In Iowa, 2020 Democrats Vow to Take on NRA, Address Gun Safety
(Bloomberg) -- Following two deadly mass shootings last weekend, Democratic presidential candidates promised to take on the National Rifle Association and address gun safety through legislation and executive actions.
The Democrats were called to answer how they would prioritize gun safety if elected during the Everytown For Gun Safety Presidential Gun Sense Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday.
Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and other Democrats appeared at the event, which was quickly convened after attacks in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that left over 30 dead and dozens more injured.
Also on hand was Michael Bloomberg, owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, who founded and helps fund Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit that advocates for universal background checks and other gun violence prevention measures.
The candidates said that as the chief executive, they would act with or without the help of Congress, where new measures on guns have stalled year after year.
A majority of Americans support increasing limits on guns, and the Democratic candidates are making it a key part of their campaigns -- even more so since last weekend’s events.
The latest Economist/YouGov poll found 56% of Americans overall support stricter gun laws. The Democrat largely agree on their approach to gun policies, offering plans that would ban assault riffles, mandate background checks, and improve mental health resources.
Biden on Saturday emphasized his experience addressing gun reform. He highlighted his work on the Brady Bill, writing the Violence Against Women Act, crafting the 1994 assault weapons ban, and drafting executive orders after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 as former President Barack Obama’s vice president.
“If you know anything about my background, this has been the fight of my life,” Biden said. He added that if elected president, in addition to what others have called for, he would work for a transition to biometric locks on guns based on fingerprints. Doing so would raise the security needed to pull the trigger on an automatic weapon to a level similar to that needed to operate an iPhone.
Ahead of the event, Massachusetts Senator Warren rolled out a new gun control plan that aims to reduce gun-related deaths in America by 80% by enacting tougher laws including tighter firearms regulation and reinstating a federal assault weapons ban.
Warren said that retailer Walmart Inc.’s decision to remove photographs of guns and other violent imagery from its stores isn’t enough. Senators Sanders of Vermont and Harris of California this week also called for Walmart to stop selling guns.
“Walmart says it’s going to take down pictures of guns on video games. I tell you what, I think it’d be a lot more effective if you just stopped selling guns,” Warren said. She also took on Wells Fargo & Co., which she suggested helped to fund the NRA, and urged voters to put the “power of their purse” to work.
“It’s up to every Walmart customer....to say I’ve got choices on where I spend my money,” Warren said. “I’ve got choices on where I do my banking.”
Warren’s made a crusade of taking on Wells Fargo’s banking practices during her time as a senator, and the NRA angle is a new twist. Before she took the stage on Saturday, Moms Demand Action Founder Shannon Watts said Warren has “has been the worst nightmare of the NRA’s bank of choice Wells Fargo.”
Harris said that as president, she’d give Congress 100 days to pass gun safety legislation before she signed an executive order expanding background checks. She also took on President Donald Trump, saying he “didn’t pull the trigger” in the El Paso shooting, but has been “tweeting out the ammunition.”
Former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro said he’d use executive authority to lengthen waiting periods for gun sales, tighten background checks for licensees, and redefine anyone who sells more than five guns a year as a gun dealer.
“I haven’t heard an issue that 94% of Americans agree about,” Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, said Saturday. “Politically our party needs to get out of the defensive crouch that’s got us thinking that we’re in the minority on these issues.”
In the first half of 2019 alone, there were 254 mass shootings in the U.S., an average of well over one per day, and 9,012 people have been killed as a result of gun violence, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.