Beto O'Rourke Rally

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke speaks Aug. 18 at a rally on the University of Arkansas campus.

Two days after announcing his new gun control plan at an Arkansas gun show, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke spoke Sunday at Razorback Gardens, urging students and community members to join him in the fight against gun violence.

The UA Young Democrats Registered Student Organization sponsored the rally. Arkansas Rep. Nicole Clowney (D-86) and UA Young Democrats President Micah Wallace introduced the presidential candidate to the crowd.

O’Rourke reflected on the Aug. 3 shooting in his hometown of El Paso, communicating to the crowd that gun violence can happen in even the safest cities and is an issue that impacts every American.

“We live in a country that is extraordinarily violent,” O’Rourke said. “Forty thousand gun deaths—no other developed, modern country comes anywhere close to the level of violence that we see in the United States of America today.”

O’Rourke does not think guns have a place on college campuses, he said following the rally.

Arkansas representatives including Clowney and Denise Garner (D-84) have been fighting against state gun legislation and advocating for increased public safety. Act 562, implemented in 2017, allows for enhanced concealed carry on Arkansas public college and university campuses.

While Garner could not attend the rally, she issued a statement, which Wallace read in her opening remarks, supporting the efforts of O’Rourke and the UA Young Democrats.

In addition to gun violence, O’Rourke addressed the urgency of issues such as climate change, healthcare, immigration laws and inequality. He reflected on historical victories in the fight toward social justice while emphasizing that there is still work to be done.

“I look to every single era of major change in this country,” O’Rourke said. “It has always been led by the young people.”

After leaving Arkansas, O’Rourke plans to visit more states that democratic politicians have overlooked in the past to empower young voices in historically conservative areas, he said. His next stop on the campaign trail is Tulsa, Oklahoma.

UA Young Democrats member Trevor Paulson, a sophomore majoring in political science and sociology, thinks many politicians fail to ignite progressive movements in conservative regions because they feel their efforts would be useless, he said.

“Beto came to our state because he believes that all voters should be talked – and more importantly, listened – to,” Paulson said. 

During the 2018 senate race, which he lost against incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R), O’Rourke toured all 254 counties in Texas and drew large crowds at his rallies, gaining momentous support from young voters and minority groups, according to The Washington Post.

By visiting college campuses across the U.S., O’Rourke hopes to assure young voters that they have a voice in combating these issues, he said.

“You will make this happen,” O’Rourke said. “I’m counting on you. I believe in you. And that is why I’m here today with you.”

Katelyn Duby is a news editor for the Arkansas Traveler, where she previously worked as a reporter in 2018 and a senior staff reporter in 2019.

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