Biden Taps Campaign Manager Who Advocated for AR-15 Confiscation

Joe Biden / Getty Images
March 13, 2020

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is hiring the architect of Beto O'Rourke's failed primary campaign, tapping a vocal advocate of AR-15 confiscation to lead him to victory in the general election.

Jen O'Malley Dillon will be Biden's new campaign manager, according to the Washington Post. While Biden has advocated for banning—but not confiscating—so-called assault weapons, Dillon led O'Rourke's campaign as it adopted some of the most radical anti-gun policies in the Democratic field. The longtime Democratic strategist also publicly backed the former Texas congressman when he called for the confiscation of AR-15s and other popular firearms in the wake of the El Paso shooting.

"My son is 17 months old, which shouldn't f—ing matter," she tweeted in response to a September interview in which O'Rourke reiterated his call for AR-15 and AK-47 confiscation. "But thinking of that baby with shrapnel is [sic] his face almost broke me. GET EVERY ONE OF THOSE G—D—N GUNS OFF OUR STREETS."

The Biden campaign did not return a request for comment.

The addition of Dillon to Biden's campaign raises new questions about where the former vice president stands on the issue of gun confiscation.

Upon receiving O'Rourke's endorsement, Biden said the former congressman would lead his administration's gun-control efforts. The Democratic frontrunner has tacked far to the left on Second Amendment issues as he consolidated support from his former rivals. In September, he told CNN he did not believe it was legal to force Americans to turn in firearms they legally owned. On Tuesday, when confronted by an autoworker about his embrace of O'Rourke's mandatory buyback proposal, Biden denied that he supported confiscation and then cursed out the man and threatened to fight him.

"You're full of s—t," Biden told the Michigan worker. "I have a shotgun, I have a 20-gauge, a 12-gauge. My sons hunt. Guess what? You're not allowed to own any weapon. I'm not taking your gun away, at all."

When the worker told Biden not to put his finger in his face, Biden said, "Don't tell me that pal or I'll have to go outside with you."

O'Rourke's embrace of confiscation came as his campaign floundered in the single digits in September. The hardline position on gun control failed to boost O'Rourke in the polls, however, and he dropped out in November. After the O'Rourke campaign ended, Dillon became a campaign adviser for Biden.

While Biden and Dillon appear to have conflicting views on confiscation, it is not clear how the difference will affect the campaign moving forward. Dr. Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, told the Washington Free Beacon that campaign managers often shift their positions in accord with their candidate's views.

"No one can say for sure but here's what I've learned from watching a thousand campaigns," he said. "The managers who survive and prosper are those who adjust their views to fit the candidate, and not the other way around."

Campaign staffers do not always adjust their own views. In June, Biden embraced taxpayer funding for abortion despite supporting the Hyde Amendment for four decades. Campaign advisers claimed credit for pulling their candidate further to the left, despite the fact that voters overwhelmingly support the ban on federal abortion funding.

Biden's campaign has cultivated an image of the candidate as a moderate in his run against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), but he has staked out radical positions on gun control despite stopping short of confiscation. He has supported a ban on future sales of so-called assault rifles and a voluntary buyback. He also called for a sales ban on all guns except theoretical "smart guns"—which are not currently available for sale anywhere in the United States—a ban on guns and magazines that hold "multiple rounds," as well as a national gun registry.

Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, said Dillon is unlikely to make Biden's gun-control positions much worse because the candidate had already moved so far to the left.

"I don't think Beto's former campaign manager can move Biden to be any more extreme on anti-gun-rights policy," he said. "Biden’s differences with Beto are so minor that they still destroy our Second Amendment Rights."

Mark Oliva, spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said Biden has already done enough to alienate gun owners with his policies and "by bringing Robert Francis O'Rourke [in] as his gun control sheriff."

"Joe Biden's antipathy toward gun rights is evident," Oliva told the Free Beacon. "Voters, and our industry, have every reason to be suspicious of Joe Biden's anti-gun platforms. He's yet to offer a single idea to hold criminals accountable, but he's adopted far-left positions on gun control."