Former El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke launched into a candid tirade against gun violence and assault weapons during Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate — and the GOP didn’t waste any time seizing on the comments as proof that Democrats want to take away Americans’ guns.
“Hell, yes,” O’Rourke said in response to a question about whether he supports a mandatory gun buyback program for assault weapons.
“I am, if it was a weapon that was designed to kill people on a battlefield,” O’Rourke said. “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 bleed to death on a battlefield.”
A shooting over Labor Day weekend in Odessa, Texas –– located in West Texas –– left seven people dead and 22 injured.
Visibly moved, O’Rourke recalled meeting the mother of a 15-year-old Odessa girl who watched her daughter “bleed to death over the course of an hour” because there weren’t enough ambulances. “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AR-47,” O’Rourke said to thunderous applause.
Republicans seized on the clip shortly after his comments, saying that it represents “the modern Democrat Party.”
Declining to call O’Rourke by his preferred nickname, the Republican National Committee’s spokesperson tweeted that O’Rourke supports “ripping up our 2nd Amendment and confiscating firearms of law-abiding Americans.”
And Charlie Kirk, founder of the right-wing organizing group Turning Point USA, tweeted on Thursday night that “Democrats aren’t hiding it anymore. They want to take your guns. This isn’t some right-wing conspiracy.”
While O’Rourke isn’t alone among Democrats in endorsing a gun buyback program –– all of the top-polling Democrats running for president support some version of it –– it is among the more aggressive proposals.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, for example, has only supported a voluntary gun buyback, in line with candidates like South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Cover: Democratic presidential candidate former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke speaks during the Democratic Presidential Debate at Texas Southern University's Health and PE Center on September 12, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)