Democratic presidential contenders made their case to gun control advocates at the 2020 Gun Safety Forum in Las Vegas on Wednesday at a time when a slew of mass shootings have raised pressure on Congress to take action.
Nine candidates fielded questions from gun control advocates, touching on areas like mass shootings, suicide, mental health as well as urban and domestic violence.
The presidential forum, which was hosted by March for Our Lives, Giffords Courage and MSNBC, was the first of its kind solely devoted to addressing gun violence.
The event was attended by former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Trump finalizing executive order calling on police to use ‘force with compassion’ The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook MORE, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Joint Chiefs chairman says he regrets participating in Trump photo-op | GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op | Senate panel approves 0B defense policy bill Trump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names MORE (D-Mass.), South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegScaled-back Pride Month poses challenges for fundraising, outreach Biden hopes to pick VP by Aug. 1 It’s as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process MORE (D), Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook McEnany says Juneteenth is a very ‘meaningful’ day to Trump MORE (D-Calif.), Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants Black lawmakers unveil bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE (D-N.J.), Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Democrats demand Republican leaders examine election challenges after Georgia voting chaos Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE (D-Minn.), former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), and businessman Andrew YangAndrew YangGeorge Floyd protests show corporations must support racial and economic equality Andrew Yang discusses his universal basic income pilot program Andrew Yang on the George Floyd protests in Minneapolis MORE.
Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness MORE (I-Vt.) dropped out of the event after he underwent a procedure to have two stents inserted to address an arterial blockage.
The candidates emphasized the need for quick action on gun violence, and discussed how they would implement gun control measures if elected president.
Biden touted the success of the Obama administration in passing the Affordable Care Act as a blueprint to pass gun control legislation, saying both measures are based on movements.
“Everyone told us that we couldn’t get ObamaCare passed, but things had changed,” Biden said. “We got it passed because it became a movement.”
“There is an awakening in the public about how dangerous it has become,” he continued.
The candidates also took opportunities to criticize their opponents’ stances on the issue.
Booker called out O’Rourke at the forum for supporting gun licensing after a mass shooting took place in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, in August.
Booker said O’Rourke “criticized me when I came out for” licensing, but noted that the O’Rourke now supports the measure.
“Are we going to have to wait until hell’s lottery comes to your community? No, we are a better country,” Booker said.
Meanwhile, O’Rourke called out Buttigieg for not fully supporting mandatory gun buybacks.
“I heard some of the comments made today on this stage, those who are worried about the polls and want to triangulate, I’m thinking about Mayor Pete on this one, who I think maybe wants to get to the right place but is afraid [right now],” O’Rourke said. “For those who need a weatherman, mandatory buybacks are supported by the majority of Americans.”
“I very strongly disagree with them,” O’Rourke said in response to Democrats that argued his comments would make it more difficult to pass gun reform.
“So to Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerOvernight Health Care: US showing signs of retreat in battle against COVID-19 | Regeneron begins clinical trials of potential coronavirus antibody treatment | CMS warns nursing homes against seizing residents’ stimulus checks Schumer requests briefing with White House coronavirus task force as cases rise Schumer on Trump’s tweet about 75-year-old protester: He ‘should go back to hiding in the bunker’ MORE, and Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsMnuchin indicates openness to more PPP loans in next COVID-19 relief bill Coronavirus Report: The Hill’s Steve Clemons interviews Michelle McMurry-Heath Republicans turning against new round of ,200 rebate checks MORE and Mayor Pete and others, not only is it the right thing to do, not only will we save the lives of fellow Americans…the American people are with us,” he said, referring to the Senate Minority Leader and the senator from Delaware. “It’s time to lead.”
Harris also confirmed that she supports mandatory gun buybacks.
Other candidates touched upon their personal ties to gun violence.
Castro opened up about his personal experience with gun violence in high school.
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“I remember ducking behind the back seat of a car, because people were shooting at each — in the 9th grade,” Castro said. “We must educate people, not only about these horrific mass shootings but the gun violence that goes on day to day.”
Booker, who has spoken frequently about gun violence in his own New Jersey community, said his experience dealing with the issue would help him address the issue in the White House.
“There is nobody that will go to the White House with more of a sense of urgency to end the scourge of gun violence than me,” Booker said.
Over 315 mass shootings have taken place in 2019, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Those shootings have resulted in the deaths of at least 346 people, and have left 1,200 people injured.
However, lawmakers and President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE have yet to make progress on the issue. ]
While House Democrats passed a background check expansion bill in February, no action has taken place in the Senate as Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote GOP senator to try to reverse requirement that Pentagon remove Confederate names from bases No, ‘blue states’ do not bail out ‘red states’ MORE (D-Ky.) waits for President Trump to weigh in.