Good morning, Bulletin readers. For the second straight week, a Democratic presidential debate took place in a city that experienced a major mass shooting. But unlike in Las Vegas, the moderators in Charleston, South Carolina, asked about gun policy during last night’s face-off. The candidates’ responses lead today’s round-up.

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Democratic candidates seek an edge on gun issues as primary enters pivotal phase. The seven contenders still in the race are largely aligned in their proposals for strengthening gun laws and reducing shootings. But with the South Carolina primary on Saturday and Super Tuesday three days later, the candidates at last night’s debate attacked a perceived vulnerability of frontrunner Bernie Sanders — while touting their own records and approaches. A recap: 

  • Joe Biden touted his role in passing the 1993 Brady background check bill and the 1994 assault weapons ban. He again attacked Bernie Sanders over his votes against the Brady Bill and past support for a 2005 law that gives gun makers immunity from most lawsuits. 
  • Sanders admitted, “That was a bad vote.” But he parried by calling attention to his “D-minus voting record from the NRA,” adding, “If elected president, it will be worse than that.” 
  • Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg piled on Sanders for his opposition to eliminating the Senate filibuster, which they blamed for stymieing numerous gun reform bills. 
  • Tom Steyer said the key to passing gun reform was term-limiting members of Congress to curb the influence of gun industry lobbying.
  • Amy Klobuchar highlighted her bill that would close the “boyfriend loophole,” under which gun bans for domestic violence don’t extend to abusive dating partners. 
  • In his first debate foray on the issue, Michael Bloomberg pointed to his role in co-founding Everytown for Gun Safety and its record in pushing background checks laws in states. (Everytown’s nonpolitical, 501c3 arm, the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, makes grants to The Trace. Since 2018, the Support Fund has not received donations from Bloomberg. Here are our policies on financial transparency and editorial independence.)

You can find a full transcript of the debate here.

New Mexico became the 18th state with a red flag law. The policy was the centerpiece of Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s gun reform agenda and prevailed despite opposition from the majority of the state’s sheriffs, many of whom said they won’t enforce the law. Go deeper: Here’s our guide to state laws that allow courts to temporarily seize guns from people presenting an acute threat —and what the data says about their effectiveness.

How one local law enforcement department is tackling the risk of restraining orders and guns. In California, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office is rolling out the County Gun Team, which will employ a prosecutor, an investigator, and three analysts to follow up with people barred from possessing guns, including domestic abusers. ICYMI: This week, The Trace reported on how a tiny sheriff’s department in Louisiana became a national model for enforcing gun bans for people with a record of domestic violence.

Supreme Court rules against Mexican family in border shooting. In the 2010 incident, a U.S. Border Patrol agent standing in Texas shot 15-year-old Sergio Adrián Hernández Güereca, who was on the other side of the border in Mexico. In its 5-4 decision, the court ruled that the parents, foreign nationals, had no standing to use American courts in a death that occurred outside U.S. territory.

Another legal question: What happens if you wave a barrel after hitting the bottle? A case before the Ohio Supreme Court centers on a man who was arrested for brandishing an unloaded gun in his home while intoxicated. He argues his Second Amendment rights were violated. But the county prosecutor says the arrest was justified, and six Ohio cities have filed amicus briefs in support of that argument.


New Mexico had the 7th highest rate of gun deaths in 2018, up three spots from the year before. Violence Policy Center