Toomey: Beto O’Rourke’s plan to confiscate assault weapons is an ‘awful and extreme’ idea

Sen. Pat Toomey. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

(*This post has been updated to clarify Toomey’s position on O’Rourke’s comments)

Confiscating assault weapons, as suggested by Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke, is an “awful and extreme idea,” that would derail “commonsense … efforts” to pass gun-safety reform on Capitol Hill, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said Friday.

O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman, enraged gun rights advocates during Thursday night’s Democratic debate in Houston when he pledged to ban — and confiscate — AR-15s and other semi-automatic weapons that have been the weapon of choice in mass shootings across the nation.

In a Twitter post, Toomey, one of the lone Senate GOP voices on gun reform, said O’Rourke’s “rhetoric undermines and hurts bipartisan efforts to actually make progress on commonsense gun safety efforts, like expanding background checks.”

Toomey’s post came in response to comments from U.S. Sen. Christopher Coons, D-Del., who told CNN that he doesn’t agree with O’Rourke’s comments, and suggested that they will be played at gun rights rallies for years. Toomey has publicly opposed an assault weapons ban.

“Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” O’Rourke said.

“We’re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore,” the former Texas congressman said during the third Democratic presidential debate, hosted by ABC News.

O’Rourke’s answer came after he described talking to a mother in Odessa, Texas, who, he said, watched her 15-year-old daughter bleed to death “over the course of an hour” after being shot by an AR-15.

As The Guardian reports, O’Rourke, who unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in 2018, and who has struggled to gain ground in primary polling, “endorsed a ban on the possession of certain military-style rifles shortly after the mass shooting last month in his home town of El Paso, Texas, in which 22 people died and dozens were injured. He has specifically called for a mandatory government buyback of AR-15s, following Australia’s gun control model.”

On Friday, Twitter removed a post by Briscoe Cain, a Republican state lawmaker from Texas, who wrote “My AR-15 is ready for you, Robert Francis.” The social media site said the language violated its rules against making violent threats, the Guardian reported.

On Twitter, O’Rourke, whose full name is Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke, labeled Cain’s language a “death threat.”

In an answering Tweet, Cain, a 34-year-old attorney, called O’Rourke “a child.”

Toomey is co-sponsoring legislation, with Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, that would expand background checks for all commercial gun sales, including at gun shows, online sales, and in classified ads.

Gun-control advocates have criticized the bill, saying it has too many loopholes. They’ve urged Toomey to drop that bill and instead throw his support behind a broader measure passed by the majority Democrat U.S. House earlier this year.

Speaking to reporters in his Capitol Hill office earlier this week, Toomey said the House-passed bill doesn’t have the votes to pass the Senate or become law.

As the Capital-Star’s Robin Bravender reported earlier this week, Toomey has spent the last six years advocating for a version of background check legislation that has garnered some Republican support, but still fell short of passing the GOP-led Senate in recent years.

Toomey said he’s been talking to Trump, who’s open to the idea. He’s spoken to the president about a half a dozen times over the past month, Bravender reported.

An award-winning political journalist with more than 25 years' experience in the news business, John L. Micek is The Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. Before joining The Capital-Star, Micek spent six years as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped shape and lead a multiple-award-winning Opinion section for one of Pennsylvania's most-visited news websites. Prior to that, he spent 13 years covering Pennsylvania government and politics for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. His career has also included stints covering Congress, Chicago City Hall and more municipal meetings than he could ever count, Micek contributes regular analysis and commentary to a host of broadcast outlets, including CTV-News in Canada and talkRadio in London, U.K., as well as "Face the State" on CBS-21 in Harrisburg, Pa.; "Pennsylvania Newsmakers" on WGAL-8 in Lancaster, Pa., and the Pennsylvania Cable Network. His weekly column on American politics is syndicated nationwide to more than 800 newspapers by Cagle Syndicate.


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