In a speech followed by a question and answer session that focused heavily on gun violence, Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke rallied supporters in Aurora Thursday evening.
The former Texas congressman repeatedly drove home his support for gun control, connecting the mass shooting earlier this year at a Walmart in his hometown of El Paso to the 2012 Aurora theater shooting just a few miles from his Thursday rally.
“We have a chance together in a government of, by and for the people to decide the future of this country on an issue like gun violence,” he said on the west steps of the Aurora Municipal Center. “What you have seen here in this community, what Tom (Sullivan) and so many others have survived, the pain that we share with you in El Paso, Texas.”
O’Rourke has been one of the more vocal Democratic candidates on gun control. At the Democratic debate in Houston, he said he wanted to create a mandatory buy-back program for assault-style weapons.
“Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47, and we’re not going to allow it to be used against your fellow Americans anymore,” O’Rourke said at the debate.
He was introduced by Democratic state Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son was killed in the Aurora theater shooting, and who has been a steady proponent of gun control measures in the Colorado legislature.
In Aurora, O'Rourke said that if he is elected president, “We will buy back each and every single one,” of firearms such as AR-15s. “This is our chance to do the right thing while we still have time.”
Most at the rally cheered the candidate on.
“I’m a military vet, retired,” said Brandy Kruger, who liked the O'Rourke so much she teared up talking about him. “I fired them on military installations and that’s where they need to be, not in our streets.”
Lisa Ghormley of Aurora said she was on the fence about backing any candidate 100 percent, but said she wanted to hear what O’Rourke had to say. She liked O’Rourke’s passion and stance on gun control.
“It is important. I can’t imagine raising kids right now,” she said. “I think the bottom line is what these kids have to go through and we have to figure it out.”
A few in the crowd challenged O'Rourke on gun rights, though.
Lauren Boebert, who traveled from Rifle and said she was carrying a Glock pistol while she challenged O’Rourke. With gun bans, people wouldn’t be able to defend themselves, and she wanted to know how O’Rourke would legislate such a ban.
O’Rourke responded by describing the kind of injuries assault weapons can leave and compared it to having a bazooka.
O’Rourke touched on a handful of other topics, including racism, climate change and immigration.
That hit close to home for Aline Cardozo, who said she immigrated legally to the United States from Brazil. She said she wants to hear from candidates about legal immigration and how they plan to fix the system and make it more efficient.
“I’m a Democrat and so I’ve been trying to go through the noise and hear about what candidate has to say about their policy,” she said. “Every time we talk about immigration as a country, we’re talking about illegal immigration, which yes is important. But we also have to talk about why there’s illegal immigration.”
O’Rourke is expected to be in Denver on Friday, where he will hold a gun violence roundtable before participating in the Colorado Climate Strike.