BOULDER, Colo. -- Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) on Wednesday called for immediate action on further gun control measures, and urged GOP candidates participating in the third Republican presidential debate to follow suit and challenge the National Rifle Association.
Speaking near the debate site at the University of Colorado-Boulder, the Democratic presidential candidate joined family members of victims of mass shootings, including those impacted by the nearby Aurora and Columbine tragedies, and pressed his case.
"In these beautiful mountains of Colorado, I am in search of a very elusive being. And that is a Republican candidate with the backbone to take on the NRA," O'Malley said of the powerful gun lobby, before a crowd of students.
O'Malley touted his work to advance gun control measures in Maryland in the wake of the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut, shooting massacre. On Wednesday, he also called on Congress to institute universal background checks, ban the sale of combat assault weapons like the AR-15 rifle and repeal immunity for gun manufacturers who sell weapons to criminals.
The governor, who continues to trail his fellow challengers in the race for the Democratic nomination, mocked former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for engaging in personal attacks and "shouting about who's sexist and who's not" despite the urgent need for action on gun control. To underscore his point, O'Malley spoke using a lectern affixed with an NRA magazine cover that featured his likeness.
Lonnie and Sandy Phillips, who lost their daughter in the Aurora, Colorado, tragedy, said they were supporting O'Malley because of his leadership on the issue.
"Martin O'Malley is about action, not just words," Sandy Phillips said.
Recounting the heartbreaking story of his daughter's death, Lonnie Phillips criticized former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) for saying "stuff happens" in the wake of the most recent school shooting at Oregon's Umpqua Community College.
CORRECTION: This article previously referred to Martin O’Malley as the governor of Maryland; he is the former governor.