By Larry Keane
It seems that the gun control ideas of former Congressman and Texas Democrat Robert “Beto” O’Rourke don’t travel well. They didn’t even survive a trip across the Texas state line into Arkansas.
O’Rourke is pushing a campaign platform that embraces an aggressive gun control agenda. It’s another of O’Rourke’s campaign reboots, this time on the heels of the horrific crime that happened in his hometown of El Paso. Instead of recognizing the blame lies with the murderer who committed the heinous crime, O’Rourke’s presidential bid shifted blame to gun rights groups and Congress because they won’t pass poorly drafted and constitutionally-suspect legislation that would not have prevented the tragedy in El Paso or Dayton.
Among O’Rourke’s suggestions are the creation of a national firearms ownership licensing scheme and registry database. Anyone wanting to exercise their Second Amendment rights, under this scheme, would need to do much more than pass the required National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) verification required today.
Beto’s Gun Control Wish List
The plan would call for:
- Gun buyers to be over 21, so 18-year-old adults fully vested in their rights would have their Second Amendment rights held in abeyance. A carve-out would exist for those under 21 with hunting licenses to possess a firearm for hunting, but nothing else.
- States would administer their own licensing programs, which can be more stringent.
- In the absence of a state firearms licensing system, the federal government would administer licenses.
- Gun buyers would be screened and authorized by local law enforcement.
- Gun buyers would also be required to successfully complete certified gun safety training (without detailing what and who administers the training).
- Renew licenses every five years.
- Register all guns.
- All new guns would be microstamped (even though the technology isn’t feasible or reliable and can be easily foiled by criminals).
- Limit gun sales to one a month per individual. Name another constitutional right that is rationed by the government?
- Declare anyone or any business that sells five or more guns, a “business,” subject to ATF regulation.
- All firearms transfers, even between family members, would need to be completed with a universal background check. Persons seeking a federal gun license would be required to undergo a background check.
- Ban on standard capacity magazines and suppressors.
- Implementing a mandatory confiscation of modern sporting rifles, labeled as a “national buyback program for banned assault weapons and handguns.” Handgun buybacks would be voluntary. Rifles, not so much. Those who don’t volunteer will be subject to fines.
- Increase excise taxes on gun manufacturers and fine gun traffickers to fund the confiscation plan.
- Declaring “gun violence” a public health emergency and spend $320 million annually for the CDC and NIH to study gun violence. What pill to take to cure criminal violence is still forthcoming.
Not So Fast
But a funny thing happened when O’Rourke road-tested his newfound plan. His ideas weren’t warmly received by the public at an Arkansas gun show.
The reality of the cost of the mandatory confiscation also suddenly became daunting. He posted a picture to his Twitter feed that showed a sign selling AR-15s for $395. O’Rourke noted that, if elected, no one would be able to buy them for that price. “You wouldn’t be able to buy them at all,” he said.
But if that were the running cost for the federal government confiscation, it would be $5.264 billion. That’s assuming every modern sporting rifle is worth only $329. If the median price were closer to $500, it’s $8 billion. At $750, it’s $12 billion and at an even grand per rifle, it’s a clean $16 billion. Pretty soon, we’re talking about real money, even for politicians who love to spend other people’s money.
That’s just the cost to confiscate legally owned private property. That doesn’t include administrative costs such as Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents to round them up, accounting, destruction and disposal costs. It also doesn’t account for the increased costs for the licensing and registry scheme. It also doesn’t budget in the legal costs for defending the unconstitutional policies that are bound to fail judicial scrutiny.
Of course, there’s also the matter of repealing the Firearms Owners Protection Act, that forbids the federal government from creating and maintaining a national firearms registry.
This gun-control road trip is desperately looking for an exit.
Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.