Beto O'Rourke: We must get "instruments of terror" off the streets

Beto O'Rourke told "Meet the Press" on Sunday that the NRA "has purchased the complicity and silence" of Congress

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published September 15, 2019 2:00PM (EDT)

Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke speaks during a public employees union candidate forum Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher) (AP Photo/John Locher)
Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke speaks during a public employees union candidate forum Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher) (AP Photo/John Locher)

Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, a Texas Democrat who is running for president in 2020, told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that he believes assault weapons are "instruments of terror" and the government should implement a mandatory buyback policy.

"I think this just shows you how screwed up the priorities in Washington DC are," O'Rourke told NBC host Chuck Todd when presented with a quote from Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who referred to a mandatory buyback policy as "an awful and extreme idea." "I think what's truly awful is a 17-month old baby shot in the face with an AR-15, as happened in Odessa. What's truly awful is 22 people killed in a Walmart the Saturday before school starts that next Monday — buying their school supplies — innocent of any crime or any threat to this country, in fact living in one of the safest cities in America [El Paso, Texas], hunted down by their ethnicity with a weapon that was designed for use on a battlefield."

O'Rourke added, "Talking to those doctors and trauma room surgeons, who treated those victims in El Paso, they said these are wounds of war that high-impact, high-velocity round when it hit their systems, just shredded everything inside of them. I refuse to accept that and I refuse to even acknowledge the politics or the polling, or the fear or the NRA. That has purchased the complicity and silence of members of Congress, and this weak response to a real tragedy in America, 40,000 gun deaths a year, we’ve got to do something about it."

When Todd asked O'Rourke why he has evolved beyond his original call for a mere assault weapon ban, the former Texas congressman cited his experience talking with the victims of the shooting in El Paso last month.

"On Aug. 3, in El Paso, with 22 people killed and dozens more grievously injured, I could no longer accept that would be enough because there are still more than 10 million assault weapons, weapons of war, out on the street," O'Rourke told Todd, according to NBC News.

He added, "If we agree they are dangerous to sell and that we should stop selling them, then we also have to agree that these are instruments of terror that are still out there and have to be brought back home or they are going to be used against us."

Earlier this month O'Rourke established himself as one of the most outspoken Democratic presidential candidates when it comes to the issue of gun control, using profanity to emphasize his points during an interview with CNN's Dana Bash.

"The rhetoric that we've used, the thoughts and prayers that you've just referred to, it has done nothing to stop the epidemic of gun violence," O'Rourke told Bash. "To protect our kids, our families, our fellow Americans in public places. At a Walmart in El Paso where 22 were killed, in Sutherland Spring in a church, one or two a day all over this country. A hundred killed daily in the United States of America. We're averaging about 300 mass shootings a year. No other country comes close."

He added, "So yes, this is f***ed up. And if we don't call it out for what it is, if we're not able to speak clearly, if we're not able to act decisively, then we will continue to have this kind of bloodshed in America. And I cannot accept that. And so we're going to speak as defiantly and as strongly as we can, but we're also going to take action."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012, was a guest on Fox Business in 2019, repeatedly warned of Trump's impending refusal to concede during the 2020 election, spoke at the Commonwealth Club of California in 2021, was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022 and appeared on NPR in 2023. His diverse interests are reflected in his interviews including: President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (1997-2001), director Jason Reitman ("The Front Runner"), inventor Ernő Rubik, comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), novelist James Patterson ("The President's Daughter"), epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, voice actor Rob Paulsen ("Animaniacs"), mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), climatologist Michael E. Mann, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (2013-present), dog cognition researcher Alexandra Horowitz, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), comedian and writer Larry Charles ("Seinfeld"), seismologist John Vidale, Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), Senator Martin Heinrich (2013-present), Egyptologist Richard Parkinson, Rep. Eric Swalwell (2013-present), Fox News host Tucker Carlson, actor R. J. Mitte ("Breaking Bad"), theoretical physicist Avi Loeb, biologist and genomics entrepreneur William Haseltine, comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2"), linguistics consultant Paul Frommer ("Avatar"), Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (2007-2015), computer engineer and Internet co-inventor Leonard Kleinrock and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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