“Ask Chuck Schumer what he’s been able to get done,” O’Rourke said. “We still don’t have [universal] background checks. Didn’t have them when he was in the majority, either. So, you know, the game that he’s played, the politics that he’s pursued have given us absolutely nothing and have produced a situation where we lose nearly 40,000 of our fellow Americans every year.”
O’Rourke went on to claim broad public support for his plan, which he emphatically advocated during last week’s Democratic presidential debate in Houston, creating one of the most talked-about moments of the night.
“What [Schumer] may not know, but what I hear loud and clear, because I’m traveling the country, listening to my fellow Americans, is that the people are there,” O’Rourke said.
O’Rourke later retweeted video of his remarks and took another shot at Schumer in a separate tweet.
“The American people are with us on this. They’re just waiting on Congress to do the right thing,” he said.
Schumer has a long history of advocating gun control. As a congressman, he was an original author of both the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, signed into law in 1993, and the federal assault weapons ban, signed into law into 1994.
More recently, he has pushed Senate Republicans to take up two bills passed earlier this year by the Democratic-led House that strengthen background checks for gun purchasers.
During last week’s Democratic debate, O’Rourke passionately argued for the need for additional gun control in the wake of recent mass shootings, including one in his hometown of El Paso.
“Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” he said, referring to his support for mandatory buybacks of war weapons.
Republicans seized on O’Rourke’s comments, using them to broadly paint Democrats as overly eager to confiscate firearms, while many Democrats suggested the remarks were not helpful in persuading Republicans to embrace more modest changes, such as expanding background checks for gun purchasers.
During a call with Upstate New York reporters earlier this week, Schumer reportedly downplayed the prospects for action on O’Rourke’s mandatory buyback plan.
“I don’t know of any other Democrat who agrees with Beto O’Rourke, but it’s no excuse not to go forward,” according to the account in the Times Union, an Albany newspaper.
O’Rourke responded to that report on Wednesday, writing on Twitter: “The party is with us, the country is with us. Now it’s time for Democrats to lead.”
President Trump said Wednesday that it has become “much harder” to reach a deal with Democrats on gun legislation because of O’Rourke’s call for a mandatory buyback program for assault-style weapons.
“Dummy Beto made it much harder to make a deal. Convinced many that Dems just want to take your guns away,” Trump wrote on Twitter, adding: “Will continue forward!”
Republicans in Congress are waiting to hear what legislation Trump might support following the recent spate of mass shootings.