Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren took the stage Wednesday during the 2020 Gun Safety Forum in Las Vegas, Nevada. The forum, presented by Giffords, March For Our Lives, and MSNBC, hosts nine major Democratic candidates to discuss what each presidential hopeful plans to do to reduce the epidemic of gun violence.
(Note: Sen. Bernie Sanders was scheduled to participate but is unable to, due to health issues.)
Sen. Warren was the fourth candidate to appear, following an impassioned appearance by fellow Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey. Warren received the most excited welcome of the morning thus far.
Moderator Craig Melvin kicked off his conversation with Warren by quoting Donald Trump’s taunt about Democrats’ ability to get gun safety reform legislation passed. Warren didn’t hesitate to name Moscow Mitch McConnell, the GOP, and Trump as the actual barriers to that reform—and noted that Trump was simply trying to distract from other ways he’s broken the law. She then transitioned to the national desire for gun safety reform, stating that there’s too much power held by the gun lobby and industry, and that THAT’s the real obstacle.
Warren then insisted that this is a gun violence problem, with a lot of moving parts that go beyond mass shootings. She noted that communities of color are paying an enormous price for the nation’s inaction on gun violence. Next, Warren mentioned suicide, domestic violence, and accidental deaths from guns. “This isn’t going to be one and done,” Warren said, noting that a few changes won’t fix the problem.
Warren paralleled the fight ahead to the 1960s battle to reduce automobile deaths, noting that lawmakers studied what worked and what didn’t, and continued to come back to the topic again and again, until car fatalities were reduced by 80%.
Melvin noted that there’s not even a safety board for guns, as there is for highway safety. Warren angrily agreed, then noted that she wants to track and limit gun purchases. When Melvin asked if that would pass constitutional scrutiny, she looked at him incredulously, and said that previous SCOTUS decisions had held that limitations were allowed.
The senator then zoomed back to research, noting all the things the nation researches, and deriding the gun industry for blocking any and all research on gun violence. “This is a fundamental question about who Washington works for,” she said, before stating that lawmakers work for the gun industry, not for Americans.
Next up was a question from a man named Bob from the Giffords organization, a veteran who lost his sister Diane to gun violence. He shared his childhood success as a sharpshooter, an activity sponsored by the NRA, and noted the evolution of the gun group. He asked Warren how to fight back.
She stated that it’s her job and the nation’s job. She accepted that she has to tell the NRA that it doesn’t call the shots, but citizens need to say loudly that these issues matter to them, and hold elected officials accountable: ask them where they stand on background checks, assault weapons bans, and the NRA.
Next, Melvin asked her what she thought a good attorney general looked like. Warren said she wants an AG who upholds the law. She then turned to what she can do, as one person, on her first day as president. First, she said, she’d roll back Trump’s horrible legislation, joking that she could do that before the afternoon. Next, she’d establish more control over gun dealers and monitoring so that shady dealers can be prosecuted.
Melvin asked why she believes the NRA should be investigated, and she immediately noted election interference and the organization’s alleged quid pro quo with Trump when it came to backing off anti-gun legislation. She closed by noting that it’s “worth taking a look,” and “asking the question” about the NRA’s relationship with Trump.
An audience question was next, from a young woman named Bria, of March For Our Lives. After a quick reunion—Bria was on the same plane as Warren the day before—Bria asked Warren about the cost and time period for Warren’s plan. Warren wryly noted that it will be over two presidential terms. She then noted that priorities needed to be set, citing specific research that shows that waiting periods alone save lives. Coming back to her “one and done” refrain, Warren insisted that we have to keep coming back to the topic until we get it right. She noted that if there were a deadly virus killing people the way guns are, the nation would be all over it, and researching things deeply. But since guns are the topic, the politics are blocking all efforts.
“We need to treat gun violence like the public health emergency that it is,” Warren said.
Melvin then circled back to taxation, asking if making firearms more expensive might reduce the number of purchases. Warren noted that taxes can fund the reform she has proposed. She noted that communities hit hardest by gun violence deserve preventative resources now rather than after the next shooting.
Melvin then asked Warren what it is about the U.S. that makes the nation such a hotbed for gun violence. Warren noted that she grew up with guns, with brothers who hunted small vermin. “But that’s not gun violence,” she said, before bringing up corruption again. The NRA used to teach gun safety, she noted; it used to be against assault weapons, but now it’s all about money. She pointed out that the NRA fearmongers to the public, and has made this crisis all about politics and money—and about who profits from the current system.
Warren then explored the myth of D.C. gridlock, pointing out that it’s healthcare, gun safety, education, and environmental legislation that Congress can’t get done, but they take just weeks to get tax breaks for the wealthy passed. Why? Because people make money off of the status quo.
That was it for Warren; the forum broke for lunch.
Sen. Warren represents a state with some of the strictest gun safety measures in the nation—Massachusetts gets an “A-” on the Giffords Gun Safety Scorecard—and is extremely vocal about the need for deep research into gun violence, treating it a as a national health emergency.
A longtime advocate for gun reform, Warren presents a plan that targets the gun industry and the gun lobby with a laser focus. Additionally, like most of the top Democratic candidates, she supports community-based prevention programming, an assault weapons ban, federal licensing, and renewal of the Violence Against Women Act to close the so-called boyfriend loophole. Beyond that, Warren also wants to enforce a mandatory seven-day waiting period nationwide, track and limit large purchases of guns, and crack down hard on gun dealers who break the rules.
Up next, former Vice President Joe Biden, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and more.
Catch all of our recaps of Wednesday’s 2020 Gun Safety Forum!
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