Joe Henderson: There is a better way for gun control than Beto O’Rourke’s plan

Gun control concept. Young armed man holds pistol in hand in public place near high school.
Money and pressure worked for the NRA, and it can work for those wanting better background checks

You can count the ways Beto O’Rourke’s vow to force gun owners to sell their assault rifles in a government buyback is an impossible dream.

Start with the part of that pesky Second Amendment that says the right to bear arms “shall not be infringed.” Those words prove the founding fathers didn’t get everything right, but we’re stuck with it.

Also, there is no way to know how many of those weapons exist. Estimates are between 5 million and 10 million are owned. That’s a wide gap.

There is no clear definition of what qualifies as an assault weapon. And we can’t leave out the fact that Republicans control the White House and U.S. Senate. And the National Rifle Association controls those Republicans.

Even if Beto O’Rourke is elected President, which he won’t be, the political obstacles to fulfill his promise would be insurmountable. Even moderate members of his Democratic party aren’t buying the idea.

Despite that, I’m glad O’Rourke said that out loud, and many reasonable people believe it needed to be said. A generation has grown up in this country believing mass murders are routine. They have schools shot up. Malls. Movie theaters. Concerts.

And they have heard NRA supporters mouth garbage about a good guy with a gun is the only defense against a bad guy with a weapon of war.

On NBC’s “Meet The Press” Sunday, O’Rourke doubled down on his vow.

“I refuse to even acknowledge the politics or the polling or the fear or the NRA,” he said. “That has purchased the complicity and silence of members of Congress.”

Yeah, there are long odds.

But that doesn’t mean meaningful change can’t happen, and for that, I refer you to a recent letter signed by 145 CEOs of major companies. They demanded the Senate take action to curb gun violence.

They’re not demanding that law-abiding citizens surrender their weapons. They are pushing for stronger background checks and expanded red-flag laws.

“As leaders of some of America’s most respected companies and those with significant business interests in the United States, we are writing to you because we have a responsibility and obligation to stand up for the safety of our employees, customers and all Americans in the communities we serve across the country,” they wrote.

“Doing nothing about America’s gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable, and it is time to stand with the American public on gun safety.”

CEO’s represent money and campaign contributions, and they respond to what the majority of their customers want.

Now, that might get Mitch McConnell’s attention – especially if that money starts flowing to candidates who push for tougher gun laws.

Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, talked about that with NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly.

I’m really proud of the response that we got, proud of the fact that people felt that they could tell me whether they agreed or disagreed internally,” he said.

“Remember, we have a lot of people here who are – who live in the Parkland community, and so this is a subject that’s near and dear to our hearts. And the overwhelming response was, yes, we are in favor of level-headed actions to control this gun violence.”

Those are the keywords: level-headed actions.

Beto O’Rourke made an understandably emotional reaction to the mass murder in El Paso, Texas. But he made a promise he can’t keep, although many might wish he could.

But there can be better laws for gun control, and it’s not that hard. Comprehensive background checks and red-flag laws can happen. Keeping maniacs from obtaining weapons of war should be the No. 1 priority.

That’s why people might eventually view the letter from those CEOs might as the tipping point in this fight. The NRA got where it is with pressure and money, and people on the other side can use the same.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • gary

    September 16, 2019 at 10:37 am

    Mistake #1…. The NRA does not control REPUBLICANS. NRA mirrors the voice of what Republicans have to say about our right to bear arms. Nobody controls Republicans. Republicans are if anything, freedom loving individuals that think independently of group. We are not the party of “birds of a feather, flock together” we consider that a Democrat curse.

    Mistrake #2…. Thinking that we care what corporate leadership thinks about our right to bear arms, and how we need legislation to infringe on our rights will be the downfall of those corporations. Republicans have shown, that we are willing to be heard by spending our money elsewhere. Prime example, take a look at the NFL for the last 2 years!

    Mistake #3…. You “Joe Henderson” thinking your opinion means a thing!

    • Dave

      September 16, 2019 at 11:47 am

      Folks who do not understand the need for personal ownership and use of firearms, do not and have not read history. No well armed civil country has ever been subjugated by government or invaded by it’s enemies. Now the opposite is not true, all one has to do is look to Nazi Germany, Hitler crowed that for the first time in history a nation has adequate gun laws. And within 12 years over 20 million unarmed European and Russian lives were lost. Funny thing though, Switzerland wasn’t ravaged in WW2. Every able bodied Swiss citizen was armed and kept their military grade weapons at home with ammunition and explosives. They were all military trained and ready, as is still the case there, and yes they have many thousands of selective firing automatic rifles (Machine Guns Are Heavily Restricted in the USA) and ammunition in their closets. We could use a conscripted military draft in this country. Maybe teach our youth some discipline and the lessons of history, and safe use of firearms, along with the consequences of carelessness. And while we are at it we need State Hospitals to address the mental illnesses plaguing our youth. But we are safe here in the good ol USA, right!? Well if you think for one moment the government will not try to take control of it’s people. Or a foreign entity to do the same with another nation, well you just haven’t been paying attention. President Trump’s presidency was almost put down by a coup de tat and people laugh about it. You need to put down the the phone, tablet, close the laptop and look around, observe. You might be enlightened with what you actually see.


    September 16, 2019 at 1:06 pm


    Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have reintroduced the Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment Act of 2019 that will actually strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to prevent criminals from obtaining firearms.

    The bill was first introduced in 2013 and received a 52-48 positive vote in the US Senate when Republicans were the minority. The then Senate President Vice President Joe Biden (2013) can explain better than I why the legislation rules required 60 votes in the US Senate and not a simple majority vote to make it to the Presidents desk. I believe a simple term called POLITICS is the answer to why a Firearm Safety bill proposed by a Republican was not signed into law under a Democrat President with a 52-48 positive vote.. (60 VOTE Threshold can be waived by the Majority)

    When the Politicians in Washington, DC are serious about reducing firearm violence in America the Grassley/Cruz bill will be passed into law. If it is predictable, it is preventable……

  • Jan

    September 16, 2019 at 5:09 pm

    From a Parkland father, Andrew Pollack, who speaks about the murder of his daughter–calls it the result of democratic party policies:

    Pollack argued that new gun control laws are an ineffective solution to the school shooting epidemic, in part because current laws are not being enforced. For example, the Parkland shooter had a violent record, but he was not arrested and therefore able to obtain a weapon legally.


    “To me, gun control would’ve been if they arrested him (Cruz) for punching his mother’s teeth out and he got a background,” explained Pollack. “Democrats put these policies in place that don’t believe in holding kids accountable or arresting them while they’re juveniles…so if they don’t arrest them and they don’t get a background, then they’re able to purchase weapons legally and a background check is useless,” he said.

    Source–Fox New 9-16-19

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