Gun Owners on MSNBC Focus Group Laugh at Idea of Buybacks

November 7, 2019

Several gun owners on an MSNBC focus group laughed at the notion of "buybacks," a confiscation proposal made by two failed Democratic presidential candidates.

"Who thinks that's a good idea?" MSNBC host Ali Velshi asked the group of eight Wisconsin gun owners. Some laughed and smirked, and one quipped, "I bought mine for a million bucks, so if they're willing to pay me that."

The gun owners' derision reflects the soured political prospects for radical gun-control proposals, including those advanced by former presidential contender Beto O'Rourke. The former representative's pivot to gun control did not bolster his flagging poll numbers or forestall his exit from the race.

Retired police officer Gregory Phillips said changing gun laws would be "silly" and told Velshi the issue was his top concern when picking a presidential candidate.

"Don't mess with my rights to protect my family by trying to take away my firearms," he said.

After the segment, which aired Thursday, Velshi said that the undercurrent of the conversation was that gun owners felt misrepresented by the media, members of which frequently advocate for gun control in the wake of mass shootings.

Velshi's co-host Stephanie Ruhle—who once mocked hunters on the air for using silencers—asked Velshi what he took away most from his interview. Velshi replied the gun owners did not understand why they are associated with mass murderers on television simply because they own firearms.

"So why not disassociate themselves with the NRA?" Ruhle asked.

"A lot of them didn't feel that the NRA necessarily speaks for them," Velshi said. "These are people who are sports enthusiasts, they're hunting enthusiasts, but a lot of them did say it was about self-defense, and that disarming responsible gun owners, you're not going to disarm the bad gun owners."

Ruhle dramatically raised her eyebrows when Velshi noted one of the men in the focus group owned more than 100 guns.

Gun confiscation became a topic of debate during the Democratic primary, with candidates O'Rourke and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D., Calif.) calling for confiscation before bowing out of the race.

O'Rourke, reversing a position he had when he ran for Senate in 2018, declared he would take AR-15s and AK-47s from their owners through a buyback program. He said any owners who did not comply would be prosecuted under his administration, in a proposal echoing Swalwell's.

Sens. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) and Cory Booker (D., N.J.) have also expressed support for mandatory buybacks of "assault weapons" in their presidential campaigns.