WASHINGTON — Beto O’Rourke, a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate who just lost a bid for statewide office, on Friday took another swipe at the National Rifle Association by vowing to continue to take steps to reduce the availability of guns in the country.
The Texas congressman from El Paso, who lost his reelection bid Tuesday, was asked during an interview with the Hill if his 1994 pledge — he offered to “take back” every gun from Americans — should be reconsidered.
“We all knew there were loopholes,” O’Rourke said. “And again, I think as this process goes on, and as the public sees and what gets scrutinized, we’ll see the politicians in D.C. taking this seriously, and that’s important.”
A day after his loss, O’Rourke invoked his “take back guns” pledge, which was fueled by a history of family tragedy and involved signing a pledge outside a gun store. Critics called the pledge at the time an over-the-top political stunt, and the presumptive 2018 Republican nominee for Senate, Rep. Ted Cruz of Texas, accused O’Rourke of veering “beyond the pale” in his statements.
The term “take back guns” is being used once again after the Parkland, Fla., shooting, which took the lives of 17 people and revived the debate over gun control.
Cruz and many other Republicans have tried to walk a tightrope on guns, saying they oppose the idea of gun control but not directly endorsing proposals for bans on assault weapons or other regulations.
O’Rourke’s 15-point loss was a comeback of sorts for the failed congressman. During his previous bid for statewide office, he was outspent 8-to-1 and lost to Republican incumbent Sen. John Cornyn, a longtime ally of the NRA.
Citing his 2014 Democratic primary loss, he has vowed that he will challenge the NRA’s political influence in the future.
“My argument to the NRA is if this Congress can’t do it for the people, then let’s try to limit that influence that it can have over elected officials,” O’Rourke said in 2014. “I’d encourage them to take a deep breath and pause.”
However, he told ABC News last year that repealing gun laws is not the answer, even as he advocated for curbing the ease of private transfers.
“It’s not like you’re taking 300 million guns away and putting them on the sidelines,” O’Rourke said. “We’ll still have a huge number of guns out there, but we can do more on enforcing it, on looking at ways to make sure we’re prosecuting people for non-crime. None of those things are going to prevent Americans from having a gun.
O’Rourke made his “take back guns” pledge during his successful bid for a House seat, using similar language in a campaign ad. He then signed a pledge to carry out that pledge outside a gun store outside El Paso.
“My name is Beto O’Rourke and I will be signing my Promise Not to Forgive & Take Back Guns later today,” he wrote on Twitter.
O’Rourke told ABC News on Friday that he doesn’t regret signing the pledge, citing the high rate of firearm-related deaths in El Paso. However, he said he is no longer promising to take back guns: “I believe a better way to fight to take back guns is to continue to work to take guns off the streets of Texas.”