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News and notes on guns in America

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[MSNBC]

Daily Bulletin: Three Takeaways From the Democratic Forum on Gun Safety

Good morning, Bulletin readers. Democratic presidential candidates engaged in a marathon discussion about gun violence yesterday. Catch our recap, below.

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DEMOCRATS GO ALL IN ON GUNS

On Wednesday, nine of the 19 remaining Democratic presidential candidates convened in Las Vegas for a forum on gun policy. One by one, the candidates discussed their individual policy platforms with MSNBC’s Craig Melvin.

The event lasted six hours. The Trace’s reporters tuned in to bring you these three takeaways:

“Forgotten” gun violence finds a rare spotlight

Wednesday’s forum followed three Democratic debates and extensive discussion about firearms legislation in Washington in August and September. However, as we’ve reported, national attention to gun violence has largely ignored direct interventions for the everyday shootings that disproportionately harm communities of color.

In Las Vegas, the balance shifted. Nearly every candidate spent time detailing their ideas for addressing community gun violence:

  • Cory Booker connected his proposal for a federal gun licensing system to reducing shootings in cities like Newark, where used to be mayor and still lives. “It is a life-or-death policy for people who live in communities like mine,” he said, adding, “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.”
  • Responding to a question asked by teen anti-violence activists from Chicago, Joe Biden touted his new $900 million plan to address urban gun violence, which centers on expanding evidence-backed violence interruption programs. 
  • Kamala Harris said reducing urban gun violence involves “putting resources into the economy of that community. We need to value these lives.” Deploying more police officers “is not effective,” the former federal prosecutor said. “That’s reactive.” 
  • Andrew Yang echoed the role of economic insecurity in urban gun violence, “There’s this whole series of events that leads to gun violence, and we have to attack every link in the chain.” He advocated for programs that give stipends to at-risk people who take specific steps to steer clear of violence. “We should pay people to stay out of jail,” he said.
  • Beto O’Rourke said he would consult with March For Our Lives to select a director of gun violence prevention who would focus on everyday shootings, “something that is so numbingly common that it doesn’t make it into the headlines.” 

Suicide, domestic abuse, and accidental gun deaths also featured prominently in the discussion. Candidates proposed a number of policy solutions to those forms of gun violence, including extreme risk protection orders, safe storage laws, and an expansion of trauma-related mental health services.

“[America’s gun violence problem is] obviously about mass shootings,” said Elizabeth Warren. “But it is also about what happens every day in our communities, on our sidewalks, in our playgrounds. It is also about the lethality of suicide because of the availability of guns.”

Democrats perceive a political advantage on the issue

Before the candidates took the stage, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut opened the forum with a bold proclamation: “Today we are stronger than the gun lobby.”

Several of the Democratic primary contenders seemed to share his confidence. Pete Buttigieg said the National Rifle Association no longer represents the beliefs of most gun owners. In making his case, the military veteran pointed to polls showing that overwhelming majorities of firearm owners and Republicans support policies like universal background checks. “Even if you’ve been for these policies all along, you sense a shift in the power,” he said.

Citing gridlock in Congress, candidates pledged to take executive action 

“What can a president do all by herself?” Elizabeth Warren asked. She then answered her own question by pledging to use the power of the White House to increase scrutiny of gun sellers and roll back Donald Trump’s executive actions on guns — on her first day in office.

Both Booker and Amy Klobuchar said they would use executive action to close the boyfriend loophole, which allows dating partners convicted of domestic violence crimes to own and purchase guns. “I found out that a president can do that herself,” Klobuchar said.

Similarly, Harris said that if Congress doesn’t act in her first 100 days in office, she would “take executive action to put a comprehensive background check system in place” and ban assault weapons.

If you missed it earlier this week, here’s Alex Yablon’s breakdown of what a president can — and can’t — change by going solo on gun reform.

WHAT ELSE TO KNOW TODAY

  • Democratic senators called on the IRS to launch a formal inquiry into the National Rifle Association’s tax-exempt status
  • A House committee will hold a hearing in Chicago today on whether shootings should be treated as a public health threat
  • The New York attorney general is suing the NRA and its former ad agency for not handing over documents the AG’s office is seeking for its probe of self-dealing at the organization.
  • Meanwhile, the NRA declared victory after San Francisco’s mayor clarified that the gun group’s “domestic terrorist” designation is only symbolic. The city says it was never meant to be legally binding. 
  • As impeachment drama ratchets up, some armed militias seem to be taking President Trump’s dark civil war musings seriously: “All he has to do is call us up. We WILL answer the call,” the Oath Keepers tweeted.
  • Vermont’s Republican governor, who signed the strictest reforms in his state in decades, wrote high-ranking GOP Senators last month and reassured them that supporting gun reform is politically survivable.
  • Two months after California implemented background checks on ammunition, gun buyers are trekking to neighboring Nevada to stock up.
  • The white Dallas former police officer convicted of killing her unarmed black neighbor in his own apartment was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

DATA POINT

158 House districts have recorded mass shootings (4+ people shot) so far this year. [The Hill]