An Open Letter to Beto


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  1. #1

    An Open Letter to Beto

    Hi Beto. It’s me. You don’t know me personally. But you probably think you know me, and folks like me. I’m one of those “bitter clingers” that Obama bemoaned. Or, in more modern parlance, I’m one of Hillary’s “deplorables”. I believe there are unique American values worth protecting. I teach my kids to be reverent, and to be kind to their fellow man. I respect authority, but always question my leaders.

    And yes. I own a gun… quite a few of them. Including ones you want to take.

    So since you are asking to lead America, including men such as myself, I have a few questions. And some suggestions. I’m not pre-judging you, like many in your place have done to me. I believe your sincerity, your passion, and your desire to serve. Leadership isn’t for everyone, and if you look in your heart and find you’re not up to it, it’s honorable to step back and let others lead.

    But if you want to lead our great Nation, you will be leading all of us, including those that you may strongly disagree with. And some you dislike. I can accept that. What I cannot accept is inherently flawed policy and simply bad ideas. You don’t need me to spell this out for you. Perhaps you thought that you could pander to your base during the primary, or unify a majority of Americans against a minority group. Regardless, you need to understand why you are wrong.

    The first and most obvious question is: How did you expect this gun confiscation to work? I don’t mean to be unkind, but did you think this out? At all? The numbers are readily available. There are approximately 15 million AR style self loading rifles in the US. Throw in the AK variants, that’s easily over 20 million weapons.

    It’s time to look at logistics and administration for your task. To accomplish this effectively, you will need a national gun registry. Otherwise, how will you know how many weapons you took, and how many are left? This initial task will have to be voluntary on the part of the citizenry. Or, you will need to forcibly search 100 million households to inventory these offensive weapons (more on that later). But let’s just stipulate that somehow you get a somewhat accurate list of every modern sporting rifle in America.

    You’ll need a massive bureaucracy to compile, maintain, administer and distribute this database. If you plan on any attempt at maintaining citizen’s privacy, there’s another layer of difficulty. Ahead of time, you will need to coordinate storage, inventory, destruction and disposition of all these MSR (modern sporting rifles). The cost and complexity of this step alone will be staggering. At this point, maybe you could think of how to spend that money better? On education, or care for the mentally ill? In just the run-up to your confiscation, you’d already have an new organization with the responsiveness and efficiency of the TSA.

    Here is where you probably offer “the carrot”, right? Using more tax-payer money, you try to bribe gun owners into accepting a “buy back” for their weapons (ironically named, because the government never owned any of them). You already know the path this follows. Revisit Prohibition, The War on Drugs or any vice enforcement. We Americans value our freedom, and whatever price you offer will probably not be enough.

    You recently referenced Australia as a successful model for gun confiscation. However, you neglected to mention New Zealand’s efforts, and lack of meaningful results. The current Associated Press numbers are highly inflated, supplied by the NZ government, designed to make a failed program look marginally better. They estimate that 15,000 weapons have been turned-in, or about 10% of the total “banned” weapons. After months in effect, there is no reason to expect this number to rise significantly, as those pre-disposed to part with their property already have done so.

    Ten percent isn’t bad, I suppose. But in reality, the number of supposedly “dangerous weapons” turned in is probably significantly lower. In other “buy backs”, some weapons turned in were non-functioning junk, proffered simply for monetary gain. Others weren’t even weapons at all. In San Francisco recently, a buy back yielded a lead pipe zipped-tied to a board. This was accepted as a gun for turn-in purposes. Many that recived cash or it's equivlent simply used those assets to buy more, better guns.

    You see, Robert Francis (if I may address you by your birth name), there is an inherent bias in any so-called gun buyback scheme. There’s always an incentive to inflate the numbers, and no incentive to correctly report that it is ineffective.
    But, you already know this. That’s why you boldly stated that you would impose “fines” on anyone not complying with your voluntary confiscation protocols. I have to admit, your honesty in this respect is refreshing. But then again, you are incorrect to think this would further compel gun owners. That gun owner registry you compiled earlier would come into question. More accurately, legal scrutiny. You will be accusing millions of Americans of being in violation of an ex-post facto law. The courts have consistently viewed that trying someone for a status crime “after the fact” is unconstitutional. And that list? Every single citizen you drag to court will claim that they no longer possess the contraband weapons. The burden of proof is still on the state, last time I checked.

    I once owned a 1964 Mercury Monterey. It was deadly as hell, and would crush you in a heartbeat. I have no idea where it is now. Now, get to work tracking that down. Shouldn’t be too hard, it’s 20 feet long and seafoam blue. Now try that with something 30” long, with uncooperative people. Do that 10 million times.

    Do you know what most gun owners will be doing at this time? Yep. Hiding their MSR’s. These rifles are modular, with each half measuring two feet or less. I used to work in corrections, and I know how a motivated individual can hide just about anything if they try hard enough. And your “fines” will be the catalyst. MSR’s will be hidden for pride, and profit. You just made them a valuable commodity. Any future hope of cooperation will be up in smoke.
    You know what else will be gone? Most respect for the US government. After all citizens see how badly this fiasco is going, they will laugh, sneer and see your administration as the most incompetent in modern history (and that’s a high bar to cross!) Even with a complicit media, people will see the resources being wasted on this well-meaning, but foolish crusade.

    If you are a man of your word, will you be willing to take the next step? The active searching and seizure of privately held weapons will be messy, expensive and violent. I’m not wishing this, or threatening anyone. I’m just stating facts. Before we even start, do you think it will be worth it?

    Your two main options will be to divert existing Law Enforcement (LE) resources to this task, or hire more cops. The results of option one are obvious. With less police on the street enforcing existing law (including protecting citizens), crime will skyrocket. Option two will result in “watering down” an already thinly stretched police force with marginal candidates that otherwise wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) be hired. Most LE agencies in America can’t currently fill the open positions they have. How do you find all these new enforcement officers?
    There’s always the military. Except for that pesky Posse Comitatus thing. Turning the US into a police state to fulfill your promise might just be jumping the shark. And as cool as you are, you’re not Fonzi.

    We’re really stretching here, but maybe somehow you get this infrastructure, manpower, courts, and all the ancillary things needed for a mass confiscation in place. You do realize such actions will tear our nation apart? Will this be like 1930’s Germany where children will be encouraged to turn their parents in? The sheer volume will mean “accidents” will happen. You’ll need to raid hundreds of homes per month, minimum. And there will be the old veteran, and the occasional paranoid kook, that will rather die than submit. Are you willing to go Full Stalin, and crack those eggs to make the omelet?

    And every time a citizen is shot by a government agent, dissent will grow. Again, not a threat, a fact. Even those you tasked to enforce the law will become jaded and sick, and start calling-out. Shooting and beating old men and single moms will not go unnoticed. A complacent and compliant media can’t cover that up for too long. Within a few weeks, this will turn from a police action to an insurgency.

    People that are colloquially referred to as “gun grabbers” like to compare apples to oranges. In this case, Americans to any other country. US Citizens will not part with something that they see as a talisman representing their freedom. The harder you grab at them, the tighter the citizen’s grip becomes. We are not Norwegians, or Canadians, or Australians. Nothing wrong with those countries… full love to ya. We are Americans. We are different.

    How this would end is hard to say. But I can say with certainty that not only will you not confiscate all MSRs, you might not even get a majority. Americans are resourceful, tenacious and chafe at authoritarianism. Give them a reason to rebel, and they will. A virtual underground will form to facilitate the manufacture, distribution and maintenance of so called “assault rifles”. Lower receivers for a MSR can be formed from a block of aluminum, or polymer. This is currently done regularly by “home building” enthusiasts. Will you regulate 3D printers? Polymer? Blocks of metal? Machine tools? How far down the rabbit-hole are you willing to go to force compliance?

    Robert Francis, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that you’re smarter than this. Somewhere between a buyback scheme and assembling troops to kick down doors, this thing dies on the vine. If you can get a law like this through congress (BIG IF), it will simply turn millions on law abiding citizens into felons. There isn’t the political will for a forceful, violent confiscation of anyone’s weapons.

    The likely result in this scenario is organized crime growing stronger. Extortion, bribery and smuggling will explode. People will get rich, but not necessarily the kind of folks you want to gain power. Regularly, a neighbor will rat-off the old man next door, a stand-off will ensue, and someone will get hurt. Over and over.

    I could go into many other messy details on why your idea is very, very bad. Trying to make people feel safer while making the country more dangerous is a bad exchange. But just think about what I’ve written so far and ask yourself: Is it worth it? Is there any way in Hell you could make this work? Honestly?
    You’re a smart guy. I think you already know the answers.

    "Now let's all agree, never to be creative again."




  2. #2
    Well written. It is a big stretch to think this brain dead liberal is capable of rational thought. You base the premise of this piece as if you were talking to a rational person, not some progressive socialist, bent on taking away all personal rights and freedom. The brain dead on the left do not understand nor study history. They do not use logic nor common sense, to support their ideas, only emotion. You should have used the logical approach, he is an evil man wishing to follow in the foot steps of those that have taken this path before. It has led to millions of deaths and untold destruction, it is called socialism and communism, or those foolish enough to give up personal freedom to any government.. You are far to nice to a mind set that has killed so many, taken the wealth of others and destroyed nations.

    A little less PC and a little more honestly would make this a better piece.
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  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Winston View Post
    Hi Beto. It’s me. You don’t know me personally. But you probably think you know me, and folks like me. I’m one of those “bitter clingers” that Obama bemoaned.
    ---SNIP---

    This is a very emotive piece of writing and I think you have laid it out quite well. I like the way you discussed common ground before moving on to the differences between your views and Betos. Actually, it might be better to move that common ground to the very beginning in order to hook the intended reader(s) who may disagree with your views about owning guns. Perhaps the parts about " I teach my kids to be reverent, and to be kind to their fellow man. I respect authority, but always question my leaders." and " I believe your sincerity, your passion, and your desire to serve. Leadership isn’t for everyone, and if you look in your heart and find you’re not up to it, it’s honorable to step back and let others lead." could be re-ordered to the very beginning?

    You show all kinds of reasons why gun confiscation would/could be impractical in the USA and highlight the, possibly insurmountable, difficulties. On the basis of the old cliché about catching more flies with honey than vinegar, the piece might be additionally persuasive if it leans more towards showing the benefits of non-confiscation than the negatives of confiscation: carrots often work better than sticks, even if they're sticks of dynamite.
    Although I'm from the UK so have very different views from yourself on gun ownership, I thought the piece was well written generally. However, although you were at pains to show you weren't making a threat, it could be read as if it were from someone who was making a veiled threat without being direct about it: some of the language was punchy and hard hitting, so effective.
    A pretty decent piece in my view.


  4. #4
    Hi Winston. I really like your letter. The gun control issue is not one for the faint of heart, but you state your position clearly and convincingly. It was well thought out, and your arguments are valid. What I really like about it is there were no name calling, no disrespect for another opinion. It was refreshing in that way.

    I have never owned or fired a gun. Never even held one, and I grew up in Chicago. We just weren't gun people - not hunters. I know there are many people, like yourself, who are responsible gun owners, though, who take the time to do everything right. And you are among those who feel penalized (or potentially penalized per Beto's plan) for owning the type of fire arms that are central to this argument.

    I think those who come up with unenforceable plans regarding gun control, are simply trying to come up with SOMETHING, ANYTHING that will take the fear away from their constituents. But like many things in life, some plans are just not fair.

    The second amendment gives us the right to bear arms. There's that. But it is now common knowledge that there is a sector of our population that is a hazard, when armed. How do you weed out those potentially harmful individuals, without sucking in the people, like yourself, who are responsible gun owners? If we make laws only intended for those with mental illness, or other impairments, we are accused of discrimination.

    Anyway, thanks again for sharing your letter to Beto O'Rourke. Good job and I hope you send it. Every time a mass shooting pops up on the evening news, there is talk of "gun control," that goes nowhere, because no one really has an answer on how to approach this problem.
    When the night has come
    And the land is dark
    And the moon is the only light we'll see
    I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid
    Just as long as you stand by me.


  5. #5
    Supervisor velo's Avatar
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    I can't say I've ever found the open letter to be an overly effective format but that is definitely a personal bias. I feel that it's conversational vs persuasive and often leads to a weakening of the writer's position because of the informal tone.

    You laid out the impracticalities of this idea quite well but, and I think this is often the case with this format, the impact was derailed by moving into speculation abut how society would react and other predictions. Anyone can write those ideas off as fantasy whereas had you stayed with the concrete challenges of total gun confiscation that is a very valid talking point.

    I'd have avoided the Stalin reference as well. Mentions of the various asshat dictators from WWII in a piece like this, no matter how tangential, will elicit eye rolls from many and they will stop listening.

    Otherwise a solid piece. Thanks for posting.
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  6. #6
    Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    With this:

    The first and most obvious question is: How did you expect this gun confiscation to work? I don’t mean to be unkind, but did you think this out? At all? The numbers are readily available. There are approximately 15 million AR style self loading rifles in the US. Throw in the AK variants, that’s easily over 20 million weapons.
    I never quite understand the logistics and confiscation argument. I mean, I understand it, but I'm never sure why people make it. Are they agreeing but just saying it's difficult to put into practise? It's like the main point is conceded and now everyone wants to talk details (which I completely get).


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  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by bdcharles View Post
    I never quite understand the logistics and confiscation argument. I mean, I understand it, but I'm never sure why people make it. Are they agreeing but just saying it's difficult to put into practise? It's like the main point is conceded and now everyone wants to talk details (which I completely get).
    I think the word you intended here was impossible. As in 100% fantasy, unattainable, infeasible, nonsense foisted on narrow-minded zealots that don't understand math, physics, economics or human nature.
    I loved the old "X Files" TV series from the 1990s. Do you remember Mulder's poster? "I Want To Believe."
    They want to believe.

    "Now let's all agree, never to be creative again."




  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Winston View Post
    I think the word you intended here was impossible. As in 100% fantasy, unattainable, infeasible, nonsense foisted on narrow-minded zealots that don't understand math, physics, economics or human nature.
    I loved the old "X Files" TV series from the 1990s. Do you remember Mulder's poster? "I Want To Believe."
    They want to believe.
    It's empirically false to claim it is impossible, because most countries (both free and not) have confiscated firearms, to varying degrees of success - New Zealand might not have done a very good job but plenty do. So, asserting something as impossible you have already accepted has occurred is contradictory. Yes it's probably very difficult, especially in a country where the issue is so politicized, but so was ending the equally politicized issues of segregation and marijuana-legalization and both of those things have happened. Reasonable people can disagree on that, of course. The only reason that distinction matters here, why I am mentioning it, is because it is language choice like that which tends to spoil the argument by reducing it to a level of hyperbole - why is it necessary to call something impossible hen there's no evidence to say it is?. And that is why I am mentioning it upfront.

    Anyway, the piece itself is written OK. Could probably fit on the pages of The Daily Caller or something, I dunno. I don't have a clear opinion on the gun issue. Actually, I do...but not one I'd be willing to share.

    What I do have is an opinion on so-called 'open letters'.

    Open letters, in my opinion, are intrinsically disingenuous. They are disingenuous because they typically aren't letters written for the person in question (or their supporters) to actually read, much less listen to. They're usually the literary equivalent of a protester with a placard.

    The reason they persist with such frequency, I believe, is to create a veil of empathy/respectability. It's about creating a front of affectation, of 'from me, a person, to you, a person'. this is then used as a shield behind which to launch character critiques/attacks of one kind of another. Usually in a rather subtle, yet no less frosty form. That seems to me the case with this one.

    Why? Well, let's take the first paragraph...

    Hi Beto. It’s me. You don’t know me personally. But you probably think you know me, and folks like me. I’m one of those “bitter clingers” that Obama bemoaned. Or, in more modern parlance, I’m one of Hillary’s “deplorables”. I believe there are unique American values worth protecting. I teach my kids to be reverent, and to be kind to their fellow man. I respect authority, but always question my leaders.


    "You probably think you know me, and folks like me" Insinuation being "You are arrogant and detached"

    "I believe there are unique American values worth protecting" Insinuation being "You don't believe in American values, at least not to anywhere near the same level of verity that I do"

    "I teach my kids to be reverent, and to be kind to their fellow man" Insinuation being "You need to know I am a moral person upfront so you (or whoever reads this, more accurately) cannot accuse me of being unpleasant or unfair"

    And so on. There are numerous examples of this flourishing throughout the 'open letter'. It generally sabotages what is probably a very reasonable underlying argument (on the understanding we are not getting into that!) by appeal to the emotional heart of your position. That probably will sound complimentary. It's not. Emotional views are no way to address reality. All they do is create chaos.

    Consider a phrase like "We Americans value our freedom, and whatever price you offer will probably not be enough." Consider the effect of that simple, rather on-its-face neutral line. When one American says this to another American the implication is that the other person is not an American. Consider the references to 1930's Germany, which tread precariously close to Godwin's Law and at the very least imply some level of comparison to Nazism that is unfounded (FYI America's record on constitutionally enshrined human rights wasn't great in the thirties and forties either). Point being, it's written in the language of The Other. It's tribalism. People do not respond well to it, unless they are in 'the tribe'.

    Now, all this is fine IF making a political statement is your sole intention. I have no opinion on Beto O'Rourke, so if this is merely a matter of railing against his character, that is fine I suppose. But that is not what a real letter, open or otherwise, is supposed to do. A letter is supposed to talk to somebody, to build a communicative bridge, not about them in terms that will be perceived as disparaging and personal.

    The idea of it being an 'open letter to Beto', therefore, seems like a smokescreen. The dishonesty of the opening paragraphs, how they collide with the aggression of the ones that follow, leaves a bad taste, far more than the actual argument ever could. If the intention, which dominates the first three paragraphs, is that this is supposed to be an amicable, every-man type appeal, one solely concerned with 'explaining why you are wrong', then use of hyperbolic language that is non-factual and essentially from any right-wing playbook ("We are Americans. We are different.") and that, at times, dispenses with the mask of sanity entirely into something darker ("I once owned a 1964 Mercury Monterey. It was deadly as hell, and would crush you in a heartbeat." <-this makes you sound deranged) undermines it completely. It makes it sound extremely tribal. It makes it, as far as a form of reaching out and debating issues over character, utterly worthless.

    Bottom line: Asserting insidious motives does nothing to win people over, and it is for that simple reason I don't think your letter works in the format presented, at least not if you have any interest in speaking to people who don't already agree. Which, clearly, is not Beto.
    Last edited by luckyscars; October 14th, 2019 at 11:32 AM.
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  9. #9
    I just don't understand why you'd waste the effort on Beto. He is polling so close top zero that he is within the poll's margin for error.
    He lost his last election, and has no real plan in place.

    Also, Australia was able to ban weapons because they did not have a bill of rights.
    Surprisingly few western nations do.

  10. #10
    Supervisor velo's Avatar
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    NOTE: friendly reminder to keep this about writing and not about political views or policies.
    "Don't fuck with writers, we will describe you." -unknown

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