Beto O’Rourke Crashes Gov. Abbott’s Press Conference, Confronts Him About Guns

Photo from ABC News.

By Terrance Turner

May 25, 2022

Today, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott held a press conference to address last night’s deadly shooting in Uvalde, TX. At around 11:30 yesterday morning, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX (a town about 85 miles west of San Antonio) and opened fire, killing 19 children and two teachers. It is the deadliest shooting at an elementary school since the deadly massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012

The suspect had a handgun, AR-15 assault weapon and high-capacity magazines, two law enforcement sources confirmed to CBS News’ Pat Milton. (Lt. Christopher Olivarez, of the Texas Dept. of Public Safety, said the officers who first responded to the scene “were at a point of disadvantage” and were not able to make entry.) Today, Gov. Abbott pointed to mental health as a problem for the shooting — though he admitted that the gunman had no diagnosed or documented history of mental heath issues. But former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) crashed the conference, confronting Abbott about his stance on guns.

“Gov. Abbott, I wanna say something,” O’Rourke said as he approached the stage.

“Sit down. You’re out of line and an embarrassment,” Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said from the stage.

O’Rourke continued: “The time to stop the next shooting is right now,” O’Rourke said, “and you are doing nothing.”

“No. He needs to get his ass outta here,” raged Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin. “This isn’t the place to talk this over.”

“This is totally predictable when you choose not to–“

“Sir, you’re out of line,” McLaughlin shouted at O’Rourke. “I can’t believe — you’re a sick son of a bitch who would come here to make a political issue.”

The exchange is captured below.

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“This is on you. Until you choose to do something, this will continue to happen,” O’Rourke said to Abbott, according to the Washington Post. “Somebody needs to stand up for the children of this state, or they will continue to be killed.”

Elsewhere in the auditorium, some people could be heard shouting “Let him speak! Let him speak!” and “What happened to the First Amendment of the Constitution? Freedom of speech?”

O”Rourke was escorted out of the event by police. But he continued to speak outside the venue. (O’Rourke has been outspoken about having stricter gun-control measures since a gunman opened fire in a Walmart and killed 23 people in his hometown of El Paso in 2019.) “This 18-year-old, who just turned 18, bought an AR-15 and took it into an elementary school and shot kids in the face and killed them,” Mr. O’Rourke, who is running for governor, shouted outside, according to the New York Times. “Why are we letting this happen in this country? Why is this happening in this state? Year after year, city after city.”

“We owe those parents actions. I’ve talked to the parents in El Paso, I’ve talked to the parents in Santa Fe high School, I’ve talked to the parents in Midland, Odessa. They want us to do something right now. I want us to do something right now. We can do something right now. But if we continue to accept this, it’s not just the governor’s fault — it is on us,” O’Rourke said.

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One reporter asked O’Rourke, ‘What do you say to Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who says now is not the time to make this political?’ 

‘‘Now is the time to stop the next shooting,’’ O’Rourke answered. ‘’Right after Santa Fe High School was the time to stop the next shooting. Right after El Paso was the time to stop the next shooting. Right after Midland, Odessa was the time to stop the next shooting — and in each case, we say this isn’t the time. Now is the time. Like literally right now. That’s why I’m here.

That’s what we want as a state. That’s what I want as a parent. I’ve got three kids who are in high school and middle school and elementary school. That’s what they want. And I face their judgment and my conscience – and ultimately my Maker – for what I do when I have the chance to change this, and I’m going to do everything in my power to change this. 

And I am not alone. The majority of Texas is with us on this right now. The majority of Texas is not reflected by that governor or those people around the table who talk about mental health care, who say it is pure evil or that it is absolutely unpredictable. It is predictable. It will happen, and it will continue to happen until we change course.’’ 

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Inside the event, Gov. Abbott continued to pin the issue on mental health, even though he signed numerous laws making gun ownership easier — including one that allowed Ramos to buy guns upon his 18th birthday. (HB918, which the governor signed, amends the Government Code to allow someone who is 18 years of age to acquire a handgun “if the person meets all other license requirements”.) Abbott was asked about that by a reporter today.

“The ability of an 18-year-old to buy a long gun has been in place for more than 60 years,” Governor Abbott said. ”And I think about the time over the course of that 60 years, we have not had episodes like this. and why — why is is that for the majority of those 60 years we did not have school shootings, and why is it that we do now. The answer is…I don’t have the answer to that question.”

“What I do know is this,” he said, ‘that we, as a state, we as a society, need to do a better job with mental health. Anybody who shoots someebody else has a mental health issue, period. We as a government need to find a way to target that mental health challenge and do something about it.”

When pressed by reporters about instituting “real” gun reform, Abbott pointed to cities like Chicago — notorious for its deadly epidemic of gun violence — as reasons why tougher gun laws don’t work. “There are ‘real gun laws’ in Chicago…I hate to say this: there are more people that are shot every weekend in Chicago than there are in schools in Texas.”

Observers on Twitter noted that neighboring states are sites of trafficking for guns into the city.

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