On Aug. 3, my hometown of El Paso, Texas — one of the safest cities in America — was attacked in one of the deadliest mass shootings in our country’s modern history. This was an act of white nationalist terror, and one we could have prevented.
All countries have video games. All countries struggle with mental health. All countries deal with hatred. But only America has more guns than human beings — 390 million firearms in a country of 329 million people — which kill nearly 40,000 people every year.
Some of the nurses, surgeons and doctors heroically treating victims at Del Sol and University Medical Center in El Paso told me they hadn’t seen such horrific wounds since they were deployed abroad in our armed forces, saving the lives of soldiers on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq.
When the killer’s mother heard he had ordered an “AK”-type firearm, she wondered why her son, who was not enlisted in the military, needed a weapon like that. She was asking on behalf of herself, on behalf of her son, and on behalf of our country.
That’s why, as president, I would institute a mandatory buyback of every assault weapon in America.
Some believe that our country is too divided to bring about this kind of change, and in a country where politicians are beholden to the National Rifle Association, I can understand their skepticism. But I also believe that — following the lead of the moms demanding action and the students marching for their lives and for all of ours — we can end this epidemic.
Because all of us, Democrats and Republicans, gun owners and nonowners alike, share a desire to live in safer communities.
In El Paso, Jessica Garcia, whose husband was shot with the same kind of AK-47 that she herself owns, told me she would give up that weapon.
At a gun show in Arkansas, a seller told me we need better background checks. An owner of an AK-47 told me he’d do anything to keep his kids safe. And a Trump supporter told me he’s open to buybacks.
On this issue, Americans are more connected than we might imagine. We need to stop making assumptions and writing one another off, because only by coming together and finding common ground can we finally meet this moment, and start saving lives.
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas is seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Beto O’Rourke: As president, I’d institute a mandatory weapons buyback