Beto O’Rourke took a swipe at his fellow Democrats on Wednesday, brushing off their opposition to his recent call for the confiscation of assault-style weapons and accusing them of being “complicit” in the country’s gun violence problem.
During an appearance on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time,” the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate defended his support for a mandatory gun buyback program after host Chris Cuomo suggested it jeopardized Democrats’ efforts to strike a deal with Republicans on gun safety legislation.
“If they had made some progress, I might buy that argument,” O’Rourke fired back. “But many of those Democrats are complicit in what we see right now.”
He continued: “The Republicans are the most obstinate and the most obstructionist and the most in the pockets of the [National Rifle Association], but it’s been a bipartisan problem that the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] couldn’t even study gun violence.”
The former Texas congressman sent shockwaves through the Democratic Party last week when he said during the Democratic presidential debate in Houston that AR-15s and AK-47s ― guns often used in mass shootings ― should be confiscated.
Though Democrats have repeatedly called for more gun safety legislation, most have made clear they do not want to take away law-abiding citizens’ firearms.
Congressional Democrats distanced themselves from O’Rourke’s comments, worrying he had scrambled the party’s message on gun control as they worked to pass bipartisan gun safety legislation in the wake of two back-to-back mass shootings last month.
“Here we are in 2019 and we still don’t have universal background checks or red flag laws or we allow the assault weapons ban to expire even though it did so much good and saved so many lives,” O’Rourke said Wednesday.
“So this old policy and tactic of relying on polls and allowing the NRA to set the terms of the debate no longer works for me and no longer works for this country,” he added.
O’Rourke, who is polling at about 3% since last Thursday’s debate, suggested most Americans are in favor of a buyback program for assault-style weapons.
“The American people are there,” he said. “That urgency just needs to be reflected in their leadership and in Congress. It will be reflected when I’m in the White House.”
A recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found most Americans want Congress to pass gun restrictions, but are split on a buyback program with 45% in favor of such a measure and 46% against it.
“I don’t want you or anyone else to get into the fear-mongering that some have fallen prey to, saying that the government is going to come and take all of your guns,” O’Rourke told CNN’s Cuomo. “What we are talking about exclusively is weapons of war that have no place in our homes, no place on our streets and should remain on the battlefield.”