Fox News host Pete Hegseth urged viewers more AR-15s in response to Democratic candidate Beto O'Rourke's calls for comprehensive gun reform.
“Now if you own an AR-15, keep it. Continue to use it responsibly and safely. I just don’t think that we need to sell any more weapons of war into this public,” O'Rourke said in remarks that are not at all dissimilar to what he's claimed since his race for Senate in 2018.
Hegseth commented after Fox News aired footage of O'Rourke's comments during yesterday's program.
“Such easy, loose rhetoric of the left,” Hegseth said. "If I own an AR-15, stocks of gun companies probably will go up after things like this. Responsible gun owners recognize their right to own rifles like that. You can use 'weapons of war' or 'assault ban' all you want."
"This will appeal to his base: young people who are uninformed about the difference between an automatic and semiautomatic rifle. But go out and get your second AR-15 today. Maybe it's a good reason to do so."
Hegseth's remarks came just days after 50 people were killed in a mass shooting at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Critics seized on Hegseth's comments, saying his rhetoric could inspire copycat shooters.
According to a study conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) that analyzed around 200 active shooting incidents in America, active shooters who use semi-automatic rifles will double their chances of wounding and killing victims, in comparison to another type of gun.
O’Rourke claimed that the AR-15 was “designed, engineered and sold to the United States military for the express purpose of killing people as effectively as possible, in as greater number as possible.”
He added that an AR-15 would “blow a hole in your back the size of an orange" due to "high-impact" and "high-velocity" rounds. He noted that a wounded individual would "bleed to death” before anyone can get to them “because that is exactly what it was designed to do.”
O'Rourke's comments––and Hegseth's response––came after New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed to change her country's gun laws in response to the Christchurch shooting. Government officials plan to announce gun law changes within the next week.
“As a cabinet, we were absolutely unified and very clear. The terrorist attack in Christchurch on Friday was the worst act of terrorism on our shores,” Ardern said. “It has exposed a range of weaknesses in New Zealand’s gun laws. The clear lesson from history around the world is that, to make our community safe, the time to act is now.”
“Within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism, we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our community safer,” she added.
The death toll in the mosque shootings exceeds New Zealand's annual homicide rate. There were 35 homicides in New Zealand in 2017, the last year for which figures are available.