The clown prince of American politics is back in the headlines. During a campaign stop in Tyler, Texas, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke shared his new position on firearms. According to the noted gun confiscation proponent, he’s no longer hell bent on grabbing guns. The failed presidential candidate told those gathered, “I’m not interested in taking anything from anyone. What I want to make sure that we do is defend the Second Amendment.”
There is no reason to credit Beto’s purported change of heart. Further, as Beto tries to remake himself, it is instructive to recall his anti-gun positions.
During the September 12, 2019 Democratic presidential debate, Beto was asked about his proposal to confiscate commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms. Beto responded in part by saying, “hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15!” The Beto campaign would go on to sell t-shirts with the anti-gun slogan.
Less than a week later, Beto reiterated his call for gun confiscation on CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time. During an interview, Chris Cuomo asked Beto, “All right, so let's state the proposition. Are you, in fact, in favor of gun confiscation?” Beto responded with “Yes.”
That same month, Beto demanded that banks and other financial services providers stop doing business with firms that manufacture commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms. Moreover, Beto demanded that these financial institutions prevent prospective gun purchasers from using their own credit or money to purchase lawful products. Specifically, Beto commanded,
Banks and credit card companies must:
1. Refuse to take part in the sale of assault weapons.
2. Stop processing transactions for gun sales online & at gun shows without background checks.
3. Stop doing business with gun & ammo manufacturers who produce or sell assault weapons.
Beto was also the only presidential candidate to endorse the gun control “Peace Plan” put forth by David Hogg and his associates at March for Our Lives. The plan’s tenets included, “reexamine the District of Columbia v. Heller interpretation of the Second Amendment,” annual gun licensing, a federal ban on commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms and their magazines, and “a reduction of our domestic firearm stock by at least 30%.”
But for President Joe Biden’s failing memory, or a rare spell of good sense, Beto might have ended up as some sort of bogus federal firearms czar.
At a March 2, 2020 campaign rally in Dallas, Beto endorsed Biden for president. Sharing the stage with his former rival, Biden stated, “I want to make something clear. I’m going to guarantee you this is not the last you’ll see of this guy.” Biden went on say, “You’re going to take care of the gun problem with me. You’re going to be the one who leads this effort. I’m counting on ya.”
Following the campaign event, Biden and Beto went to local burger chain Whataburger, where the septuagenarian continued to heap praise on Beto’s anti-gun advocacy. Speaking about Beto and gun control, Biden stated, “This guy changed the face of what we’re dealing with regarding guns, assault weapons… and I just want to warn [Beto’s wife] that if I win I’m coming for him.”
Speaking with the Texas Tribune in November 2021, Beto stated, “I think most of us also understand that we should not have military-style weapons used against our fellow Texans.” The candidate also criticized recent changes to Texas law that respect the rights of law-abiding Texans to carry a firearm for self-defense without having to acquire government permission.
So, what to account for Beto’s supposed newfound respect for the Second Amendment?
The political reality of running in Texas, rather than a nationwide Democratic primary, could be a factor. So too could Americans’ increasing appreciation for private firearm ownership during a period of turmoil. Both are likely showing up in Beto’s internal polling.
After a record-setting 2020, Americans flocked to gun stores again in 2021. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, there were more than 5.4 million first-time gun buyers last year. Moreover, dealer surveys showed that a third of those buyers were women and 44 percent of retailers saw an increase in African Americans purchasing firearms. Another survey conducted by a researcher at Harvard found that roughly half of gun buyers between January 2019 and April 2021 were women.
Further, public interest in gun control has fallen.
Each month Gallup asks Americans “What do you think is the most important problem facing the country today?” In January, less than 0.5 percent of respondents cited “Guns/Gun control.” Since 1959 Gallup periodically asks “Do you think there should or should not be a law that would ban the possession of handguns, except by the police and other authorized persons?” The last, October 2021, edition registered the lowest support for the measure in the poll’s 62 years.
Whether one points to the COVID-19 pandemic or crime resulting from the government’s abdication of its law enforcement function as the cause, Americans are not in the mood for gun control.
Given the breadth of Beto’s support for gun control, and his dearth of political acumen, his attempt to rebrand on the guns is unlikely to succeed. However, NRA members and other gun rights supporters should continue to inform others about the former manny’s history on firearm policy. Just because Beto appears intent on destroying his own credibility doesn’t mean NRA members shouldn’t lend a helping hand.