The line from the Democratic presidential debate in Houston, Texas on Thursday night that arguably drew the most enthusiastic response of the evening was former Rep. Beto O'Rourke's (D-TX) emphatic declaration that they were going to take Americans' "battlefield" guns. By the next morning, the O'Rourke campaign was already promoting a brand new campaign shirt warning viewers: "Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15."
Asked by ABC News host David Muir at the debate Thursday if he is serious about his calls to confiscate Americans' "weapons of war" — specifically AR-15s and AK-47s — O'Rourke said, "Hell yes."
"I am, if it is a weapon that was designed to kill people on a battlefield," said O'Rourke. "If the high impact high velocity round, when it hits your body, shreds everything inside of your body because it was designed to do that so that you would bleed to death on a battlefield and not be able to get up and kill one of our soldiers. When we see that being used against children and in Odessa. I met the mother of a 15-year-old girl who was shot by an AR-15. And that mother watched her bleed to death over the course of an hour because so many other people were shot by that AR-15 in Odessa and Midland [that] there weren't enough ambulances to get to them in time."
O'Rourke punctuated his comment with the line that he would proudly promote online and, now, on official campaign gear. "Hell yes, we are going to take your AR-15, your AK-47," the presidential hopeful declared. "We are not going to allow it to be used against fellow Americans anymore."
Along with tweeting out the statement, O'Rourke's team got busy making a brand new "take your AR-15" shirt:
After warning Americans that he's coming for their "battlefield" weapons during the debate, O'Rourke attempted to call for unity on his radical gun proposals.
"I want to say this: I am listening to the people of this country," he said after the Democratic crowd enthusiastically applauded his "take your AR-15" line (partial transcript via RCP). "The day after I proposed doing that, I went to a gun show in Conway, Arkansas to meet with those who are selling AR-15 and AK-47s, and those who are buying those weapons. And you might be surprised, there was some common ground there. Folks who said, 'I would be willing to give that up, cut it to pieces. I don't need this weapon to hunt, to defend myself. It is a weapon of war.' So let's do the right thing, but let's bring everyone in America into the conversation – Republicans, Democrats, gunowners and non-gunowners alike."
O'Rourke's Twitter account also made waves online during the debate by pushing out another new gun control slogan. The tweet saying "Beto has a ban for that" swiftly earned mockery from pro-Second Amendment advocates for featuring an image of a weapon that is already illegal for multiple reasons.
O'Rourke would also go on to get into a feud Thursday night with a state lawmaker from Texas over his response to O'Rourke's tweet about taking Americans' AR-15s that O'Rourke condemned as a "death threat."