Dear Rich Lifer
Last week, I explained why Elizabeth Warren’s plan for Social Security – while philosophically flawed – at least made more sense than Andrew Yang’s “freedom dividend” plan.
But let me tell you, Beto O’Rourke’s plan to forcibly buy back all the AR-15 and AK-47 rifles in the United States takes the cake as the most outrageous proposal we’ve heard from a Democratic candidate.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re pro-gun, anti-gun, or somewhere in between.
I’m highlighting this as another example of the way politicians will say anything to win the hearts and minds of various groups of Americans without any regard to facts or laws. (And yes, the same applies to Trump and most other elected officials as well.)
There are several huge problems with O’Rourke’s promise.
Let’s start with this whole idea of defining certain weapons as “assault rifles,” particularly the AR-15 currently sold to civilians in the United States.
What is an Assault Rifle Technically?
An Assault Rifle, like an AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle, which means it fires one round for every time you pull the trigger.
So contrary to what a lot of people think, you can’t just hold the trigger down and have it keep shooting round after round like the fully automatic version U.S. soldiers use.
Meanwhile, it fires Remington .223 or 5.56 NATO ammunition, which is a far less powerful round than many others in common usage … including most common types used for deer hunting.
Really, the idea of an “assault rifle” is completely made up and mostly relates to appearance – black or olive drab green plastic parts – and relatively superficial features like folding stocks or mounting rails.
Many modern rifles – with plain-looking wooden stocks – fire the exact same types of ammunition, just as quickly, and in the same quantities as AR-15s. Indeed, they are functionally equivalent.
But let’s put that nerdy stuff aside.
There are much bigger legal and logistical hurdles to consider.
District of Columbia v. Heller
The President of the United States simply doesn’t have the authority to perform such an action without Congressional approval.
Getting that is a fairly big task in and of itself.
And even with Congressional approval, it’s very likely that such an action would be found unconstitutional based on past Supreme Court rulings such as District of Columbia v. Heller.
That case, dating back to 2008, determined that the Second Amendment grants individual U.S. citizens the right to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes – including self-defense inside their homes – without having to belong to any official militia.
The specific case was about D.C.’s handgun ban but the Heller ruling affirmed the idea that people have the right to own guns “in common use at the time.” With millions of AR-15s already in use by civilians, it’s hard to see how a wholesale and involuntary buyback of those guns would be deemed constitutional based on the Heller ruling.
Speaking of which, even if all the legal issues were put aside, how exactly would the government make such a thing happen anyway?
The Logistics are a Nightmare
There are somewhere between five and 20 million AR-15s alone in the U.S. though nobody really knows the exact number.
How come we don’t know? Because the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 prohibits any type of federal gun registry linking specific guns with specific owners.
In other words, many AR-15s are not in any centralized computer database, and have changed hands without any official record of those transactions even in any individual state databases.
It doesn’t matter what you think about this personally. It’s a fact.
Neither O’Rourke nor anyone else in the government can ever know how many existing AR-15s need to be confiscated or the names of the people who own them.
By the way, how much would the government pay for each of those weapons as it bought them back? The typical AR-15 is currently worth $1,000 or more.
One also wonders how O’Rourke would handle noncompliance … because I’m pretty sure you would have a lot of AR-15 owners who are unwilling to hand over their guns.
As you can see, the list of potential issues with O’Rourke’s promise are absolutely massive and, in my mind, completely insurmountable.
So whether you support the idea or absolutely abhor it – you might as well forget about it. It’s simply not going to happen.
Indeed, it’s Americans who are somewhere in the middle of the gun debate that should be most concerned …
Because in his attempt to grab headlines, O’Rourke has only polarized people further, making it far more difficult for our country to have any type of reasonable dialog at all.
That’s the real lesson in all of this, and it’s an important one as we keep moving toward 2020 …
Whether they’re from long-shot candidates like O’Rourke or a sitting President, attention-seeking promises should always be countered with on-the-ground facts. Quickly.
And as someone with a soapbox, a level head, and a penchant for research, I’m happy to take on that responsibility whenever I see a good opportunity.
After all… bad information is one of the biggest blockades to living a rich life.
To a richer life,