Beto is back and, hell yes, he still wants to take your AR-15s.
O’Rourke announced on Monday he plans to run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Texas. He said he plans to challenge Republican incumbent Greg Abbott on several issues, including gun policy. He stood by his previous promise to confiscate “assault weapons.”
“I think most Texans can agree — maybe all Texans can agree — that we should not see our friends, our family members, our neighbors, shot up with weapons that were originally designed for use on a battlefield,” O’Rourke told The Texas Tribune.
The announcement gives Texas Democrats a high-profile gubernatorial candidate with a national brand. However, it also gives them one with a lot of baggage from two highly-publicized losing campaigns. The positions, especially on gun control, he took to shake up those campaigns as they faltered may hinder his new campaign.
“Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” he said at a Democratic primary debate for the 2020 presidential nomination. “We’re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.”
O’Rourke explained in media interviews that he not only supported outlawing the sale and possession of AR-15s and other guns but also supported sending police to arrest those who refused to comply with his ban. He promised there would be “consequences” for anyone who did not turn in their guns.
“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.”
However, law enforcement thrashed the idea.
“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.”
Beto’s confiscation declaration, which reversed his previous position, put him to the left of nearly every other Democrat in the race. It came as his campaign was hovering in the low single digits. Instead of rallying support, O’Rourke’s comments drove his numbers even further down. He fell from an average of 2.6 percent support before backing confiscation to 1.6 afterward, with a USA Today/Suffolk University poll placing his support at literally zero.
He dropped out less than two months after taking the position.
Undeterred by that experience, O’Rourke is now counting on Texans to be more supportive of gun confiscation than national Democratic primary voters–a risky proposition. While Democrats have gained ground in the state over the past decade, the state has continued to loosen its gun laws. Texas became the largest state in the country to pass a permitless-carry regime, with Governor Abbott’s support, earlier this year.
Abbott’s campaign said the difference between the two candidates is clear.
“The last thing Texans need is President Biden’s radical liberal agenda coming to Texas under the guise of Beto O’Rourke,” Mark Miner, an Abbott spokesman, said in a statement. “The contrast for the direction of Texas couldn’t be clearer.”
A University of Texas and Texas Tribune poll on the potential matchup between the two published earlier this month found O’Rourke trailing Abbott by nine points even though the governor’s approval rating had fallen below his disapproval rating in 2021 for the first time.