If you pressed people in this country to name the most pro-gun state in the country off the top of their head, a large chunk of them would say “Texas.” To be sure, the Lone Star State has a reputation of being pro-gun. The state has never let go of the cowboy image and all that entails. Including guns.
But Beto O’Rourke still thinks that attacking the National Rifle Association and defending gun control is a winning strategy there.
While speaking to a crowd at Texas State University, the Democrat said he doesn’t take money from political action committees (though he has accepted bundled contributions from liberal PACs like J Street and Democracy Engine Inc.) because he doesn’t want his constituents to wonder if he’s making decisions based on who has donated to him. Among the questions O’Rourke said he didn’t want people to have to ask about him is whether or not he is beholden to gun-rights proponents.
“Did he take money from the NRA?” he said. “Does he represent the gun manufacturers instead of my kids and the families of the 30,000 people we lose every single year to gun violence in this country?”
O’Rourke did not specify that nearly two-thirds of gun deaths in America are the result of suicide.
The candidate did not bring up the issue of gun control in the rest of his speech. However, when an audience member asked whether he supported putting guns in schools as a means to protect students, O’Rourke simply replied, “no.” His answer was met with applause from those in attendance, but polling in the state shows that a majority support arming teachers and school staff while 87 percent support having armed security officers in schools.
The O’Rourke campaign website touts his support for a number of new gun-control laws. On the site, he advocates a new national universal background check law, opposes national gun-carry reciprocity, and advocates for additional funding for government research on gun violence. He also explains his support for banning certain semiautomatic rifles and so-called high-capacity ammunition magazines.
The O’Rourke campaign did not respond to a request for comment on whether they believe their position on gun control is counter to what Texas voters want. However, O’Rourke did admit during the February campaign stop that he is likely to face strong opposition from the NRA over his support for gun control and even said it may hurt his chances at getting elected.
“Will I get the stuffin’ knocked out of me by the NRA for this? Just watch it come down on us in this campaign,” O’Rourke said. “But I’ve got to look myself in the mirror. I’m not going to answer those moms who come to my town halls and say, ‘What are you gonna to do?’ and I say, ‘Well, we gotta listen and understand’ or ‘we can’t control this’ or ‘there’s just evil in the world’ or ‘our thoughts and our prayers are with the parents.’ We’ve gotta do something. And if it means we’re not as viable in the election, so be it. What you want is my honest opinion on this stuff.”
So why campaign so hard and be so vocal about it?
Honestly, he and the rest of the Democrats in Texas think this is a winning strategy. By claiming he believes this will hurt his chances, though, O’Rourke gets to campaign on the controversial issue and look like he’s making a principled stand, something that many people who are agnostic on gun control may find attractive.
Believe me, while a principled candidate wouldn’t take a position contrary to his own, he also wouldn’t necessarily bring up gun control nearly as often as O’Rourke has in this campaign. They’d quietly try to make the campaign about other things and focus on those, all while hoping to keep them there rather than having the gun control issue bite them in the rear.
O’Rourke hasn’t done that.
Instead, he has given every appearance that he and his inner circle think they can turn Texas into a gun control state.