DES MOINES, United States (AFP) – Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls in the United States (US) made proposals ranging from firearm licensing to re-imposing an assault weapons ban at an Iowa gun safety forum on Saturday, one week after mass shootings that thrust the country’s firearm violence into the presidential race.
Following back-to-back massacres left a total of 31 people dead in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, the candidates spoke largely in harmony on the issue that has seen little action at the federal level despite huge tolls from gun use, including nearly 40,000 deaths in 2017. Frontrunner and former vice president Joe Biden and other candidates like senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders converged on the day-long event in the state that votes first to determine which Democrat will challenge President Donald Trump in 2020.
The event comes as Trump grapples with steps Congress might take to tackle gun violence, including expanding background checks to virtually all people buying weapons, including purchases at gun shows.
But it also follows Trump’s repeated assertions that mental health issues and hate, not guns, are the main drivers of the deadly violence, and his talks with leaders of the National Rifle Association (NRA), which is opposed to expanding background checks.
Democrats came to the forum armed with various plans aimed at ultimately reducing the carnage that is a uniquely American problem among world’s leading economies.
Several demanded that the Senate vote on the House-cleared measure expanding background checks, as well as one that codifies so-called red flag laws which allow authorities to confiscate weapons from people believed to present risks to themselves or others.
Warren told the crowd of activists and gun violence survivors that she believed the sorrow and anger following recent shootings can give way to meaningful action.
“We are going to make change, we are going to pass gun safety laws in this country,” said Warren, who released a gun violence reduction plan earlier Saturday.
Warren stressed that one of her first actions as president would be “breaking the stranglehold of the gun industry and the NRA” in order to help achieve her goal of an 80 per cent reduction in the number of US gun deaths.
As the Democratic candidates criss-crossed Iowa in recent days, several took up the cause of gun safety, advocating for dramatic steps like re-imposing an assault weapons ban that became law 25 years ago, only to sunset a decade later.