Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke defended his plans for gun reform Thursday against criticism from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) ― erroneously claiming Schumer has achieved no victories on that front himself.
“Ask Chuck Schumer what he’s been able to get done,” O’Rourke, a former member of the House of Representatives from Texas, told reporters. “We still don’t have background checks. Didn’t have them when he was in the majority, either. So the game that he’s played, the politics that he’s pursued, have given us absolutely nothing, and have produced a situation where we lose nearly 40,000 of our fellow Americans every year.”
Schumer has criticized O’Rourke’s hard-line support for mandatory assault weapon buybacks. Earlier this month, O’Rourke vowed on the Democratic debate stage to remove military-style weapons from the public, declaring: “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. You’re not going to be allowed to use it against your fellow Americans anymore.”
During that debate, O’Rourke pointed to last month’s mass shooting at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart, where 22 people were killed by a gunman targeting Mexicans and allegedly acting out a white supremacist manifesto.
Schumer later dismissed O’Rourke’s buyback plan during a conference call with reporters in upstate New York.
“I don’t know of any other Democrat who agrees with Beto O’Rourke, but it’s no excuse not to go forward,” he said, according to Albany’s Times Union.
However, appetite for O’Rourke’s plan appears to be bipartisan.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll of roughly 1,000 people, conducted during the first week of September, suggested that about half of U.S. adults support a mandatory buyback program. The poll found that about one-third of Republican respondents were in favor of the measure, as were most of the Democrats who took part in the survey.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he was awaiting “guidance from the White House as to what [President Donald Trump] thinks he’s comfortable signing,” The Associated Press reported. Until then, Congress is in a “holding pattern” with regard to gun reform, McConnell said.
Schumer ― who pushed for the 1993 passage of the so-called Brady Bill to require a federal background check when buying a gun from a licensed dealer ― has expressed frustration with McConnell’s inaction, as Trump has already vowed to veto a House-passed bill to bolster background checks on firearm purchases and expand them to cover private sales.