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Tipsheet

A History of Beto O'Rourke's Flip-Flop-Flipping

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Texas gubernatorial candidate Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke is the quintessential opposite of the typical gunslinging blue-collar Texan. The soy boy Beto male, once a live-in Manhattan "manny," with hands as smooth as a baby's bottom—and the spirit animal of a golden retriever that would perform tricks for whoever would throw him a bone—could teach a master class on panhandling for votes. O'Rourke, claiming to no longer be as hellbent on gun seizures, is trying to pull a Democratic upset in Republican stronghold "Come And Take It" Texas. Cranking up the dial on targeting one of the most popular rifles in America, "Both Ways" Beto is running for a third time over the past few years in a proud state with the highest gun ownership in the United States.

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But in his failing quest to hold office again at any level (really, he'd run for mayor of South Bend, Indiana, if he could), the former Texas congressman has shot himself in the foot while gunning for political power. While appeasing progressive city-dwellers and coastal elites elsewhere in America, O'Rourke has consequently ignored the plights of Texas border towns and gun owners, a motivated voting bloc in the state.

(Whoever told gun-grabbing O'Rourke that challenging Republican incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott, a fervent Second Amendment advocate, would bode well after two consecutive flunked attempts on the ballot is the same Soros-like puppeteer whispering in Stacey Abrams's ear, "The people of Georgia want you.")

Like an angsty soul-searching teenager preparing for the new school year, O'Rourke has attempted to remake himself each election cycle with a purported change of heart on gun confiscation and illegal immigration. In a deep-red state like Texas, the Second Amendment and secure borders are integral to Lone Star residents.

Gun Confiscation

O'Rourke not only has flip-flopped on gun confiscation; he's flip-flop-flipped.

Hot on the campaign trail for the 2020 presidential election, then-White House hopeful O'Rourke seized on the vulnerable aftermath of the 2019 El Paso shooting, a mass casualty event carried out in his hometown, to push for a complete ban on the sale and possession of so-called "assault rifles." In an Aug. 22, 2019, op-ed for USA Today, he took it a step further than some centrist Democrats by urging a mandatory buyback program to confiscate such existing weapons and "high-capacity" magazines from otherwise law-abiding Americans.

O'Rourke's intention was explicit in a Sept. 2, 2019, tweet: "I was asked how I'd address people's fears that we will take away their assault rifles. I want to be clear: That's exactly what we're going to do. Americans who own AR-15s and AK-47s will have to sell their assault weapons [to the government]. All of them."

At the Sept. 12, 2019, Democratic presidential debate, O'Rourke boasted: "Hell yes, we are 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's line was lamented by liberal lawmakers, including Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) who noted the soundbite could haunt Democrats as a fear-mongering clip that "will be played for years at Second Amendment rallies."

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O'Rourke's campaign team instantly took to Twitter to fundraise off of the on-stage moment, tweeting, "Beto has a ban for that," a rendition of 1/1024th Native American Sen. Elizabeth Warren's "I have a plan for that" tagline. Later that night, O'Rourke's digital director touted the fundraising surge as the best so far in the third quarter of that year. The sudden flow of campaign cash arrived at an opportune time for a desperate O'Rourke, when there were just two-and-a-half weeks left in that quarter. Soon after, the O'Rourke campaign further profited off the revamped Beto brand by selling "HELL YES WE'RE GOING TO TAKE YOUR AR-15" shirts for $30 apiece and advertising "Beto has a ban for that" vinyl stickers for $5 each. (Beto's sudden embrace of the free market was quite entrepreneurial for someone who considers America's capitalist economy "racist.")

The following week, O'Rourke reiterated his anti-gun call during a Sept. 19, 2019, CNN interview. "Are you, in fact, in favor of gun confiscation?" a not-yet-disgraced Chris Cuomo asked O'Rourke. To which, O'Rourke replied with a direct and enthusiastic “Yes, when it comes to AR-15s and AK-47s."

A month later, during a live interview on Oct. 16, 2019, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough asked O'Rourke how he, as president, would respond to non-compliance from gun owners who consider the gun-confiscation proposal "an unjust law and unconstitutional." Responding to the hypothetical, O'Rourke threatened, "There have to be consequences or else there is no respect for the law," adding that defiance would prompt "a visit by law enforcement to recover [sic] that firearm and to make sure that it is purchased."

The same day as the "Morning Joe" appearance, CNN's Alisyn Camerota of "New Day" asked O’Rourke: "How do you plan to get assault weapons away from people who don’t want to give them up?" O'Rourke responded, "It’s pretty simple. As with any law in this country, we would expect our fellow Americans to follow the law."

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Camerota pushed back by saying mass shooters would not follow the law, pointing out that O'Rourke's scheme "sounds like confiscation." O'Rourke claimed, "No, I’m not suggesting that. And I think that’s why people use the word confiscation because it scares people. What I'm talking about is a mandatory buyback..."

As recent as last November, now seeking the Texas governorship, O'Rourke stood by his stance of a forced buyback initiative before making his position less aggressive and more moderate the following year (if only for a split second). According to an interview write-up by The Texas Tribune published Nov. 15, 2021, O'Rourke indicated he's not backing away from his over-reaching proposal, again invoking "battlefield" imagery to downplay government confiscation of firearms as a necessary evil to prevent gun violence.

Forward to Feb. 8, 2022, O'Rourke was, indeed, shadowed by his 2019 rhetoric. O'Rourke's "hell yes" turned into a "hell maybe." When grilled by reporters at a news conference in Tyler on his previous eyebrow-raising statements, O'Rourke appeared to reverse course on the issue, insisting: "I'm not interested in taking anything from anyone. What I want to make sure that we do is defend the Second Amendment." Later in a contradictory telephone conversation, O'Rourke told The New York Times that he did not regret any policy positions he took while running for president and denied that he was walking back his old comments. "I don't think that we should have AR-15s and AK-47s on the streets of this state..." O'Rourke said. “I haven't changed a thing about that."

O'Rourke's apparent flip-flop was a pivotal maneuver following polls that showed the Democratic contender trailing Abbott by double digits. According to a Dec. 8, 2021, Quinnipiac poll, Abbott held a dominant 15-point lead during the early days of O'Rourke's nascent campaign. In addition, independent Texas voters backed Abbott by 10 points over O’Rourke in a head-to-head matchup, and a majority of voters believed that the Democratic challenger is too liberal. When voters were asked who would do a better job handling gun policy, the hallmark issue of O'Rourke's campaign, 60 percent picked Abbott compared to the 33 percent settling for O'Rourke.

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But wait: There's more. Within months, O'Rourke flipped back in favor of gun seizures.

Days before the Uvalde school shooting, O'Rourke told veterans at a May 21 town hall: "I don't think that the people who have them right now [owners of semi-automatic rifles] in civilian use should be able to keep them."

O'Rourke's speech in San Angelo went on to argue that "no one [should] be able to purchase an AR-15 or an AK-47, because they’re designed to kill humans" and "will just tear up everything inside you."

"I think we are fools to believe anything other than that these weapons of war will continue to be used with greater frequency against our fellow Americans," the Democratic nominee told another audience of veterans at a separate meeting in Abilene that same day. "It's why I've taken the position that I don’t think we should have AR-15s and AK-47s in civilian life," O'Rourke asserted. "They belong on a battlefield."

For a meh politician as bendable, squishy, and inconsistent as O'Rourke—whose entire personality revolves around gun control—it's not quite clear if he had flipped before he flopped. O'Rourke's acrobatic routine seems to stretch back to April 2018. "If you own that gun, keep that gun. Nobody wants to take it away from you, at least I don't want to do that," O'Rourke said on April 9, 2018, during The Chad Hasty Show, a local Lubbock radio program. "To be clear…if you purchased that AR-15, if you own it, keep it. Continue to use it responsibly."

Huh? Four years later, O'Rourke still struggles to pick a lane and stay there. He's bent over backward and, at times, twisted himself into a pretzel depending on which way the wind blows (or whatever the polls show).

The latest swivel occurred at the SXSW 2022 festival in Austin during an hour-long March 12 interview conducted by The Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith, who prodded O'Rourke to clarify his vacillating opinion on confiscating "assault-style" weapons from Texans. "I don’t think anyone should have one. And if I can find the consensus within the Legislature to have a law in the state of Texas that allows us to buy those AK-47s and AR-15s back, we will," O'Rourke answered—with a fresh take that's not as catchy of a slogan to land on official Beto merch. "As you said earlier, I cannot mandate or dictate anything as the next governor of the state of Texas."

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An archived version of O'Rourke's presidential campaign website from 2019 said that he wanted to implement "a mandatory [national] buyback program for assault weapons and a voluntary buyback program for handguns," warning that "individuals who fail to participate in the mandatory buyback of assault weapons will be fined."

"Beto has been clear that he is talking about a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons, which is not confiscation," O'Rourke's 2020 campaign told PolitiFact, which even admitted that the argument is misleading.

O'Rourke's gubernatorial campaign quietly edited his site's section on gun safety, changing a call to "reduce" the number of AR-15s to stating no civilian should own the firearm. According to the Wayback Machine's last capture on April 1, it said: "I strongly believe that we need to reduce the number of AR-15s and AK-47s on our streets."

Now, in June 2022, O'Rourke's campaign webpage on gun safety declares: "And while it might not be the easy or politically safe thing to say, I don't believe any civilian should own an AR-15 or AK-47. When a gunman drove to a Walmart in my hometown of El Paso and managed to kill nearly two dozen of my neighbors with an AK-47 in under three minutes, it made it all too clear to me that it is far too easy for Texans to get their hands on weapons of war that are designed specifically to kill people in masses in as little time as possible."

Since the El Paso massacre, O'Rourke continues to stand on the graves of gun violence victims—this time, the tragic shooting deaths of elementary school children in his home state. Last week, O'Rourke hijacked Abbott's press conference providing critical updates on the Robb Elementary School shooting that killed 19 kids just one day prior to remind the mourning city of Uvalde and the rest of America that he's running for governor. In his ostentatious outburst, O'Rourke told his GOP competitor: "You are doing nothing. You are offering up nothing. You said this was not predictable. This was totally predictable when you choose not to do anything."

The televised publicity stunt garnered boos from members of the grieving community, outraged that O'Rourke would politicize such a solemn event. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who defeated O'Rourke in his 2018 bid for U.S. Senate, told the heckling gubernatorial hopeful to "sit down" and Uvalde Mayor Don MacLaughlin shouted, "I can't believe you're a sick son of a b*tch that would come to a deal like this to make a political issue."

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Illegal Immigration

Aside from O'Rourke's years-long turnabout in the making, the Biden administration's border crisis has been no exception to his in-and-out positioning. In fact, O'Rourke flip-flopped on Title 42, a public health order that allowed the rapid expulsion of illegal immigrants during the COVID-19 pandemic, in a matter of mere days.

First, on April 8 in San Antonio, O'Rourke told Texas Tribune correspondent Patrick Svitek he supported ending Title 42. "He reiterated his argument/reasoning that 'beyond not being honest to the law,' Title 42 is 'creating more chaos at the border' by leading to more repeat crossing attempts," Svitek recounted the conversation.

Then on April 12 in the border city of McAllen, he said he doesn't want the Biden administration to lift the Trump-era immigration policy, lambasting President Joe Biden for moving to end Title 42 without a plan to deal with the influx of migrants. "It does not make sense to end this until there is a real plan and the capacity in place to handle those and address those that come over," O'Rourke told The Texas Tribune. "I have yet to hear a plan from the Biden administration to address the dynamic we will have on the border once Title 42 ends."

Only three days later, O'Rourke flipped again on April 15 in El Paso, stating that Title 14 is "bad policy." When asked if his views have evolved, O'Rourke said, "We must end Title 42" and "We must do that responsibly."

In an interview with MSNBC's Jonathan Capehart, O'Rourke doubled down on April 17 that he believes Title 42 should no longer be enforced at the United States-Mexico border, further proclaiming that it should have never been put in place at all. "I think it is time to end Title 42. I don't think we should've ever implemented it. It is a cynical reading of U.S. law that again has done nothing to improve public health or safety," O'Rourke said.

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Townhall reached out to O'Rourke's campaign to confirm his current stances on gun confiscation and Title 42.

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