PolitiFact labeled 2020 Democratic candidate Beto O'Rourke's recent claim that he did not call for gun confiscation "False" in a fact check Monday.
"O'Rourke has said ‘yes' and ‘hell, yes' when asked about confiscating assault-style weapons," PolitiFact‘s Tom Kertscher wrote. "And his mandatory buyback proposes taking those weapons from people, even if it involves a purchase. We rate O'Rourke's claim that he is ‘not talking about confiscating anybody's guns' as False."
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O'Rourke has called for mandatory buybacks of AR-15s and AK-47s, and said he would send police offers to seize guns from owners who did not comply.
Yet he disagreed when Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC's Morning Joe, characterized his plan last week as the "confiscation of guns."
"To be clear, I'm not talking about confiscating anybody's guns," O'Rourke said. "But I do think that, for those weapons of war—AR-15s, AK-47s—these were designed and sold to the militaries of the world to kill people on a battlefield, and there are more than 16 million of them in America. And we've seen the devastating effect that they can have in Dayton, Ohio, or El Paso, Texas, or Odessa, not too far from where I live. Those must be bought back or else each of them are an instrument, potentially, of terror in this country, and it is literally terrorizing and terrifying people throughout America."
Kertscher called O'Rourke's wording "mental gymnastics."
O'Rourke did not call for confiscating AR-15s during his failed Senate run in Texas in 2018. He only began supporting confiscation in the aftermath of mass shootings in Texas and Ohio in August, making his viral "hell yes" remarks at the ABC News debate held Sept. 12.
He reiterated his support for confiscating the rifles in an interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo on Sept. 18.
"Let's state the proposition," Cuomo said. "Are you, in fact, in favor of gun confiscation?"
"Yes, when it comes to AR-15s and AK-47s, weapons designed for use on a military battlefield," O'Rourke said. "So, when it comes to those weapons, Chris, the answer is yes. But when it comes to firearms used for hunting or self-defense, the answer is no."
National law enforcement organizations slammed O'Rourke's plan to have police collect rifles from those who did not comply. Leaders of the groups told the Washington Free Beacon his idea was "asinine" and likely unconstitutional.
While making gun control a central tenet of his campaign has won him more attention, O'Rourke is still struggling to maintain relevance in the crowded Democratic field. He currently sits in sixth place in the RealClearPolitics average at 2.4 percent support.