Right-wing media threaten violence in retaliation to gun safety proposals

After Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke announced his support for a mandatory assault weapons buyback program, conservative media figures called the proposal “an incitement to violence” that would lead to “a civil war” if the government attempted “gun confiscation.” These figures echoed the rhetoric of far-right militia groups as well as the long-held view of the National Rifle Association that the Second Amendment includes a right of people to violently overthrow the government if they decide it has become tyrannical.

Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke proposes new gun safety legislation

Following a mass shooting in Texas, O’Rourke backs an assault weapons ban and mandatory buyback. When a reporter asked him how he would reassure gun owners who were afraid that the government will take away their guns, O’Rourke said, “That’s exactly what we’re going to do.” The candidate went on to explain that he supports a mandatory assault weapons buyback, and that “Americans who own AR-15s and AK-47s will have to sell them to the government.” [Buzzfeed, 9/2/19]

Federal courts have repeatedly ruled that there is no Second Amendment right to own an assault weapon. [The Washington Post, 2/22/188/29/19]   

Conservative media figures predict “a lot of violence” if the government were to buy back assault weapons

The View’s Meghan McCain: If you take “people’s guns away from them, there’s going to be a lot of violence.” During the September 3 edition of ABC’s The View, co-host Meghan McCain criticized the idea of a buyback program, saying it doesn’t seem like a “rational conversation.” She went on to say the AR-15 is “by far the most popular gun in America” and if you try to take them away from people, “there’s going to be a lot of violence.” She also proclaimed, “I’m not living without guns”:

MEGHAN MCCAIN (CO-HOST): Beto O’Roufke wants to have a complete and total -- I call it gun grabbing but he wants to have a mandatory gun buyback. The government didn’t own the guns to begin with, how do you think they’re going to come to somebody’s house, and what are you going to pay? It just doesn’t seem like that’s rational conversation.

MCCAIN: The AR-15 is by far the most popular gun in America. By far. So if you’re talking about -- again, I was just in the middle of nowhere Wyoming. You’re talking about going and taking people’s guns away from them. There’s going to be a lot of violence. … I’m not living without guns. [The Daily Beast, 9/3/19

Fox’s Tucker Carlson: “What you are calling for is civil war. What you are calling for is an incitement to violence.” Fox News host Tucker Carlson suggested during the September 3 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight that a buyback program is an “incitement to violence” and will lead to “civil war.” The host went on to call it a “power grab” and said that it’s “not a sincere effort to help this country”:

TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): It's not simply Beto, that's the tape that we played. Elizabeth Warren, who seems likely to be the nominee of the Democratic Party, much more likely than Joe Biden in my opinion, has also called for gun confiscation. So, this is -- what you are calling for is civil war. What you are calling for is an incitement to violence. It's something I wouldn't want to live here when that happened, would you? I'm serious. [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 9/3/19]

The Washington Free Beacon’s Stephen Gutowski: Confiscating AR-15s would “result in significant violence.” Echoing McCain, Gutowski agreed that confiscating “the most popular rifle in America” will “result in significant violence.” He added that this has been the view among gun rights advocates “since Lexington and Concord.”

[Twitter, 9/3/19]

Washington Examiner’s Seth Mandel: “Confiscation of 5 million rifles at the point of a gun is likely to go badly.” Washington Examiner Executive Editor Seth Mandel defended statements McCain and Carlson made, tweeting that “it’s not justifying or threatening an insurrection to predict” that a mandatory gun buyback program “is likely to go badly.”    

[Twitter, 9/3/19]

Townhall’s Kurt Schlichter: “How many deaths” is Beto “willing to accept to achieve disarming the citizenry.” Townhall columnist Kurt Schlichter questioned why “no one in the media asks [O’Rourke] exactly how many deaths he is willing to accept to achieve disarming the citizen.” 

[Twitter, 8/31/19]

The NRA has long pushed the idea that the Second Amendment includes the right to wage a civil insurrection

NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre endorsed the insurrectionist interpretation of the Second Amendment during a speech at the 2009 Conservative Political Action Conference, claiming, “Our Founding Fathers understood that the guys with the guns make the rules.” [Media Matters, 8/9/16]

NRA promoted an article that depicted Democrats hanged at the gallows following a second civil war. The NRA tweeted a column in which gun blogger Bob Owens fantasized about a second civil war in a 2015 post, writing that if the “radical left” attempts to “impose their ideas on the American people” -- which Owens claimed includes gun confiscation -- “it would end poorly and quickly” for them since “they will be utterly destroyed by armed free citizens.” Owens illustrated his article with an image of gallows with the caption, “This is where the survivors of the Democrat rebellion will meet their end.” [Media Matters, 8/21/15]

When former President Barack Obama announced gun safety plans, the NRA dubbed him “our biggest threat to national security.” In January 2018, Obama reportedly planned to announced several executive actions on gun safety, including closing the “gun show loophole” and introducing universal background checks. The NRA released video on January 4, 2018, claiming “the biggest threat to national security is sitting in the Oval Office.” [Media Matters, 1/4/16]

Then-NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch implicitly called for violence against Democrats. In a June 2017 ad for the NRA, Loesch warned of a coming wave of Democratic violence after Trump’s election. She claimed they were “smash[ing] windows, burn[ing] cars … and terrorizing the law-abiding.” Loesch told viewers, “The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth.” [Vox, 6/29/17]  

Conservative pundits floating violent reprisals as a response to gun safety legislation are echoing far-right extremist and militia rhetoric

Conservative pundits are echoing the rhetoric of the extremist Three Percenter militia movement. The core philosophy of the Three Percenter movement, whose adherents have engaged in violence, is that citizens would be justified in taking up arms to violently overthrow the government if the government enacted stronger gun regulations. [Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 9/4/19, Southern Poverty Law Center, 3/1/19]

Far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones frequently hypes the prospect of a second civil war that would pit conservatives against liberals. During his broadcasts, Jones has frequently argued “leftists” and “globalists” are fomenting a civil war in the United States and that conservatives should be prepared to respond with violence. [Media Matters, 7/19/17]

Gun Owners of America, a group to the right of even the NRA, has argued violence would be an appropriate response to gun safety regulations. Larry Pratt, GOA’s emeritus executive director who has past ties to the militia movement and white supremacists, has said voters unsatisfied with election results can resort to the “bullet box” and repeatedly suggested that politicians who support stronger gun laws should fear being shot by a GOA supporter. [Media Matters, 6/20/16]