Ahead of debate, Beto O'Rourke returns to Texas doubling down on gun control

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate Beto ORourke speaks during a rally against the visit of President Donald Trump after a shooting at a Walmart store, in El Paso, Texas, Aug. 7, 2019.PlayJose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters
WATCH Beto O' Rourke talks guns, racism and immigration with Texas voters

Hours before the third Democratic presidential debate Thursday in Houston, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke has returned to Texas with a new call looking to stir the night’s conversation on gun violence: telling banks and credit card companies to stop processing assault weapons sales and firearm transactions without a background check.

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate Beto ORourke walks next to his wife Amy Hoover Sanders and Rep. Veronica Escobar Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019. Lola Gomez/Austin American-Statesman via AP
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke walks next to his wife Amy Hoover Sanders and Rep. Veronica Escobar Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019.

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O’Rourke’s plan is to drum up public pressure, beginning on debate day, on banks and credit card companies to refuse to handle any transaction involving assault weapons and firearm sales without a background check, most often found online and at gun shows.

Additionally, he is calling on these financial institutions to deny services to all gun and ammunition manufacturers that produce or sell assault weapons. This call appears to be the first of its kind among the Democratic candidates.

The Texas-native, who narrowly lost a 2018 for a Texas U.S. Senate race seat, has maneuvered himself to the forefront of the more than 20 Democratic candidates on the gun violence issue since an attack by a gunman inside a Walmart killed 22 people in his hometown of El Paso on Aug. 3.

O’Rourke suspended his campaign operations then and returned to the trail nearly two weeks later as the first candidate to call for a mandatory government buyback of every assault weapon in the United States. A September ABC News/Washington Post poll shows 52 percent of Americans support such a program.

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate Beto ORourke speaks during a rally against the visit of President Donald Trump after a shooting at a Walmart store, in El Paso, Texas, Aug. 7, 2019. Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks during a rally against the visit of President Donald Trump after a shooting at a Walmart store, in El Paso, Texas, Aug. 7, 2019.

“If this Congress and this president won’t act, the least the financial industry could do is stop profiting off of sales of these weapons,” O’Rourke said in his announcement. “If enough of us speak out, they’ll consider it.”

The campaign has worked to position itself as the most aggressive on the gun violence issue, from driving a conversation on a policy-front with his buy-back program to using blunt, and sometimes profane language to make his intentions clear.

A shirt went on sale recently on O’Rourke’s website reading “This is f****ed up.” Several days ago, when asked to clarify his position on taking away people’s assault weapons, he responded, “I want to be clear: That’s exactly what we’re going to do. Americans who own AR-15s and AK-47s will have to sell their assault weapons. All of them.”

Tonight’s debate will be held at Texas Southern University, a public, historically black university, and will air from 8 to 11 p.m. ET across ABC, on Univision with a Spanish translation, locally on KTRK-TV and on ABC News Live. The streaming channel is available on the ABCNews.com, Good Morning America and FiveThirtyEight websites and mobile phone apps, as well as on Hulu Live, The Roku Channel, Facebook Watch, AppleTV, Amazon Fire TV, YouTube, Apple News, and Twitter.