One of the livelier exchanges at the Democratic primary debate on Tuesday night was a bitter back-and-forth between South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
O’Rourke has tied his candidacy recently to a mandatory AR-15 and AK-47 weapon buyback proposal to limit the number of firearms on the streets. At the last debate, when he was asked whether that meant he was proposing to take away guns, O’Rourke responded, “Hell yes.”
At Tuesday’s debate, sponsored by CNN and The New York Times, O’Rourke took issue with Buttigieg’s description of the plan as a “shiny object” that will distract from efforts to defeat Donald Trump.
O’Rourke called the comment “a slap in the face” to “every survivor of mass casualty assault.”
Buttigieg responded, “Congressman, you just made it clear that you don’t know how this is going to take weapons off the street. If you can develop the plan further, I think we can have a debate about it, but we can’t wait. People are dying in the streets right now but we can’t wait for universal background checks that we finally have a shot to get through.”
O’Rourke shot back: “This is a crisis and we have to do something about it.”
He pointed to the actions of the Parkland students in demanding urgent action on the issue.
“Let’s follow their inspiration and lead, and not be limited by the polls and the consultants and the focus groups,” O’Rourke said.
Buttigieg, however, took that as a dig on his own proposals.
“The problem isn’t in the polls. It is in the policy. I don’t need lessons from you in courage, political or personal,” Buttigieg said, adding that the problem is the National Rifle Association “and their enablers in Congress and we should be united in taking the fight to them.”