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Vow to ban assault weapons gives O’Rourke debate breakout

WASHINGTON (AP) — For a few moments anyway, there was a sense of what people once called “Beto-mania.”

Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke delivered a debate performance on Thursday in Houston that at times reminded a national audience why he became a Democratic star last year — even as he lost a Senate race

Asked about a mandatory federal buyback of assault weapons that he has endorsed since a gunman opened fire at a Walmart in his native El Paso, killing 22 people, O’Rourke delivered one of the night’s few memorable lines. “Hell yes, we’re gonna take your AR-15, your AK-47, and we’re not going to allow it to be used against your fellow Americans anymore,” he said.

That allowed O’Rourke — who suspended his campaign for nearly two weeks to head home and attend vigils and visit victims who remained hospitalized after the mass shooting — to assert ownership of the issue of gun control in a way none of the other nine candidates onstage could.

On a night that was supposed to feature sniping between White House hopefuls with better polling numbers, those rivals instead took time to praise O’Rourke

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