Beto O’Rourke Talks Gun Control, Health Care With Two Undecided Voters | Off Script | NPR

Beto O’Rourke Talks Gun Control, Health Care With Two Undecided Voters | Off Script | NPR

MICHEL MARTIN: OK, everybody good? All right, here we go. Welcome to Off Script. This is NPR’s series of conversations
with Democratic primary candidates and local voters from across the country. I’m Michel Martin. Today we are in El Paso, Texas, with the former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke.
He’s also a former City Council member, and he represented this area in the Congress;
this is the Texas 16th. Welcome … actually, thank you for having us. BETO O’ROURKE: No, thank you for being here
and our gratitude to L & J for hosting us here in the restaurant. MARTIN: You picked this place; tell me why
it’s important to you. O’ROURKE: You know, I came here as a kid
with my folks. And it’s also the place that we would bring friends for a great meal and
a beautiful part of El Paso and then some rich history. We’re right next to Concordia
Cemetery, and you’ve got John Wesley Hardin buried there, you have a former president
of Mexico buried there and it and it helps to make the case that these two countries
come together in this one community of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez. So, just rich tradition
history and also amazing food. MARTIN: Any special personal memories for
you here? Anything special happen here? First kiss? Anything? O’ROURKE: No, just really actually coming
here with my folks and family dinners here. Kind of a special night out, get to come down
to L & J cafe, and then since then, as we’re raising our kids, we bring them here. And
then when we have visitors from out of town, we’ll often bring them here to introduce
them to the food, the cuisine of El Paso, Texas, and the U.S.-Mexico border. MARTIN: Well thanks for picking this place
so that we get to enjoy it as well. Let me introduce our voters: This is Connie Martinez.
She is a first-time voter, and you’re not at the age yet where I don’t get to tell your
age, right? You’re 20… CONNIE MARTINEZ: Yes, I’m 20 years old. MARTIN: OK, 20 years old and she’s a student
at the University of Texas at El Paso. O’ROURKE: Nice to meet you, Connie. MARTINEZ: Nice to meet you, too. MARTIN: Ruben Sandoval is here. He teaches
social studies and civics at Coronado High School and El Paso Community College. RUBEN SANDOVAL: Correct. MARTIN: They are both registered Democrats,
and they tell us that they have not yet decided who they are going to support for the Democratic
primary. So we’re going to start with gun control, or gun violence, I should say. I
think that’s a subject that’s on a lot of people’s minds, certainly here in El Paso
after the terrible events of Aug. 3, when a person killed 22 people at the Walmart here.
And I think Connie has a question about that. MARTINEZ: Yes. So, you know, after the shooting
occurred, I just wanted to ask you how did this affect you to want to have more gun reform
more so than in the past? O’ROURKE: I think being from here, hearing
the news, not being able to believe it or not being able to accept that in this incredibly
safe community — one of the safest in America — that 22 people would be killed, we later
learned in under three minutes, and many dozens more very badly injured. In fact, a little
bit later today, I’m gonna be visiting with Jessica and Memo Garcia at Del Sol hospital.
He is having his 20th surgery; still not out of the hospital, still not out of harm’s way.
Listening to them, to Jessica, who was also shot, other survivors, people who have lost
their children, lost their parents, lost a loved one, I just knew that we had to do everything
that we possibly could to prevent this from happening again. And I also knew that what
had been right before, universal background checks, red flag laws, which stop somebody
who owns a firearm if they pose a harm to themselves or someone else before it’s too
late, and ending the sale of weapons of war like the AK-47 that was used in El Paso, while
all that would be helpful, it would be insufficient as long as there were more than 10 million
AK-47 and AR-15s out there on the streets, any one of which could be used as an instrument
of terror like that A-47 was used in El Paso in the Walmart on Aug. 3. And so I really
do think just being with those families being in El Paso and listening to them and having
some of them say, “You need to be our voice in this and, while there is still time, we
need you to do the right thing.” That forced me — beyond whatever the polls said, whatever
it did to our prospects in this election, whatever it means to me personally — forced
me to say very clearly and honestly what this country needs and that is, in part, a mandatory
buyback of every year AR-15, every AK-47 that’s out there. MARTIN: So would it be accurate to say that
you enhanced your policies or proposals after the shooting here, that you actually changed
your mind about some things? Would that be accurate? O’ROURKE: Absolutely. I think before, I
had been somewhat constrained by what I thought was politically possible. I thought, you know,
the very edge of what we can do as a country is to end the sale of AR-15s and AK-47s. That
is something that I said across Texas when I ran for Senate last year. And every one
of the 254 counties, having these really great conversations with gun owners and non-gun
owners alike. And I thought that was the edge of what was possible. “What’s this Democrat,
in Texas, doing talking about an assault weapons ban?” But, when I was really honest with
myself, when people in this community forced me to be honest about the problem, I could
not escape the conclusion that if these weapons are bad to sell, if we should ban their sale,
then they should also be bought back if they pose a threat to people in this community.
And I cannot tell you how many people in El Paso your age and younger tell me that they
feel like they’re walking around with a target on their back. We know that killer came to
El Paso, he told police, to kill Mexicans, posted a manifesto warning of an invasion
that he sought to repel, feared as a white man, that he was going to be replaced by Hispanics
and those who were immigrating from Latin America. So for this community, for this country,
for the sake of doing the right thing while we can: I wanted to make sure that I clearly
laid out what I think this country needs to do if we’re gonna save the lives of our fellow
Americans. MARTIN: Connie, do you have a follow-up for
the congressman about that? MARTINEZ: I do actually. So I think that’s
all really great because I completely agree with you. I know that we need gun reform and
what happened in El Paso was a complete tragedy, to myself included, but how do you plan to
do this? Like what kind of plans, what kind of reform do you have? How would you get the
opposing side to agree to participate in the buyback program? MARTIN: But can I ask about that? Let me follow
up on that comment if you don’t mind me backing you up on this one… MARTINEZ: No, you’re fine. MARTIN: … because the congressman has a
very robust plan on his website. I mean, he has a very detailed plan on his website, but
I think the second part of Connie’s question is important, which is “How do you persuade
people who are not already persuaded like she is?” and I want to go back to what you
said at the September debate, where you said, “Hell yes, we’re coming for your AR-15s.”
You won the moment. You won the moment, but in some ways, did you hurt the cause because
you just got people’s backs up? I mean you can tell that people are already fundraising
on this. A state rep said — basically dared you — to come get his gun. So, what about
it? O’ROURKE: It’s really interesting; the day
after that debate, I was still in the Houston area and a gentleman stopped me in a convenience
store. He said, “Look, Beto, I’m as Republican as they come. I own an AR-15. I will likely
never vote for a Democrat, including you, but what you said on that debate stage last
night is exactly how I feel and precisely what I think this country needs to do. I don’t
need my AR-15 to hunt. I don’t need it for self-protection in my home. It’s fun to shoot
at the range, but I agree this is part of the problem and I would gladly sell it back.
I’m just so surprised that anyone had the guts to actually say this.” When I talked
to families who lost a loved one in gun violence, just in Denver listening to families who had
lost a loved one in the Aurora movie theater shooting, for example. They also said, “I’m
so surprised that you said what has been on our minds and in our hearts and what we had
hoped somebody would say but feared that no one would ever utter especially on a debate
stage while they’re running for president.” What I found from that gentleman in Houston,
Texas, that Republican, the families in Denver, is that the political will is there and they
just polled actually in Texas last week found that 49% of people in our state — this proud,
but I would argue, responsible, gun-owning state — believe in a mandatory assault weapon
buyback. Only 36% of Texans, this is Texas, oppose that. So, to your question Michel,
I really think the public sentiment is there. The popular will is there; it’s just looking
for leadership that will reflect. I think we’ve provided that. MARTIN: Ruben, you have a follow-up on that? SANDOVAL: I do. First I want to thank NPR
for giving me opportunities to speak with everyone here and, before I begin anything,
I want to give a shoutout to my students at the Coronado High School and El Paso county
college. MARTIN: Duly noted. SANDOVAL: Thank you. MARTIN: Shoutout: “Hey, hi guys.” OK,
go for it. SANDOVAL: And as you know, one of the courses
that I teach, I teach Texas government and also state and local government both at Coronado
and EPCC. So we kind of discuss these issues as far as the Second Amendment and the limits
on the Second Amendment. And I remember what you said on the stage as far as the buyback
program, the mandatory buyback program. The question I have is: How would you get around
the Supreme Court rulings? I mean you’ve got the D.C. v. Heller, which began to federalize
or actually applied it to D.C. the Second Amendment, and then you have the McDonald
v. Chicago, which basically said that the Second Amendment is incorporated to all states.
And so it would seem as though the courts would probably rule against something banning
the AK-47, the AR-15s. And a mandatory buyback program would seem to be deemed to be unconstitutional, and as late as 2016, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals also included assault rifles to
be part of the arms that are protected by the Second Amendment. So how would you be
able to get around that? MARTIN: In fact your colleague Congressman
Cuellar, who represents the district you said in the middle of this state right up to … And
you know we talked to him about this the other day. He’s a Democrat. I mean, it’s true, he
has an A rating from the NRA, but he says that the … his understanding is that the
Constitution doesn’t discriminate among weapons. So, to Ruben’s point… O’ROURKE: Of course the Constitution discriminates
amongst weapons, and you have no lesser conservative light than former Supreme Court Justice Antonin
Scalia who made the case that the Second Amendment, like every constitutional guarantee and right,
is not unlimited. You couldn’t drive a tank, for example, down the street under the Second
Amendment or shoulder a bazooka. This AR-15 or AK-47, these weapons were designed, engineered,
sold to the military of the world for use on a battlefield. They’re excellent at killing
people efficiently, effectively, in as great a number as possible. In under three minutes
in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, 22 people were killed. When the Second Amendment was
adopted and ratified, it took three minutes to reload your musket. I don’t know that the
Founding Fathers, the framers of the Constitution, those who pursued that Second Amendment and
got it ratified could have envisioned a weapon designed for war, for use on a battlefield,
whose high-impact, high-velocity round, when it hits your body it expends all of its kinetic
energy inside of you to destroy your insides. And I’ve met with the trauma surgeons at Del
Sol and UMC, many of whom have served at William Beaumont Army Medical Center and have been
deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, they say these are wounds of war that we are treating. MARTIN: Congressman, with all due respect,
I don’t think that answers the question. I think everybody understands your passion about
the issue, but the question is: With the conservative courts, not just the conservative Supreme
Court, and conservative lower courts, which has been an intentional project of the Republicans
in Congress for years, how do you get around the understanding … O’ROURKE: Is the question whether or not
this is constitutional? MARTIN: Yes. O’ROURKE: My answer is “yes” and I just
made the case. Is the question “should we not pursue public policy or legislation for
fear of the current composition of the courts?” My answer to that is “no”; do the right
thing while you have time to do the right thing. And I think every American understands
the distinction between a hunting rifle or a shotgun or a handgun that you have in your
home for self-defense and something that was designed and is devastatingly effective at
doing it to kill people on a battlefield, that is what an AR-15 and AK-47 is. As we
now know, the majority of America supports this proposal. A plurality of Texans, in what
is thought to be a very red and certainly a very proud gun-owning state, support this
proposal as well, so I know that this is the right thing to do. I know America supports
this. You have a very good question about what is its fate when it is challenged in
the courts of law. We don’t know, but fear of that uncertainty shouldn’t prevent us from
doing the right thing for all those Americans whose lives we want to save in a country that
loses 40,000 people a year to gun violence — no other country comes close. MARTIN: Do we feel ready to move on to health
care because I know that’s another question you have? SANDOVAL: I just want to do a follow-up. MARTIN: One quick follow-up. SANDOVAL: I agree with you that fear should
not be the motivating factor on our public policy, but I guess what I wanted to add was
perhaps maybe a more gradual approach with addressing the issue of assault rifles. For
example, like maybe moving the age up to 21 rather than 18 or the “stranger-stranger”
background checks, which is something that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has now supported despite
the fact that he had a 100% rating from the NRA. You see that some of these Republicans
who seem as very conservative actually moving on the issue so I would think that a more
gradual approach might be the more effective way to perhaps reduce the type of violent
incidents like we had at Walmart, the Odessa shooting was, as you know, that person purchased
the gun despite failing the background check. Well a way to get it through the stranger-to-stranger
sales … MARTIN: Can I stop you, Ruben? SANDOVAL: Sure. MARTIN: Why do you ask that? Is it because
you didn’t find the congressman’s answer satisfying or you felt that … SANDOVAL: No, no! MARTIN: Are you worried that the proposals
he’s laid out just aren’t realistic? Why do you ask that question? SANDOVAL: I feel that, if taken, that position
would probably only embolden the other side to use it as a talking point to say that “Democrats
are going to destroy the Second Amendment. Democrats are coming for your guns” and
so on. So, to me a more gradual approach would be more effective. Let’s see and shift the
mood of the country in that direction. MARTIN: Let’s let him answer that. Go ahead. O’ROURKE: So, Ruben, I think many of the
proposals that you just laid out, like closing all the loopholes in the background check
system right now, gun show loophole, stranger-to-stranger loophole, the boyfriend loophole, the Charleston
loophole, all these different ways that you can buy a gun without having your background
checked to ensure that we keep our fellow Americans safe; let’s do that and let’s not
do that to the exclusion of doing anything else. If we can get red flag laws, if we can
stop the sale of assault weapons, if we can have a registry for all the guns owned and
licensing for anyone who wants to own a firearm, and if we can if we can buy back those assault
weapons that are out there, let’s do it. And we don’t have to do it in an all-or-nothing
proposition. I think whatever progress we can achieve, we should seize it the moment
that we can. But I do think we have to define what the goal is and what we know will make
America safer. And that’s what I’m trying to do with with our proposal and really reflect
what I’ve been hearing on the ground from groups like March for Our Lives, which has
come out with a very bold proposal to bring peace to America. As you all know, this is
an organization started by students not unlike your students at Coronado, who survived gun
violence in their school and then wanted to make sure that they were able to lead effective
policy and political changes including, in Florida, raising the age of purchase from
18 to 21. They’re already being able to notch some victories, and none of those victories
is exclusive to the other policies that they’re pursuing. So I like your question and I think
that is possible. MARTIN: Let’s move to health care because
I know that’s also an issue that interests you and concerns you. You have a question
about health care costs as I understand it. SANDOVAL: Yes. OK, so what the Affordable
Care, the ACA, instead of things becoming more affordable, it seems like they’ve gotten
more expensive especially in the area of prescription medications. And I’ve had close family members
who, with the changes, it seems as though the medication that they so need, they’re
not able to get it or the copay is just extremely high. And so I know that the ACA essentially
exempted the pharmaceutical companies and left them unregulated. So how would you address
this issue because it seems that politicians have been talking about this for a long time
because, yes, I mean the Affordable Care Act was supposed to lower our premiums, but the
cost was shifted to the prescriptions. And so being a border community, as you know very
well here, so many of us have to cross into Juarez, Mexico, in order to get our prescriptions
at a lower cost because even though we have insurance, the cost is still too high. And
so why, as Americans, do we have to cross into Juarez, which, by the way, is a very
dangerous city and the traffic on the lines could be pretty horrendous? Why can’t we get
it through our own insurance? I mean, again with the medications that were needed sometimes,
they’re not even the generics are offered. So it seems that this was a massive loophole,
talking about loopholes, that was left in the ACA. MARTIN: And I’m glad you raised that because
everybody doesn’t have the option of going to Juarez, however inconvenient, to get cheaper
prices, and in fact, it isn’t just prescription prices that are going up. We just have data
this week saying that the premiums, even for people covered by private insurance, are at
an all-time high. So the question is, you heard it, “What is your plan to bring down
these out-of-pocket costs?” O’ROURKE: I think we first need to look
at why it’s so expensive to purchase medication or to pay your premium or afford your copay
or bridge your deductible right now. A lot of that has to do with the current administration
undermining the Affordable Care Act and trying to remove protections, remove subsidies. We’ve
seen extraordinary inflation over the last three years in all the cases that you describe,
but specific to the pharmaceutical industry. This is a challenge that preexisted the Trump
administration. Our Congress prevented Medicare, by law, from using its leverage and its purchasing
power to drive down the cost, to bargain for lower prescription medication costs. If we
were to do that, not only would Medicare beneficiaries realize gains, but so would Medicaid, VA,
Tricare and private insurance beneficiaries as well. And this is particularly galling
because you and I as taxpayers pay for the research and development that goes into discovering
these cures. We pay for the clinical trials, we pay for the purchase through all the programs
that I just described, and yet they’re sold back to us at some of the most expensive rates
— if not the most expensive rates — on the planet today. So our proposal: Allow Medicare
to use its leverage to bargain for lower costs, allow Americans to buy in Mexico or Canada
or the European Union as long as we have the same level of quality and due diligence for
the medications that are sold. If you can find them cheaper somewhere else, then you
should be allowed, by law, to purchase them. But removing the immunity and impunity with
which pharmaceutical corporations can act, the way that they’ve gamed the system by using
PAC donations and lobbyists to purchase the complicity of members of Congress, not just
influence, not just access, but outcomes like those that we’ve described. We’ve got to stop
that. Our campaign does not take PAC money or corporate or special interest support.
As president, I would seek to end that practice altogether for anyone seeking or holding federal
office in this country. It goes a long way to ensure that I’m listening to you and not
to an executive at a corporation. Lastly, you’re right, in the ACA, there were carveouts
and sweetheart deals for people like the pharmacy benefits managers who have done really well
under the ACA, added additional costs, inflated price without providing a tremendous amount
of value. Our plan, which is called “Medicare for America,” would get to universal guaranteed
high-quality health care for every American, allowing those who are uninsured today to
enroll in Medicare, those insufficiently insured, can’t afford that copay to choose to enroll
in Medicare and then those who have employer-sponsored insurance, including members of unions who
fought for it, are able to keep it if it works for them and works for their families. And
we would eliminate copays on pharmaceutical medications so that you can focus on teaching
that class, living to your full potential, fulfilling your promise, and not the red tape
or the cost connected to modern-day health care in America. MARTIN: Connie, do you want to get in this?
Because I sure do. MARTINEZ: So obviously, since I am only 20,
I’m still very dependent on my family, but I do agree with you, Ruben, where it’s been
very difficult for people of the working class, people who are educated to, you know, go to
the doctor something as simple, where, you know, even in my personal life, it’s like,
“Oh, I can’t go to the doctor for a while until, you know, money comes in.” Because
it does get so expensive. So I think it’s really interesting about your plan for health
care and to help the working class and also all levels of them. So, I guess, my question
would be to propose to you is: What is, like, the laid-out plan, like if you could just
elaborate on your plan as president, if elected? O’ROURKE: Yeah. So… MARTIN: Can we just ask Connie a question?
You’re saying you can’t go to the doctor. Why? Because the copays are too high? MARTINEZ: The copays are too high, you know… MARTIN: So even though you have insurance,
you still find yourself hesitating to go to the
doctor and when you need to go because the out-of-pocket costs? MARTINEZ: Yes, the out-of-pocket cost is too
high. The insurance doesn’t cover enough where, you know, even though, I don’t know if you
guys could tell that I have braces and there’s times where it’s a battle of “do I go to
the doctor or do I, you know, eat for the next week?” and it’s just very difficult
because, you know, my family is educated, my mother is a teacher, my father works as
well and, even though we’re not in the low-income classes or anything, there’s times where we’re
making sacrifices that shouldn’t really be happening with everything that they’ve done
for us. MARTIN: Well thanks for letting me get in
your business… MARTINEZ: No, no, you’re fine. MARTIN: Because Congressman, this is the question
that has come up over and over again on the debate stage and that a lot of people are
interested in. The people who say that they support single-payer … they say they support
single-payer because they say that’s the only way that you get the economies of scale, that
you get the bargaining power to cover everything that needs to be covered like braces, like
hearing aids, and still be able to pay for it because it eliminates the red tape. They
say that it eliminates the … and obviously people dispute that, obviously there’s been
a huge and aggressive fight about that. But the reality of it is you’re saying you want
a dual system. And the question is, “How do you pay for that? How do you bring the
costs down? How do you bring down our overall societal expenses because as you well know,
this country is paying more as a bigger percentage of its GDP for health care than most of our
peer economies and the outcomes are worse. So the question is: How do you, with your
dual system, get the objective that we’re looking for here? O’ROURKE: Yeah I like that you brought up
costs because it’s not an inexpensive proposition to guarantee everyone in this country health
care, primary health care, prescription medication health care, mental-health care, in a state
whose largest provider of mental-health care is the county jail system right now. Reproductive
health care, so that every person can make their own decisions about their own body and
have health care that allows them to do that, but far more expensive than doing that is
the status quo. It costs us $110 to lock someone up who, for their schizophrenia or bipolar
disorder or clinical depression, literally, in Texas gets arrested on purpose. And this
is not an uncommon thing. It’s not right. It’s immoral. It’s unconscionable, but it’s
happening in this state. For a fraction of the cost,
we could provide world-class outpatient mental-health care either through an employer-sponsored
health care plan or a Medicare for America plan that we’ve described where, if you’re
uninsured or cannot afford your copays today, you can enroll in that program and not have
to worry about a copay every time you go to the doctor or to the therapist or to a family
planning provider. That way you’re focused on fulfilling your potential, learning in
your classes, achieving your goals, creating for your family, your community and your country,
and the return on that initial investment is far and away greater than what we would
spend as taxpayers or spend as a country. And Michel, to your point with much better
results, we spend more than any other country per capita in the world right now in health
care, but we do not have the best results. In fact, in some communities, some people
are seeing declining life expectancy in America even as technology improves new medications
are created. We have to do better. Under our plan, we will help. MARTIN: Tell me how the arithmetic works though.
Are you saying that bringing more people into your Medicare for America plan will do what?
I mean how does it increase the … how does it decrease the overall costs? Because it
seems to me you still have to dual administrative systems, one for private insurance and one
for the publicly funded option, that you’re talking about, so how does it bring costs
down overall? O’ROURKE: When tens of millions of Americans
are now able to go to a doctor and don’t receive their care on an emergency basis in the ER
When those with mental-health care challenges are able to see a therapist or psychologist
or a psychiatrist instead of getting arrested on purpose. We, as taxpayers, save in the
billions of dollars when you look at this over the next 10 to 20 years. You’re right,
private insurance has a higher administrative costs, something like 16% compared to Medicare’s
2%. We envision that most of the millions of our fellow Americans who are uninsured
today will enroll in Medicare. That’s a saving over private insurance. But I also want to
make sure that I’m listening to our fellow Americans — tens of millions of them — many
of them members of unions who fought for health care plans that they like, that work for them
and families. If they want to keep them, I want them to be able to make the choice to
be able to do that. And yes, over the long term, this country saves, this country produces
better health care outcomes. This country’s economy when people are no longer tied to
their jobs because you can elect to leave your employer-sponsored insurance and enroll
in Medicare, they’re free to work that next jobs, start a business, go teach school, whatever
it is that they were placed on this planet to do in the first place. They’re now well
enough to be able to do that. MARTIN: OK. But some of you are competitive
… Some of your fellow Democratic candidates have identified specific funding streams.
They say, there’s particularly Elizabeth Warren, she said specifically a tax on the highest
earners. You’re not prepared to identify specific funding source for this? O’ROURKE: Yes, sure I am. If we took a corporate
tax rate that under the $2 trillion Trump tax cuts — the benefits of which flowed to
corporations, flowed to the very wealthiest in this country — we took that corporate
tax rate that had dropped from 35 to 21% back up just to 28%, we would generate hundreds
of billions of dollars over the next 10 years. If we were to tax returns on capital at the
same rate that we tax ordinary wage income, the income that is being earned by our server
here at L & J, we would generate hundreds of billions of dollars. And yes, if we were
to add a transactions tax on Wall Street transactions, a wealth tax to address the fact that you
have the greatest divide in wealth inequality in this country’s history right now in 2019,
not only would we generate the revenue to be able to pay for these programs, we would
also address something that is a threat to our democracy and a threat to everyone in
this country being able to see a future for themselves and their kids in this country.
So yes, we can pay for this. And those are the streams that we would look at. MARTIN: OK. Ruben, I know you have some other
questions and I know when we were talking earlier, you were concerned about the federal
judiciary. Am I right? And do you want to ask a question about that? SANDOVAL: Sure. Yeah, what I wanted to address.
What kind of gets lost in the conversation among the various candidates running for president
is a conversation about the Supreme Court, but also the lower courts as well. And I referenced
an NPR story where a few months ago they were mentioning that the Trump administration has
been very much on focus, on point, as far as the appointees are put on the court and
something like 25% of the federal judges on the circuit courts have been appointed by
the Trump administration, about 15% of the district courts. And if you include the two
Supreme Court appointees, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, that actually makes up 22%
of the U.S. Supreme Court. And so my question really, I mean, obviously decisions like Citizens
United, which I know you’ve spoken out against. And this is what has caused the mass amounts
of money that makes it very hard to fight the NRA or the pharmaceutical companies. But
one of the things that’s been lost is this right to privacy. So in my class, I teach
about civil liberties. And so to me, right to privacy is a very fundamental right and
most of the discussion is around abortion and things of that sort, but it encompasses
so much more; when we talk about reproductive rights, we’re also talking about access to
birth control, but also it affects LGBT rights. I mean there’s a number of rights that really
fall under the umbrella of the right to privacy. And so my question is how would we maybe persuade
the public or edify the public to maybe support appointees who will defend that right? Because
what happens is as these people are are given very narrow questions but really are never
made to answer something as fundamental as the right to privacy. MARTIN: Can I just amplify Ruben’s question
here a little bit? Because the reality of it is the Trump administration has already
put its stamp on the federal judiciary, so what can you do? O’ROURKE: It’s what makes… MARTIN: For those who don’t agree … I mean
obviously, if you agree with the direction that the Republicans in the Senate and the
Trump administration has taken, you’re fine. But if you, like Ruben, do not, what options
do you really have if you are elected president? O’ROURKE: It’s part of what makes this election
so important. You’re absolutely right, Ruben. President Trump has been very successful in
being able to stack these courts, to be successful in having his nominees confirmed at all levels
of the federal judiciary. Imagine if he had another four years within which to do that.
So, as president, I will make sure that we nominate justices who believe in a woman’s
right to choose, who believe in the full civil rights of every American. And we say this
from a state where it is legal — though it’s not OK — but it is legal to fire somebody
based on their sexual orientation. Supreme Court justices and federal judiciary nominees
who agree that money is not speech, corporations are not people, and corporations should not
be able to spend as much money as they want to influence the outcomes of election. You
reference Citizens United, which has done lasting damage to this democracy and ultimately
must be overturned. But you also talked about our right to privacy and this is something
that we are acutely sensitive to here in El Paso where our Fourth Amendment protections
against unreasonable search and seizure really have been suspended because of our location
on the border. We have Border Patrol checks well into the interior of the U.S. Even if
you have not been in Ciudad Juarez earlier today, you will be stopped, you’ll be asked
to show your papers. You have a different expectation of privacy in this country. When
you add to that the challenges that we have in a digital economy — social media, Facebook,
Twitter, Snapchat — we need to be far more vigorous in being able to protect our privacy,
our photos, our information, our relationships, our data. And as president, I will make that
a priority both through the legislation that we pursue. I’ll set up a new Office of Digital
markets regulation and have a regulator who will jealously defend your rights, but will
also make sure that this is a criteria for how we choose those that we nominate to federal
bench. MARTIN: You know who really gets a say on
judges? The Senate. O’ROURKE: That’s right. MARTIN: Which leads some people to wonder
why aren’t you running for the Senate where the Democrats could use your help right away? O’ROURKE: I’m running for president. I want
to lead this country. I want to provide what we’re so sorely missing right now: someone
who will heal instead of inflame, someone who bring this country together instead of
further dividing us as President Trump does every day, and someone who sees the greatest
challenges that we’ve ever faced: Climate change, where we have 10 years within which
to act, our wars that we have been fighting for 18 years without end, without a definition
of victory, without a strategy that is understood by this country, that we can turn those around
and see those as our greatest opportunities to make sure that we pursue the future for
this country — and really for the world — confidently, courageously, ambitiously defined by our aspirations
and our ambitions and not our fears, not our smallness, not the weakness in walls and cages
for kids that we see right now. And I’ll say this, Michel, if I were the nominee, not only
could I win the 38 Electoral College votes in Texas, which would decisively decide that
election November of 2020, so there is no open question that the president can exploit
to try to question the outcome of that election, but we can also help the nominee for U.S.
Senate against John Cornyn. We can do everything that we need to all up and down the ballot
here in Texas, and there are a number of extraordinary candidates who are pursuing that nomination
for Senate right now. And so I have no fear that we’ll be able to win. MARTIN: I think the argument would be the
opposite: that there are a number of candidates who can do what you’re proposing to do as
president, but there are actually very few people who can win a Senate seat in Texas
because you came so close. So I think the question for a lot of people is, first off
you didn’t win your first run for the Senate. What’s your path to the presidency? What makes
you so sure you can win those Electoral College votes for Texas in a presidential campaign?
I mean what’s your path at this point? O’ROURKE: So I think last year gave us a
preview of that path. Though we were running in what was thought to be one of the reddest
states in the union, won more votes than any Democrat had previously. Importantly, to your
question, we won independence for the first time in decades and nearly half a million
Republicans also voted for us and voted for a Republican for governor on the same ballot,
not despite, maybe because of a very progressive agenda. And that was in a midterm in a state
that, before 2018, ranked 50th in voter turnout in America. Young voter turnout during the
early voting part of the election 2018 was up 500%. So that coalition, that movement
of young people, of independents, of disaffected Republicans, of an energized Democratic base
is how we were able to post those outcomes in Texas. It’s the kind of coalition and movement
we will need to defeat Donald Trump in November of 2020 and then bring this very divided country
back together again. MARTIN: But you do see the fear that a number
of Democrats express that the candidates, like yourself, who aren’t polling very high
are diverting money and resources from that central task. And you see that that fear kind
of starting to turn into hostility, in fact. Why are you still here when we could be focusing
… you could be focusing your efforts on that central task? So how do you answer that? O’ROURKE: I say have no fear. We are many
months from the Iowa caucus and are we going to allow pollsters and pundits and polls today
to determine that outcome or we going to allow those in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina,
Nevada, Texas on Super Tuesday to make the choice for themselves and, by extension, for
this country? We both know the history of presidential primary polling and the candidates
who were in the single digits at this time in their given presidential election pursuit. MARTIN: I think he’s throwing shade at the
news media. I’m kind of feeling a little shade being thrown here… O’ROURKE: I’m trying to do it diplomatically
and tactfully, but… No, this is the opportunity that we have. And perhaps better than any
other candidate that is out there, I have shown an ability to bring people in despite
the differences: differences of party, differences on geography, any difference that is before
us that cannot be allowed to divide us at a time of extraordinary opportunity and extraordinary
challenge for this country. MARTIN: So I do have to ask you some political
questions. I am going to beg your indulgence on that, I mean … obviously the very big
story of the moment coming out of Washington, D.C., is the impeachment inquiry. Do you support
it? Do you think it’s the right thing to do at the right time? O’ROURKE: I do now. I did when I was asked
more than two years ago by a conservative radio host in Lubbock, Texas, while I was
pursuing the Senate election in Texas because if we allow this president to commit crimes
with impunity, then we will have set a precedent in America that some people are above the
law. And the moment we do that is the moment that we lose this democracy, this extraordinary
experiment that is the exception, not the rule, in world history and on the planet today.
And for the sake of my kids, for every generation that follows, for this country that I love
so much, we cannot allow that to happen and so impeachment is the right course to pursue. MARTIN: Do you have any concerns that Joe
Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden, has been damaged by this inquiry even though there’s
zero evidence that he’s done anything wrong. But there is a question about whether his
son should have taken such a high-profile position in a Ukrainian company at a time
when his father was vice president and even though there’s zero evidence that any laws
were broken. That has to be said. But are you at all concerned that Joe Biden himself
has been damaged by this? O’ROURKE: No concern whatsoever. As you
just mentioned, there is no evidence that the vice president has done or had done anything
wrong. I think the focus has to remain on the president, his willful lawbreaking, the
impunity he’s enjoyed so far for doing that, the circle of enablers in the U.S. Senate,
his attorney general, and others who are allowing this to happen. The U.S. Congress, at this
point, and the people that they represent are the last best defense for our democracy.
So I’m gonna stay focused on the person, Donald Trump, who’s committed these crimes and the
need for this country to rise to the challenge. MARTIN: And what do you say to people who
say that because Democrats, like yourself, have staked out that position for so long,
they prejudged the matter and that the inquiry is basically just a cover for what they wanted
to do all along, which is remove him from office because they felt he’s illegitimate?
I mean, is there anything that you think Democrats should be doing to assure Republican voters
or people who are just undecided that the conclusion is not foregone, that this really
is a fair inquiry? O’ROURKE: It has to transcend what is good
or bad for the Democratic Party. This has to be about what is good for this country.
And when you have a president who called for the involvement of a foreign power as a candidate,
and he did it in 2016, who sought to cover up obstruct justice and lie to investigators
— as he did in 2017, 2018 and 2019 — and now has enlisted the aid of yet another foreign
power, President Zelenskiy, of Ukraine holding out $400 million in U.S. aid to get him to
dig up dirt on a prospective political opponent. If we don’t call this for what it is, if we’re
not honest with ourselves and the American public, then we will have condoned this behavior
and we are complicit in the outcome, which is the loss of this democracy, and we cannot
allow this to happen. This is a moment that calls for country over party and so let’s
stay focused on this country. MARTIN: Any other questions for the congressman?
We only have a couple of minutes left, especially have any fun questions. You have any fun questions? MARTINEZ: Fun questions? I have a pretty pressing
question… MARTIN: Go ahead. Go for it. MARTINEZ: … that I’ve been wanting to
ask and it’s in regards of immigration. I am so passionate about immigration and my
entire life I’ve just grown up Hispanic, but my question for you is what are you going
to do about the families that have been separated? I know that’s been very controversial with
President Trump. But I think that if you are elected that is something that needs to be
not only immediately, but diligently. And how would you do that? O’ROURKE: I have been here in El Paso at
Annunciation House, this extraordinary Catholic charity, in our community that has helped
to facilitate the reunification of families that have been separated. And what I’ve seen
on the face of that 8-year-old child who’s seeing her mother for the first time in months
is not a big smile the way my 8-year-old greets me when I come home off the road from traveling,
not tears of joy: You see nothing. A complete vacant expression and inability, I think,
to connect with the person with whom you associate the greatest pain and suffering a child can
possibly endure. And I say that, too, to make it clear that we are doing lasting damage
and trauma to these children; we are torturing them every day that they’re separated from
their parents. So for that reason, Day 1 as president of the United States, we will spare
no expense in finding the parents of those kids — even if they’re in Guatemala, Honduras,
El Salvador, wherever they are in the world — and reuniting them with their children
and then making sure that we help them with the long-term therapy and recovery to address
the trauma that we have placed them in. We should also mention that we’ve lost the lives
of seven children just over the course of the last year who are in our custody and care
due to these very inhumane policies at the border from Donald Trump. So let’s do that
first and foremost. Agree that we will never separate another family, cage another kid,
incarcerate anyone seeking shelter or refuge or asylum in this country, and then do the
larger work of rewriting this country’s immigration laws in our own image and I would love to
start with the image of El Paso: a city of immigrants and the sons and daughters of immigrants
that is one of the safest cities in the United States of America and safe not despite that
but because we are that city of immigrants connected to the rest of the world. Nothing
to be defensive or apologize for: everything to celebrate the example for the rest of the
country and we’d love to work with you, Connie, on being able to do that. MARTIN: Well thank you for that, Connie. Thank
you for your question. I have two quick questions. Do you have a hype song before you go out
to debate? O’ROURKE: You know, I love The Clash. I
love the song “Clampdown” by The Clash or anything off the London Calling album.
So that that’s a good pump-up song. MARTIN: You play it before you go out there? O’ROURKE: Sometimes played also “Baba
O’Riley” by The Who off the album Who’s Next. I don’t know if you’ve heard it — well
before my time and your time. MARTIN: I was going to say you’re dating yourself
there, but I’m not gonna… SANDOVAL: I have it on vinyl. O’ROURKE: You do?! MARTIN: You have it on vinyl? Nice. OK. O’ROURKE: One of the best songs ever. MARTIN: And my final question is: What should
we order here? O’ROURKE: The green chili chicken enchiladas
are absolutely amazing. You cannot go wrong if you order that. MARTIN: OK. That is Congressman Beto O’Rourke.
Thank you so much for joining us. O’ROURKE: Thank you, Michel. MARTIN: Also thanks to our voters Connie Martinez
and Ruben Sandoval. Thank you all so much. MARTINEZ: Thank you for having me. MARTIN: For those listening on your local
member station, we also have video of these conversations. Hi, video. And you can find
it This is Off Script from NPR News. I’m Michel Martin. Thank you all so much for
joining us.

29 thoughts on “Beto O’Rourke Talks Gun Control, Health Care With Two Undecided Voters | Off Script | NPR”

  1. This guy just handed his opponents the race….. like a kid doing a bad job of the dishes so his parents won't ask him to again.

  2. I'm glad this ficking idiot will never be POTUS. Any fucking weapon can be an assault weapon if used illegally. Any thing can be used as an assault weapon also. That being said, I don't own a gun, but I damn well would get one in a heart beat to protect my 1st Amendment rights and my family from the government, military, law enforcement, criminals and any other group of people who would seek to overstep their authority, abuse their power, and harm normal law abiding citizens and if these people are allowed to use the best weapons against us, then we should be able to get these same weapons to protect ourselves from them.

  3. So NPR is a propaganda organization now? People used to respect NPR, now you are a bunch of filthy whores who are gay for pay for anyone with a D in front of their name. Il be glad to see NPR die.

  4. this is a nightmare. this is what pushed voters away and cost the election. this is what led to the American revolution. they confirmed the concerns of everyone opposing democrats, and gun control. I've never voted republican, I didn't want to, but every democrat on stage is calling for disarmament and signing unconstitutional bills, they leave us no choice. the majority of Americans respect the constitution, not those who violate it. its not just republicans, so many like us around the country were so ready to vote blue, until the debates touched on guns. after the debates I got my license, I was asked if I wanted to change party affiliation. that was a hard moment. I didn't, I didn't want to. I've never felt a more intense sensation of impending doom or heartbreak. stopping us from defending ourselves isn't goin to stop shootings. yes, we do need AR 15s and AK 47s with huge magazines that can kill dozens in seconds. who are you to say that we will never need to? or that will never happen? it has happened, it does happen, and it will happen. I know a lot of you think its a joke but it couldn't be more real to me, its happened to people I've known. the thing you want to ban, is the only thing that could have saved the woman at the bus stop, who was attacked by a gang of thugs. the only thing. if they ever came to my house, it would be the only thing capable of stopping a hostile group. its the only thing that enables a mom to defend her house and her kids from hostile groups like that gang. i know from experience that its not a joke. a ban would do nothing to prevent shooters from mass shootings. it would only stop us, from defending ourselves, our homes, and our loved ones. this is America, we have a zillion guns around. they can't stop the proliferation of guns. if they ever even tried, there would be another revolution. that isnt a joke either. i know it seems that way to alot of you, but its deadly serious. if the politicians wont uphold their oath, the military will. whenever they talk about bans, their ignorance becomes so clear. it would fail, it wouldn't stop the people you want to stop from doing what you don't want them to do, at all. it would backfire in the most catastrophic way. it doesn't stop bad guys from shootings, it stops good guys from self defense. it has nothing to do with hunting. it will save, nobody. it will lead to and cause bloodshed, not prevent it. we wanted a democrat so bad. they would have won if they hadn't all jumped on the bandwagon and signed the bills and threatened disarmament. if they win and go through with it, it will not save anyone, instead, it will lead to the bloodiest escalation in American history. I've heard so many people say, I would vote democrat, If they weren't anti gun. without options, I've been forced to become one of those people. I wish more than anything, someone would come out on stage and vow to protect what is most important to us. and honor that pledge. and honor their oath.

    I do care about the things the democrats protected, the environment, the water, LGBT, those are very important to me too. and I wanted desperately, for a democrat to protect that without infringing on the right to bear arms. everyone who made it onto the stage is a disaster. none of them are willing to protect that without violating our constitutional right to bear arms. and im forced to look elsewhere for someone who will protect whats important. they seem to think that's their base or something. I don't care how loud those people at the march and the debates celebrated the calls for gun control and disarmament, that will never be the majority, not even in the democrats. in this day and age, we need them now more than ever. its not just republicans, its not just conservatives, its not just the right wing. this is something important to everyone, all kinds of people, from all walks of life.

    the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

  5. Why just AR15s and AK47s? Why not all semi-automatic rifles and carbines? Obviously he doesn't know what he's talking about and it's only a matter of time before they decide to confiscate more guns. He only lists those two semi-automatic rifles because those are what he's heard of in the news and seen in the movies, give me a break. Lol

  6. NPR
    Maybe you can answer this for me! Why is a semi automatic AR15 an "assault weapon" when a civilian purchases one from their local gun shop, but when a police officer purchases the same semi automatic AR15 from the same gun shop it is socially considered a "patrol rifle, or patrol carbine", and is reported as such by the media when an officer uses it to subdue an armed assailant?


  7. The government is a more defined .22 round. The military cannot use it becus its not that effective specially @ long range. Hunters cant even use this gun because its not as effective

  8. He keeps referring to a poll stating that a majority (and later…a “plurality”) of Texans support mandatory “assault weapon” buybacks. My googling isn’t coming up with any results on that, so I’m wondering if someone knows where that poll may have been published…?

  9. 5:32 "they should also be bought back if they pose a threat to people in this community". Do they? Do the guns locked up in the safes and cabinets of responsible, law-abiding gun owners in this community pose a threat? What about the cars they drive, they threaten me every time I cross the street.

  10. 22 people killed in under 3 minutes in El paso. When the Second Amendment was ratified, a trained soldier could barely get off 3 shots in under a minute.

  11. One alleged Republican in a 7-11 agrees that he would sell back his AR-15, and that's evidence that we are ready to voluntarily disarm ourselves? That's a "glittering anecdote".

  12. 11:12 "It took 3 minutes to reload your musket". Credibility Alert! OK, maybe I'm being pedantic, but if you're going to be on the national stage arguing details of a given issue, at least be familiar with the facts. It did not take 3 minutes for a trained militiaman to load a musket! More like 15-20 seconds. I know, I know, his point is still there, technology of now vs. then is far more deadly, but the Founders surely meant "arms" of the prevailing technology when they ensured our right to bear them "shall not be infringed".

  13. (Slippery slope argumen)t: Taking one type of gun away will lead to all guns being taken away. (Slippery slope counter argument): No regulations leads to bazookas in the streets.Where does tha leave us? Still at ground zero, while 40K people die a yr in the U.S. due to gun violence. That's 20 9/11s a year. Go ask our Founding Fathers about that.

  14. 11:19 "those who pursued that 2nd amendment and got it ratified"…..Credibility Alert! Spin Doctor! As if there was some surreptitious side plot of a few evil-minded Framers who made sneaky backroom deals to "get it ratified"!!! They had all very narrowly escaped swinging from King George's gallows, you think they weren't all concerned about maintaining a skilled, armed defense against a resurgence of tyrannical monarchy, from abroad or from within?!!! Go back to American History 101, Beto! Or, better yet, run for office in Mexico…private ownership is illegal there, and they don't have any gun violence, you'd be happier!

  15. "…shall not be infringed upon"? What about "…well regulated"? If you can still own any gun you want, minus AK47 style rifles, then your "rights" have not been "infringed" upon. Now, if all guns were banned, then yes, infringement big time, lol! Come on people, stop being such paranoid, drama queens, ha. This is basic English. It's not that complicated.

  16. Want to see something hilarious watch beto o'Rourke doing a speech on tv and mute the sound. Lol what a spaz. I could not imagine a world where that dude is our president. It would be trump but in the opposite direction. Guy is a complete joke

  17. America isn't dumb, we know where the money goes after a candidate drops out and what the party does with that information. He isn't going away even if he drops out so hopefully he got your message to him. Real recognize real, that's why you got triggered by him giving back the same shade you were poorly sneaking out. Even the worst presidential candidate is not any different than a narrative peddling journalist.

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