Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke said on Sunday that he wants to protect Second Amendment rights, but that automatic and semiautomatic firearms, as well as laws like permitless carry, prevent responsible gun ownership.
The former Democratic presidential and senatorial candidate told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” that Texas has a “long, proud tradition of responsible gun ownership.” But Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s support of civilians owning military-style weapons, now without training and background checks, has threatened that tradition, he said.
“Most of us here in Texas … do not want to see our friends, our family members, our neighbors shot up with these weapons of war,” he said. “So yes, I still hold this view.”
O’Rourke was responding to a question Bash posed about whether he maintains a position he shared in 2019 while expressing support for mandatory buybacks for semiautomatic weapons. He said: “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.”
AR-15s and AK-47s are semiautomatic rifles designed to kill quickly and in large numbers; the AR-15 has been used in most of the deadliest shootings in the past decade. Both are available in the U.S. and there are no federal restrictions on owning them.
“That AR-15, that AK-47 has one, single solitary purpose, and that is killing people as effectively, as efficiently, in as great a number, in as little time as possible. We saw that in Kenosha. We saw that in El Paso, Texas, where 23 people were murdered by someone with an AK-47 just in a matter of minutes,” O’Rourke said. “This is crazy. And we should not come to expect this as a matter of course in America.”
O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman, is the newest candidate in the state’s 2022 gubernatorial race. Democrats have poured millions of dollars into Texas in recent years, but Republicans have maintained their dominance. Abbott, who is seeking a third term, has emerged as a national figure with his aggressive push for hard-right policies ― including on issues like abortion, voting rights, vaccines, bail reform and gun ownership.
On Sunday, O’Rourke brought up a bill Abbott signed into law this past summer that effectively allows any civilian to carry a loaded handgun in public without obtaining a license, completing training or undergoing a background check. The law basically eliminates the last remaining rules for adults possessing a gun in public.
Texas has had at least 52 mass shootings so far this year, leaving 59 people dead and 213 injured, according to records kept by the nonprofit group Gun Violence Archive. At the time Abbott passed the relaxed gun law, Texas had at least 22 mass shootings with 23 dead.
“I have also been listening to my fellow Texans who are concerned about this idea of permitless carry that Greg Abbott has signed into law, which allows any Texan to carry a loaded firearm, despite the pleadings of police chiefs and law enforcement from across the state, who said it would make their jobs more dangerous and make it harder for them to protect those that they were sworn to serve in their communities,” O’Rourke said.
“So, we don’t want extremism in our gun laws. We want to protect the Second Amendment. We want to protect the lives of our fellow Texans,” he said. “And I know that, when we come together and stop this divisive extremism that we see from Greg Abbott right now, we’re going to be able to do that.”