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Gun safety groups to host presidential forum in Las Vegas

Two prominent gun safety organizations said Thursday that they will host a forum for Democratic presidential candidates in Las Vegas on Oct. 2, the day after the city marks the second anniversary of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The Giffords group and March For Our Lives told The Associated Press that the forum focused on gun violence will be the first of its kind for presidential hopefuls and will be open to all candidates who meet the Democratic National Committee’s polling and fundraising thresholds for the September debate.

The organizations did not yet have details on which candidates would be attending. They have until Aug. 28 to qualify for the September debate.

Guns are a complex issue in Nevada, an early voting state that will be the third in the U.S. to weigh in on the 2020 Democratic field. Firearms and gun culture are popular in the Western swing state, which hosts the gun industry’s biggest annual conference and counts Democrats among local gun owners.

But the state became the home of a grim milestone on Oct. 1, 2017, when a gunman opened fire on a crowd at a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. The shooting killed 58 people, injured hundreds of others and spurred state officials to make new calls to toughen gun control measures.

Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in a 2011 mass shooting in Arizona and went on to form the Giffords organization, said the forum will give the candidates an important opportunity to talk about how they’re going to make the country safer.

“If we’re serious about tackling the biggest problems facing our country, we need serious conversations about solutions,” she said in a statement.

David Hogg, a survivor of the last year’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and co-founder of March for Our Lives, said the groups want to see the candidates in Las Vegas discuss “bold and holistic plans” that tackle all aspects of gun violence, including suicides and other shootings that don’t receive as much attention as mass attacks.

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