Former Democratic congressman Beto O'Rourke blamed both gun violence and coronavirus deaths on the Republican Party during an interview on Wednesday night.
The failed presidential candidate, who Democratic nominee Joe Biden said would "lead the effort" to "take care of the gun problem" in March, said Republicans are pushing for schools to reopen in the fall because they have a "death-cult mentality." He compared the argument that the benefits of reopening schools outweighed the risks to arguments against gun confiscation.
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"These are the same people who want us to accept that more people, including more children, will die of gun violence this year in America than in any other developed country bar none," he told MSNBC's Joy Reid. "It's just the price of quote, unquote freedom in this country."
"It's that same kind of death-cult mentality that asks us to accept one quarter, 25 percent of the world's COVID cases, one quarter, 25 percent of the world's COVID deaths, though we represent only 4 percent of the globe's population," he said. "That is absolutely unacceptable."
O'Rourke's claim about gun violence is contradicted by FBI data showing violent crime in America has actually been receding for decades after peaking in the 1990s. That comes in spite of record gun sales over the past decade.
O'Rourke centered his presidential campaign on anti-gun policies, notably declaring on the debate stage last September that, "Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47." The strong statement didn't help his standing in the race—polling averages showed him losing about one-third of the modest support he'd had before the move. He ended his campaign in November.