The moment came as O’Rourke, the Democrat running for governor in Texas against incumbent Republican Greg Abbott , was describing the gun used in the shooting during a town hall meeting in Mineral Wells on Wednesday.
O’Rourke, who has long pushed for stricter gun laws, said that 19 children and two teachers were killed at Robb Elementary on May 24 after a teenage gunman “legally purchased” an AR-15 rifle, adding that the weapon was originally designed for use in combat.
The law, O’Rourke said, allowed the gunman to “take that weapon that was originally designed for use on the battlefields in Vietnam to penetrate an enemy soldier’s helmet at 500 feet and knock him down dead up against kids at five feet.”
The weapon used in the shooting was an AR-15 style rifle called a DDM4 rifle , manufactured by Daniel Defense. AR-15 style semiautomatic weapons are civilian versions of military weapons, but gun control advocates say there is little difference between them.
Seconds later, O’Rourke turned to snap at a person reportedly standing among a small group of Abbott supporters who had laughed as he spoke.
“It may be funny to you, motherf****r, but it’s not funny to me,” he told the person, eliciting cheers from the crowd.
Videos of the moment circulated widely on Twitter , amassing millions of views.
“There’s nothing funny about 19 kids being shot to death in their classrooms, and there’s nothing okay about refusing to act so it doesn’t happen again,” O’Rourke’s spokesperson Chris Evans told Newsweek.
After the event, O’Rourke tweeted that there was “nothing more serious to me than getting justice for the families in Uvalde and stopping this from ever happening again.”
Abbott supporters were welcomed by O’Rourke, according to Roza Calderón, the executive director of the Democratic-leaning Future Generations PAC.
“While speaking about the #UvaldeMassacre every single Abbot supporter laughed as loud as possible, as if it were a joke,” Calderón tweeted alongside a video of the group holding signs in support of Abbott while O’Rourke spoke.
O’Rourke’s reaction was met mostly with praise on Twitter.
“Go @BetoORourke!!!” wrote Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was killed in the Parkland school shooting.
“This is how you respond when someone [laughs] loudly while discussing the mass shooting in Uvalde.”
O’Rourke “captures the anger and frustration that so many of us feel when people like this heckler and @GovAbbott show no compassion for Uvalde victims and their families,” wrote Texas Senator Roland Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde, wrote .
Jaime Harrison, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, added : “Calling it like it is… @BetoORourke is that guy!!!”
Tweets criticizing O’Rourke were few and far between, with some calling out the gubernatorial candidate for cursing. “Remember to make sure your children are out of the room when listening to Mr. Tough Guy ™️ Beto O’Rourke,” the Young Conservatives of Texas wrote .
“There are some people who will be more upset about Beto cursing than the fact that someone laughed at a shooting— let alone the deaths of 19 children,” Olivia Julianna, a 19-year-old Texan who works as a political strategist for Gen-Z for Change, wrote about such criticism. “If you’re one one of those people just know you’re an a**hole.”
A day after the Uvalde shooting, O’Rourke interrupted a press conference involving Abbott to criticize the governor and demand action.
“The time to stop the next shooting is right now, and you are doing nothing,” O’Rourke said, before he was escorted out.
Newsweek has reached out to Abbott’s campaign for further comment.
Update 8/11/22, 8:54 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with a comment from O’Rourke’s spokesperson.
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