Entrepreneur Andrew Yang was the eighth and penultimate candidate to take the stage Wednesday during the 2020 Gun Safety Forum in Las Vegas, Nevada. The forum, presented by Giffords, March For Our Lives, and MSNBC, hosted 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.)
Yang’s turn came after Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. The businessman was greeted with enthusiastic cheers and a joke from moderator Craig Melvin about whether or not he’d brought $1,000 for everyone in the room.
Melvin got to the point immediately, asking Yang about his “tiered-licensing” proposal for legal gun ownership. Yang immediately compared the concept to the different driver’s licenses available, and the different skills required to operate different vehicles. Assuring a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, Yang noted that all guns require skill, but not all of them present the same challenges.
After an odd exchange about whether or not he was the last candidate to appear (he’s not), Yang tackled Melvin’s next question, about how economic insecurity fuels gun violence. He focused on how his famed universal basic income (UBI) could help boys, often neuro-atypical, who don't always become school shooters but are often marginalized and overlooked by their schools. It wasn’t quite clear how his UBI could solve that problem; additionally, no mention of poverty-stricken communities was made.
Next, a discussion of suicide, where Yang said that most people, if they had a “self-destruct button,” would use it. Gun owners often do make that decision, and resources must be in place to help people make different choices, he said.
Yang agreed with Melvin when he pointed out that American gun violence is a public health crisis, and voiced his frustration with the NRA and its power to freeze gun safety reform in its tracks. After an accessible rant against lobbyists, Yang segued into his “Democracy Dollars” proposal, which he claims can push out lobbyist money.
Yang then turned to the surge in gun sales that follow a highly publicized gun crime, making such tragedies profitable for gun manufacturers. Yang pondered what would happen if they were fined instead.
Then it was time for an audience question from Heather Gooze, who was bartending at the Route 91 Harvest festival during the massacre in 2017. She offered a well-written and heartbreaking collection of her experiences from that day, pointing out that the shooter had an arsenal in his hotel room, killing 58, shooting 422, and injuring thousands. She asked Yang what he will do to ensure that the nation’s deadliest mass shooting never happens again.
Yang was tearful before he reiterated the need for licensing, then dug into the need for preventions to stop arsenal creation, citing the “concentration” of gun ownership nationwide.
Yet, Yang pointed out, the shooter had few “red flags” to stop him from buying guns under the laws at that time, and even now. Additionally, he called out the MGM Resorts for not noticing the carrying of an arsenal into their Mandalay Bay hotel.
Melvin then asked what happens when the government does know about an arsenal, and Yang voiced the need for evergreen buyback. Next, he proposed technology that limits who can actually fire a gun. This not only helps minimize gun violence from stolen guns, but also could help reduce family fire.
Next, two Washington, D.C., student activists from Thurgood Marshall High School shared some sobering gun violence statistics from their neighborhood. They asked Yang how he would help fight the sort of gun violence that plagues communities like theirs. First, Yang vowed to eliminate private prisons, then vowed to invest in communities like theirs.
He then turned back to his UBI proposal, saying it was Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s idea first. He then stated that the best way to help black businesses is to put cash in the hands of black consumers, and quoted a police officer who suggested paying people to stay out of jail. Finally, he reiterated that gun violence must be treated as a public health crisis.
Melvin touched on the shock of his young child facing a lockdown drill soon after school started, and asked Yang if he believes that such drills should be eliminated. Yang asserted that he did, as they create anxiety and shake children’s perception of the world. Yang stumbled through a cost-benefit analysis explanation before abruptly abandoning it to shout, “Let the adults worry about them getting shot and let the kids go to school!”
And that was it for Andrew Yang, who leapt into the crowd for selfies, before California Sen. Kamala Harris snuck out ahead of her announcement to give him a hug.
Yang’s gun policy includes many of the bullet points found in most other Democrats’ proposals, including universal background checks and high-capacity/bump stock bans, as well as closing the Charleston loophole; additionally, his tiered licensing system and commitment to investing in tech that supports gun safety makes his policy unique. Additionally, Yang proposes requiring proof that gun owners have either a gun safe or trigger lock in order to secure a license.
Catch all of our recaps of Wednesday’s 2020 Gun Safety Forum!
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Former Vice President Joe Biden
Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar
California Sen. Kamala Harris