AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke used a town hall in Aurora to double down on his call for a mandatory buyback for all AR-15 and AK-47 semi-automatic weapons.
“Are you with me on this?” O’Rourke said to a cheering crowd.
After the mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, he has put aggressive gun control at the center of his campaign. It is one sign that the political calculus on the issue is shifting for Democrats. For years, they have been careful about how they addressed gun control, fearing they would alienate blue-collar gun owners in their own party and invite the wrath of the National Rifle Association. Not anymore.
Gun control is now a litmus test for Democrats seeking office, but in Colorado the issue remains divisive. State Rep. Tom Sullivan, who’s son Alex was killed in the Aurora theater shooting, introduced O’Rourke.
Lauren Boebert drove three hours from Rifle, openly carrying a handgun, to confront the presidential contender. She owns Shooters Grill in Rifle on Colorado’s Western Slope (where the waitstaff open carry loaded firearms in the establishment).
“I was one of the gun owning Americans who heard you speak regarding your ‘Hell yes I’m going to take your AR-15s and AK-47s. Well, I’m here to say hell no you’re not.'”
While Boebert says the mandatory buyback goes too far, Columbine survivor Evan Todd told O’Rourke it doesn’t go far enough.
“Don’t you think it’s time to get rid of all semi-automatic firearms?”
O’Rourke said he is open to Todd’s suggestion but he dismissed Boebert’s concerns.
“Do I care more about how upset somebody is who owns a weapon of war that they don’t need for hunting or self-defense, or do I care more about the families who’ve lost a child?”
Still, he hesitated when pressed on how the mandatory buyback would work.
“I would expect our fellow Americans to follow the law. If they don’t and they flagrantly abuse that law, yes, that weapon would be taken from them.”
Boebert said that won’t work.
“If he’s going to send people into homes to take people’s personal property, then he’s got a big issue on his hands.”
O’Rourke’s comments have not only drawn criticism from Republicans but even some Democrats who say he’s playing into the hands of the gun lobby. But the NRA’s influence has waned after a series of recent controversies, while that of gun control groups is strengthening. That makes this an issue one that is sure to remain front and center, and O’Rourke has set a new bar in hopes of setting himself apart in a crowded Democratic field.