The idea that Americans have a constitutional right to own and possess firearms appalls today’s progressives. They believe that if they could just rid the nation of guns, then armed robberies, gang violence, mass shootings, rape, violent crime and maybe even suicide would vanish and we could all live peacefully ever after.
The problem they have faced is not just the National Rifle Association or the reluctance of non-progressive politicos to advance their cause, but the fact that tens of millions of voting Americans support private firearms ownership and that Founders in drafting the Constitution and Bill of Rights shared their view.
Progressives are prepared to pack the Supreme Court to do away with Second Amendment roadblocks, but have been forced to accept the fact that they’re never going to get the public to voluntarily surrender their firearms to a benevolent government. They know too that there is only one foolproof way to get their “deplorable” fellow citizens to bend to their wishes — and that is to mobilize the force of the state against them.
Two Democratic presidential wannabes seem willing to take the step that the others have thus far avoided. Beto O’Rourke and Kirsten Gillibrand, struggling to attract support that continues to elude them, have come out for what other candidates may secretly support: Firearms confiscation.
This week the Texan endorsed what those who don’t like to use the word now term a “mandatory buyback” of what Democrats call “assault weapons.” If a rose is a rose by any other name then confiscation by any other name is, well, confiscation. Mr. O’Rourke may not be a clear speaker or a clear thinker, but that is what he says he wants. Sen. Gillibrand has already suggested she would like to see guns taken away from citizens, and if Beto’s proposal resonates with the Democrat’s leftist base, others can be expected to advance similar proposals in the near future.
Asked about the proposal by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Louisiana Congressman Cedric Richmond, a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, has said it is an idea that, as he put it, “does not offend me” and which he could support, decrying a world in which “we” can ban plastic straws but not guns.”
Various cities have had “voluntary buyback” programs for years, but as President Obama’s National Institute of Justice concluded, they have been largely ineffective. A few years ago in Milwaukee, feds tried a different approach. They set up a storefront to buy firearms from bad guys and indict the sellers for illegally trafficking in guns. One of their “customers” quickly discovered he could buy guns at Gander Mountain, an outdoor store, haul them down the road and sell them at a profit to the feds. He was one of the “traffickers” they caught.
The evidence suggests any “voluntary” buyback program is doomed as expensive and ineffective. The firearms turned in for cash are turned in because the program is willing to pay more for them than the guns are worth. Studies indicate they are rarely the sorts of guns used to commit crimes. The guns purchased by the cities that run these programs come not from criminals but from law-abiding citizens who realize they can dump unwanted cheap or broken guns at a profit.
The Obama administration concluded that to be effective, a buyback program would have to be “mandatory,” requiring gun owners to turn in their guns or be charged with a crime, but was unwilling to go quite that far. Today’s left is far less squeamish about things like the Constitution. The result is open support for simply confiscating firearms, but calling it some temporarily palatable euphemism that polls well.
Folks like Beto would start with “assault weapons,” but would at the same time require everyone to register their handguns and long arms, so that if they decide to expand “mandatory buybacks” in the future they will know just where the guns they want to “buy back” are to be found. It’s hard to visualize or for many gun owners to imagine federal agents going door-to-door to demand that free citizens turn in their guns or face fines or jail time, but this is what people like Mr. O’Rourke are working toward. It is hard to imagine the feds going door to door to confiscate guns, but that’s where what he is proposing would lead.
The National Rifle Association and other Second Amendment supporters have faced criticism over the years for arguing that seemingly commonsensical proposals from gun control advocates are likely to lead to a slippery slope ending with confiscation. It is increasingly obvious that the slope looms before us and today’s progressives Democrats are greasing it.
• David A. Keene is an editor at large for The Washington Times.
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