Missing From Beto O'Rourke's Campaign Launch Address: Gun Control

April 2, 2019

Beto O'Rourke officially launched his presidential campaign Saturday in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, delivering a rousing address to a crowd of supporters near the Mexican border.

In his speech, O'Rourke touched on a series of issues sure to resonate with Democratic primary voters, such as income inequality, immigration reform, climate change, union rights, universal healthcare, and the decriminalization of marijuana.

O'Rourke, who is bilingual and recently ran a failed Senate bid, during which he delivered hundreds of similar stump speeches, did not use any notes, and delivered a portion of the speech in Spanish. Some politicos, such as former Obama speechwriter and "Pod Save America" host Jon Favreau, found this impressive.

Many liberals, on the other hand, are concerned by O'Rourke's lack of policy specifics, and worry that his campaign will consist primarily of lofty rhetoric devoid of substance.

One particular issue that weighs heavy on the minds of liberal voters—gun control—was completely absent from Beto's launch address in El Paso. Not one mention. He didn't mention it in his awkward campaign announcement video, either.

Not that O'Rourke hasn't discussed gun control on the campaign trail. A gun owner himself, O'Rourke has said that being around guns has taught him the importance of using them responsibly, and would enable him to "lead the country on sensible gun safety policy." He has an "F" rating from the National Rifle Association.

The day after his El Paso rally, O'Rourke appeared in Houston, where he appeared to back a federal assault weapons ban. His comments on the issue have been nuanced, however, as he doesn't seem to think such a policy should involve confiscating banned firearms from people who already own them, which some gun-control activists are likely to consider insufficient.

Beyond that, O'Rourke has said he favors "universal background checks" and "common sense gun control," without really explaining what that means.

Other Democratic presidential candidates, such as Bernie Sanders, have made "ending the epidemic of gun violence in this country," a focal point of their campaigns, but are similarly hesitant to provide specifics.

Some liberal voters are also likely to be skeptical about O'Rourke's position on health care, which he discussed at length at his rally in El Paso. He outlined a goal of achieving "guaranteed high-quality universal health care" that focuses on "prioritizing affordability," using language that may concern advocates of a more ambitious, government-run system. He wants to give all Americans "the choice to enroll in Medicare without eliminating plans that many Americans like." Like rival candidate Kamala Harris, he appears unwilling to go all-in on a more ambitious, socialist healthcare plan that would eliminate private insurance.