democratic debates

Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke Spar on Assault-Weapon Buybacks

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Around halfway through the fourth Democratic debate, middle-of-the-packers Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke engaged in a heated exchange over O’Rourke’s mandatory buyback proposal for assault weapons. After the former Texas rep criticized the South Bend mayor’s more moderate policies on gun reform, Buttigieg responded that he did not “need lessons from you on courage, political or personal,” perhaps alluding to his military service as a greater sacrifice than Beto’s great Gen X Battle of Making It in New York.

O’Rourke — who has prioritized gun reform following the El Paso shooting in August — then brought up Buttigieg’s insult from a gun-safety forum in Las Vegas earlier in October, when he called O’Rourke’s policy a “shiny object,” claiming that prior gun-buyback attempts had largely resulted in handovers of antiques and heirlooms. Addressing the earlier dig, O’Rourke said:

Mayor Buttigieg described this policy as a shiny object. I don’t care what that meant to me or my candidacy, but for those who have survived gun violence, those who have lost a loved one to an AR-15 or an AK-47 — March for Our Lives formed in the courage of students willing to stand up to the NRA and conventional politics and poll-tested politicians — that was a slap in the face to every single one of those groups and every single survivor of a mass-casualty assault … They must buy them back.

The field also weighed in on the issue: Amy Klobuchar, like Buttigieg, vowed to pursue policies with popular support, like the boyfriend loophole. Elizabeth Warren supported voluntary gun buybacks, while Kamala Harris repeated her call for mandatory buybacks.

Julián Castro closed the topic with a strong statement on his problems with mandatory buybacks: that “folks can’t define it,” and that the increased contact with police that could be required by such a policy would represent a danger to black and brown communities:

In the places that I grew up in, we weren’t exactly looking for another reason for cops to come banging on the door. Y’all saw a couple days ago what happened to Atatiana Jefferson in Fort Worth. A cop showed up at two in the morning at her house when she was playing video games with her nephew. He didn’t even announce himself, and within four seconds, he shot her and killed her through her home window. She was in her own home. 


And so I’m not going to give these police officers another reason to go door to door in certain communities because police violence is also gun violence and we need to address that.

Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke Spar on Gun Buybacks