Democratic candidates gathered in Sin City and went all in on gun control. Granted, it wasn’t hard to do when the event was sponsored by gun control groups Giffords and March for Our Lives and the table dealer was a left wing cable news network that didn’t even gamble their own ratings by putting it on their network. They live-streamed on the web instead.
If you missed it, I don’t blame you. Still, there’s some big election-year ideas they’re betting on.
The field split on outright confiscation. They must have noticed that U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) isn’t at the table anymore after he championed the idea. Former Congressman Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke continued to double down, offering up a poll that says the majority of Americans support a “mandatory buyback” (read: confiscation). I’ll take action on the bet they didn’t ask the more than 16 million modern sporting rifles owned by law-abiding Americans. Those are the semiautomatic AR-15 rifles they vilify, different from the rifle employed by the military. O’Rourke isn’t the only one betting on this. U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) want in too.
Every Democratic candidate believes banning an entire class of firearms – the modern sporting rifle – is a winning hand. Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-Ind.) told reporters following the event that labeling the semiautomatic rifle as a “weapon of war” – which is different from the military M-16 and M-4 – isn’t misleading. Buttigieg said he supports banning the sale of “assault weapons, like what I carried in Afghanistan.” Don’t bet on black on this one, Mayor Pete. They’re different firearms.
Candidates offered differing plans to regulate ownership. Former Vice President Joe Biden let it roll on his recently released gun control plan that forces AR-15 owners to sell their rifles to the government or register them under the National Firearms Act, which would require registration, tax stamps, fingerprints and a government tracking for every modern sporting rifle. But wait, there’s more. Biden wants to include magazines too.
Other candidates support a licensing ploy. Call it pay-to-play. Sen. Booker said licenses for guns should be required, just as licenses are for cars, without clarifying bearing arms is a right. Vice President Biden liked the odds, but played the spread on that, saying states should require licenses. Mayor Pete said hunters buy hunting licenses. Gun licenses, then, should follow. Andrew Yang wants to license the “destructive capability,” meaning you should pay more and qualify more based on how he’d classify the lethality of a firearm.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) suggests the way to stop crime (she’s betting she can do that by 80 percent) is by limiting firearms sales to just one per month. It’s an idea that she said would keep “people from bulking up in the middle of a crisis.” By that notion buying one gun would be a warning flag. Just like putting a bet down on the table marks someone as a gambling addict.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) wants to limit magazine sizes instead. “I think the public is very open to this,” she said, adding that it’s one of the measures that passes her “Uncle Dick” test: “Does this hurt my Uncle Dick in his deer stand?” Of course… deer-stand Dick certainly thinks limiting the ability to defend yourself is a great idea.
A popular wild card of the night was betting big on making the firearms industry pay. Former Congressman Julian Castro (D-Texas) threw down on raising the excise tax for ammunition manufacturers to 20 percent. But that’s not all. He’d also require the technologically-impossible microstamping. “We talk a lot about guns, but what we do with ammunition, just physically and also the way we tax it, is also part of the solution.” Sen. Warren liked that idea, but anted up to 30 percent.
Biden thought the smart money was on so-called “smart guns.” He said he’d require user-authorized technology on all firearms, but didn’t explain if that included those used by law enforcement and the military. He believes repealing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act is a lock. Yang liked that line and got in on it too. But he took some side action on fining manufacturers up to $10 million for the crimes committed by individuals. “Ideally, you’d have the gun companies themselves pay a fine any time their product is used to kill an American,” he said.
It’s no surprise that when it comes to gambling, a weak player is called “a donkey.”
Lawrence Keane is the Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.