Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, who is running against incumbent Ted Cruz, says that he wants to restrict sales of new assault rifles but will not support policies that take guns out of the hands of Texans who already own them.
O’Rourke has staked out his position in campaign events around Texas, in media interviews, on social media, as well as on his official campaign website, differentiating himself from the Republican candidate, Cruz, who opposed an assault rifle ban during his time in the U.S. Senate.
In a recent interview with actor Ethan Hawke, who guest edited the August 17 edition of The Austin Chronicle, O’Rourke described an encounter with a gun owner in San Antonio who had turned out to protest his campaign. “In San Antonio, there were some folks who were kind of holding a counter rally and we just invited them into our town hall, and at first some of the folks at our town hall were kind of booing them and we said, ‘Hey, no, no, no. Let’s have a conversation.’”
O’Rourke continued, “And this one guy who had come to oppose me said, ‘I’m here because you’re trying to take my guns away.’ And I said, ‘I’m not. I want universal background checks, which I think are reasonable, and on this issue of assault weapons, I don’t think we should be selling more weapons of war, that are just designed to kill people, into our community, and you think differently than I do. And that’s OK. We can agree to disagree on this one. But if you have an AR-15, keep it. I don’t want to take anyone’s guns away from them.’”
The AR-15 semi-automatic rifle is a favorite target of gun control advocates because of its role in several mass shootings, including the Parkland school shooting earlier this year, and the Las Vegas Strip shooting last year.
O’Rourke says his campaigning has won over some skeptics in Texas. “So he came up to me after the town hall and he gave me his card and said, ‘Hey, let’s keep the conversation going, because I think I’ve heard the worst about you but it sounds like you have a pretty reasonable position on this.”
The El Paso Democrat, who is vacating his U.S. House seat to campaign for Senate, outlines other aspects of his gun control position on his official campaign page. On background checks, he supports closing loopholes including gun sales, online sales, and the so-called ‘boyfriend loophole.’
He also wants to lift a federal ban on federal funding of medical research on gun violence.
And he says that Texas should not necessarily recognize Concealed Carry permits from other states because their public safety requirements may be weaker than those of Texas. This is known as ‘Concealed Carry Reciprocity,’ and O’Rourke says that it is eroding Texas’ license to carry standards.
For his part, Cruz, who is seeking a second term, opposed legislation in the U.S. Senate that would have restricted AR-15 sales. He led the fight in the Senate against an assault weapons ban in 2012 after a massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
“It’s tiresome,” he said earlier this year at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). “Every time you see a horrific crime, people in the media and Democratic politicians immediately try to leap on it to advance their agenda. And their agenda is stripping the rights away from law-abiding citizens.”
The Texas GOP is rallying to Cruz’s defense, calling O’Rourke a “leftist” who wants to impeach President Trump.
GOP Data Director Spencer Davis sent out a missive to party supporters Saturday saying, “Leftists like O’Rourke have made their intentions clear: they want to impeach President Trump and remove him from office. If the Democrats take the U.S. House and leftists like Beto go to the U.S. Senate, you can expect their effort to begin on Day 1.”