Andrew Yang, left, and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, right, listen to former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, center, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by ABC at Texas Southern University in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The Latest: Will O'Rourke mandate gun buybacks? 'Hell yes'

September 12, 2019 - 9:21 pm

HOUSTON (AP) — The Latest on the Democratic presidential debate (all times local):

8:20 p.m.

Former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke says "hell yes" he will institute mandatory buybacks for some machine guns if elected president.

In one of the biggest applause lines of the Thursday night presidential debate, O'Rourke described in vivid detail how bullets shot by semi-automatic rifles are designed to "shred everything inside your body."

He said that if a gun is meant to "kill people on a battlefield ... hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15s, your AK-47s." While O'Rourke supports mandatory gun buybacks, other candidates believe such a program should be voluntary.

O'Rourke left the campaign trail last month to return to his hometown of El Paso after a gunman opened fire at a Walmart there, killing 22 people. He has sought to revitalize a flagging campaign by focusing on his gun violence plan.

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8:15 p.m.

Several of Beto O'Rourke's fellow Democratic presidential hopefuls are praising him for the support he showed for residents of his hometown following a massacre there last month.

Former Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday on the debate stage that how the former Texas congressman "handled what happened in his hometown is meaningful," a line that drew applause from the Houston crowd.

A white nationalist killed 22 people and wounded about two dozen others in the Aug. 3 mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. Following the violence, O'Rourke stepped away from the campaign trail for nearly two weeks to spend time supporting the community.

Biden started the exchange by calling O'Rourke by his first name, which O'Rourke accepted with a smile.

California Sen. Kamala Harris also said, "Beto, God love you for standing so courageously in the face of that tragedy."

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8:10 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden says "nobody should be in jail" for nonviolent crimes or for drug problems.

At the Democratic presidential debate in Houston on Thursday, Biden is touting his criminal justice reform plan, which would exonerate drug possession offenders and put drug rehabilitation ahead of jail time for such offenders.

Biden is also touting his role in the 1994 crime bill, often used as a strike against him by his rivals, for its introduction of drug courts aimed specifically at minor drug offenses.

And when the debate turned to mass shootings, Biden said he defeated the National Rifle Association by leading the 25-year-old crime bill's ban on assault weapons.

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8:05 p.m.

President Donald Trump says more people are probably tuning into his speech in Baltimore than are watching Democratic presidential hopefuls on the debate stage in Texas.

Trump spoke Thursday to congressional Republicans attending an annual retreat in Baltimore.

Trump said people "should be watching the debate, but they're probably watching this." His speech was aired on CSPAN, while ABC and Univision aired the debate.

The joke drew chuckles from the friendly audience of GOP members of the House.

The candidates in Texas have mentioned him frequently, including on issues of racism and shootings. Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke called Trump "a mortal threat" to people of color in the United States and accused him of inspiring the actions of the El Paso gunman who killed 22 people.

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8:05 p.m.

Kamala Harris is vocally defending her criminal justice record during Thursday's Democratic presidential debate in Houston.

The California senator has taken flak since beginning her campaign for what some activists have described as an insufficiently progressive record during her prosecutorial career, culminating with service as the state's attorney general. But Harris has since rolled out a detailed criminal justice reform proposal, including the elimination of federal mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders — a policy blamed for increasing mass incarceration.

Harris said on Thursday that, as she became a prosecutor, "I made a decision that if I was going to have the ability to reform the system, I would try to reform it from the inside."

She said she was "absolutely not" able to do enough at the time.

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8 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidates are outlining their plans to address racism in the nation and attacking President Donald Trump as they do so.

At Thursday's Democratic presidential debate, Beto O'Rourke called Trump "a mortal threat" to people of color in this country as he calls on Congress to pass a bill giving reparations to the descendants of slaves.

Julián Castro says white supremacy "is a growing threat to this country," and he adds, "we have to root it out."

Cory Booker says the nation must have the "courage" to call out systemic racism in the nation.

And Pete Buttigieg (BOO'-tuh-juhj) says the nation's issues of systemic racism " preceded this president, and even when we defeat him, it will be with us."

The Democratic primary debate is being held at Texas Southern University, a historically black university.

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7:55 p.m.

Some Democratic presidential candidates have called on their rivals to stop attacking one another as the debate over health care grew heated.

Ten candidates are meeting Thursday in Houston for the third presidential primary debate.

The night kicked off with sometimes-fiery exchanges about "Medicare for All," the health care overhaul backed by Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and some other candidates.

Former Vice President Joe Biden says it's too expensive. He wants to build on "Obamacare" to expand coverage to those who want it.

As former Obama Housing Secretary Julián Castro accused Biden of forgetting what he said moments earlier, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (BOO'-tuh-juhj) interjected, saying, "This is why presidential debates are becoming unwatchable."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar agreed, saying, "A house divided cannot stand."

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7:50 p.m.

Former Obama Housing Secretary Julian Castro has accused former Vice President Joe Biden of fumbling comments on his own health care reform plan.

During Thursday's Democratic presidential debate in Houston, Castro said Biden was "forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago" when he claimed that 10 million people would not be left in a coverage gap under his health care reforms but would be automatically enrolled.

Castro also said fact checks after a debate earlier this summer showed Biden's plan would leave out 3% of Americans, or about 10 million people.

Castro says President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act vision "was not to leave 10 million people uncovered."

In July's presidential debates, Castro criticized Biden for his role in immigration deportations under the Obama administration.

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7:45 p.m.

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are sharply battling over "Medicare for All" at Thursday's Democratic presidential debate in Houston.

The former vice president is accusing Sanders of being less than candid about "how much it's going to cost the taxpayers" to shift the nation to single-payer health insurance, particularly union members who made concessions to obtain better health insurance under the current system.

Biden says, "For a socialist, you've got a lot more confidence in corporate America than I do."

When Sanders pushed back, invoking cancer treatment, Biden replied that "I know a lot about cancer — it's personal to me." Biden's son Beau died of brain cancer in 2015.

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7:40 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is suggesting his 2020 rival Elizabeth Warren is not being candid about the costs of her plan for the federal government to provide health care to all Americans.

He said Thursday at the third Democratic debate that "This is about candor, honesty," suggesting Warren's plan to increase income taxes on wealthier Americans by 2% falls far short of the estimated $30 billion the plan would cost.

Biden says it's not a bad idea if you like it. But he says, "I don't like it."

Warren is responding by saying people will pay premiums to the government instead of to health insurance companies, adding, "I've never actually met anyone who likes their insurance company."

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7:35 p.m.

Joe Biden is evoking former President Barack Obama and his signature policy achievement as a contrast to rivals Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

Biden said Thursday during the third Democratic debate: "I know the senator says she's for Bernie. Well, I'm for Barack."

Biden is committing to building on the Affordable Care Act with a public option, while both Warren and Sanders have championed the farther-reaching "Medicare for All" policy goal.

Warren says "We all owe a huge debt to President Obama" because he "fundamentally transformed health care in America." The Massachusetts senator, like Sanders, believes Medicare for All is the better way to move forward.

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7:25 p.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke claims the perpetrator of last month's mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, was "inspired to kill by our president."

O'Rourke made the comment during his opening statement in the Democratic debate Thursday.

Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh replied on Twitter that O'Rourke is "as desperate as he can be."

The shooter killed 22 people, many of them Latino, at a Walmart store on Aug. 3 and is believed to have written a manifesto expressing racist and anti-immigrant sentiments. The author of the manifesto insisted his opinions "predate Trump and his campaign for president."

But the words echoed some of the views Trump has expressed on immigration, Democrats and the media.

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7:15 p.m.

Businessman Andrew Yang is announcing plans to give away $1,000 a month to 10 families over the next year as part of his effort to prove the efficacy of his universal basic income campaign proposal.

Yang said during Tuesday night's Democratic primary debate that he will randomly choose 10 families to receive $12,000 over the next year that will come from his campaign funds. If elected president, Yang has proposed what he calls a "Freedom Dividend," which would give every citizen 18 and older $1,000 each month, something Yang says would address poverty and help Americans cover basic needs.

He has already started distributing funds to two families in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire, as well as another family in Florida that was selected via Twitter.

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7:05 p.m.

The third debate of the Democratic presidential primary is underway with the top candidates sharing the debate stage for the first time.

Ten hopefuls are meeting Thursday in Houston. Former Vice President Joe Biden is at center stage along with two of his closest rivals, progressive Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

The three have not been on stage together during previous debates, which were split over two nights. Tougher requirements to qualify for the debate stage winnowed the number of candidates this time, resulting in a one-night debate.

Also debating are Sens. Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (BOO'-tuh-juhj), former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and businessman Andrew Yang.

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5:20 p.m.

President Donald Trump is weighing in on the Democratic primary field hours before his would-be opponents face off on the debate stage in Houston.

Trump said Thursday that he thinks he'll face former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Sen. Bernie Sanders next year. He says, "It's going to be one of those three."

Trump says he's going to catch up on the Democratic debate once he returns from Baltimore, where he is traveling to address congressional Republicans on Thursday evening.

He says, "It's going to be very interesting. I'm going to have to watch it as a rerun."

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11:50 a.m.

Just hours before Thursday night's debate in Houston, former Vice President Joe Biden went up with a digital ad aimed at deflecting criticism of President Barack Obama's administration.

Biden is shown saying in footage from a campaign event that Obama "was a president our children could and did look up to." Biden says he was "proud to serve as his vice president, but never more proud than the day we passed health care."

Other Obama administration accomplishments appear on-screen, including "protected dreamers" and "led on marriage equality."

After a debate earlier this summer in Detroit, Biden said he was "a little surprised" at the flak he took from fellow Democrats about Obama's legacy, pushing back against criticism of the Affordable Care Act and Obama-era immigration policy.

Some Democrats in early voting states like South Carolina, which holds the first primary vote in the South next year, have listed Biden's proximity to Obama as among their top reasons for supporting him.

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8:35 a.m.

The top Democratic presidential contenders will finally be on one debate stage Thursday in Houston as Joe Biden tries to solidify his early lead over Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg (BOO'-tuh-juhj) will look to reclaim some lost momentum.

The ABC News debate has 10 candidates altogether and will air on a broadcast network with a post-Labor Day uptick in interest in the race. That could give candidates their largest audience yet as the campaigning heads into the fall.

It's also the first time Warren and Biden will appear on the same stage.

But the campaigns say that doesn't necessarily mean the three-hour debate will end up being a direct clash between the progressive Massachusetts senator and the more centrist former vice president.

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