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Gun debate a focus of Sunday talk shows

Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas at Thursday's

Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas at Thursday's Democratic presidential debate in Houston. Credit: AP / David J. Phillip

Fallout over former Rep. Beto O'Rourke's declaration in Thursday's Democratic presidential debate that "hell, yes" he would confiscate assault weapons as president reverberated Sunday morning on both sides of the political aisle.

Democrats have rebuked O'Rourke for his comment and predicted that Republicans would play a video clip of his remarks on loop during the election season to doom Democrats' chances with pro-gun voters.

"Hell, yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We're not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore," O'Rourke said on the debate stage Thursday night in Houston.

But Sunday, Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and a Democratic candidate for president, told CNN's Jake Tapper that "yes," O'Rourke was playing into the hands of Republicans.

"Look, right now, we have an amazing moment on our hands," Buttigieg said on CNN's "State of the Union." "We have agreement among the American people for not just universal background checks, but we have a majority in favor of red-flag laws, high-capacity magazines, banning the new sale of assault weapons. This is a golden moment to finally do something, because we have been arguing about this for as long as I have been alive."

He continued: "When even this president and even [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell are at least pretending to be open to reforms, we know that we have a moment on our hands. Let's make the most of it and get these things done."

On Friday, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) warned on CNN that the "clip will be played for years at Second Amendment rallies with organizations that try to scare people by saying that Democrats are coming for your guns ... I don't think having our presidential candidates like Congressman O'Rourke did — say that we're going to try and take people's guns against their will — is wise either [as] a policy or political move."

O'Rourke said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he refuses "to even acknowledge the politics or the polling or the fear or the NRA. That has purchased the complicity and silence of members of Congress. And this weak response to a real tragedy in America — 40,000 gun deaths a year — we've got to do something about it. And I'm proposing that we do something about it."

O'Rourke told host Chuck Todd that if Americans agree that assault weapons are dangerous and should no longer be sold, "we also have to agree that these are instruments of terror that are still out there and have to be brought back home, or they are going to be used against us."

Kellyanne Conway, senior counselor to President Donald Trump, said on "Fox News Sunday" that "there are a number of pieces of legislation the president is considering," but she declined to identify any gun control measure under review. She said Trump has been reviewing the "best practices" in states with risk protection order policies and "listening to strengthening mental health."

But she issued a warning to progressives. "We want this to be bipartisan," Conway said, "but we're not going to allow bad actors who should not have firearms in the first place, who then murder innocent Americans, to be the excuse that a bunch of liberals and socialists have to confiscate firearms from law-abiding citizens who have legally procured them."

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