Transcript: 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke on "Face the Nation," September 1, 2019

O'Rourke calls for gun control after Texas shooting

The following is a transcript of the interview with 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke that aired Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, on "Face the Nation."  


MARGARET BRENNAN: We are now joined by 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke. He's here in studio. Good to have you here. 

BETO O'ROURKE: Thank you for having me. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we are following what has happened in your home state overnight. You've said Americans have functionally accepted as our fate mass shootings are just going to occur. How would your policies have prevented what happened in Odessa and Midland?

O'ROURKE: Yeah. I'm also thinking about the people in the Permian Basin in west Texas and Midland and Odessa right now. And I want to make sure that we take action on their behalf and on behalf of everyone in this country. Universal background checks that close every loophole, red flag laws to stop people who have firearms before it is too late- if they pose a danger to themselves or someone else. Ending the sale of weapons of war, AR-15's and AK-47's. They were designed to kill people as effectively, as efficiently, in as great a number as possible.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do we know that that was the type of weapon used in the shooting?

O'ROURKE: We don't know, but in El Paso it was a variant of an AK-47 that killed 22 people and grievously injured many more. These are weapons of war and they're used as instruments of terror in our country. And so I think in addition to those steps I just described it is really important that we buy back those weapons of war that are out on our streets right now- millions of them. And also ensure that there is a national licensing and gun registry program. We have in this country more than three hundred and ninety million guns in a nation of three hundred and twenty nine million people. That is a big part of the reason that we lose 40 thousand of our fellow Americans every year. And we cannot accept this anymore. We've got to follow the lead of those moms who demand action, the students who are marching for our lives who themselves have announced ambitious plans to ensure that we can protect one another and that our kids don't have to fear going to school or the future of this country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But in your home state of Texas about 35 percent of people are gun owners. And today even more lenient laws go into effect allowing people to carry weapons into many different places. So do you blame local government there? Because all the prescriptions you're laying out are federal solutions.

O'ROURKE: Yeah let- let's not blame anyone. Let's all take responsibility to make this right. So I've talked to gun owners and non-gun owners in every one of the two hundred and fifty four counties of Texas. They're all there on universal background checks and red flag laws. I was at a gun show in Conway, Arkansas talking to owners of AR-15's and AK-47's. Some of them were open to a mandatory buyback program. All of them agreed that we have a crisis and an epidemic of gun violence so--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But do you think public opinion in Texas is changing? I mean in those places--

O'ROURKE: It's there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --that have been seen as really--

O'ROURKE: Yea. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- impossible to change laws and convictions that are strongly behind the Second Amendment.

O'ROURKE: I remember a woman in Brentwood, Texas a Republican rural conservative community said "I was born with a 22 in my hands. But I also have more than 20 grandchildren and I want to know whether you're going to represent them or the NRA." Though she's a gun owner, though she's conservative, she wants us to take common sense practical steps to protect her grandkids to protect people all over this country. So yes the people of America are there. That leadership- the courage of our convictions just needs to be reflected in our national leadership making sure that we're listening to people not the NRA. People not PACs, people not corporations. When we do that we will save the lives of people.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But for your solutions so far- policy prescriptions, you don't know that it would have prevented what happened in Midland and Odessa.

O'ROURKE: We're still obviously learning the details. Listened to the press conference last night from the chief of police where they were not able to say what kind of weapon--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. 

O'ROURKE: -- was used, but I also just watched a video on Twitter of a family that is pinned to the ground, the- the children are crying. They're all Mexican American in a part of our country where Mexican Americans were targeted and hunted for their very ethnicity. People are living with fear, feel like they have targets on their backs right now. Kids afraid to go to school tomorrow morning. This is not right. Unacceptable. And I won't accept it. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you as well though, about the other gathering storm- the Category 5 hurricane that's headed towards the United States. When you look at the kind of federal preparedness we have now is there something as president you would change about it? Or do you think the system is ready to go?

O'ROURKE: I'm really disappointed that President Trump has proposed taking money from FEMA in the middle of hurricane season for walls or cages or militarization of the border that we do not need. As president I would fully fund FEMA. I would invest in the resiliency of communities in Florida and Georgia, the Carolinas, and Puerto Rico to make sure that they're ready for the next storm because the scientists have told these storms are only going to become more frequent, more devastating, and more deadly as the climate continues to change. So the immediate priority is helping those in the path of these storms. But the longer term goal is to confront climate change before it's too late. Free ourselves from a dependence on fossil fuels and fully embrace renewable energy and get to net zero greenhouse gas emissions as soon as humanly possible. No later than the year 2050. We- we got to do all of that if we're going to meet this challenge.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You rolled out your trade policy this week. New tariffs on China go into place today. Is there a situation where President O'Rourke would ever use tariffs? 

O'ROURKE: As a last resort. These tariffs are punishing farmers across this country, destroying markets they've worked their entire lives, maybe their parents lives as well to open up now lost to them and to their children. We see a tax on the American consumer that averages about nine hundred dollars a household. And we are hurtling the world and this economy into recession. So end these trade wars. No more tariffs. And then work in concert with our allies and our friends: Canada, Mexico, the European Union. A united front against China and any of their trade practices that are manipulative or damaging to the United States--

MARGARET BRENNAN:  Does that mean something like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, this--

O'ROURKE: --No.

MARGARET BRENNAN: trade deal? You wouldn't re-enter that? 

O'ROURKE: No I- I wouldn't. I would make sure--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --but you're viewed as more friendly to free trade than some of your competitors.

O'ROURKE: I- I want to make sure that trade works for us and it works for our farmers and it works for our workers. I want to make sure that our trade deals are used to achieve our goals. I'll give you some examples. I mentioned climate change earlier. This could be the platform for us to get the necessary concessions from trading partners to ensure that we don't warm this planet another degree and a half Celsius. Trade deals could be the platform by which we ensure the dignity of working women and men all over the world- make sure they're paid a fair wage and have working conditions that are safe for them. And it's also a way to make sure that we protect the human rights of our fellow human beings all over the planet. These are our values in this country. Let's use our trade deals to achieve them and make sure that we never do that at the expense of the American worker or the American farmer or the American economy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Beto O'Rourke. Good to have you here. 

O'ROURKE: Thank you. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you. We'll be back in a moment.