Still lamenting a mass shooting in Texas, Democrat Beto O’Rourke shook up his long-running campaign by imploring a national audience that it was finally time for real action to curb the proliferation of high-powered weapons. in his native state and throughout America.
It was 2019, and the former congressman was running for president when he declared during a debate, “Damn, yes, we’ll take your AR-15,” weeks after a gunman targeting Mexican immigrants killed 23 people at a Walmart in O. ‘El Paso, a native of Rourke.
Last week, after the massacre of 19 elementary students and two teachers by an 18-year-old with an AR-15 rifle in Uvalde, Texas, O’Rourke – now campaigning for governor – – briefly regained control of the national political focus.
This time, it meant interrupting the press conference of the man he wants to overthrow, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, and declaring – at a later time widely seen online – that the carnage was “to you.”
O’Rourke bets that tragedy could restore the governor’s career to the largest red state in the United States, even though Abbott twice won the landslide election and has started the campaign with $ 55 million in the bank and even though the culture of guns is shaping up more in Texas than perhaps. anywhere else.
It didn’t work out in 2019. O’Rourke’s statement of debate 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 tell what will happen in the governor’s career, but the shooting has already affected both sides. Abbott canceled his planned visit to the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting to stay in Uvalde. It was also skipped by Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, who is among those negotiating with fellow Democrats over the strengthening of background checks and “red flag” laws that allow authorities to withdraw. the firearms of those who are determined to be a danger to themselves or others.
“I think it felt cathartic for a lot of people who might have been on the fence,” said Abel Prado, executive director of Democratic advocacy group Change Texas. “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 an anti-violence rally outside of the NRA’s Friday meeting.
“To those men and women in positions of power who care more about your power than with that power to save the lives of those you are supposed to serve … we will defeat you and overcome you,” O ‘ Rourke. he told protesters chanting his name and the phrase “Vote them out!
Supporters expect O’Rourke to regain the magic that saw him become a Democratic national star and nearly upset Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018. But since then, O’Rourke’s candidacy for the White House has failed. , former President Donald Trump easily won Texas in 2020 and Democrats. who had hoped to turn dozens of seats in Congress and legislative seats in the state that year lost almost every major race.
A Democrat has also not won the Texas governorship since 1990, and just last year, the state loosened firearms restrictions enough to allow virtually any 21-year-old or older resident to carry unlicensed weapons. Abbott signed the bill with NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre and group chair Carolyn Meadows.
Of course, the dominance of guns in Texas culture has long preceded the law. Abbott once tweeted his embarrassment that his state is lagging behind in arms sales in California, and Cruz likes to say, “Give me a horse, a gun, and an open plain, and we can conquer the world.” . Former Republican Gov. Rick Perry ran for re-election in 2010 after using a laser-fired pistol to kill a coyote while jogging.
Mass shootings are not new in Texas either. Tuesday’s massacre in Uvalde and the El Paso killings followed a mass shooting at Santa Fe High School on the outskirts of Houston, which killed eight students and two teachers in 2018, and an attack on the church in Sutherland Springs that left 25 dead, as well as an unborn child. the previous year.
Former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, a Republican famous for carrying multiple weapons almost everywhere, said O’Rourke’s staunchest supporters will be “even more determined to vote for Beto” after his clash with Abbott .
Still, Patterson said the confrontation could be counterproductive, alienating swing voters who might otherwise be sympathetic who might think O’Rourke was doing a self-service show.
“Sometimes your method overwhelms your message and your method eliminated any benefit you would have made,” said Patterson, who, as a state senator, wrote the original 1995 Texas Hidden Weapons Act that allowed to Texans carry firearms more places than almost anywhere in the country. America of the time. “I think it’s a net loss.”
Abbott has not mentioned much about O’Rourke since the shooting, but has responded to questions about possible new state arms limits by reducing high crime rates in mostly Democrat-led cities.
“More people are being shot every weekend in Chicago than in Texas schools,” the governor said hyperbolically. Speaking of arguments that new gun restrictions could make Americans safer, “Chicago and LA and New York disprove this thesis.”
Abbott’s campaign has also previously scolded O’Rourke for his previous position on guns, producing an online ad last year showing a cartoon of O’Rourke speeding in the wrong direction on a one-way street. unique, then from a cliff as the radio plays clips of his “Yes from Hell” commentary and other strongly progressive positions he took as a presidential candidate.
O’Rourke’s campaign insists he is not using the massacre for political gain. He turned his fundraising device into one that accepted donations for relatives of the murders in Uvalde and said 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, “there was no significant warning of this crime” other than the gunman who posted about the shooting just moments before he started, O’Rourke was angry, especially Considering that after the El Paso shooting, the state’s main response was to loosen gun laws. He approached the scene and accused Abbott of “doing nothing” when Uvalde’s violence had been “totally predictable.”
Also on stage was Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin, who responded with obscenity and called O’Rourke “sick” for trying to make the run-in “a political issue.”
But it did help a Texan to change her mind. Nicole Armijo works in her family’s air conditioning business in the border town of McAllen and has three children, ages 10, 9 and 6, who attend a public school. He did not vote for O’Rourke when he ran in the Senate, but plans to do so now because “the way we’re doing things doesn’t work.”
“Maybe, Texas, it’s not just about having a gun,” said Armijo, who said he loves guns and hunting, but would support expanded background checks. “Beto portrayed these thoughts: it’s not about me or you. It’s about everyone together.”