DALLAS — Emotions remain raw.
There is still grief and anger about the mass murder of kids and teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde.
But Beto O’Rourke is ready to turn the emotion into action.
The democratic gubernatorial candidate chose Dallas for his first campaign event since the shooting in Uvalde.
He entered the gym at the Thurgood Marshall Recreation Center gym to a loud round of applause and got a standing ovation when Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins called O’Rourke the “first person to speak truth to power.”
Days earlier, O’Rourke confronted Governor Greg Abbott at a news conference in Uvalde.
O’Rourke told him what happened in Uvalde, El Paso, Santa Fe, Sutherland Springs and in Midland-Odessa – the sites of mass shootings in Texas – was “on him.”
“The choice we make right now as a state, and individually, is going to define and potentially haunt us for the rest of our lives,” O’Rourke told the crowd at the Dallas town hall.
O’Rourke said he believes there is some consensus on passing new gun laws in Texas: universal background checks, a requirement for guns to be safely stored, and a so-called “red flag law,” also known as an extreme risk protection to keep guns out of the hands of people experiencing a mental health crisis.
He said he believes those things can pass in Texas, and he’d work with Republicans and Democrats to make that happen.
While he personally believes in a ban on the sale of AR-15s and AK-47s, he knows that cannot pass.
“I’m going to start where we can find common ground and those three issues I mentioned are where I think we have common ground,” O’Rourke said.
“But I have the courage of my convictions. I don’t think we need assault weapons in our communities and in our lives. I will continue to look for cooperation and consensus on banning the sale of AR-15s and AK-47s and working to find a way to remove them from our communities.”
O’Rourke said he isn’t worried if his position is politically risky.
“I’m more worried that one of those AR-15s is going to be used against my kid or your kid or some other kid across the state of Texas,” he said. “The problem we have is that people are more worried about the politics and polling than doing the right thing. This moment of any in my lifetime calls for us to do the right thing.”
Two days after the shooting, Abbott said leaders in Uvalde told them the problem was with mental health.
Hours before O’Rourke’s town hall, Abbott issued an order to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan to form special legislative committees to look at the issues of school safety, mental health, social media, police training and firearm safety.
He also ordered random in-person safety audits of school campuses around the state.
O’Rourke said he agrees school safety is an issue and there is a scarcity of mental health providers in Texas.
But he says you can’t talk about gun violence without talking about guns.
“People are sick and tired of being afraid of this. They shouldn’t have to be. If we stop selling these, we’re gonna save more lives,” O’Rourke said.