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O'Rourke's debate moment reignites gun debate on Sunday shows

Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke's (D-Texas) comments on gun control in the third Democratic presidential debate Thursday evening propelled the topic to the forefront Sunday morning, with Democratic guests suggesting his comment that "hell yes, we're going to take" assault-style rifles could play into GOP hands.

O'Rourke, who has ramped up his rhetoric on gun control in the wake of a mass shooting that killed 22 in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, defended the remark, telling NBC's Chuck Todd that concerns about how it would play politically "just [show] how screwed up the priorities in Washington, D.C., are."

"What's truly awful is 22 people killed in a Walmart the Saturday before schools starts that next Monday buying their school supplies, innocent of any crime or any threat to this country - in fact living in one of the safest cities in America, El Paso, Texas - hunted down by their ethnicity with a weapon that was designed for use on a battlefield," O'Rourke added.

One of O'Rourke's Democratic presidential opponents, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, told CNN's Jake Tapper the moment could be used against Democrats by Republicans, simply responding with "yes" when Tapper asked if it could play into GOP hands.

Buttigieg added that the focus should be on more popular positions such as universal background checks and new assault weapon sales.

"This is a golden moment to do something. We've been arguing about this for as long as I've been alive," he said. "Let's get this done."

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) told "Fox News Sunday" guest host Bill Hemmer that O'Rourke's comment "doesn't help" but added that no gun-related legislation in the Democratic House has included mandatory buybacks, adding that the priority should instead be universal background checks.

"We know background checks work," he added. "We have to do something. The American people are demanding we do something. ... I grew up and we did fire drills. That was the scariest thing we did. Now young children are doing active shooter drills."

Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, meanwhile, referenced the comment to defend President Trump's apparent backtrack on strengthening background checks.

"We're not going to allow bad actors who should not have firearms in the first place to be the excuse for a bunch of liberals and socialists to confiscate firearms from law-abiding citizens who have legally procured them," Conway told Hemmer.

"I'm not going to allow people who are constantly maligning and deriding our law enforcement to be in charge of public safety [and] public policy," Conway added.