O’Rourke on latest shooting: ‘We need to end this epidemic’

Democratic presidential candidate and Texas native Beto O’Rourke on Saturday reacted to news of a mass shooting between the cities of Midland and Odessa, Texas, with a terse call to action, stating, “We need to end this epidemic.”

“Our hearts are with Midland, Odessa, and everyone in West Texas who has to endure this again. More information is forthcoming, but here’s what we know: We need to end this epidemic,” he tweeted.

Speaking at an event in Fairfax Station, Virginia, as details of the shooting unfolded, O’Rourke said, “There is no reason we have to accept this as our fortune, as our future.”

At least seven people were killed in Saturday’s massacre, according to Odessa police spokesman Steven LeSueur. Midland police confirmed on a Facebook page that the shooter was shot and killed in Odessa.

The shooting comes amid a renewed debate over gun control prompted by mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, earlier this month that left 31 dead.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Saturday that President Donald Trump has been briefed on the shooting and the White House is monitoring the situation.

“Just briefed by Attorney General Barr about the shootings in Texas. FBI and Law Enforcement is fully engaged. More to follow,” Trump tweeted.

Prior to leaving for Poland, Vice President Mike Pence said, “Our hearts go out to all the victims and families who had loved ones lose their lives.”

O’Rourke’s fellow Democratic presidential candidates, such as Texas native Julian Castro, also reacted to the shooting — Castro called the ongoing situation “heartbreaking.”

The candidates who swiftly weighed in on the rampage urged action.

“I’m sick of this. America is sick of this. We need to act,” California Sen. Kamala Harris said.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren called out Congress. “We shouldn’t have to live with this near daily fear and horror,” she said. “We’ve already lost far too many to gun violence—Congress must act now.”

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg shared a similar sentiment. “Enough. Texas, my heart is with you. America, we must act,” he said.

Gun control debate

The House Judiciary Committee had scheduled a debate on guns for next week, but it was postponed due to Hurricane Dorian. The committee had been planning to come back a week early from August recess to mark up gun legislation, but that is now being pushed back because several lawmakers on the committee represent areas of Florida where the storm is projected to hit.

Despite the shootings, lawmakers remain skeptical that any measure significantly changing the nation’s laws related to gun control will gain enough Republican support in the Senate to pass. Congress has long struggled with addressing gun violence in America, even in the wake of mass shootings going back to Columbine in 1999.

While Trump initially signaled support for strengthening background checks on firearm purchases earlier this month, he distanced himself from those positions after consulting with National Rifle Association chief Wayne LaPierre and conservative allies.

In recent days, Trump has pointed to mental health care as the primary response to preventing massacres. He tweeted earlier this month that he had “a very good meeting on preventing mass shootings,” without specifying any potential policy direction.

Trump has previously expressed support for tighter gun restrictions — including after the 2018 mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school — only to back off after pressure from the NRA.

CNN’s DJ Judd, Veronica Stracqualursi and Alex Rogers contributed to this report.