CNN’s Alisyn Camerota takes a page from the NRA’s playbook

Camerota: “You expect mass shooters to follow the law?”

CNN’s Alisyn Camerota repeatedly invoked a National Rifle Association talking point to criticize Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke’s plan for a mandatory buyback of assault weapons, suggesting gun safety laws are toothless without “confiscation.”

During the October 15 Democratic primary debate hosted by CNN and The New York Times, moderator Anderson Cooper asked O’Rourke how he would enforce his plan. After his response, fellow candidate Pete Buttigieg said O’Rourke “made it clear” that he doesn’t know “how this is actually going to take weapons off the streets.”

The following morning on CNN’s New Day, Camerota interviewed O’Rourke to question whether a mandatory buyback is able to prevent mass shootings because gunmen “don’t follow the law, by definition.” Camerota also suggested that O’Rourke’s plan “sounds like confiscation,” which the CNN anchor pointed out “makes a lot of people on the right and gun owners nervous”:

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Citation From the October 16 edition of CNN's New Day:

ALISYN CAMEROTA (ANCHOR): It sounded like what Mayor Buttigieg was saying was that your plan is not fleshed out enough. Can you flesh it out more? How do you plan to get assault weapons away from people who don’t want to give them up?

BETO O’ROURKE: It's pretty simple. As with any law in this country, we would expect our fellow Americans to follow the law. It's one of those things that distinguishes us from so much of the rest of the world. We're a nation of laws and no person is above the law, no matter how much they may disagree with a given law. We also have the precedent of Australia which took the bold step of having a mandatory buyback of these AR-15s and AK-47s -- as you know, weapons that were designed for war, to kill people on a battlefield, that have no use for hunting or self-defense in your home but can kill people at a terrifying rate and terrifying numbers if left in the hands of civilians. We've seen that in El Paso, in Dayton, in Odessa, throughout this country. So this is the right thing to do. And I fully expect my fellow Americans to follow the law.

CAMEROTA: You expect mass shooters to follow the law?

O’ROURKE: Our fellow Americans will follow the law, yes. In every one of those 16 million --

CAMEROTA: Congressman, mass shooters by definition don't -- the mass shooters in Parkland, El Paso, I could go on for 10 minutes. They don't follow the law, by definition.

O’ROURKE: There are so many instances where the proposals that we’ve made -- whether it is a universal background check, or a red flag law, or ending the sale of weapons of war, or buying those that are out there back -- would have stopped many of the shootings that we’re seeing in a country that loses 40,000 people a year to gun violence. Would it stop every single shooting? No. But that should be no excuse for not taking action now while we have the opportunity to do the right thing. And we also shouldn’t be limited by the politics, or the conventional political wisdom, or the polling or the consultant class or the NRA on finally taking decisive action .

CAMEROTA: Understood. And I think that what Mayor Buttigieg was saying -- Yeah, this it’s -- obviously, think high, aim, you know, shoot for something aspirational, but it doesn't make sense that people are going to hand over their assault weapons if they're mass shooters. If they want to do harm to people, they're not going to follow the law. So then what's your plan? 

O’ROURKE: Yeah. So I don't know that you make any law or stop making any law because you fear that some people will not follow a law in any part of American life. And so, yes, if somebody has an assault weapon, a weapon of war, and poses a danger to people in their lives or people in their community, people in our lives, then we're going to stop them. And --

 CAMEROTA: Meaning what? You’re going to go to their house -- just tell us how it works. You're going to go to -- if somebody doesn't voluntarily hand over their assault weapon, you're going to go to their house, and then what? 

O’ROURKE: If we pass this law, then I expect our fellow Americans to follow the law. And this is not speculation. We've seen other countries do this. Like Australia --

CAMEROTA: Yeah, I understand. I mean, law-abiding people follow the law. Law-abiding people follow the law. But our problem is with mass shooters who don't.

O’ROURKE: You know, Alisyn, by that logic, we wouldn't commence writing any new legislation or signing anything into law for fear of some people not following the law. So we know because we've seen this in other countries that when we take this step, we save the lives of those who would otherwise be taken from these mass shootings. We prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands. And we take them out of the hands of those who shouldn't own them in the first place. And unlike a handgun or a shotgun or a hunting rifle, an AR-15 [or] an AK-47 is materially different. It is a weapon of war designed to kill people on a battlefield. And if we just throw up our hands and say, you know, this is going to be tough to do or some people aren't going to follow the law, then we consign ourselves and become complicit in the deaths of our fellow Americans.  And after El Paso or or Odessa or Dayton or all these mass shootings, I'm not going to become complacent. I'm going to do what might be politically difficult to do. May not be popular in all circles, but it is necessary to save lives.

CAMEROTA: I understand that that's your aspiration. And I think that the question was and then what? And then what's next? Because it sounds like confiscation. And I just can't tell if you -- if you're comfortable with that. You know that that's a buzzword that makes a lot of people on the right and gun owners nervous. And so if that's what you're suggesting?

O’ROURKE: No, I'm not suggesting that. And I think that's why people use the word confiscation. Because it scares people. What I'm talking about is a mandatory buyback where Americans who own an AR-15 or an AK-47 will sell that weapon back to the government. And there are precedents for doing this, in other parts of the world, successfully without infringing on our fellow Americans’ Second Amendment rights to own a firearm that they need for self-defense in their home or to go hunting, for collection or sport. We can take those weapons that pose a mortal risk to our fellow Americans. Instruments of terror that have terrorized our fellow Americans. As long as they're out there strike terror in the hearts of so many, including people going to school right now, who are participating in active shooter drills because we still have these weapons out there. Let’s do something about it.

Camerota’s line of questioning is ripped straight from the NRA, which has spent years fearmongering that any type of gun safety legislation is a “slippery-slopetoward confiscation. The pro-gun group has also long claimed that gun safety laws are useless because “criminals don’t follow the law,” despite the evidence that strong gun safety measures “demonstrably save lives by reducing criminal access to firearms.” According to The Trace, the problem “isn’t that criminals don’t follow laws, but rather that criminals aren’t dissuaded by weak laws” riddled with loopholes.

In reality, reducing the availability of assault weapons has a direct impact on the number and severity of mass shootings -- Australia saw a “steep decline in deadly shootings” following its 1996 mandatory buyback legislation. And in the United States from 1982 until 2011, “both state and federal bans on assault weapons resulted in decreased rates of mass shooting fatalities.”