Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) seemingly walked back his rallying cries for the government to seize all so-called “assault weapons” from law abiding citizens after he was questioned on Friday about using an AR-15 to go hunting.
“Perhaps a way to address a legitimate concern or need is to ensure that those who have or want to use an AR-15 are able to keep it at a hunting club or at a gun range so that there is some control and safeguards still placed on that firearm,” O’Rourke told a group of high school students during a campaign stop in Des Moines, Iowa.
The Democratic presidential hopeful’s response came after one of the students approached O’Rourke about the efficiency of using an AR-15 to hunt certain animals such as deer. The student put forth that using less “efficient” firearms could prolong the hunted animal’s suffering or even spoil the meat that would otherwise be consumed.
A student in Des Moines today told @BetoORourke that he hunts using an AR-15, arguing it's less painful for the animal.
O'Rourke said maybe those who want to use an AR-15 to hunt "could keep it at a hunting club or at a gun range," & committed to listening to all points of view pic.twitter.com/RqGuqtdHEE
— Maura Barrett (@MauraBarrettNBC) October 25, 2019
“This is the first time that I’ve heard the case made for using an AR-15 to hunt deer,” O’Rourke replied. “I’ve heard feral hogs in Texas, which are a real problem on a lot of ranches and farms in my home state.”
The former Texas lawmaker was the first major 2020 Democratic presidential candidate to call for a nationwide gun confiscation program for all “assault weapons.” However, he has been notably vague about many aspects of the plan, including how much it would cost, how it would be enforced, or even what constitutes an “assault weapon.”
The proposal has been a divisive topic for the Democratic Party. While O’Rourke’s declaration that “hell yes, we’re going to take away your AR-15 [and] your AK-47” has received massive applause from his left-wing supporters, many Democratic lawmakers have since been distancing themselves. Democrats, including those in leadership, have largely been sounding the alarm that such an anti-Second Amendment idea will backfire and simply fire up the Republican base.
Regardless, O’Rourke has touted the bipartisan disapproval as a signal that the former congressman is being authentic, proclaiming that “it shows me we are doing something right.”
O’Rourke’s demand for a nationwide gun grab comes as his presidential candidacy has been struggling to gain traction. Both his fundraising and polling numbers have been relatively stagnant over the past two quarters despite relaunching his campaign for a third time in August. O’Rourke has not broken 5% support since April 2019, and as of publication is receiving less than 3% of the vote on average, according to Real Clear Politics.
“This is why I’m here. I want to listen to those who feel perhaps differently than I do, include your point of view and ideas in whatever becomes the final piece of legislation or the law that we adopt,” O’Rourke told the student. “But we have to make sure that ultimately we take some action to save the lives of those who are being taken and then to protect against the kind of fear these acts of terror are inspiring.”