WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke was one of the ten Democrats taking part in the debate in Houston Thursday night. He’s getting attention for his response when he was asked about a mandatory federal buyback of assault weapons. It’s something he has endorsed since a gunman opened fire at a Walmart in his native El Paso, killing 22 people, O’Rourke delivered one of the night’s few memorable lines.
“Hell yes, we’re gonna take your AR-15, your AK-47, and we’re not going to allow it to be used against your fellow Americans anymore”.
On a night that was supposed to feature sniping between White House hopefuls with better polling numbers, those rivals instead took time to praise O’Rourke.
“God love you for standing so courageously,” Sen. Kamala Harris told O’Rourke.
Joe Biden said O’Rourke’s post-shooting effort in El Paso was “meaningful”.
Even Sen. Cory Booker saluted O’Rourke while noting that, in communities of color, ordinary gun violence claims more lives than mass shootings that grab national headlines do. “We must awaken a more courageous empathy in this country,” Booker said.
In the wake of the El Paso shooting, O’Rourke has remade his presidential bid. He has focused more on the urgent need to curb gun violence. He has decried what he calls racism on President Donald Trump’s part. He is still frequently traveling to the states that kick off presidential primary voting: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. But he has also visited an Arkansas gun show and said there’s more bipartisan agreement on the need for federal firearm limits than many believe.
To be sure, praise from his presidential rivals may indicate that they no longer see O’Rourke as a serious threat.
O’Rourke burst into the race for the White House in March only to see his once promising polling and fundraising decline sharply.
His supporters had looked to the first two Democratic debates in Miami and Detroit for strong performances that could lift their candidate back among the crowded field’s top tier — but found his efforts lacking. O’Rourke didn’t schedule public events in the days leading up to the Houston debate, freeing up time to prepare.
To start the debate, O’Rourke said the gunman who drove 600-plus miles to El Paso, on the Texas-Mexico border, after posting an anti-immigrant screed online was “inspired to kill by our president.”
Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign, responded on Twitter that O’Rourke is “as desperate as he can be.” The shooter had insisted his opinions “predate Trump and his campaign for president.”
After the debate, O’Rourke’s campaign sent out a fundraising tweet featuring an image of a military-style rifle over the caption, “Beto has a ban for that.”