Beto O’Rourke returned to Iowa Tuesday evening with a fiery message to restart his campaign for president.
The event was called “An Iowa Conversation: Standing up to Trump,” and during the event O’Rourke continued to condemn white supremacy.
O’Rourke took a break from the campaign trail after a terrorist shooter killed 22 people at a Walmart on August 3 in his hometown of El Paso.
That mass shooting, the deadliest in the United States this year, was a focal point of O’Rourke’s appearance. O’Rourke focused specifically on the amount of hate pointed at immigrants as the cause of the shooting.
O’Rourke made a point of tying Donald Trump’s rhetoric about immigrants to the attack in El Paso, and to the hate crimes that have targeted various communities since Trump took office.
“The facts are out there. The largest hate crimes, every single one [happened in] the last three years in this country,” O’Rourke said. “The day [Trump] signed his order attempting to ban Muslim travel in the United State, the mosque in Victoria, Texas is burned to the ground.”
Many organizations in the United States attempt to document hate crimes, from the FBI to newsrooms. Data is incomplete and hate crime laws and definitions are complicated, but all the organizations that document them show an increase in the past couple of years.
“So, as president, we’ve got to make sure we make our number one law enforcement priority combatting white nationalism and white supremacy in this country,” O’Rourke said.
The FBI agrees.
O’Rourke dedicated a significant amount of time to connecting white supremacy and violence to the fact that immigrants come to American seeking better lives, and the policies of the current administration seek to punish and demonize them.
“We have a president who calls [immigrants] animals, that’s what he said. Who calls them an infestation, which is what you might call a cockroach. Or if you’re referring to a human being, you did it during the Third Reich in the 1930s. You didn’t do it in the United States of America in 2018 and 2019,” O’Rourke said.
O’Rourke also recalled the Trump rally in May where the president asked the crowd how to stop immigration and did nothing to quiet the cheers when someone in the audience yelled “shoot them.”
“This president is helping to cause this,” O’Rourke said. “He is not the only, sole cause of it, this is foundational to our country, but he’s inviting it out into the open with tragic consequences.”
The other major issue O’Rourke talked about was gun control.
His website has a comprehensive plan that addresses many aspects of the problem of gun violence and possible solutions, several of which he talked about in Des Moines.
At the event, O’Rourke advocated for background checks, red-flag laws and banning the sale of assault weapons. To applause, O’Rourke also called for a buy-back program to remove the assault weapons that have been sold.
O’Rourke recently visited a gun show in Arkansas where he met with gun sellers and owners and talked to them about the issue and ideas for controlling guns.
In the last decade, the United States Supreme Court has issued rulings expanding gun rights for individuals and the types of firearms they can carry.
O’Rourke said he recognizes the importance of the Second Amendment, but pointed out that the Court allowed for limits.
“The Supreme Court has been very clear that there is no right that we enjoy under the Constitution that is unlimited,” he said. “And the Supreme Court has set the precedent that there is some common sense restriction on our Second Amendment rights to own firearms and to use them in protecting the public health and the safety of our fellow Americans.”
Polls show that a majority of Americans support the idea of universal background checks and red-flag laws.
There’s even support for bans on assault weapons.
Those numbers give O’Rourke hope.
“I have yet to meet someone, including Republicans and gun owners, who is not concerned about the level of gun violence that we have in this country,” O’Rourke said. “I think we just have to have the political courage to say that out loud and then I think we’re going to be pleasantly and positively surprised by how many people in this country join us.”
by Nikoel Hytrek
Photo by Julie Fleming