Democratic presidential candidates Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg sparred over the merits of mandatory gun confiscation during a gun control advocacy event in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
During a one-on-one with Today Show anchor Craig Melvin, Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., was asked a question about mandatory assault weapon “buybacks,” to which he responded that “as a policy, it’s had mixed results. It’s a healthy debate to have, but we’ve got to do something now.” Buttigieg went on to say the issue could potentially distract Democrats from areas where they could make real advances in gun control.
Buttigieg has called for a ban on the sale of certain semi-automatic rifles, but has joined the rest of the Democratic primary field in resisting O’Rourke’s call for a “mandatory buyback,” which would require gun owners to sell their semi-automatic rifles to the government and hold those who refuse criminally liable.
Later in the event, Beto O’Rourke, who has made past headlines with his outspoken support of mandatory gun confiscation, challenged Buttigieg as a candidate “worried about the polls” and who “probably wants to get to the right place, but is afraid of doing the right thing right now.”
After the event in a news conference with reporters, O’Rourke went further.
“What Pete has been saying is that a mandatory buyback is the ‘shiny object’ that is distracting us. How in the world can you say that to March for Our Lives? How can you say that to survivors of mass shootings across this country?” O’Rourke stated. “How can you say that to the majority of Hispanics in America, certainly in Texas, who fear that they will be the victims of a mass shooting inspired by racism and hatred that has been welcomed into the open by this president, and has been armed with weapons of war.
“I was really offended by [Buttigieg’s] comments. I think he represents a kind of politics that is focused on poll testing and focus group driving, and triangulating, and listening to consultants before you arrive at a position,” he continued. “I think our politics has to be about doing the right thing, saying the right thing.”
According to the latest RealClear Politics national polling average, Buttigieg leads O’Rourke by just over three percentage points.