O’Rourke hits Buttigieg over not supporting mandatory gun buybacks: ‘It’s time to lead’

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman, is criticizing his fellow 2020 primary candidate Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., over his hesitancy to back a mandatory buyback program of assault rifles.

“I heard some of the comments made today on this stage,” O’Rourke said Wednesday at a March For Our Lives forum in Las Vegas. “Those who are worried about the polls and want to triangulate — I’m thinking about Mayor Pete on this one.” 

O’Rourke said Buttigeig and other Democrats reluctant to back a mandatory buyback program “maybe want to get to the right place” but are afraid.

“For those who need a weatherman, mandatory buybacks are supported by the majority of Americans,” he said. 

Earlier in the forum, Buttigieg said that mandatory buybacks “as a policy” have “had mixed results.”

“It’s a healthy debate to have, but we’ve got to do something now,” he said, referring to “red flag” laws and background checks. 

O’Rourke, however, said he “absolutely” stood by his comments at the most recent Democratic debate, where he said that “hell yes” he would take away AR-15s and AK-47s as president.

The comments were criticized by some Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.).

“I very strongly disagree with them,” O’Rourke said in response to Democrats who argued his comments would make it more difficult to pass gun reform. 

“So to Chuck Schumer, and Chris Coons and Mayor Pete and others, not only is it the right thing to do, not only will we save the lives of fellow Americans … the American people are with us,” O’Rourke said. “It’s time to lead.” 

Asked by a CBS News reporter if he would be willing to “give in to” O’Rourke’s buyback plan, Buttigieg stood by his earlier remarks.

“No, I continue to believe that our focus right now should be universal background checks, red flag laws and a ban on the sale of assault weapons,” Buttigieg said, adding that those measures are important “because we can get this done now.” 

O’Rourke came out in favor of a mandatory buyback program in the wake of a shooting in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, that killed 22 people. 

At the forum, he reiterated his stance that a ban on assault weapons is not enough to keep Americans safe, saying that “if it is wrong to sell” such firearms, it’s wrong to have millions still out on the street. 

Updated: 6:09 p.m.

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