Hell no, Beto O’Rourke does not want to take your AR-15. At least, not anymore.
The Texas Democrat currently running for governor said he does not want to force Texans to turn in their guns.
“I’m not interested in taking anything from anyone,” O’Rourke told supporters during a campaign stop in Tyler, Texas on Tuesday. “What I want to make sure that we do is defend the Second Amendment.”
That’s literally the opposite of what he told a national audience during a presidential primary debate in 2020.
“Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” he said in September 2019. “We’re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.”
O’Rourke doubled down on the pledge throughout his 2019 campaign. He even promised those who did not participate in his mandatory buyback scheme would face severe punishment.
“If someone does not turn in an AR-15, or an AK-47, one of these weapons of war, or brings it out in public and brandishes it in an attempt to intimidate—as we saw in Kent State recently—then that weapon will be taken from them,” Beto told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “If they persist, there will be other consequences from law enforcement.”
Police were unenthused by the idea, though.
“I think he’s seriously misjudging the law enforcement response to what he wants to do,” AJ Louderback, the sheriff of Jackson County, Texas and a committee member for the National Sheriffs’ Association, told the Washington Free Beacon at the time. “Many sheriffs would not comply with his plan. This guy’s plan is ridiculous. Everyone is looking for solutions to violent crime, but this isn’t one of them. I’m not going to harass my citizens for owning guns.”
The backtracking comes as O’Rourke has struggled to gain traction in his race to unseat sitting governor Greg Abbott (R.) in the upcoming election. He is trailing Abbott by 8.2 points in the Real Clear Politics average, and the most recent poll from The Dallas Morning News has him down by 11 points. Some of this gap appears to be driven by O’Rourke’s support for gun confiscation as a December Quinnipiac University poll found 60 percent of voters felt Greg Abbott would handle gun policy better, while only 33 percent said the same of O’Rourke.
Ironically, O’Rourke’s pivot to support gun confiscation came at a similar point in his 2020 presidential primary campaign. After starting that campaign with a lot of attention and hype, he quickly fell into the bottom rung of candidates. In what appeared to be an attempt to jumpstart his fledgling campaign, O’Rourke made it clear he did want to take people’s guns–something most other gun-control advocates had stopped short of before 2020. While the pivot garnered further media attention for O’Rourke’s campaign, it did not translate to increased support. Polling saw him fall to zero percent support before he decided to drop out.
O’Rourke’s flip flop also comes after spending months doubling down on his 2020 assertion. He stood by his call to take AR-15s when he announced his campaign in early November. A few weeks later, he doubled down and said it was “crazy” Americans are allowed to own the guns, which he called “weapons of war.”
“That AR-15, that AK-47 has one single solitary purpose. And that is killing people as effectively, as efficiently, in as great a number, in as little time as possible,” O’Rourke told CNN. “We saw that in Kenosha. We saw that in El Paso, Texas, where 23 people were murdered by someone with an Ak-47 just in a matter of minutes. This is crazy, and we should not come to expect this as a matter of course in America. And, the thing is, we don’t have to.”
At the time, he paired his support for confiscation with opposition to “extremism in our gun laws.” He attacked Abbott for signing a permitless gun-carry bill into law and predicted it would lead to more violence. While O’Rourke backtracked on his support for gun confiscation, he kept up his attack on Abbott over permitless carry.
“I want to make sure that we protect our fellow Texans far better than we’re doing right now. And that we listen to law enforcement, which Greg Abbott refused to do,” he said on Tuesday, according to KLTV. “He turned his back on them when he signed that permitless carry bill that endangers the lives of law enforcement in a state that’s seen more cops and sheriff’s deputies gunned down than in any other.”
O’Rourke’s stop was less focused on guns than it was on energy. He spoke at length about power outages during last year’s snowstorm and transitioning the state towards more alternative energy sources. The flip on gun confiscation came in response to questions from the audience.