Still mourning a mass shooting in Texas, Democrat Beto O’Rourke rocked his long-range campaign by begging a national audience that it was finally time for real action to curb the proliferation of high-powered weapons. in its home state and throughout America.
It was 2019 and the former congressman was running for presidency when he said in a debate, “Hell yeah, we’ll get your AR-15,” weeks after a gunman targeting Mexican immigrants killed 23. people at a Wal-Mart in El Paso, a native of O’Rourke.
Last week, following the massacre of 19 elementary school students and two teachers by an 18-year-old man with an AR-15 style rifle in Uvalde, Texas, O’Rourke – now campaigning for the charge of governor – he again briefly seized the national spotlight policy. This time, that meant disrupting the press conference of the man he wants to oust, Republican Greg Abbott, and declaring – in a moment later displayed widely online – that the carnage was “on you.”
O’Rourke bets tragedy can restore governor race in America’s largest red state, despite Abbott having already won reelection twice for landslides and starting the campaign with $ 55 million in the bank and despite gun culture looms in Texas more than perhaps anywhere else.
It didn’t work in 2019. O’Rourke’s debate statement earned him praise from other Democrats on stage and a fundraiser. But he left the race just six weeks later.
It is too early to say what will happen in the race for the governor, but the shooting has already hit both sides. Abbott canceled his scheduled visit to the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting to stay in Uvalde. Also leaping was Republican Texas Senator John Cornyn, who is among those who are negotiating with fellow Democrats to strengthen background checks and “red flag” laws that allow authorities to remove firearms from those who they are considered a danger to themselves or to others.
“I think it was cathartic for a lot of people who might have been in danger,” said Abel Prado, executive director of the Texas Democratic Defense Group Cambio. “It gives you, ‘At least someone is trying to get up and do something, or at least say something.'”
O’Rourke spent two nights in Uvalde after the shooting, then headed to Houston for a demonstration against gun violence outside the NRA meeting on Friday.
“To those men and women in positions of power who care more about your power than using it to save the lives of those you are supposed to serve … we will defeat you and overcome you,” O’Rourke told protesters who sang. his name and the phrase “Rate them out!
Supporters are hoping O’Rourke will win back the magic that saw him become a national Democratic star and nearly shocked Republican Senator Ted Cruz in 2018. But since then, O’Rourke’s offer to the White House has vanished, the Former President Donald Trump easily won Texas in 2020, and the Democrats who had hoped to overturn dozens of congressional and legislative seats in the state that year lost nearly every top game.
A Democrat also hasn’t won Texas governorate since 1990, and just last year, the state eased firearms restrictions enough to allow virtually any resident 21 years of age or older to carry unlicensed firearms. . Abbott signed that law along with NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre and the group’s president, Carolyn Meadows.
Of course, the dominance of guns in Texas culture long predated the law. Abbott once tweeted about his embarrassment about his late state of California in arms sales, and Cruz likes to say, “Give me a horse, a gun and an open plain, and we can take over the world.” Former Republican Governor Rick Perry went to re-election in 2010 after using a laser sighted pistol to kill a coyote while he jogged.
Likewise, mass shootings are not new in Texas. Tuesday’s Uvalde massacre and El Paso murders followed a mass shooting at Santa Fe High School outside Houston that killed eight students and two teachers in 2018, and a church rampage in Sutherland Springs that resulted in death. of 26 people, including an unborn child, the year before.
Former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, a longtime Republican famous for carrying more guns almost everywhere he went, said O’Rourke’s most ardent supporters will be “even more determined to vote for Beto” after his confrontation with Abbott.
Yet Patterson said the confrontation could backfire, alienating otherwise potentially sympathetic swinging voters who might think O’Rourke was staging a selfish show.
“Sometimes your method overwhelms your message and its method has gutted whatever advantage it may have accrued,” said Patterson, who, as a state senator, wrote the original 1995 Texas Hidden Weapons Act allowing Texans to carry firearms to more places than in nearly all of America at the time. “I think it’s a net loss.”
Abbott didn’t mention O’Rourke much from the shooting, but he answered questions about possible new state limits on firearms by slamming the high crime rates in cities run primarily by Democrats.
“There are more people shot dead every weekend in Chicago than there are in Texas schools,” the governor said hyperbolically. Speaking of arguments that new firearms restrictions could make Americans safer, “Chicago, Los Angeles and New York disprove this thesis.”
Abbott’s campaign also previously scolded O’Rourke for his previous stance on guns, producing an online ad last year that showed a cartoon of O’Rourke running in the wrong direction down a one-way street. then off a cliff as the radio broadcasts clips of his “Hell yes” commentary and other heavily progressive stances he has taken as a presidential candidate.
O’Rourke’s campaign insists he is not using the slaughter for political gain. He turned his fundraising machine into one that accepts donations for relatives of people killed in Uvalde, and says O’Rourke attended Abbott’s press conference at the urging of one of the victims’ families.
He sat quietly in the audience for more than 10 minutes, intending only to listen, the campaign said. But when Abbott said that “there was no significant warning of this crime” other than the gunman who posted about the shooting moments before he started doing it, O’Rourke got angry, especially since, after the shooting. in El Paso, the head of state’s response was to relax gun laws. He walked over to the stage and accused Abbott of “doing nothing” when the Uvalde violence was “entirely predictable”.
Also on stage was Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin, who responded with obscenity and called O’Rourke “sick” for trying to make the shooting “a political issue”.
But he still helped a Texan change her mind. Nicole Armijo, who works at her family’s HVAC business in the border town of McAllen and has three children, ages 10, 9, and 6, who attend public school. She didn’t vote for O’Rourke when he ran for the Senate, but she plans to do so now because “the way we’re doing things isn’t working.”
“Maybe, in Texas, it’s not just about having a gun,” said Armijo, who said he loves guns and hunting, but would support more thorough checks than previous ones. “Beto portrayed those thoughts: it’s not about me or you. He is about everyone as a whole.”
Learn more about the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas: https://apnews.com/hub/school-shootings.