Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke is calling for the creation of a national gun registry, a nationwide gun licensing system and the mandatory buyback of assault-style rifles as part of his plan to curb gun violence and the rise of white nationalism.
The former Texas congressman is also calling for social media giants to be held liable if they fail to take steps to prevent content that incites violence. All internet companies would be held liable if they promote such content.
The proposals come as O’Rourke returns to the campaign trail after 12 days in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, where a gunman who police say had posted a screed online that warned of a “Hispanic invasion” killed 22 people at a Walmart there.
O’Rourke has sought to reorient his bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination around confronting what he has described as President Donald Trump’s racist attacks on minority communities. He is in Mississippi on Friday, where immigration authorities recently arrested nearly 700 people.
O’Rourke’s support for gun licensing is a reversal from May, when he was asked about a similar proposal from candidate Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and said that it “may be too far.”
Now, in the wake of the El Paso shooting, he is calling for the creation of a nationwide gun licensing system, with states allowed to create their own versions or use the federal system, as well as a national registry of all guns that are purchased.
Under O’Rourke’s plan, the minimum age to buy a gun would be 21, with an exception for younger people with hunting licenses. The gun licenses would last five years, and those who receive them would be required to complete a safety training program.
All gun purchases would require a background check. Buyers would be required to add their guns to a national registry. And all handguns would be micro-stamped, a process that makes it easier for police to match bullets and cartridges to the weapons that fired them.
“Congress’ failure to act has resulted in a democracy that is unwilling to confront an epidemic of gun violence. It’s time for those in positions of public trust to stand up, tell the truth and offer bold solutions without fear of political ramifications so we can finally start making progress and saving lives,” O’Rourke said in a statement announcing the proposal.
He is also proposing the closure of loopholes, including those that allow gun purchases by domestic abusers, as well as a “red flag law” to allow police to ask courts to take guns away from what they see as dangerous individuals.
He is calling for a ban on what he calls “weapons of war” and the mandatory buyback of all assault-style weapons – the sales of which he has said he would make illegal – at what he told CNN on Thursday would be a “fair price,” as well as a voluntary buyback of handguns.
“I know that this is not politically easy,” O’Rourke told CNN when asked about the proposal. “It’s frankly why far too few people have proposed it; it’s frankly why I have not proposed it in the past. I’ve said, ‘This is something we should consider. I want to think about it. I want to talk to people about it.’ I’ve thought about it. I’ve talked to people. I’ve listened to that survivor. And now, beyond a shadow of a doubt, regardless of what it does to our prospects going forward, you’ve got to speak the truth and be clear about where the solutions are.”
O’Rourke is linking gun violence and hate speech, and is also proposing steps aimed at combating “white supremacy, racism and domestic terrorism.”
The FBI, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security would each have dedicated domestic terrorism offices, and white nationalism would be identified as a threat for which the United States would have a counterterrorism strategy.
O’Rourke is also calling for internet platforms to be required to adopt terms of service that ban hateful activities, which his campaign defined as “those that incite or engage in violence, intimidation, harassment, threats, or defamation targeting an individual or group based on their actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, immigration status, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability.”
Large internet platforms would be required to put in place systems that are intended to identify violations of those terms and to have an appeals process when they block content.
O’Rourke is proposing to remove legal immunity from large social media companies that fail to meet those requirements. And, in an effort to halt internet forums where white supremacy has flourished, such as 8chan and Stormfront, from returning, he is proposing to hold service providers liable “where they are found to knowingly promote content that incites violence.”