Beto O’Rourke forgives Facebook post about 2nd Amendment rights, two years after waffling

WASHINGTON — Four days after Democrat Beto O’Rourke took himself out of the 2020 presidential campaign, the El Paso lawmaker stood by a pledge he made during his failed bid to unseat Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz: If elected governor, he’d take guns from Texans who shouldn’t have them.

“I will not hesitate to take the appropriate action to disarm law-abiding Texans who shouldn’t have guns and those who are guilty of crimes,” O’Rourke wrote on his Facebook page in 2015. “It is not sufficient to have the Second Amendment. You need to protect the bill of rights from abuse.”

The post — to which about 2,500 of O’Rourke’s more than 113,000 friends agreed — was one of five Facebook posts about gun control that the Democratic senator-in-waiting posted in 2015. Among the posts is one that asks, “What will your next action be to protect the 2nd Amendment?” And in another: “Texas is just one step away from having the most restrictive gun laws in the country.”

President Donald Trump sought to politicize the political gaffe on Friday, suggesting that Texans should vote Republican to demonstrate their support for the Second Amendment.

And though O’Rourke eventually pulled out of the 2020 race on Wednesday, his pointed opposition to gun control has persisted as some of his favorite Senate Democratic colleagues worry that the nascent presidential primary is the right campaign to engage gun-rights supporters and rally them for the midterms in the fall.

Congressional candidates Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts last month unveiled new platforms for expanding background checks and boosting legislation to improve the FBI’s response to non-FFL sales. Days later, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, another 2020 candidate, threw his support behind legislation banning bump stocks after the mass shooting that killed 12 people in Las Vegas in October.

But those candidates already share an enemy on that side of the aisle: O’Rourke — a decorated veteran who shared a platform with Cruz during last month’s El Paso barbecue debate and whom he described as a “friend” throughout the campaign.

Cruz advisers brushed off the May 2015 pledge, saying O’Rourke’s words were meant to support the “gun rights that they have and he was concerned about the Second Amendment being eroded.”

Speaking with reporters in his Senate office on Friday afternoon, O’Rourke said he didn’t regret the comment and that it wasn’t intended to be “misleading” or political. Instead, he argued that gun rights were, in fact, limited by a “racist-tinged” criminal justice system that disproportionately placed weapons behind bars.

“I think any American who’s critical of the Second Amendment must recognize that that means that we have a criminal justice system in this country that is disproportionately incarcerating people of color for drug and possession-related offenses,” O’Rourke said. “And it’s doing so disproportionately and then keeping those individuals who would most likely need to have a weapon to defend themselves locked up because they can’t afford expensive bail because they’re racialized disproportionately inside of the system.”

“I think everybody recognizes that when you try to lock up those most likely to need to have a weapon, we should be worried about the most likely need to have a weapon and want to help support them,” he added.

But O’Rourke said he would take specific action to expand access to gun shows and the internet in an effort to curb gun violence. He also noted that since November 2015, he has been a supporter of the Brady Bill, legislation that imposes a mandatory three-day waiting period to purchase a gun in Washington, D.C.

“I have never wavered from that,” O’Rourke said. “I believe that we do need to do something, that we do need to reform our criminal justice system, that we do need to stop incarcerating, we do need to stop shooting people in our country for low-level possession of drugs, and so that’s where I get from.”

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