Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke and his wife Amy pray in El Paso, Texas, on August 4 at an interfaith vigil held to remember more than 20 people who were killed in a shooting attack the previous day. Photo by Justin Hamel/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke, having resumed his campaign, detailed a plan Friday to curb gun violence by imposing a national gun licensing system and registry, and a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons.
O'Rourke took time away from his campaign to aid the community in El Paso, Texas, where a shooting attack two weeks ago killed more than 20 people.
"We must connect these dots. And we must not let these moments define us," O'Rourke said in his plan Friday. "Instead, what will define America from El Paso, Texas, to Baltimore, Md., to Chicago, Ill., is the resilience and radical hope that communities have shown in response to these tragedies."
O'Rourke's plan lists a number of reforms, including the buyback program that would remove all banned assault weapons from private ownership -- a proposal that goes further than any presented so far by the Democratic field.
"Weapons of war belong on the battlefield, not in our communities or on our streets," the plan states. "Beto is calling for a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons and a voluntary buyback program for handguns. To create a funding stream for buybacks, Beto will increase the excise tax on gun manufacturers and fines imposed on gun traffickers, and will enable ATF to purchase any banned assault weapons presented to the agency. Individuals who fail to participate in the mandatory buyback of assault weapons will be fined."
His plan would also aim to improve data collection for hate crimes, allocate resources to fight domestic terrorism and develop comprehensive strategies to protect minority communities from violence.
The plan would also require large social media companies to create systems to remove "hateful" activities on their platforms and set up a national gun licensing system and registry, and universal background checks at point of sale.
"When 40,000 people a year die of gun violence, it is an emergency," the plan said. "Beto will use executive powers to direct his Surgeon General to recognize gun violence as a public health crisis and will invest $320 million annually for the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and [National Institutes of Health] to study gun violence."
O'Rourke's plan comes at a time of waning support among Democratic voters. He trails several Democratic candidates in most polls and the Houston Chronicle urged him in an op-ed this week to end his White House bid and challenge Republican Texas Sen. John Cornyn -- a move similar to the one former candidate John Hickenlooper is making. Hickenlooper left the race Thursday. O'Rourke failed in his challenge for Sen. Ted Cruz's seat last year, but performed in the race far better than expected.
"We will confront division and hatred by restoring our faith in humanity, in one another, and this country," O'Rourke said Friday. "And it will take all of us -- because when any one community is targeted, the very idea of America is under attack."