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By Larry Keane
Some people in politics just can’t take the message from voters. Failed U.S. Senate candidate and failed Democratic presidential candidate Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke is sitting at 0-2 down in the count and announced a 2022 gubernatorial campaign.
O’Rourke doubled down on his infamous “Hell Yeah!” call for gun confiscation of the most popular semiautomatic rifle in America. Reaction was swift and that’s not a recipe for success in Texas.
A Losing Playbook
Former Democratic U.S. Rep. O’Rourke lost a Senate campaign in Texas in 2018 to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. Following that debacle, he failed up and launched a presidential campaign in 2019, only to drop out after seven months.
His major platform pillar was a promise to ban and cofiscate modern sporting rifles (MSRs) or so-called “assault weapons” as O’Rourke and gun control advocates love to label them. In a 2019 presidential debate, O’Rourke was asked about his gun confiscation plans and famously answered, “Hell yes, we’re taking your AR-15, your AK-47!”
His campaign flamed out a short time later.
As a consolation prize, President Joe Biden threw him a bone. During a Texas rally where O’Rourke endorsed President Biden, he assured the crowd, “I’m going to guarantee you this is not the last you’ve seen of him. 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 you.”
But O’Rourke’s phone never rang. The Biden administration didn’t recruit him for any White House role. That includes during the high-profile flame-out of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) director nominee David Chipman, who couldn’t even earn confirmation support of all the Democratic senators, partly due to his support for a ban on AR-15-style rifles (MSRs).
Failure to Launch
Losing twice hasn’t deterred Robert Francis. O’Rourke has launched a campaign for Texas governor to challenge two-term incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. Firearms and the Second Amendment will play a large role in the campaign and Gov. Abbott is just coming off a Texas state legislative session where lawmakers overwhelmingly passed and Gov. Abbott signed several pro-firearm laws, including firearm industry nondiscrimination (FIND Act) and “constitutional carry,” allowing Texans to carry handguns without needing a permit.
O’Rourke was asked about the relevance of the gun rights debate, the strong beliefs of Texans in the Second Amendment and his past and current support for a ban and confiscation on popular MSRs. The two-time election loser doubled down on his gun ban – and confiscation – plan.
Texas Tribune political correspondent Patrick Svitek reported, “‘O’Rourke says he won’t back away from mandatory assault weapons buyback in gov race. ‘I think most Texans can agree…that we should not see our friends, our family…our neighbors, shot up w/ weapons that were originally designed for use on a battlefield.’”
O’Rourke says he won’t back away from mandatory assault weapons buyback in gov race. “I think most Texans can agree…that we should not see our friends, our family…our neighbors, shot up w/ weapons that were originally designed for use on a battlefield” https://t.co/x6Wc59WCGN
— Patrick Svitek (@PatrickSvitek) November 15, 2021
Most Texans don’t agree, they’ve said so already and reactions to O’Rourke’s comments were swift.
Fox News contributor and Second Amendment stalwart Katie Pavlich deadpanned of the comment, “Well this is fantastic.”
This is fantastic https://t.co/sAiopt9uWo
— Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) November 15, 2021
Other commenters reacted, saying, “Well that candidacy didn’t last long,” and also, “What losing a race the moment you announce looks like.”
Even Vox media, a bastion of anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment reporting, recognized the lunacy of O’Rourke’s remark. “This is the fastest anyone has ever lost a gubernatorial election, right?”
This is the fastest anyone has ever lost a gubernatorial election, right? https://t.co/alt62ZTYkd
— German Lopez (@germanrlopez) November 15, 2021
‘Battlefield’ Firearm Myth
O’Rourke’s anti-gun platform is completely out of touch with how Americans, and more importantly Texans, feel about firearms. He bitterly clings to lies about the MSR, labeling them firearms that were “originally designed for the battlefield.” That’s just false.
MSRs include AR-15-style semi-automatic rifles that are the most popular selling semi-automatic rifle today. There are more than 20 million of them in circulation and they operate on the same one-trigger-pull, one-round-fired technology that has been around for a century.
The original ArmaLite Rifle was developed in the 1950s and Colt began making MSRs commercially available in the early 1960s. This was before the U.S. military adopted the use of the fully automatic rifle, the M-16. Fully automatic firearms have been heavily regulated and restricted from civilian ownership since 1934 and new models have been banned from commercial sale since 1986.
O’Rourke and his gun control allies ignore these facts in order to perpetuate their gun control agenda. MSRs are commonly owned, popular among hunters and target shooters, and easy to use for self-defense.
Texan Stephen Willeford proved this when ran from his home to a nearby church and used his AR-15 to stop a murderer from inflicting even more carnage in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Nov. 5, 2017. His quick thinking with his lawfully-owned rifle likely saved countless innocent lives.
Texans will have an opportunity to — once again — tell O’Rourke what they think of his extreme gun control policies; Don’t Mess with Texas gun rights.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
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