“Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” O’Rourke said in a standout moment at the ABC News Democratic presidential debate Thursday. His comment frustrated some lawmakers on Capitol Hill who are trying to find a way forward on gun legislation that Republicans and Democrats can agree on.
Buttigieg said Sunday he agrees with those who say O’Rourke’s comment plays into the hands of Republicans. The South Bend, Indiana, mayor argued now is a “golden moment” to pass gun legislation, telling CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” that the majority of Americans support so-called red flag laws, banning high-capacity magazines and prohibiting the sale of assault weapons.
“When even this President and even (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell are at least pretending to be open to reforms, we know that we have a moment on our hands,” Buttigieg said. “Let’s make the most of it and get these things done.”
O’Rourke fired back at Buttigieg on Twitter and wrote, “Leaving millions of weapons of war on the streets because Trump and McConnell are ‘at least pretending to be open to reforms’?”
“That calculation and fear is what got us here in the first place,” he continued. “Let’s have the courage to say what we believe and fight for it.”
O’Rourke is one of three Democrats, along with Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey, to support mandatory buybacks for certain guns. Other Democrats, including Buttigieg, would make them illegal but not require them to be bought back by the government.
The former Texas congressman received praise from fellow Democratic contenders during Thursday’s debate for his actions following the mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, where 22 people were gunned down at a Walmart in August. His campaign heightened its focus on firearms in America in the wake of the shooting.
But his blunt “Hell, yes,” comment had some lawmakers, like Delaware Democrat and Sen. Chris Coons, arguing O’Rourke’s comment feeds into a long-propagated conservative talking point that making any changes on gun laws, however minor, could lead to Democrats eventually forcing people to give up their guns.
“I frankly think that that clip will be played for years at Second Amendment rallies with organizations that try to scare people by saying Democrats are coming for your guns,” Coons told CNN Friday morning.
O’Rourke defended his comment in an interview with CNN Friday, insisting it would not hurt the Democratic Party.
“It’s not a concern of mine and that’s in part informed by listening to people in conservative parts of America,” O’Rourke said. “And folks are saying, ‘Look, I would give up that AR-15 or that AK-47. I don’t need it to hunt, don’t need it to defend myself in my home.’ They recognize this is a weapon designed for war, to kill people as effectively, as efficiently, and in a great a number as possible.”
CNN’s Lauren Fox contributed to this report.