Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) joined some of his fellow Democratic presidential candidates on Friday in unveiling a plan to combat gun violence and white nationalism just weeks after his hometown of El Paso experienced a horrific mass shooting.
O’Rourke’s plan calls for “connecting the dots” between President Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric and policies; online radicalization and propaganda; and how that rhetoric and radicalization manifest into real acts of violence against marginalized groups, including Black, Latinx and LGBTQ communities.
“The terrorist attack on El Paso, fueled by the racist rhetoric of Donald Trump, was not only an attack on America, but an attack on the aspirational ideals of this nation,” the former congressman, whose district included El Paso, said in a statement. “Congress’ failure to act has resulted in a democracy that is unwilling to confront an epidemic of gun violence.
“It’s time for those in a position of public trust to stand up, tell the truth and offer bold solutions without fear of political ramifications so we can finally start making progress and saving lives,” he said.
O’Rourke’s plan includes calling for social media platforms to be held accountable for hate speech that’s perpetuated on their sites. The 2020 Democrat proposes doing that by amending Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to remove legal immunity from lawsuits for large social media companies that don’t create systems to ban hateful discourse.
He proposed working with Congress as president to ban the manufacture, sale and possession of military-style assault rifles, while calling for a mandatory buyback program for assault rifles and a voluntary buyback for handguns. O’Rourke also said he’d establish a federal red-flag law to keep firearms away from people considered a threat to themselves or others, a policy that’s been put into the spotlight after a string of mass shootings in a short span of time.
Some of the candidate’s proposals align with his fellow presidential contenders’ plans to combat hate crime, such as creating federal offices specifically to target white supremacy and domestic terrorism, creating a nationwide gun licensing and registry system, and requiring universal gun background checks. Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.) and Kamala Harris (Calif.) have proposed similar fixes in their policy proposals.
O’Rourke temporarily stepped off the campaign trail to go home earlier this month after a white supremacist opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, a city on the U.S.-Mexico border with a significant Latino population. During that time, the former congressman ripped into Trump, calling him a white supremacist and linking him to the shooting. Police said the alleged shooter admitted to targeting people of Mexican descent and reportedly wrote a white supremacist screed ahead of the attack that echoed several phrases used by the president.
After O’Rourke’s return to El Paso, the Democrat faced mounting calls to come back on a longer-term basis. The Houston Chronicle’s editorial board called on him to pull out of the presidential race and instead run for Republican Sen. John Cornyn’s seat in 2020, saying, “Texas needs you.”
But the candidate said Thursday that he plans to push forward on the presidential trail because a Senate run “would not be good enough for El Paso and it would not be good enough for this country.”
“We must take the fight directly to the source,” he tweeted from his speech in El Paso. “To the person that has caused this pain and peril: Donald Trump.”