Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke made his way through southwest Virginia Friday, including stops in Roanoke, Blacksburg, and even Bland County – one of Virginia’s reddest in 2016.
He held a town hall at Virginia Tech that filled so quickly, hundreds had to wait in the lobby.
O’Rourke – who paused his campaign to visit his hometown of El Paso, Texas after a mass shooter killed 22 on August 3 – was introduced by Virginia delegate Chris Hurst, who has been an outspoken gun control advocate since Alison Parker and Adam Ward were slain on live television.
O’Rourke emphasized many of the points he’s driven home on the campaign trail, like immigration reform, addressing racial gerrymandering, ending white supremacy, and being mindful of climate change. Perhaps most powerful, though, was his discussion of gun control.
He says he saw many similarities between El Paso’s Walmart memorial and the Virginia Tech mass shooting memorial, and underscored the importance of red flag laws, universal background checks, and more.
“And the way that that one act did not define this campus, or Blacksburg, or this country, but instead, the way that everyone chose to overcome that,” he said. “I leave Virginia Tech more optimistic, more hopeful than when I arrived.”
O’Rourke even received applause for one of his more controversial gun control stances: gun buybacks for AR-15 rifles.
He ended his talk with a get-out-the-vote plea, and made clear that defeating Trump in 2020 remains the ultimate goal.