BETO O’Rourke’s proposed mandatory gun-buyback plan may have ended any hopes of Democratic victory in the 2020 presidential race.

O’Rourke said the other week that he would favor forcing Americans to give up their AR-15 and AK-47 assault rifles by using government money to buy them. Then, presumably, they would be destroyed.

From that point on, these two types of assault rifles, which have been used in a number of mass murders, would be banned along with high-capacity magazines and silencers.

Gun control has been paramount in debates among 2020 Democratic hopefuls and there has been much talk about outlawing military style assault weapons in the civil population.

Most assumed that any plan would prohibit the future sale of such weapons and grandfather in those who already own them. O’Rourke is the first candidate to openly suggest that guns might be forcibly taken away from those who already own them.

In the eyes of the masses, if O’Rourke says it, the other Democratic presidential candidates probably think it. After all, recent debates have proven that there is not a hoot’s worth of difference between the beliefs and campaign strategies of all 22 Democratic presidential hopefuls.

Banning the sale of assault rifles is one thing. Coming to your house and demanding them—even for fair financial compensation—is quite another. Suddenly we return to 1775 and see British Redcoats knocking on our doors and demanding weapons.

Suddenly we fear the day our Founding Fathers were concerned about may have arrived. Suddenly gun rights activists have their backs against the wall. Suddenly the predictions of those who have long feared firearm confiscation are now being openly discussed.

O’Rourke’s buyback plan has taken the Second Amendment debate to a new level. A presidential candidate has now openly advocated taking away guns that we already own. That is a giant step.

Why? Because deep down we fear the government more than we fear the crooks and robbers and yes, even the mass murderers. We have seen what the Nazis and the Soviets did to unarmed populations and we know that under the right conditions the same could happen to us.

Americans understand that no government can be trusted in perpetuity. All it takes is one madman in power to strip away all our rights. That could happen at any time. This country is not immune to the rise of a despot. History has shown us it can happen anywhere.

Perhaps we couldn’t defeat a Hitler or a Lenin with the weapons in our closets, but we would feel that we had a chance to save our liberties. And even if we couldn’t, we would go down fighting, something that is important to an honorable and free people.

Beto O’Rourke committed the ultimate political sin when he suggested that the government might one day come to our doors and take away our firearms. You just don’t advocate that in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

There is and always has been an umbilical cord between Americans and their guns. Any candidate trying to sever it is cutting his own political throat.

There is another aspect of O’Rourke’s proposal that neither he nor any of the other Democratic presidential candidates has addressed. Law-abiding citizens may well give up their assault weapons under a buyback law, but how do you get the criminals to turn in their guns? Is anyone so naïve as to think that crooks will actually hand over their illegal weapons?

And how do you enforce such a law? If government agents knock on your door and you lie and say you don’t have an assault rifle, do those men come in and search your house just to make sure?

Suppose you don’t have an illegal gun when the knock comes and the agents don’t believe you. Will they search your home anyway?

I am perfectly willing to support legislation to ban future sales of AR-15s and AK-47s, but the government coming to homes and demanding weapons is not the American way and any presidential candidate should understand that.

O’Rourke’s plan is a danger to democracy and our Second Amendment rights. When the government comes knocking on doors demanding weapons, this country will be in big trouble.

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Columnist Donnie Johnston lives in Culpeper County. Write him at

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(1) comment

David Reuther

Always enjoy Mr. Johnson’s humor and storytelling, and it is important to note when he approaches a serious subject such as his recent article on Mr. O’Rourke’s comment on gun control during the Democratic presidential debate. Those debates have been an excellent platform to underscore the diversity of the Democratic Party. No cookie cutter candidates here. Therefore, I was intrigued at Mr. Johnson’s thought that if one candidate says something ALL candidates must have the same opinion. Do we really think my teacher brother’s opinion on school funding is my opinion? I wonder if this “they are all alike” contributes to the incivility we daily complain about. I notice for example that Republican robocalls and campaign mailings all imply that Virginia’s Democratic candidates this year are Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Really? The 92 Democratic candidates in Virginia’s delegate races are clones of the Bronx Congresswoman? Such an demeaning thought makes it difficult to find our common interests.

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