AURORA | At a political rally in Aurora on Thursday — in the shadow of the Aurora theater where 12 died in a shooting in 2012 — presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke affirmed his plan for a mandatory gun buyback program.
“When it comes to gun violence we can decide together, regardless of the differences, that not only will we support and implement universal background checks and red flag laws and an end of these sales of weapons of war, but to these AK-47s and AR-15 — more than 15 million out there — every one of them a potential instrument of terror,” O’Rourke told a crowd of a few hundred attendees. “We will buy back each and every single one. Call them home, off the streets, out of our homes. No one should live with the kind of fear that our fellow Americans live with right now.”
Earlier in the day Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters he doesn’t “know of any other Democrat who agrees” with O’Rourke about taking automatic weapons, though polls continuously show the majority of Americans agree with O’Rourke’s plan. An ABC-Washington Post poll from earlier this month found 52 percent of Americans, and 74 percent of Democrats, support a buyback program for assault weapons.
O’Rourke was introduced by former presidential candidate Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland, and state Rep. Tom Sullivan, D-Centennial, who said “Beto O’Rourke came to Aurora tonight to see what our community has been through and how we have risen up from that tragedy of that night in July 2012.”
“He’s taken the conversation of gun violence to a new level. That conversation has been impacted by not only what he has heard but also by what he has encountered firsthand in his hometown and in other sites of these tragedies across the country,” Sullivan said. “He has a bold agenda that has us talking like we never have in the past and his plans can take us to a place where we no longer live in fear of going to the movies, to our places of worship or shopping for back to school items, and our children can feel safe in their classrooms.”
While the crowd was mostly supportive of O’Rourke’s gun buyback program, one attendee asked why O’Rourke wouldn’t go further and ban all semi-automatic guns and another asked how he would “legislate evil.”
“I was one of the gun-owning Americans who heard your speech and heard what you had to say regarding ‘hell yes we’re going to take your AR-15s and AK-47s.’ Well, I am here to say ‘hell no, you’re not,’” the woman, who said she drove from Rifle to attend the event, said referencing O’Rourke’s speech on gun control during a recent debate.
As O’Rourke asked the crowd to be respectful of her input, she said, “I didn’t bring my AR-15 today. I brought my Glock.”
O’Rourke said gun violence doesn’t happen in any other country like it does in the U.S.
“There are 329 million of us. There are 390 million guns. No other country allows its citizens to buy weapons that were designed for war,” he said.
Aurora has become front and center in the discussion on preventing gun violence. Last week former Arizona Congresswoman and gun-control advocate Gabby Giffords endorsed mayoral candidate Omar Montgomery.
While Montgomery, who attended the O’Rourke rally, hasn’t detailed any specific gun policies he would support, he said he wants to focus on getting illegal guns off the street and out of the hands of young people.
When asked if he supports O’Rourke’s proposal of banning AR-15s and AK-47s, Montgomery said he’s leaving that to state and federal lawmakers.
Last month, Giffords visited Aurora for a town hall with Congressman Jason Crow, who was endorsed by Giffords in 2018.