President Barack Obama has been plotting to take away America's guns for years, Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio warned Thursday night during a GOP presidential debate. Rubio sought to link the president's recent executive order limiting how guns are purchased to a speech he made in 2008 about gun owner's values.

“I am convinced that if this president could confiscate every gun in this country, he would,” said Rubio, a gun owner, during the debate. He then referenced a speech Obama gave where he said Americans "cling to guns."

Arub1 Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., participates in a Republican presidential debate, Jan. 14, 2016, in North Charleston, South Carolina. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Obama said in 2008: “You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. … And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Fox Business Network hosted the first Republican debates of 2016 Thursday night in North Charleston, South Carolina. The sixth debate night of the campaign season was moderated by network anchors Neil Cavuto and Maria Bartiromo.

The main event that began at 9 p.m. EST included businessman Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. An undercard debate that started at 6 p.m. involved former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Amid ho-hum poll numbers, Rubio has sought to play up his conservative credentials and overhaul his vision for immigration reform ahead of next month's first presidential nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. After pushing an unsuccessful plan in  2012 that would have granted undocumented immigrants work visas and a path toward citizenship, Rubio has announced in recent weeks a plan that calls for more stringent visa review, 20,000 additional border agents and 700 miles of new fencing.

Rubio, the former Florida House of Representatives Speaker and the son and grandson of Cuban immigrants, has sought to make the case that his working class upbringing and experience in the Senate would make him a strong presidential candidate in a general election against Democratic front-runners Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.




Rubio is polling in third place in Iowa with likely GOP caucus-goers at 12 percent. Cruz and Trump are battling it out for first place, according to a recent Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll. The survey of 500 likely Republican caucus goers was conducted Jan. 7-10 by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Other candidates also slammed Obama's gun control measures during the debate. “The first impulse of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is to take rights away from law-abiding citizen," Bush said.

Cruz offered his own analysis of how Republican candidates view gun rights during a primary campaign. “Unless you are clinically insane, you are going to say you support the Second Amendment,” he said.

During a recent town hall on gun control, Obama said he never has owned a gun, but he also added that he doesn't want to take guns away from Americans. He said he wanted to figure out how to stop gun violence.