HOUSTON (Reuters) – Former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke did not hesitate during Thursday night’s Democratic presidential debate when asked whether he would confiscate assault-style weapons from Americans.
“**** yes, we’re going to take away your AR-15, your AK-47,” he said, instantly creating a viral moment – and potentially a fresh headache for lawmakers trying to persuade reluctant Republicans to pass new gun limits in Washington.
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Opinion polls have found that tackling gun violence is increasingly a top priority for voters. The discussion on the debate stage in Houston, however, saw O’Rourke and other Democratic candidates endorsing ideas that go beyond any legislation under serious consideration in Washington.
U.S. Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat, and U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican and the co-author of legislation that would require background checks for all gun purchases, both expressed concern that O’Rourke’s declaration could harm the bill’s prospects.
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“I don’t think having our presidential candidates, like congressman O’Rourke did, say that we’re going to try to take people’s guns against their will is a wise policy or political move,” Coons said on CNN on Friday, adding that he fears the debate video clip will be used to scare gun owners for years to come.
Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives and other party leaders, who were at their annual retreat in Baltimore on Friday, immediately seized on O’Rourke’s comments to portray Democrats as having a “radical agenda,” as Vice President Mike Pence said.
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“Leading candidates for the highest office in the land talking about taking firearms away from law-abiding citizens,” Pence said of the debate. “The American people deserve to know this president, this vice president and these House Republicans will always stand for the Second Amendment right to bear arms.”
O’Rourke has made gun safety the centerpiece of his campaign since late August, when his hometown of El...
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