The former congressman put his campaign on hold after a white supremacist opened fire in a Walmart, killing 22 and injuring others. The gunman told law enforcement that he had driven across the state to target the high population of Mexican-American immigrants in the city.
Given the nature of the mass shooting, O’Rourke announced how he would address the threat of mass shootings and white supremacist terrorism if he becomes president. Here are five things to know about his plan:
O’Rourke would ban and buyback assault weapons nationwide.
A cornerstone of O’Rourke’s gun violence plan is to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. That ban prevented gun manufacturers from producing high-powered rifles and selling them in the United States, but it did not ban ownership of these weapons.
O’Rourke hopes to sign into law an assault weapons ban that would ban the production and sales of “military-style assault weapons” and high capacity magazines. In addition, O’Rourke would outlaw the possession of such weapons.
It is not clear which weapons O’Rourke would classify as “military-style assault weapons,” but those in possession of such weapons would be allowed to participate in a state-sponsored gun buyback to receive compensation for their weapons, similar to the buyback program put in place by New Zealand following the mosque shootings earlier this year.
It is also unclear whether such a law would stand before the Supreme Court, given the protections guaranteed under the Second Amendment.
He’d pass Red Flag laws, universal background checks, and more.
Along with his proposed ban and buyback, O’Rourke plans to implement many of the commonly discussed anti-gun violence proposals, including:
- universal background checks;
- a federal gun registry;
- limiting the power of pro-gun activist groups like the National Rifle Association;
- limit gun purchases to one per month for all individuals;
- empower the National Institute of Health to study gun violence by declaring it a public health crisis;
- implement tougher punishments for gun traffickers;
- require nationwide Red Flag laws.
“When 40,000 people a year die of gun violence, it is an emergency,” O’Rourke wrote.
O’Rourke would have the DOJ prioritize white supremacist terrorism.
Although not every mass shooting was committed by a white supremacist, O’Rouke wants federal authorities to prioritize the rise of white supremacist crimes. He claims white supremacy must be addressed as an “organized crime problem.”
“As president, [O’Rourke] will make cracking down on white supremacy a top priority by treating far-right violence as an organized crime problem, improving data collection regarding hate crimes, allocating resources to fight domestic terrorism based on the severity of the threats posed by groups likely to commit violent acts, and developing comprehensive strategies to protect minority communities from far-right violence.”
O’Rourke hopes to make the Department of Justice (DOJ) implement a counterterrorism strategy focused on white supremacist terrorism in the United States, with the goal of preventing terrorist acts like the shootings in El Paso and the Charleston church shooting.
He’d hold social media companies responsible for ‘hateful activities’ on their platforms.
One of the most controversial points of O’Rourke’s proposal is his plan to hold social media companies responsible for the content posted on their platforms.
O’Rourke’s social media plan is two-fold: require tech companies to have a program that removes “hateful” content and open up social media to lawsuits for failing to block such content.
The first part of his plan would force tech companies to implement terms of service banning “hateful activities.”
“Beto would require large internet platforms to adopt terms of service to ban hateful activities, defined as those that incite or engage in violence, intimidation, harassment, threats, or defamation targeting an individual or group based on their actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, immigration status, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability. These companies also would be required to put in place systems designed to identify and act on content violating the terms of service. Platforms must be transparent when they block content and provide for an appeal process in order to guard against abuse.”
If companies are found to “knowingly promote content that incites violence,” they will be stripped of their publisher protections and made liable to lawsuits from users. This is similar to Sen. Josh Hawley’s (R-Mo.) plan to curb political bias by eliminating protections from companies swaying the political conversation, as IJR previously explained.
Some have expressed concerns that O’Rourke’s plan to force companies to create systems to block “hateful activities” could impede on an individual’s First Amendment right to free speech.
Very cool and neat road everyone has decided to go down. Great work all around to everyone. https://t.co/kSUwBW3bLu
— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) August 16, 2019
Although the First Amendment does include exceptions for the direct incitement of violence, it does not include exceptions for offensive comments that could be considered harassment under O’Rourke’s plan.
He hopes to fight white supremacy around the globe.
O’Rourke is running to be the leader of the United States, but he hopes to carry that influence around the globe to address white supremacy in other places, as well. He claimed that Trump and other world leaders are “using racism to divide” and called on international cooperation to tackle white supremacy.
“Donald Trump and right-wing authoritarians around the world are using racism to divide people across the globe. Combatting this requires global solutions,” O’Rourke’s team wrote. “As president, Beto will sign the Christchurch Call to Action, which has been ignored by the Trump Administration, and will require the National Counterterrorism Center to coordinate with international partners to investigate global links to white nationalist violence.”