Beto O’Rourke interrupts news conference, tells Texas governor: ‘This is on you!’
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was confronted by his Democratic challenger, Beto O’Rourke, at a Wednesday news briefing, where officials gave details about the mass shooting at a local elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Three adults — including the gunman — and 19 students were killed.
O’Rourke, 49, a former El Paso congressman and U.S. Senate and presidential candidate, is the Democratic nominee in the race against Abbott, 64, who’s seeking a third term as governor.
For the record:
6:17 p.m. May 25, 2022An earlier version of this report said the mass shooting at the El Paso Walmart was in 2016. It was in 2019.
Abbott took the stage at the auditorium in Uvalde High School, surrounded by state and local Republican officials, including U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. He described how the 18-year-old shooter armed himself with an AR-15-style rifle, but said the problem wasn’t the state’s lax gun laws.
“I asked the sheriff and others an open-ended question and got the same answer from the sheriff as well as from the mayor of Uvalde. The question was, what is the problem here? And they were straightforward and emphatic. They said, ‘We have a problem with mental health illness in this community,’” Abbott said, including, “‘the need for more mental health support in this region.’”
Soon after, O’Rourke — seated in the audience — stood up and approached the stage, calling the shooting “totally predictable when you choose not to do anything.”
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin shouted back: “Sir, you’re out of line!”
Sen. Cruz — who narrowly beat O’Rourke in his last Senate race — told him to sit down.
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Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called O’Rourke “an embarrassment.”
O’Rourke pointed his finger at Abbott.
“This is on you until you choose to do something different. This will continue to happen. Somebody needs to stand up for the children of this state or they will continue to be killed just like they were killed in Uvalde yesterday,” he said before leaving the building.
Abbott dismissed the interruption.
“There are family members who are crying as we speak, there are family members whose hearts are broken, there is no words that anybody shouting can come up here and do anything to heal those broken hearts,” he told the crowd. “… We need to focus not on ourselves and our agendas.”
O’Rourke continued speaking in the school parking lot about the need for tighter gun laws, shouting and railing against AR-15-style rifles as he did after a mass shooting at a Walmart in his native El Paso in 2019, the worst mass shooting targeting Latinos in U.S. history.
The gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school barricaded himself inside a fourth-grade classroom, officials say.
“The governor talks about mental health. It is insane that we allow an 18-year-old to go in and buy an AR-15: What the hell did we think he was going to do with that? This one is on us,” he said, speaking first in English, then Spanish. “Now is the time to stop the next shooting.”
O’Rourke cited other mass shootings in the state since El Paso: a church in the central Texas town of Sutherland Springs in 2017, Santa Fe High School outside Houston in 2018, and Midland-Odessa in 2019. He said he talked to victims’ parents in Uvalde, El Paso, Santa Fe and Midland-Odessa.
“We owe those parents action,” he said. “… You want a solution? Stop selling AR-15s in the state of Texas. You want a solution? Have universal background checks. We don’t have them. You want a solution? Red flag laws or extreme risk protection orders which stop a shooting before it happens. You want a solution? Safe [gun] storage laws.”
“We could get that done if we had a governor who cared more about the people of Texas than he does his own political career or his fealty to the NRA,” he said, noting that Abbott is scheduled to speak at the annual National Rifle Assn. convention in Houston at the end of the week.
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