Booker calls out O'Rourke for criticizing gun licensing before El Paso shooting

Booker calls out O'Rourke for criticizing gun licensing before El Paso shooting
© Greg Nash

Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerGabbard hits back at 'queen of warmongers' Clinton The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden camp faces new challenges Former public school teacher: Strikes 'wake-up call' for Democratic Party MORE (D-N.J.) called out fellow Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, a former congressman from Texas, for backing gun licensing only after a mass shooting hit his community of El Paso. 

Booker, speaking at the March for Our Lives forum in Las Vegas on Wednesday, said O’Rourke “criticized me when I came out for” licensing, but noted that the Texas Democrat now supports the policy.

"Are we going to have to wait until hell’s lottery comes to your community? No, we are a better country,” Booker said.

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Booker was referencing O'Rourke's switch to back a licensing program and a mandatory gun buyback program after an August shooting killed 22 people at a Walmart in O'Rourke's hometown of El Paso. 

“Other people said they don't support gun licensing, people told me it was too bold or too far,” he said. “I am grateful that now many of them have come to my position — and it is not my position, it is the position [of the public].”

A licensing program is key to curbing gun violence in America, Booker said. 

“You should not be a nominee from our party that can seriously stand in front of urban places and say, 'I will protect you' if you don't believe in gun licensing,” Booker said.

“It is a life or death policy for people in communities like mine,” Booker added, noting his experience living in and holding office in Newark, N.J. 

“Are you going to be a leader on this issue and stand with 75 percent of Americans on gun licensing, on an assault weapons ban? Where do you stand?” Booker said. “Because, again, we should not have to wait until this comes to your community.”

Speaking at the forum later in the day, O'Rourke defended the timing of his support for licensing.

"It doesn’t matter how soon you get to a given decision as long as you are in the right place on the issues," O'Rourke said. 

He also said he's "grateful" for what Booker is doing on the issue.

Updated: 5:21 p.m.