Very Telling Article.
Democratic presidential candidate former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke answers a question Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by ABC at Texas Southern University in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Beto O’Rourke may not be running for statewide office anymore, but it’s been difficult to tell in recent days.
The Democratic presidential candidate’s aggressive push for mandatory buybacks for assault weapons has upended the gun debate nationwide, but perhaps nowhere more dramatically than in Texas, where both parties are grappling with internal divisions of varying degrees as they react to recent mass shootings in El Paso and Odessa. For Republicans, O’Rourke has proven a unifying foil as they fracture over whether to expand background checks. For Democrats, his proposal represents something of a new litmus test that is already reverberating down ballot.
The turmoil intensified Tuesday as two top Texas Republicans, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, went to new lengths to blast O’Rourke over the idea even as the intra-GOP split over background checks became more pronounced than ever.
“He’s a gun confiscator — he’s done in our state,” Patrick said in a lengthy statement tearing into O’Rourke that he volunteered hours after clashing with longtime conservative ally Michael Quinn Sullivan over background checks.
Cornyn, meanwhile, told reporters that O’Rourke “has thrown gasoline on this discussion [to address gun violence], which had been proceeding along a pretty calm, logical and rational path” in Congress. “Unfortunately I think he set back the debate a lot — maybe by not just years but decades,” Cornyn added.
The political fracas has its roots in two pivotal moments since the El Paso shooting: Patrick coming out in support of extending background checks to gun sales between strangers, drawing the wrath of the National Rifle Association and other once-stalwart supporters; and O’Rourke backing mandatory buybacks of assault weapons, staking out arguably the furthest-left position on guns in the presidential primary. O’Rourke amplified that position to its widest audience yet Thursday when he vowed at the third primary debate in Houston that “hell, yes,” he wants to take away people’s AR-15s and AK-47s.
O’Rourke did not have a response to the fresh attacks Tuesday but he has vigorously defended mandatory buybacks since the debate, saying the issue transcends politics and that the El Paso massacre convinced him it is not enough to just support an assault weapons ban. And his campaign has pointed to polling that shows the idea is not as unpopular as critics make it out to be, registering 52% support among Americans in an ABC News/Washington Post poll released last week. […]
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