Here are the right-wing media figures defending a death threat against a Democratic presidential candidate

After a Texas state representative threatened Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) on Twitter over his plan to buy back assault weapons, some conservative media figures quickly dismissed the death threat and accused O’Rourke of engaging in “a political stunt.” 

Sitting state representative threatened Beto O’Rourke after he doubled down on buying back assault weapons

During the third presidential debate, O’Rourke said, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.” During the debate in Houston, Texas, on September 12, O’Rourke responded to a question from ABC’s David Muir about whether he is proposing to take people’s guns. O’Rourke recalled talking to the mother of a 15-year-old victim of a mass shooting who had bled to death because she was shot with a “high-impact, high-velocity round” of an AR-15 and concluded, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47 .We’re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.” [Mother Jones, 9/13/19]  

Texas state representative: “My AR is ready for you Robert Francis.” Shortly after O’Rourke’s debate response, his Twitter account also tweeted, “Hell yes, we’re gonna take your AR-15.” Republican Texas state Rep. Briscoe Cain quote-tweeted the tweet, writing, “My AR is ready for you Robert Francis.” (O’Rourke’s full name is Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke.) 

[Twitter, 9/13/19]   

O’Rouke’s campaign told a CNN correspondent, “We are reporting to FBI.” O’Rourke press secretary confirmed to CNN’s Leyla Santiago that the campaign is reporting the tweet to the FBI. [Twitter, 9/13/19]   

Some conservative media figures defended the death threat

The Washington Free Beacon’s Stephen Gutowski: “Is he going to report everyone with a Molon Labe sticker to the FBI too?” Gutowski accused O’Rourke of engaging in “a political stunt” and compared Cain’s tweet to the classical Greek phrase “molon labe,” which is roughly translated to “come and take it.”

[Twitter, 9/13/19; The Trace, 10/2/15] Cain’s tweet “is not a threat.” Extremist social media platform tweeted that Cain never threatened O’Rourke and that the representative actually meant he is “ready for you to take” it. The tweet also said O’Rourke looked like “a petty, weak, and foolish man who has no clue what he is talking about.”

[Twitter, 9/13/19]

Fox host Greg Gutfeld: Cain meant “sure, then come get mine.” Gutfeld claimed the exchange was simply O’Rourke saying “he's coming (hell yeah) to get your guns” and a politician replying, “Sure, then come get mine.” Gutfeld also suggested he was perplexed that O’Rourke called out the threat and followed up with the FBI.

[Twitter, 9/13/19]

Media Research Center’s Dan Gainor: “All it says is if you try to steal his property he will defend himself.” Gainor claimed Cain’s tweet was merely about self-defense in case O’Rourke tried to “steal his property.” Gainer also called O’Rourke an “incapable idiot.”

[Twitter, 9/13/19]

Several conservative media figures had previously predicted an assault weapons ban would lead to “a lot of violence.”

After O’Rourke’s announced he would buy back assault weapons, some right-wing media figures predicted “a lot of violence” and a “civil war.” After O’Rourke initially expressed support for a mandatory assault weapons buyback program in early September, The View’s Meghan McCain, Fox’s Tucker Carlson, and Townhall’s Kurt Schlichter predicted “violence” if the government banned certain types of firearms. Some other conservative media figures, including Gutowski and Washington Examiner’s Seth Mandel, defended the prediction. [Media Matters, 9/4/19]

Federal appeals courts say there is actually no constitutional right to own an assault weapon

Federal courts have repeatedly upheld assault weapons bans. Federal appeals courts have upheld assault weapons bans in Maryland, Washington, D.C., Illinois, New York, and Connecticut. In fact, according to The Washington Post, “No federal appeals court has ever held that assault weapons are protected. Banning them, the courts have said, does not curtail the right of self-defense protected by the Constitution.” The courts have also said, as the Post reported, that “states and municipalities have legitimate reasons to ban AR-15-style weapons because of the dangers they pose, to schools, innocent bystanders and police.” While the Supreme Court has not weighed in on assault weapons bans, the late Justice Antonin Scalia noted in his majority opinion for District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment right “is not unlimited.” [The Washington Post, 2/22/18]