Former Congressman Beto O’Rourke said he supported mandatory buybacks of certain weapons, including the AR-15, in a passionate response during the Democratic primary debate to recent mass shootings in Texas.
O’Rourke was asked Thursday night whether his stance on buybacks meant he was in favor of confiscating guns from their owners.
“I am, if it’s a weapon that was designed to kill people on the battlefield. If the high impact, high velocity round that — when it hits your body — shreds everyhing inside of your body because it was designed to do that so that you would bleed to death on a battlefield and not be able to get up and kill one of our soldiers, when we see that being used against children,” he said.
O’Rourke then told the story of the mother watched her teenage daugther bleed to death because there were not enough ambulances available after a gunman went on a multi-town shooting spree through Midland and Odessa, Texas, last month. The attack killed seven people and injured more than 20.
“Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47, we’re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore,” he said.
The statement quickly struck a nerve with the wider audience. O’Rourke’s staff reported they were seeing record online fund-raising numbers in the wake of his comments.
Meanwhile, a Texas state lawmaker sent a threatening tweet, which O’Rourke reposted with the message, “Clearly, you shouldn't own an AR-15—and neither should anyone else.”
Earlier in the debate, several of O’Rourke’s fellow Democratic presidential hopefuls praised him for the support he showed for residents of his hometown of El Paso following the massacre there last month that targeted Latinos.
Former Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that how the former Texas congressman ‘‘handled what happened in his hometown is meaningful,’’ a line that drew applause from the Houston crowd.
A white nationalist killed 22 people and wounded about two dozen others in the Aug. 3 mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. Following the violence, O’Rourke stepped away from the campaign trail for nearly two weeks to spend time supporting the community.
California Senator Kamala Harris also said, ‘‘Beto, God love you for standing so courageously in the face of that tragedy.’’
Watch the full exchange:
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.