The top candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination were in Las Vegas Wednesday to participate in a forum on gun violence sponsored by March for Our Lives and Giffords.
Harris calls out Trump for lack of leadership on gun control
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-CA, said President Trump “has been without courage (and) he hasn’t demonstrated any leadership or conviction” on gun control legislation by refusing to stand up to the NRA.
— Harris said she supports universal background checks and an assault weapons ban.
— Too often human life is devalued, particularly black men and boys, she said. “We’ve got to recognize that we’ve got to value these lives,” she said.
— But how will that be legislated? Harris called for safe communities, which she said was not a job for the criminal justice system. Instead it is about pouring resources into public health, mental health and economy in neighborhoods.
— “It has to be about healthy communities,” she said, adding that poverty was trauma inducing.
— She touched upon her plan to invest $100 billion in impoverished communities, where home ownership was elusive. There is a direct connection between gun violence and lack of home ownership, she added.
— Harris also said that education was a key element in gun violence prevention as she criticized Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. “On day one, she’s out,” she said.
— Harris also opposed arming teachers. “You know what those teachers want? They want a raise.”
— She said she intends to put a nurse and social worker in every school as president.
— In an effort to create a healthy community, more police on the streets is not effective, she said. It is reactive without a clear goal.
— Harris said she visited University Medical Center in Las Vegas earlier Wednesday, but did not specify why.
— Addressing questions from trauma surgeons about suicide by gun, Harris described it as a big deal among veterans too.
— For anyone found by a court to be a danger to themselves or others, Harris said they should not be allowed to buy a weapon. Mental health and smart gun safety laws are not mutually exclusive.
— Harris said she was prepared to take executive action within 100 days of her presidency if Congress does not take action on common sense gun reform, and she said she was unconcerned about those actions being potentially undone by the next president.
— She said she supported red flag laws such as what was implemented in Nevada.
— Harris added that she would direct the Center for Disease Control to research gun violence as a public health issue.
— She said that the U.S. Supreme Court should interpret the Second Amendment as it applies to the realities of today, noting that one can respect the Constitution and still advocate for gun safety.
— Harris confirmed that she supports a mandatory buyback program to get assault weapons out of circulation in the U.S.
— Harris called for ending mass incarceration, legalizing marijuana, accountability for law enforcement, ending the money bail system and shutting down for-profit prisons.
Posted 4:40 p.m.
— Shea Johnson
Andrew Yang suggests unique gun licensing program
Entrepeneur Andrew Yang related his signature policy, which would give $1,000 per month to American families, to gun violence, while also suggesting a unique gun licensing plan.
— Yang said his $1,000-a-month plan would address many of the “links in the chain” of gun violence by eliminating stress and providing more resources for mental health care.
— His licensing program would be tiered, similar to commercial vs. passenger-vehicle driver’s licenses. If a firearm requires more training to master, it should require a tougher license.
— Yang supports voluntary gun buybacks for assault weapons, as well as most of the field’s “common sense” reforms: Background checks, assault weapon bans and an end to bump stocks.
— Yang also called for more federal research into gun violence, which he called a “public health crisis.”
— He also voiced direct opposition to lockdown drills in schools, saying that the anxiety caused in children far outweighs the remote possibility of the safety training being used during a live shooting.
— Yang also differed from the field by calling for financial repercussions on gun manufacturers, suggesting a $10 million fine to a company each time its product is used to kill a person in America. “We need to make it in their financial interests to make us safer.”
— He also suggested monitoring the 3 percent of Americans who own 50 percent of the country’s guns. “We need to know who you are, what you’re doing and why you have this arsenal.”
Posted: 3:52 p.m.
— Rory Appleton
Klobuchar cast blame on Trump, McConnell
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar drew on her experiences as a prosecutor and cast much of the blame for gun violence inaction on President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell during her time on the forum stage.
— Klobuchar called for universal background checks, an assault weapon and bump stock ban, magazine limitations and the closing of the boyfriend loophole, which she has targeted through legislation for years after noticing a shocking amount of domestic violence-related homicides during her time as a district attorney.
— She also supports a voluntary buyback for assault weapons, saying there are more pressing issues to address before calling for a mandatory buyback.
— Klobuchar mentioned several “ordinary people” who acted heroically to shield victims or get them to safety during mass shootings, before recounting a story in which she said Trump promised nine times to support universal background checks. “People in (Washington, D.C.), especially that guy in the White House, don’t have the courage of those ordinary people.”
— Klobuchar called for increased funding to law enforcement to help identify and stop those who may be ramping up their hatred toward a possible violent act.
— She recommended parents tell their young children concerned about mass shooting drills that there are people fighting for their rights and protecting them, such as teachers and advocates.
Posted: 3:15 p.m.
— Rory Appleton
O’Rourke stands firm on buybacks for assault weapons
Former Rep. Beto O’ Rourke of Texas doubled down on his support of a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons, rejecting suggestions that the stance would make it more difficult to reach political compromise on common sense gun regulations.
— “I’m standing with them,” O’Rourke said of the victims of the El Paso shooting whom he had recently visited.
— O’Rourke said it should be illegal to sell assault weapons, and it’s wrong that more than 10 million of them are out there in America.
— He said that South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg was “afraid of doing the right thing right now” in reference to not supporting a mandatory buyback program. “It’s time to lead,” he said.
— O’Rourke also gave “all the credit in the world” to Sen. Corey Booker, D-N.J., for backing mandatory buyback and he declined to indulge which of the two candidates led on the issue.
— He said he supported universal background checks, red flag laws and banning assault weapons, which will help fight the problem with guns in domestic violence.
— O’Rourke said he also wants to fund violence prevention programs and address neighborhood gun violence as well as police brutality.
— He said he was “grateful” for the verdict this week finding former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger of shooting and killing neighbor Botham Jean.
— In general, every American should have constitutional right to own a firearm, O’Rourke said, but that excludes assault weapons and individuals who pose a danger to themselves or to others.
— He said he wants to close the so-called boyfriend loophole, which allows unmarried domestic abusers to keep their guns.
— Second Amendment rights do not “trump our right to live,” he said.
— He said he wants to fund mental health care for those who have experienced gun violence trauma and he also seeks mental health counseling in schools.
Posted: 2:42 p.m.
— Shea Johnson
Biden calls for ‘practical’ solutions
Former Vice President Joe Biden touched on various topics during his time on stage, weaving from criticism aimed at President Donald Trump to promoting his newly released gun violence platform.
— Biden called for a repeal of protections given to gun manufacturers, and he promised to push the manufacturers into creating more weapons with biometric sensors that only allow the guns’ owners to use them.
— He said there’s no chance of accomplishing anything on gun violence while Trump is president. Getting Trump out of the White House, he added, is the first step in making necessary change.
— Biden called for “practical” solutions, such as assault weapon bans and limits on magazine sizes.
— He noted that when hunting ducks and geese, hunters are only allowed to carry three slugs. “We protect ducks and geese better than we protect people.”
— His plan would invest $900 million to study the 20 cities with the highest rates of gun violence in an effort to find community solutions.
— Biden said he would incentivize states to institute a licensing requirement for gun owners. Unlike Booker, he believes licensing should be handled on a state level, as driver’s licenses are. He also supports voluntary buybacks for assault weapons.
— Biden spoke at length about the mental health toll taken on young students and especially young people of color, whom he said have higher anxiety rates than any other age group.
— He encouraged young people to continue to march and put pressure on their elected officials.
— When asked about the Obama administration’s inability to pass gun control in the wake of school shootings, Biden said one problem was losing the House to Republicans. He would be successful now, he said, because the public has “matured” on this issue and the call for action is so strong.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., responding to President Donald Trump’s comments earlier Wednesday, said that Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – not the pursuit of impeachment — were impeding progress on sensible gun regulations.
Posted: 1:55 p.m.
— Rory Appleton
Warren says Trump, McConnell slowing progress on gun regulations
— Warren accused Trump of dangling gun reform as a carrot to distract from other problems of his administration.
— She said that most gun owners have arrived at supporting reasonable gun measures like background checks and taking “weapons of war” off the streets. But still nothing is done in Washington due to the powerful gun lobby, she said.
— Warren would like to cap firearm purchases at one per month to prevent an individual from “bulking up” during a time of personal crisis. She said she believed it would pass constitutional scrutiny because the Supreme Court has ruled that lawmakers are allowed to limit gun purchases.
— She described gun violence as mass shootings but also as the incidents that occur every day in communities, particularly those of color. It is also about suicide, domestic violence and accidental shootings, she said.
— Warren said her a “one and done” approach will not be sufficient to fix broken gun regulations, meaning that it will be an ongoing effort, which she likened to the car safety overhaul of the 1960s.
— Warren called for funding research into gun violence prevention, saying there are no federal dollars allotted currently because of politics: “The gun industry has managed to block any federal funding going into the research on gun violence.”
— Warren said the NRA’s influence can be reduced because she will stand up to the gun industry. But it will also require activism and groups holding their elected leaders accountable.
— She pushed to investigate the NRA for its relationship with Russia and Trump, adding that she wants an attorney general who will enforce laws and protect Americans.
— On day one, Warren said that rolling back changes Trump has made making it easier for individuals to purchase guns would signal immediate progress. Also, she would like to expand the number of gun dealers who are subject to current laws.
— She cast gun violence as a public health emergency that must be acted quickly upon.
— Warren said data shows that even a 7-day waiting period for gun purchases would drop gun suicides by between 7 and 11 percent.
— She said she supports an excise sales tax on guns and ammunition with generated revenue necessary for violence prevention and gun safety programs.
— The systemic problem of gun violence in America can be attributed to the gun lobby’s departure from teaching kids about gun safety and pivoting to a big-money organization, according to Warren, with inaction in Washington a deliberate strategy. “This is not ultimately about guns, it’s about money.”
Posted: 12:50 p.m.
— Shea Johnson
Booker draws on personal experiences with gun violence
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker delivered impassioned remarks on gun violence, drawing from personal experiences living in an inner-city neighborhood and calling out his fellow Democratic candidates — sometimes by name — for not supporting gun licenses and mandatory buybacks of assault weapons.
— Booker said his gun violence plan is the most far-reaching among the 2020 field. He said he was the first to support a licensing program, which he said is now gaining support in the field, as well as a mandatory buyback program.
— He said former congressman Beto O’Rourke, who has dominated much of the conversation on gun violence, did not support a licensing plan until a mass shooting affected his hometown of El Paso. He demanded that the American people work to solve gun violence without waiting for “Hell’s lobby to come to your community.”
— “You should not be a nominee from our party that can seriously stand in front of urban places and say I will protect you if you don’t support gun licensing.” He added that 75 percent of Americans support licensing.
— Booker noted that most of the young men who hung out in the lobby of his housing project have been killed by gun violence. He choked up as he discussed the guilt he felt for not doing more for them.
— Booker supports background checks, red flag laws and many of the measures supported by the field, but he also called for federal safe-storage laws to protect children.
— He said the government has failed its children, who now “have more active shooter drills than fire drills” in schools.
— Asked about a legislative road block in Congress, Booker said that his bill on criminal justice reform received bipartisan support and is the only major legislation passed during this session.
— Booker noted that women are five times as likely to die from domestic violence if a gun is in the home, and he promised immediate executive action to close the boyfriend loophole that allows unmarried domestic abusers to keep their guns.
— During multiple calls for action, Booker said that more Americans have died to gun violence in the last 50 years than in every American war combined.
Posted 12:12: p.m.
— Rory Appleton
Castro says weapons and ammunition should be regulated
Julian Castro, former U.S. secretary of housing and urban development, said that effective gun violence prevention is not only about regulating weapons but also ammunition.
— To that end, Castro has proposed increasing the excise sales tax on ammunition and guns up to 20 percent and investing $600 to $700 million in estimated revenue into gun violence prevention programs throughout the country.
— In addition to making ammunition more expensive, Castro also called for better ways to track ammunition, although he was not explicit in how that might be done beyond a “unique marker” on bullets. He said that it would help crime investigators solve cases faster.
— Castro was not concerned that he would have trouble selling gun regulation plans to more conservative voters including those in his home state of Texas, where he served as mayor of San Antonio. He said he believed many gun owners support common-sense reform like regulating assault weapons and universal background checks.
— Castro said the El Paso mass shooting earlier this year “totally shattered” the suggestion that the answer to a bad guy with a gun was a good guy with a gun, pointing to how the shooter would have been aware that Texas has open-carry laws and that Wal-Mart, where the shooting occurred, would have had armed security.
— “One of the worst ideas” to stem from the rise in mass shootings, he added, is the notion that teachers should be allowed to carry weapons: “Our teachers should not be armed; our teachers should be teaching in the classroom.”
— Castro would not get behind a mandatory buyback program as supported by other presidential candidates, yet he did not oppose it either. Instead he said he believed that a ban on assault weapons and a voluntary buyback program should be robust enough. He said it would follow the blueprint of how fully-automatic weapons have been regulated.
— Castro said he wants to crack down on people who sell firearms to young people and invest in mental health counseling in schools and more programs for young people.
— Castro also said that police brutality is also a form of gun violence that occurs too often in communities of color and must also be addressed.
— His “Disarm Hate” plan would help root out extremism, particularly white supremacism, he said, and the government, community and social media companies are responsible for stopping it before it turns into violence.
— Again he supports banning assault-style weapons and universal background checks.
— Castro said red-flag laws can be administered at federal level as he sees no compelling reason why the standard would be different across states.
— Castro said suicide by gun is a major issue, and he called for investment in mental health care.
Posted 11:43 a.m.
— Shea Johnson
Buttigieg blames ‘toxic brew for gun violence
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg boiled down gun violence problem to a “toxic brew” of two things: A lack of common sense gun law, and the rise of hatred — specifically white nationalism. He would give $1 billion towards study of the ladder.
More takeaways from Buttigieg:
— He supports universal background checks, red flag laws, closing gun show and boyfriend loopholes, banning the new sale of assault weapons, a licensing program for gun owners.
— Buttigieg said most of these issues are supported by American people.
— “Anything like an AR15 has no business being sold near a school or a neighborhood. I carried these weapons… to defend this country so that we wouldn’t have to (have these guns on our streets).”
— He sidestepped a question on mandatory or voluntary gun buyback programs, saying there were “mixed results” from similar plans. He added that the focus must be on the universal background checks and other more accepted plans.
— “All of our plans will be multiplied by zero if we don’t get something done.”
— He referred to buybacks as a possible “shiny object” that would get in the way.
— Buttigieg said he’s battled gun violence in minority communities as a mayors. We must reduce the number of guns on the streets, he said, but also invest in education and economic development in these areas, as well as increase trust in law enforcement.
— He said a conversation on mental health is important, but it should not be played against the gun violence debate. Those suffering from mental illness are more likely to be gun violence victims than perpetrators, he said.
Posted: 11:00 a.m.
— Rory Appleton
Dem candidates in Las Vegas for gun forum
The event, which is pegged to the anniversary of the Oct. 1, 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting that left 58 people dead, began at 9:30 a.m. The organizers invited the 10 candidates who qualified for the September national debate to participate, and each accepted.
MSNBC Live host Craig Melvin will moderate the discussion. Questions were also asked by the audience, which consisted of gun violence survivors, their families and gun safety advocates.
Here is the tentative schedule for candidate remarks:
— 10:00 – 10:30 a.m.: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg
— 10:30 – 11:00 a.m.: Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro
— 11 – 11:30 a.m.: Sen. Cory Booker
— 11:30 – 12 p.m.: Sen. Elizabeth Warren
— 1 – 1:30 p.m.: Former Vice President Joe Biden
— 1:30 – 2 p.m.: Former congressman Beto O’Rourke
— 2 – 2:30 p.m.: Sen. Amy Klobuchar
— 2:45 – 3:15 p.m.: Sen. Bernie Sanders
(Sanders canceled his forum appearance and all campaign events after undergoing emergency heart surgery in Las Vegas on Tuesday evening.)
— 3:15 – 3:45 p.m.: Andrew Yang
— 3:45 – 4:15 p.m.: Sen. Kamala Harris
Most of the candidates are also holding additional campaign events in the Las Vegas Valley on Wednesday.
Posted 10:00 a.m.
— Rory Appleton