Mass shootings are no laughing matter to Beto O’Rourke.
The Democratic gubernatorial candidate running in Texas against incumbent Republican Greg Abbott had a campaign speech go viral on social media last week after he cursed out a man heard laughing in the crowd.
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O’Rourke was discussing the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May. The tragedy saw a teen gunman armed with weapons he’d bought legally, including an AR-15, kill 19 students and two teachers in the largest mass shooting at a school since the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre.
A man was heard audibly laughing as O’Rourke discussed how the military-grade weaponry was bought legally. And the former U.S. representative for Texas’s 16th congressional district responded by saying, “It may be funny to you, motherf—er, but it’s not funny to me.” Many in the crowd cheered O’Rourke’s response, with some immediately rising to their feet and clapping.
The moment was caught on camera, and can be watched in the tweet below from gun-control activist Shannon Watts. Be warned that it includes strong language.
Fred Guttenberg, whose then-14-year-old daughter Jaime died in the Valentine’s Day 2018 mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas School in Parkland, Fla., commended O’Rourke as having responded in exemplary fashion to the laughter.
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It should be noted that it’s not clear from the video footage of the Mineral Wells town hall last Wednesday whether the man was laughing specifically at what O’Rourke had said. O’Rourke’s campaign was not immediately available for comment.
Over the past few years, O’Rourke has emerged as a strident advocate for tighter gun laws in the U.S. and in Texas, particularly after the mass shootings in Uvalde and El Paso, in August 2019. While seeking the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 2020, O’Rourke famously said, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We’re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.”
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In the immediate aftermath of the shooting at Uvalde, near San Antonio, O’Rourke, who represented the El Paso area in Congress from 2013 to 2019, confronted state and local officials at a press conference during which policing on the day of the shooting had been commended.
It was learned afterward that, even with hundreds of law-enforcement personnel on the scene, the unlocked classroom door behind which children lay dead and dying was not breached by police for well over an hour.
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O’Rourke’s remarks in Mineral Wells, near Fort Worth, come as his race against Abbott heats up, with each having breezed to victory in March party primaries.
Texas has not elected a Democratic governor since Ann Richards in the 1990s — and a RealClearPolitics polling average currently stakes Abbott to a lead of some 6 points over O’Rourke.
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There have been at least 406 mass shootings through Aug. 11 in the U.S. this year, averaging about 1.820 mass shootings per day, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that has tracked gun-related violence in the U.S. dating back to 2013. The archive defines “mass shootings” as incidents in which at least four people are shot, not including the attacker. And 2021 was the worst year on record for mass shootings in America, averaging 1.896 mass shootings per day.
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