Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke called Thursday for a federal program that would confiscate assault-style weapons after a gunman with an AK-47 killed and injured dozens at a Walmart in his hometown of El Paso, Texas.
“I see more clearly than I ever have that not only do we need universal background checks, not only do we need red-flag laws that would stop somebody when they pose a danger to themselves or someone else, not only do we need to end the sale of assault weapons and weapons of war that were designed for the battlefield and have no place in our communities,” O’Rourke said during a speech in the city. “We must as a country buy those weapons, take them off the streets altogether.”
On August 3, a young gunman opened fire in an El Paso Walmart, leaving 22 dead and injuring 24 more. The suspect left behind a manifesto describing his white-supremacist ideology and later confessed to police that he had intended to kill as many Hispanic immigrants as possible.
O’Rourke blamed President Trump’s rhetoric on immigration for influencing the shooter, whose manifesto spoke of an “invasion” of immigrants, using a term Trump has employed in the past.
“To those places where Donald Trump has been terrorizing and terrifying and demeaning our fellow Americans, that’s where you will find me and this campaign,” said O’Rourke, who left the campaign trail for two weeks to be in El Paso with those who are grieving. “We have a racism in American that is as old as America itself. . . . But we have always tried, until now, to change that, until this president.”
Two other Democratic presidential candidates, Senator Cory Booker and New York mayor Bill De Blasio, have also called for the government to confiscate assault-style weapons and compensate the owners as part of a mandatory program.