Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke on Sunday dismissed criticisms that his recent rhetoric on gun control is playing into the hands of the National Rifle Association.
During the third Democratic debate on Thursday, O’Rourke said he planned to take assault rifles from civilians as part of a nationwide buy-back program in response to the spate of mass shootings afflicting the country in recent years. The emphatic comments raised concerns among his fellow Democrats that they would offer fuel for attack ads by the NRA, feeding into the idea that Democrats were out to destroy the Second Amendment.
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Speaking with NBC’s Chuck Todd on Sunday, O’Rourke said those concerns “just show you how screwed up the priorities in Washington, D.C., are.”
“I refuse to even acknowledge the politics or the polling or the fear or the NRA,” O’Rourke said on “Meet the Press.“ “That has purchased the complicity and silence of members of Congress.”
When Todd questioned O’Rourke on his own voting record on guns while he was a Texas representative, O’Rourke rejected that he was ever one of the silent and complicit members of Congress he derided. O’Rourke said he has long advocated for banning assault rifles in Texas — a state where gun politics can draw particularly strong reactions. One Texas lawmaker, state Rep. Briscoe Cain, tweeted, “My AR is ready for you” in response to O’Rourke’s statements in Thursday’s debate.
Earlier Sunday, fellow Democratic hopeful Pete Buttigieg agreed that O’Rourke’s comments at the debate played into the NRA’s hands, adding that there is consensus in the country to making serious steps toward curbing gun violence, from banning the sale of new assault rifles to “red flag” laws and universal background checks.
“This is a golden moment to finally do something because we have been arguing about this for as long as I have been alive,” Buttigieg told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.“ “Let’s make the most of it and get these things done.”