WASHINGTON — Beto O’Rourke did something new for a major Democratic presidential candidate at Thursday night’s debate when he said that he’d take “weapons of war” and certain guns away from law-abiding Americans.
“Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We’re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore,” said O’Rourke, a former congressman from El Paso, Texas, who has re-created his presidential campaign around the issue of gun control after a mass shooting last month in his hometown.
“If the high-impact, high-velocity round, when it hits your body, shreds everything inside of your body because it was designed to do that so that you would bleed to death on a battlefield … when we see that being used against children,” O’Rourke said. He recalled talking to a woman in Odessa, Texas, who had watched her 15-year-old daughter bleed to death after she was shot by a man wielding an AR-15 late last month.
O’Rourke’s comments come in the wake of a string of mass shootings in the United States, including in his hometown of El Paso, where 22 people were gunned down at a Walmart in August. O’Rourke unveiled a proposal weeks after that shooting calling for a national gun registry, a nationwide gun licensing system and the mandatory buyback of assault-style rifles as part of his plan to curb gun violence and the rise of white nationalism.
Hell yeah, we're going to take your AR-15. If it's a weapon that was designed to kill people on the battlefield, we're going to buy it back. pic.twitter.com/cCEWkG6y0X
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) September 13, 2019
He received praise from his fellow Democratic contenders on Thursday night for his actions following the shooting in El Paso.
“The way he handled what happened in his hometown — to look in the eyes,” former Vice President Joe Biden said.
Fellow Texan Julián Castro praised O’Rourke for “how well he has spoken to the passion and the frustration and the sadness” after the shooting.
“And Beto, God love you for standing in the middle of that tragedy,” said Sen. Kamala Harris of California.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said, “I so appreciate what the congressman’s been doing.”
Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey needled O’Rourke later, saying he was sorry it had taken the El Paso shooting for O’Rourke to embrace the position Booker already held, backing a mandatory buyback and national registration.
O’Rourke’s support for gun licensing is a reversal from May, when he was asked about a similar proposal from Booker and said it “may be too far.”