Beto O'Rourke: Both parties to blame for lack of gun legislation

Former Texas Rep. returns to campaign trail

By Jamie Ehrlich, CNN
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Democratic presidential candidate, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) speaks to media and supporters during a campaign relaunch on Aug. 15, 2019, in El Paso.

(CNN) - Former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke said Thursday that both Democrats and Republicans are to blame for "inaction and indifference" on passing gun control legislation.

"The level of inaction and indifference, and we can't just blame one political party for this," the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said at a roundtable on gun control held in Des Moines, Iowa. "Democrats have had control of every level of power within recent history and did not avail themselves of it to address these issues."

"It's got to defy party division, lines of race, geography. This is something that afflicts all of us in this country," the Texas Democrat added.

O'Rourke recently returned to the campaign trail after 12 days in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, following a shooting when a gunman, who police say had posted a screed online that warned of a "Hispanic invasion," killed 22 people at a Walmart. Since then, O'Rourke has sought to reorient his campaign around confronting what he has described as President Donald Trump's racist attacks on minority communities. O'Rourke is linking gun violence and hate speech, and is also proposing steps aimed at combating "white supremacy, racism and domestic terrorism."

In the wake of the shooting, O'Rourke has also called for the creation of a nationwide gun licensing system, with states allowed to create their own versions or use the federal system, as well as a national registry of all guns that are purchased.

Since the two mass shootings that occurred in both El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, Congress and the White House are said to be negotiating gun control measures around the background check system, despite the President repeatedly changing his mind. Several conservative allies and Republican lawmakers have privately voiced opposition to his push for background checks, claiming they wouldn't have stopped the shootings in Dayton and El Paso.

A recent CNN poll conducted by SSRS suggests across the nation there is broad support for tighter gun restrictions.

At the roundtable in Des Moines, O'Rourke highlighted law enforcement-based solutions for gun violence and also lessons he learned from the El Paso shooting.

"One of the lessons learned from El Paso, we are one of the safest cities in the United States of America, but nothing can exempt you or separate you from a very violent country that'll find you sooner or later, and it found us," O'Rourke said.

CNN's Eric Bradner and Dylan Wells contributed to this report.

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