The Latest: In Houston, O'Rourke backs assault weapons ban
EL PASO, Texas (AP) — The latest on Beto O'Rourke official presidential campaign kickoff in Texas (all times local):
Beto O'Rourke has evoked a school shooting last year near Houston to call for banning assault weapons and points to that city's 2017 devastation during Hurricane Harvey to push for fighting climate change.
The former Democratic congressman is formally launching his presidential campaign with Saturday rallies across Texas. He began in his native El Paso, then visited Houston's historically black Texas Southern University and is holding a late-night Austin event.
Wearing a Texas Southern cap, O'Rourke recalled the deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School last May. He advocated for universal background checks for firearms purchases.
O'Rourke also said he wanted to ensure that weapons "sold to the United States military with the sole purpose of killing people" are confined to the battlefield.
He said Harvey meant Houston understands the perils climate change "better than just about anyone."
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke has told 1,000-plus supporters near the Texas-Mexico border that immigrants make the country stronger.
Formally kicking off his campaign in his hometown of El Paso on Saturday, O'Rourke offered support for unapologetically liberal positions, including backing federal legalization of marijuana. He promised to strengthen unions nationwide, make it easier to register to vote and end U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The former congressman again vowed to work with Republicans, saying that a unified campaign will help him win his party's 2020 nomination and "defeat Donald Trump."
President Donald Trump has threatened to shutter the U.S.-Mexico border to combat a rise in the number of immigrants crossing.
Speaking mere blocks from the border, O'Rourke said, "We have learned not to fear our differences but to respect and embrace them."
Beto O'Rourke is formally kicking off his presidential campaign with three rallies across his home state, where he came close enough to upsetting Sen. Ted Cruz to generate the national buzz now buoying his 2020 White House bid.
The Democratic ex-congressman is holding a Saturday morning rally mere blocks from the U.S.-Mexico border in his native El Paso, then traveling to historically black Texas Southern University in Houston before an evening event in the shadow of Austin's state Capitol.
O'Rourke has visited nine states since joining the race March 14, though he'd promised to head home for an official launch.
Texas is America's largest red state, but Democrats aren't writing it off in 2020. Another presidential candidate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, drew large crowds at Texas Southern last weekend.