HOUSTON, Tx. — A Texas state representative’s tweet to Beto O’Rourke that his AR-15 “is ready for you” has been removed by Twitter. The social media giant concluded it broke the site’s rules “when it came to threats and violence,” a Twitter spokesman told CBS News.
Briscoe Cain, who represents a district west of Houston, tweeted at O’Rourke during the third Democratic presidential debate in Houston.
O’Rourke has endorsed a mandatory buyback plan for assault weapons in the wake of the shooting in his hometown of El Paso that killed 22 people.
“If the high impact, high velocity round, when it hits your body, shreds everything inside of your body, because it was designed to do that, so that you would bleed to death on a battlefield and not be able to get up and kill one of our soldiers,” O’Rourke said during the debate. “When we see that being used against children, and in Odessa [Texas, site of a shooting that followed the one in El Paso and left seven people dead], I met the mother of a 15-year-old girl who was shot by an AR-15, and that mother watched her bleed to death over the course of an hour because so many other people were shot by that AR-15 in Odessa and Midland, there weren’t enough ambulances to get to them in time, hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.”
The debate audience erupted in some of the loudest cheers of the night by the time O’Rourke finished. He continued by saying that he came up with his plan by “listening to the people in this country.” He added that he went to a gun show in Arkansas where, he said, “You might be surprised. There was some common ground there, folks who said, ‘I would willingly give that up, cut it to pieces, I don’t need this weapon to hunt, to defend myself.”‘
Although his gun control plan goes further than those of many of his fellow Democrats, the other candidates on stage praised the former lawmaker. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar said, “I so appreciate what the congressman’s been doing” and California Senator Kamala Harris said “Beto, God love you for standing so courageously in the midst of that tragedy.”
But O’Rourke has earned the ire of many on the right and gun enthusiasts. Including, it seems, Cain. Cain tweeted “My AR is ready for you Robert Francis” shortly after O’Rourke gave his answer, using O’Rourke’s given name.
During the debate, Cain’s tweet went viral, with thousands of replies. When one person asked “Did you, uh, just threaten to shoot a former member of Congress and current candidate for president?” Cain responded “You’re an idiot.”
After the debate, O’Rourke retweeted Cain and commented “This is a death threat, Representative. Clearly, you shouldn’t own an AR-15—and neither should anyone else.
Other Twitter users posted that they had reported it and two people on the O’Rourke campaign told CBS News they checked in about it with the FBI.
Two hours after it was posted, Cain’s tweet was removed. Cain responded, “You’re a child Robert Francis” at O’Rourke.
CBS News has reached out to Cain’s office for comment.
At a post-debate watch party, O’Rourke told CBS News Cain’s comment “sure reads like” a threat to him.
“I think it’s a really irresponsible thing for him to do, especially somebody who is a public servant and in a position of public trust to be sending that kind of message to this country, we are a nation of laws, and if that ends up becoming the law of the United States of America, then we expect the people of this country to comply with it,” O’Rourke said.
Timothy Perry contributed to this report.