What does Beto O’Rourke’s dropping out of the race mean for the topic of gun control?
By Jane Cameron
Beto O’Rourke holds the belief that the country must implement mandatory gun buyback programs, universal background checks, and a gun licensing program. O’Rourke made gun control a prominent issue in his campaign. Now that he has removed his name from the running, we are left wondering if this issue will remain relevant in the Democratic race.
The frequency of school shootings grows every year, with an all time high of 110 instances by 2018. Yet it is a victim of the issue attention cycle. The media’s motivation to garner the largest audience possible leaves them reporting on what will attract more viewers more often than what is important. With school shootings occurring every 77 days on average, the press is less intrigued to report on every single case and seems to spend less time on each occurance. Once Congress has moved on from the issue without taking any action, it is essentially over in the press. Despite the decreased amount of attention this issue receives, it still has remained at the top of Beto O’Rourke’s political agenda.
Beto O’Rourke was the first and one of the only Democratic candidates to encourage a mandatory gun buyback. Even as a Senator in Texas, a state well known for its conservative views, he has supported renewed efforts to pass an assault weapons ban in the senate. He repeatedly sided with Democrats in the House when it came to the issue of gun control and advocated for universal background checks and red-flag laws. O'Rourke asserts that the country must pass a mandatory buyback for assault weapons and a voluntary buyback for handguns. The consequences of not complying with these regulations would be heavy fines. These ideas have proved to be dismaying to conservatives, and have even been opposed by moderate Democrats, yet Beto O'Rourke's stance on this issue remains strong.
On November 11th, Beto O'Rourke declared he would be dropping out of the race. O’Rourke amplified the conversation of gun control and effectively forced other candidates to further address the issue. O’Rourke previously declared, “We have to continue to keep this issue front and center if we’re going to make any progress on it”. Who can pro-gun control indivduals rely on now? Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris both have come around to the idea of a mandatory gun buyback and expressed support. However, the rest of the Democratic nominees have yet to reinforce the belief that the country needs such action. Front runners Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, and Bernie Sanders have stated their support for a voluntary gun buyback program, but do not feel such drastic measures as those O’Rourke has mentioned are necessary. The candidates pledge support for various aspects of creating stricter firearm regulations, yet Beto O'Rourke's plan went further than any other candidate.
No candidate still in the race has placed as much of an emphasis on gun control as Beto O'Rourke did during his campaign. Behind O’Rourke, Harris and Booker are most commonly the ones to hold strong views on efforts to create stronger regulations on firearms. Nonetheless, Harris and Booker do not recognize being pro-gun control as a prominent part of their platform like O’Rourke did. Although O’Rourke trailed by too much to expect to win the nomination, removing himself from the race could leave gun regulations unaddressed moving forward.
Jane Cameron is a freshman majoring in journalism and mass communication, from Fairfield County, Connecticut.