O’Rourke Not Alone in Support of Mandatory Buyback

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke has faced backlash from Republicans, and some Democrats, for his debate-night advocacy of a mandatory buyback program for so-called assault weapons. But Sen. Chuck Schumer went too far when he said, “I don’t know of any other Democrat who agrees with Beto O’Rourke.”

There are at least two Democratic senators running for president who agree with O’Rourke’s proposal. And in polls, a strong majority of Democratic voters support it.

O’Rourke made headlines with this proclamation during the third Democratic debate: “[H]ell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.”

Debate moderator David Muir, Sept. 12: You’ve said, quote, “Americans who own AR-15s and AK-47s will have to sell them to the government, all of them.” You know that critics call this confiscation. Are you proposing taking away their guns? And how would this work?

O’Rourke: I am, if it’s a weapon that was designed to kill people on a battlefield, if the high impact, high velocity round, when it hits your body, shreds everything inside of your body, because it was designed to do that, so that you would bleed to death on a battlefield and not be able to get up and kill one of our soldiers. When we see that being used against children, and in Odessa, I met the mother of a 15-year-old girl who was shot by an AR-15, and that mother watched her bleed to death over the course of an hour because so many other people were shot by that AR-15 in Odessa and Midland, there weren’t enough ambulances to get to them in time, hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We’re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.

O’Rourke got pushback from both outside and inside his own party.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, told reporters, “I can tell you one thing: Beto O’Rourke’s not taking my guns away from me. You tell Beto that OK?”

Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, said the comment was not a “wise policy or political move” and Coons predicted “that clip will be played for years at Second Amendment rallies with organizations that try to scare people by saying that Democrats are coming for your guns.”

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey agreed, tweeting on Sept. 13 that mandatory buybacks of certain semi-automatic weapons “is an awful and extreme idea” that does not have nearly enough support in Congress to pass.

Toomey, who co-sponsored a bill with Coons to strengthen federal background checks, warned that O’Rourke’s comment “undermines and hurts bipartisan efforts to actually make progress on commonsense gun safety efforts, like expanding background checks.”

Picking up on that theme, President Donald Trump tweeted that O’Rourke’s comment “[c]onvinced many that Dems just want to take your guns away” and that his comment “made it much harder to make a deal” on new gun laws.

Dummy Beto made it much harder to make a deal. Convinced many that Dems just want to take your guns away. Will continue forward! https://t.co/87jvaYUkyn

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 18, 2019

Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, said that O’Rourke’s comments were not representative of Democrats. In a Sept. 18 conference call with upstate New York reporters, Schumer said, “I don’t know of any other Democrat who agrees with Beto O’Rourke, but it’s no excuse not to go forward.”

O’Rourke on an Island?

All of the leading Democratic presidential candidates support a ban on the sale of certain semi-automatic weapons, which were banned from 1994 to 2004 as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. And most of the candidates have expressed a preference for either a mandatory or voluntary buyback of such weapons currently owned by Americans.

Aside from O’Rourke, at least two other Democratic candidates for president also support mandatory buybacks of the powerful rifles, and both currently serve in the Senate.

A week before the Democratic debate, Sen. Kamala Harris told reporters in New Hampshire on Sept. 6 that she supports a mandatory buyback program.

“We have to work out the details — there are a lot of details — but I do” support a forced buyback, Harris said. “We have to take those guns off the streets.”

Sen. Cory Booker also supports such a proposal. According to Bloomberg, Booker “noted that other countries have been able to take military-style semiautomatic weapons ‘off the streets’ and that the U.S. can’t let the National Rifle Association ‘tell us what’s possible.’”

One other candidate, Julian Castro, said he “at least” supports a voluntary buyback program, but “I’m willing to hear the arguments on mandatory.”

New York Mayor Bill deBlasio, who dropped out of the presidential race on Sept. 20, told Politico that he supports a mandatory buyback program. Two other Democrats in Congress who also dropped out of the presidential race have expressed support for mandatory buybacks.

In August, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand told CNN that she wants to “do a buyback program across the country so that those who own them can be … compensated for their money that they spent.” Asked whether the buybacks should be mandatory, Gillibrand responded, “You don’t want people to retain them because if you make them illegal, you don’t want to grandfather in all the assault weapons that are all across America. You would like people to sell them back to the government so that you can make sure people who shouldn’t have access to these weapons couldn’t have them.”

In an op-ed for USA Today in May, Rep. Eric Swalwell — who, like Gillibrand, has since dropped out of the presidential race — wrote that “we should ban possession of military-style semiautomatic assault weapons, we should buy back such weapons from all who choose to abide by the law, and we should criminally prosecute any who choose to defy it by keeping their weapons.” Swalwell said such buybacks could cost the federal government as much as $15 billion.

“Consider this an investment in averting carnage and heartache and loss,” Swalwell wrote.

Nobody knows exactly how many so-called assault weapons are in circulation, but the NRA says the AR-15 is “America’s most popular rifle.” That rifle was used in several mass shootings, including at schools in Newtown, Connecticut, and Parkland, Florida. A 2012 report from the Congressional Research Service said “data are not available on the number of ‘assault weapons’ in private possession or available for sale,” but the report cited a 2004 study that estimated about 1.5 million “assault weapons” were privately owned in 1994. The estimates now range from 3.3 million to 16 million.

The three candidates currently leading in the polls — former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — all support a voluntary buyback program.

In the Sept. 13 Democratic debate, Sen. Amy Klobuchar said, “I personally think we should start with a voluntary buyback program.”

A provision in S. 66, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2019, introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein in January, allows state or local governments to use federal grant money for a voluntary buyback of grandfathered weapons. The bill, which has stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate, has 34 co-sponsors, including Sens. Klobuchar, Warren, Booker, Harris and Sanders.

On CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sept. 15, host Jake Tapper asked Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg if O’Rourke’s debate comment about mandatory buybacks is “playing into the hands of Republicans.”

“Yes,” Buttigieg replied. “Look, right now, we have an amazing moment on our hands. We have agreement among the American people for not just universal background checks, but we have a majority in favor of red flag laws, [banning] high-capacity magazines, banning the new sale of assault weapons. This is a golden moment to finally do something, because we have been arguing about this for as long as I have been alive. When even this president and even Mitch McConnell are at least pretending to be open to reforms, we know that we have a moment on our hands. Let’s make the most of it and get these things done.”

What About the Public?

According to a Quinnipiac poll released in late August, voters were split when asked if they “support or oppose a mandatory buyback of assault weapons” — 46% of voters support the concept, while 49% oppose it. But among Democrats, the idea was quite popular: 71% said they support the idea, while just 18% of Republicans and 47% of independents said that.

An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll conducted between Sept. 5 and 8 found similar results: 46% said Congress should pass legislation to “create a mandatory buyback program of assault guns.” Again, the poll found strong support — 70% — among Democrats. Support was 23% among Republicans and 40% among independents.

When Schumer said, “I don’t know of any other Democrat who agrees with Beto O’Rourke,” he was likely talking about members of Congress. (We reached out to Schumer’s office about his comment, but we did not hear back.) O’Rourke’s plan may not have much support in Congress, and there’s no proposed legislation that would require Americans to sell their semi-automatic rifles to the government. But O’Rourke is not alone among Democrats in holding that position.

Several current and former presidential candidates now serving in Congress also support a mandatory buyback program. And the two polls we cited above suggest a healthy majority of Democratic voters also support O’Rourke’s plan.

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Outdated Meme on Trump Administration Vacancies

Quick Take

An outdated meme posted to Facebook this month falsely claims that the Trump administration is without a defense secretary, an interior secretary, an ambassador to the United Nations and a Secret Service director.

Full Story

A meme circulating on Facebook includes some inaccurate information regarding vacancies in President Donald Trump’s administration.

The meme, which was posted on Facebook on Sept. 15, reads, “TRUMP CURRENTLY HAS: No Secret Service Director, no Homeland Security Director, no ICE Director, no Secretary of Defense, no Secretary of the Interior, no UN Ambassador, no White House Chief of Staff AND NO CLUE HOW TO RUN AMERICA.”

It’s a cropped version of a meme that the liberal Facebook group Occupy Democrats posted back on April 9. Occupy Democrats credited that information to comedy writer Nick Jack Pappas, who tweeted out those same claims on April 8 and called Trump “an isolationist within his own administration.”

At the time of Pappas’ tweet, the claims were mostly accurate. The Trump administration was, in fact, going through a period of significant turnover (and still is.)

However, over half of these claims are now false because four of the seven positions have been filled on a permanent basis. Only three of the positions cited are still occupied by individuals in an “acting” role, a title that Trump says he likes and gives him “great flexibility.”

We’ll go through each of the claims below.

“No Secret Service Director”

That’s false. James Murray is the Secret Service director.

The White House announced on April 8 that Randolph “Tex” Alles would depart as director in May. At the same time, however, it was announced that Murray would replace Alles. Murray was sworn in on May 1, so there was never a gap between Secret Service directors.

“No Homeland Security Director”

Alles’ announced departure came shortly after former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s decision to leave the Trump administration. Nielsen posted her letter of resignation online on April 7. Trump designated then-Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan as acting secretary of Homeland Security — a position he still holds.

“No ICE Director”

Nielsen’s resignation came only days after Trump announced that he was withdrawing his nomination for director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Ronald Vitiello, who had been serving as the agency’s acting director since June 2018. Trump told reporters that he wanted to go “in a tougher direction” with his pick. Then he nominated Mark Morgan to be the next ICE director, but he was never confirmed by the Senate. Morgan served as acting director until he moved to Customs and Border Protection and was replaced by the man who currently holds the title of acting director, Matthew Albence.

“No Secretary of Defense”

That’s false. Mark Esper is secretary of the Department of Defense.

When Pappas sent his tweet, Patrick Shanahan was the acting secretary of defense, a position he assumed after the outgoing defense secretary, Gen. James Mattis, left the department on Jan. 1. Esper replaced Shanahan as acting secretary in June. A month later, on July 23, Esper was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate 90-8 and sworn in as the new defense secretary. 

“No Secretary of the Interior”

That’s false. David Bernhardt is secretary of the Department of the Interior.

He was confirmed by the Senate, 56-41, two days after Occupy Democrats posted its meme in April. Prior to that, Bernhardt had been performing the duties in an acting capacity since Ryan Zinke resigned as interior secretary in December.

“No UN Ambassador”

That’s false. Kelly Craft, Trump’s former ambassador to Canada, is the U.S. representative to the United Nations.

She was nominated to that post by Trump on Feb. 22, but was not confirmed by the Senate until July 31. She replaced former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who announced her resignation in October. After Haley vacated her post at the end of December, Jonathan Cohen served as the acting ambassador until Craft took office.

“No White House Chief of Staff”

Trump hasn’t had a permanent chief of staff since Gen. John Kelly stepped down in December. That same month, Trump announced that Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, would become his acting chief staff — and he still is.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.


Acting Commissioner Mark A. Morgan.” U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Accessed 20 Sep 2019.

White House. “Remarks by President Trump Before Marine One Departure.” 5 Apr 2019.

“Ambassador Kelly Craft.” United States Mission to the United Nations. Accessed 20 Sep 2019.

“Ambassador Nikki R. Haley.” U.S. House of Representatives Document Repository. Accessed 20 Sep 2019.

Nielsen, Kirstjen M. Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Letter sent to President Donald Trump. 7 April 2019.

“Dr. Mark T. Esper.” U.S. Department of Defense. Accessed 20 Sep 2019.

“ICE Leadership.” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Accessed 20 Sep 2019.

“James M. Murray.” Department of Homeland Security. Accessed 20 Sep 2019.

“James N. Mattis.” U.S. Department of Defense. Accessed 20 Sep 2019.

“Kevin K. McAleenan.” Department of Homeland Security. Accessed 20 Sep 2019.

Keith, Tamara. “‘I Wasn’t Naive’: Getting Fired In The Trump Administration.” NPR. 12 Sep 2019.

“Kirstjen M. Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security, 2017 – 2019.” Department of Homeland Security. Accessed 20 Sep 2019.

Miller, Zeke, Long, Colleen and Jill Colvin. “Secret Service head Alles leaving, career official tapped.” AP News. 8 Apr 2019.

“Mulvaney, Mick, (1967- ).” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Accessed 20 Sep 2019.

“Patrick M. Shanahan.” U.S. Department of Defense. Accessed 20 Sep 2019.

“Randolph D. “Tex” Alles.” Department of Homeland Security. Accessed 20 Sep 2019.

“Remarks by President Trump During Visit to the Border Wall.” Whitehouse.gov. Accessed 20 Sep 2019.

Sands, Geneva, and Kelly, Caroline. “Mark Morgan takes over as acting director of ICE.” CNN. 28 May 2019.

“Secretary David Bernhardt.” U.S. Department of the Interior. Accessed 20 Sep 2019.

“Secretary Nielsen Announces Ronald D. Vitiello to Serve as Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” Department of Homeland Security. Accessed 20 Sep 2019.

Wolf, Zachary B. “Why Trump can’t fill the gaping holes in his government.” CNN. 10 Sep 2019.

“Zinke, Ryan, (1961- ).” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Accessed 20 Sep 2019.

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Video: Tapper on Trump’s Smear of Omar

In this week’s fact-checking video, CNN’s Jake Tapper examines a false tweet promoted by President Donald Trump that purports to show Rep. Ilhan Omar “partying” and “celebrating” on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The video was actually from a Congressional Black Caucus event on Sept. 13.

The tweet the president retweeted to his tens of millions of followers came from conservative commentator Terrence K. Williams, who showed a brief video clip of Omar dancing and then commented, “Ilhan Omar partied on the anniversary of 9/11 because she believes ‘Some People Just Did Somethings.'” Omar is one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress.

The video of Omar dancing was originally posted by Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. It was from a Congressional Black Caucus event, “Breaking Concrete Ceilings,” hosted by freshmen Congressional Black Caucus women on Sept. 13. It did not take place on the anniversary of 9/11, and had nothing to do with the terrorist attack.

Omar did mark the anniversary of 9/11 in a tweet that said: “September 11th was an attack on all of us. We will never forget the thousands of Americans who lost their lives in the largest terror attack on U.S. soil.”

Williams’ tweet has since been deleted.

For more information, read our story “Trump Retweets False Attack on Rep. Omar.” Previous fact-checking videos done in collaboration with CNN’s “State of the Union” can also be found on our website

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Trump’s History of Hurricane Relief Donations

Q: Did President Donald Trump donate $1 million to hurricane relief efforts in the Bahamas?

A: Despite social media claims to the contrary, there is no evidence of such a donation. He did, however, donate to relief efforts in 2017 after Hurricane Harvey. 


Saw a FB post saying Trump personally donated a million dollars to Bahamas Hurricane Dorian relief. True or false?


The U.S. government has assisted the Bahamas through more than $25 million worth of humanitarian relief since Hurricane Dorian hit the islands earlier this month, killing at least 51 people. The Walt Disney Co., Michael Jordan and others pledged money to assist, too.

Social media users, however, have spread an unsupported claim that President Donald Trump has personally donated $1 million to hurricane relief efforts in the Bahamas.

“Trump, in his hurtful, hateful, racist, Nazi fashion, just donated $1 MILLION of his own money to the Bahamas Relief Fund,” one post reads.

Some commenters praised the supposed news. “That’s my wonderful President!” one woman wrote. But others rightfully questioned the posts — including several readers who inquired with FactCheck.org about the matter.

The White House has made no such announcement, and we could find no evidence to support the claim.

Two years ago, in September 2017, following Hurricane Harvey’s devastation in Texas, Trump personally pledged to donate $1 million for relief efforts there. The White House at the time officially announced a list of organizations that would receive donations and the amounts for each. Several organizations later confirmed that they had received the money.

Also in September 2017, Trump’s inaugural committee announced that it would donate $3 million divided evenly to three organizations involved in hurricane relief efforts — a pledge that was reflected in the committee’s subsequent tax filings.

Previous hoaxes have falsely claimed that Trump and his family donated $1 billion to a fund for a wall at the southern border (they didn’t) and that the president donated a whole year’s salary to “repair military cemeteries” — which is false, though he does donate his salary to various causes in quarterly increments, as we’ve explained.

But there is no proof to support the assertion that Trump has personally donated $1 million to fund hurricane relief in the Bahamas.


58th Presidential Inaugural Committee. Form 990 for the year ending October 31, 2017. 6 Feb 2018.

Fichera, Angelo. “Trumps Not Donating $1 Billion for Border Wall.” FactCheck.org. 15 Jan 2019.

Fichera, Angelo and Alexandra Tolhurst. “False Stories Revive Claim About Trump Salary Donation.” FactCheck.org. 7 Aug 2018.

Statement on President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump’s Personal Donation to Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts.” White House. 6 Sep 2017.

U.S. Agency for International Development. “The Bahamas – Hurricane Dorian | Fact Sheet #9, Fiscal Year (FY) 2019.” 18 Sep 2019.

Virginia-Based Sailors, Marines Return After Supporting Relief to Bahamas.” Press release, U.S. Navy. 18 Sep 2019.

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