Mandatory buybacks are not the answer

At this month’s Democratic debate in Texas, Democratic Presidential candidate and former Congressman Beto O’Rourke made a last-ditch attempt to save his doomed candidacy. In a move that showcased O’Rourke’s desperation for votes, he announced his support for a mandatory buyback (in other words, a confiscation) of military-style assault rifles. O’Rourke, attempting to court the votes of gun-grabbing Democrats attending the debate declared, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.” 

O’Rourke’s proposed mandatory buyback of “assault rifles” is an unconstitutional and ill-conceived power grab that would do nothing to stop mass shootings in America. 

We often hear that a ban on rifles like the AR-15 is perfectly compatible with the text of the Second Amendment. “The Founding Fathers never meant for civilians to have these weapons of war! They wrote in a right to bear muskets, not a right to bear these killing machines!” the argument goes.

The only issue with this line of argumentation is that it is completely ahistorical. The suggestion that the Founding Fathers could never have foreseen semi-automatic or fully automatic weapons is patently false because these weapons already existed in one form or another in the 1780’s. The Girandoni air rifle, invented in 1779, was a precursor to modern semi-automatic rifles. Capable of firing up to 80 shots in one charge, the Girandoni was most famously used in the expeditions of Lewis and Clark. 

By the time the Constitution was ratified in 1787, machine guns had already been available for 79 years. The Puckle Gun, commonly accepted to be the world’s first machine gun, was invented in 1718 and was perfectly legal for civilians to own at the time. Can one honestly believe that the Founders, in their collective wisdom, thought the capabilities of firearms would never improve past those of the 1780s?  

Granted, the Founding Fathers may not have been capable of forecasting the creation of nuclear weapons or the F-35 jet, but they certainly could forecast the obvious further development of the weapons that were readily available at the 1780s. Once these facts enter the discussion, the argument that the Founding Fathers could never have foreseen modern firearms including the AR-15 and AK-47 becomes incredibly weak. Thus, the notion that a ban on those firearms would be perfectly compatible with the text and spirit of the Second Amendment fails the test of history. Any ban on these weapons is undoubtedly unconstitutional. 

The Second Amendment reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” It does not read, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall be infringed if guns get too powerful or if some guns are used by maniacs to kill innocent people.”

There is an obvious debate to be had as to what weapons with capabilities surpassing firearms and traditional artillery the Second Amendment guarantees a right to. I believe the decision reached in District of Columbia v. Heller, which permits the private ownership of any weapon that has “some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia” is the standard most in line with the intentions of the Founders.

In addition to being unconstitutional, the confiscation of assault weapons would do nothing to stop mass shootings, as rifles of any kind are seldom used in mass shootings in America. As reported by, of all outlets, Mother Jones, rifles of any kind were used in under a quarter of all mass shootings (4 or more people killed in one shooting) since 1982 whereas handguns were used in almost two-thirds of all mass shootings. Even more damning for those who believe a confiscation of assault rifles will do anything to stop mass shootings, during the period in which assault rifles were banned on a federal level (1994-2004), the number of mass shootings in America per year actually rose from 18 to 19. 

It is also important to note that according to 2016 FBI crime data, only three percent of all gun homicide was committed with a rifle of any kind. Based on these statistics, I would expect gun control supporters to be pushing for a ban on handguns. Granted, the gun that has become most associated with mass shootings has become the assault rifle. But in reality, they are not the weapon of choice for mass killers in the U.S.

The simple reality we face today is that if deranged individuals want to commit acts of mass-murder, there are plenty ways they can carry out their assaults without the rifles Democrats are seeking to confiscate. Banning assault rifles will not stop this country’s horrifying trend of public mass shootings, but will stop law abiding gun owners from exercising their Second Amendment rights. 

Serious proposals to solve this horrific trend of public mass-murder should not focus on cutting guns off from law abiding citizens, but instead on preventing individuals that endanger themselves and others from obtaining deadly weapons of any kind. Perhaps so-called “red flag” laws should be implemented, but any proposal that could potentially limit a citizen’s Second Amendment rights must be mindful of due process.