Beto O’Rourke said he would implement a sweeping government buy-back policy for two types of assault rifles, including one commonly used in mass shootings across the US, if he were elected president in 2020.
The Texas Democrat responded to questions on the campaign trail Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia, about concerns the government would take assault weapons away from gun owners.
According to a Buzzfeed News reporter, he said: “I want to be really clear that that’s exactly what we are going to do.” The candidate later shared that quote on Twitter, adding: "We need to buy back every single assault weapon."
Mr O’Rourke, whose mandatory buyback programme is a part of his comprehensive gun control plan, has also called for a ban on assault-style guns and high capacity magazines, which he has also said would be required to be sold to the US government under his administration.
Mr O’Rourke had made gun control a central focus of his 2020 campaign after suspending it to mourn with the community in his hometown of El Paso, Texas after a gunman stormed a Walmart earlier this month, killing 22 people and injuring 24 others.
The gunman in that tragedy used an AK-47 which he said he purchased overseas.
That shooting occurred just hours before a gunman in Dayton, Ohio unloaded a pistol with 100-round drum magazines near a bar on a popular street for nightlife, killing nine people and injuring 27 more.
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The high-capacity magazine allowed the shooter to fire rapidly at his victims, which included his sister.
Mr O’Rourke has also connected the spate of shootings with an apparent rise in violent white supremacy and the leadership of Donald Trump.
“With 40,000 gun violence deaths in this country, not all of them are connected to white nationalism, white supremacy or white terrorism, but ... you do have to connect the hatred, the racism, the president's words and actions with the accessibility of those weapons that afford someone the means to conduct this kind of terror in this country,” he said in an interview with NPR earlier this week.
“If I don't connect these dots, then I am complicit in the next mass murder or the next act of domestic terror,” he added.
Mr O’Rourke’s gun policies are among the most aggressive in the pool of 2020 Democratic candidates.
Kamala Harris has also released a sweeping gun control plan that specifically targets domestic terrorism and white nationalists, while requiring near-universal background checks and banning the import of AR-15s.
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Cory Booker’s plan has also been hailed for funding gun violence research and requiring gun owners obtain licenses for their weapons.