National law enforcement organizations harshly criticized Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke's plan to send police officers to collect AR-15s and AK-47s from those who refuse to turn them in under his mandatory buyback scheme.
In interviews with the Washington Free Beacon, leaders from groups representing hundreds of thousands of law enforcement officers described Beto's gun confiscation plan as "ridiculous," "asinine," and likely unconstitutional.
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Their comments come after Beto told MSNBC on Wednesday that he would send "law enforcement to recover" firearms from those who would not comply with his buy-back plan. O'Rourke vividly described the plan at September's Democratic primary debate, declaring that "hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47."
A leader of the National Fraternal Order of Police—the nation's largest police union, representing more than 330,000 sworn law-enforcement officers—said that not only was Beto's plan unlikely to be constitutional but that Beto himself was unlikely to ever be elected.
"Mr. O'Rourke may not be aware that state and local police officers (who comprise more than 90% of all police in the U.S.) receive their orders from their local jurisdictions – not from the Federal government," Jim Pasco, executive director of the FOP, wrote in an email to the Free Beacon. "Further, any such legislation, if it passed, would no doubt be vigorously litigated with a view to its apparent inconsistency with the Second Amendment."
"In view of the foregoing, and in view of Mr. O'Rourke's current standing in the polls, we do not view this as an issue we will have to grapple within the foreseeable future," he added.
AJ Louderback, the sheriff of Jackson County, Tex., said he and many other sheriffs would not follow orders to confiscate guns en masse.
"I think he's seriously misjudging the law enforcement response to what he wants to do," Louderback told the Free Beacon. "Many sheriffs would not comply with his plan."
Louderback sits on the immigration and government affairs committees of the National Sheriffs' Association, which represents over 3,000 sheriffs across the country. He described O'Rourke's plan as unworkable and counterproductive.
"This guy's plan is ridiculous," he said. "Everyone is looking for solutions to violent crime but this isn't one of them. I'm not going to harass my citizens for owning guns."
The National Association of Police Organizations, which represents over 1,000 police organizations with more than 240,000 sworn officers, said O'Rourke's plan would violate officers' constitutional oath.
"It's ironic that Beto O'Rourke, who was slamming police as ‘the new Jim Crow' just a year ago, now finds a need for police when he wants to disarm individuals," Bill Johnson, executive director of the group, told the Free Beacon. "Maybe poor Beto should spend less time live-streaming his visits to the dentist and attend a basics civics class instead. He'd be reminded that the very first law every police officer swears to uphold is the Constitution."
Johnson was alluding to comments O'Rourke made at Prairie View A&M University in September 2018, in the middle of his failed campaign for the Senate. During a speech, O'Rourke criticized the criminal justice system and law enforcement.
"That system of suspecting somebody, solely based on the color of their skin," O'Rourke said. "Searching that person solely based on the color of their skin. Stopping that person, solely based on the color of their skin. Shooting that person, solely based on the color of their skin. Throwing the book at that person, letting them rot behind bars, solely based on the color of their skin. It is why some have called this, and I think it is an apt description, the new Jim Crow."
O'Rourke later said he "did not call police officers modern-day Jim Crow" when challenged on the comments by Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) during a debate.
It was clear from the interviews, however, that the comments soured many law enforcement officers on O'Rourke. A representative of a national law enforcement group—who asked not to be named, saying that they were not authorized to speak on behalf of their organization—told the Free Beacon that O’Rourke’s comments are hypocritical.
"I find it really telling now that someone who attacked law enforcement, even calling them Jim Crow, for his convenience is perfectly fine with sending them off into harm's way to collect AR-15s," the representative said.
The group has been involved in discussions on new gun measures the source said were designed to make it harder for criminals and the dangerously mentally ill to acquire firearms. The representative said that O'Rourke's gun confiscation proposal was a distraction.
"It's just asinine," the source said. "I get why they're doing it, but it's fantasy land. We can't even get the guys on the hill to talk about level one and he's at Defcon twelve. It's like, ‘good luck with all that.'"
The O'Rourke campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the reaction of the law enforcement groups. However, it is clear from the community's response that O'Rourke has a long way to go with the people he is counting on to collect the guns he says he wants to take from Americans.
"Hey, Beto," Johnson, the NAPO director, said, "how about supporting the men and women at our borders who are trying to disarm violent drug cartels and human traffickers in the real world, instead of fantasizing about using America's police to confiscate rifles from ranchers in Texas?"