O’Rourke has made gun law changes the key issue in his presidential campaign. In recent weeks and on the stage of the last debate in Houston, O’Rourke made a vow to take assault weapons such as AR-15s away from people.
"Hell yes, we're gonna take your AR-15, your AK-47," he said at the debate. O'Rourke represented the El Paso, Texas area in Congress.
A gunman killed more than 20 people at an El Paso Walmart in early August, just days before a gunman killed nine and injured 27 in Dayton’s Oregon District.
Gun issues has become a key issue in the 2020 presidential race.In a one-on-one interview with News Center 7’s Molly Koweek on Sunday in Wapakoneta, President Donald Trump said “we have to protect our second amendment,” Trump said. “We can’t let guns be taken away from good people, but we want to have them taken away from crazy people.”
Watch President Trump's interview on News Center 7
O’Rourke believes that most people would follow the law and turn their weapons in under his proposal for a mandatory buyback program and assault weapons ban.
He also wants to outlaw high-capacity magazines and expand background checks.
The Trump administration recently banned bump stocks — devices that allow semiautomatic long guns to mimic fully automatic fire — and ordered owners to turn them in to be destroyed.
But there were only about a half million of those devices, and they cost far less than an AR, which can run upwards of $1,000 or more.
The ban was largely based on an honor system, though Washington state did offer a buyback program that quickly exhausted the $150,000 set aside to shell out $150 each device turned in.
The idea of outlawing and then rounding up firearms alarmed many gun owners who believe it will not solve the problem of gun violence and would only serve to take firearms away from law-abiding Americans.
They point out that while AR-style guns have been used in some high-profile mass shootings, most gun deaths involve handguns.“
Once you start talking about taking guns away, especially legally owned firearms by responsible gun owners, you’re just going to alienate a whole huge portion of American citizens. They’re just not going to stand for that,” said Chris Waltz, the president and CEO of AR-15 Gun Owners of America.
“This is what they feared.”Of the estimated 16 million AR-style guns that are in circulation, about half of them are owned by current or former members of the military or law enforcement, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Soldier arrested for alleged threats against O’Rourke, others
Federal authorities said Monday they arrested an Army soldier who they accused of discussing with an FBI informant a possible bomb attack within the United States as well as the targeting of left-leaning activists such as O’Rourke and a media organization.
Jarrett William Smith, a 24-year-old private first class infantry soldier from South Carolina stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, was arrested Saturday and later charged with one count of sharing bomb-making instructions online. During his first court appearance on Monday, the magistrate ordered that he remain in custody pending a detention hearing on Thursday.
His defense attorney, Thomas Bartee, did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.
A criminal complaint alleges that Smith discussed his plan to kill far-left-leaning "antifa" activists and described how to build a bomb that could be triggered by calling a cellphone. They accuse him of posting on Facebook that he was interested in traveling to Ukraine to fight with a paramilitary group known as Azov Batallion.
Court papers say Smith also suggested targeting a major news network with a car bomb. The news network was not identified.
In one exchange Friday with an FBI undercover agent on the encrypted messaging service Telegram, Smith discussed using various household chemicals and commonly available equipment to make a bomb.
"That's the best way to fight people," Smith is quoted in the complaint as writing. "Making AK-47s out of expensive parts is cool, but imagine of you will if you were going to Walmart instead of gun store to buy weapons."
When the undercover agent asked Smith if there was anyone in Texas who would be a good fit for "fire, destruction and death," Smith reportedly replied, "Outside of Beto? I don't know enough people that would be relevant enough to cause a change if they died."
O'Rourke's campaign spokeswoman Aleigha Cavalier said they are grateful to the FBI for their diligence in handling this case and for their work to keep the country safe in the face of domestic terror threats.
"We take any threat like this very seriously, and our team is in direct contact with the FBI regarding this case," Cavalier said. "This isn't about any one person or one campaign, and we won't let this scare us or cause us to back down in fighting for what's right.
If convicted of the charge, Smith could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
Trouble in the polls
O’Rourke gained national attention in 2018 after running a close race against Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
Cruz defeated O’Rourke, 50.9% to 48.3%. It was the closest U.S. Senate race in Texas since 1976.
However, O’Rourke’s presidential campaign has failed to gain traction. In the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll out this week, he is at just 1% in national support of Democratic voters.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.