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‘Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15,’ Beto O’Rourke says at presidential debate

Former U.S. Congressman Beto O'Rourke speaking with attendees at the 2019 National Forum on Wages and Working People hosted by the Center for the American Progress Action Fund and the SEIU at the Enclave in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
September 13, 2019

On Thursday night’s Democratic presidential candidate debate, the question of gun confiscation earned a distinct “hell yes” answer from Robert ‘Beto’ O’Rourke.

O’Rourke focused several of his minutes at the 3rd Democratic Debate on the topic of gun control, which he concluded with the statement on confiscation, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.”

Earlier as candidates offered their opening statements, O’Rourke began the debate by talking about a shooting attack in El Paso which happened at the beginning of August, saying the first thing that became clear to him was the “cost and the consequence” of President Donald Trump.

“A racism and violence that had long been a part of America was welcomed out into the open and directed to my hometown of El Paso, Texas, where 22 people were killed, dozens more grievously injured by a man carrying a weapon he should never have been able to buy in the first place, inspired to kill by our president,” O’Rourke said.

The debate featured O’Rourke alongside fellow candidates Andrew Yang, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Julian Castro and Amy Klobuchar. It was hosted by ABC News and moderated by Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, “World News Tonight” Anchor and Managing Editor David Muir, ABC News Correspondent Linsey Davis and Univision Anchor Jorge Ramos.

Later in the night, during a question segment about gun control policies, Muir noted the support various Democratic candidates have given to a “voluntary buy-back” program for guns, and raised the question of O’Rourke’s own insistence on a further step in mandating the owners of certain guns sell them back to the government.

“You know that critics call this confiscation. Are you proposing taking away their guns?” Muir asked.

“I am, if it’s a weapon that was designed to kill people on a battlefield,” Beto 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 would bleed to death on a battlefield.”

O’Rourke, a former El Paso congressman, was closer to home at the Houston debate, and he recalled speaking to the mother of a victim from another shooting spree in Midland and Odessa at the end of August.

O’Rourke then claimed common ground with “those who were selling AR-15s and AK-47s” at a gun show he visited in Conway, Ark.

His current stance on confiscation for AR-15s appear to run counter to comments he made during his 2018 senate campaign in Texas, in which he came out in favor of letting owners keep those firearms. Daily Wire reporter Ryan Saavedra shared a tweet featuring a clip of O’Rourke’s appearance on the Chad Hasty Show, where he said, “if you purchased that AR-15, if you own it, keep it, continue to use it responsibly.”

At Thursday’s debate, other candidates borrowed from the shooting in O’Rourke’s hometown to explain their own gun control proposals.

“Everyone up here favors an assault weapon ban. Everyone up here favors magazine limitations,” Klobuchar said in her response to the gun control question.

She suggested a magazine capacity limit would have slowed a shooter like the one in Dayton, Ohio who was able to kill people in 30 seconds while police were able to respond a minute after the shooting began.

Klobuchar then called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to pass bills including an expansion on background checks and her own bill “to make sure that domestic abusers don’t get AK-47s.”

Later, Booker proposed “licensing” for gun owners and thanked O’Rourke for supporting his licensing proposal.

Warren called for an end to the Senate filibuster to allow gun legislation through the Senate quicker.

Sanders did not seem to propose any new policy, but did say President Donald Trump is intimidated by the National Rifle Association and touted his “F” rating with the gun-rights group.

Earlier on before O’Rourke’s turn on the gun control question, Biden said he was the only Democratic candidate on the stage “that’s ever beat the NRA.”

Among her comments on gun control measures, Harris said she would make an executive order on guns within her first 100 days as president, if elected. She fought off pushback from Biden, who said an executive order on guns would not work.

“Joe, instead of saying, no, we can’t, let’s say yes, we can,” Harris said.

Harris also proposed an import ban on AR-15s. The AR-15 design she described is also manufactured by numerous American companies.