandatory buyback envisioned by ORourke, and based on a similar program in Australia, more than likely would not garner the votes for passage. A voluntary program, however, just might.

Momentum for an assault weapons ban is growing in the House. Assuming it can whip up the votes, the chambers Democratic majority should pass a ban and then drop it in the collective laps of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and President Donald Trump.

Obviously progress is likely to stop there, but the House could then force both of them to explain their inaction to the rest of the country when were inevitably having the same discussion again after the next mass shooting.

The passion underlying ORourkes comments on Thursday, the rage he felt after two shootings in his home state in less than a month left so many dead and wounded, is understandable.

Its the same inchoate rage that so many of us feel as we watch these scenes of carnage unfold on our television screens with mind-numbing regularity. Its the same anger that so many of us feel when calls for action inevitably fall on deaf ears in Washington and in our state capitols.

So maybe after the fury over ORourkes comments dies down, we can all consider the fundamental truth behind the Texans comments on ABCs debate stage.

Its an assault on common sense that we havent banned these weapons. And the time for action is upon us.

Copyright 2019 John L. Micek, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

An award-winning political journalist, John L. Micek is Editor-in-Chief of The Pennsylvania Capital-Star in Harrisburg, Pa. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek.