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AFP
August 11, 2019

2020 Democrats converge on safety forum after horror week

World

AFP
August 11, 2019

DES MOINES: Democratic presidential hopefuls paused their campaigns Saturday to talk gun safety at an Iowa forum following twin mass shootings that thrust America´s spiraling violence into the heart of the presidential race.

Frontrunner and former vice president Joe Biden and other candidates like senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are attending the day-long event in the state that votes first in the race to determine which Democrat will challenge President Donald Trump in 2020.

The event, organized by the group Everytown for Gun Safety, comes as Trump grapples with steps Congress might take to tackle gun violence, including an expansion of background checks for people buying weapons.

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, which is opposed to expanding background checks.

Democrats have been battling bitterly over multiple issues including health care and the economy, but there is growing unity on the issue of gun safety among the candidates.

Warren told the crowd of activists and gun violence survivors that she believed the sorrow and anger following the 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,” she said.

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 percent 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 in 1994, only to sunset a decade later.

Other issues discussed at the forum included reducing access to high-capacity magazines, requiring licenses to own firearms, imposing seven-day waiting periods for gun purchases, and how to address extremism including the domestic terror threat of white supremacy.

Launching a national healing effort that reduces gun violence must be priority one for the next president, said congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio, where nine people were killed in Dayton by a gunman using a military-style assault weapon.

“We´re broken, and we´ve got to admit that,” said Ryan.

“We´ve got to build a bigger, better organization than they (the NRA) have, and beat them — and if I can say, beat their asses — and win.”

Jackie Jackson, a pastor from Cincinnati, said 12 of his relatives were murdered or wounded in gun violence since 2013.

“We need a president in the White House... that´s going to care about the lives that are being lost,” Jackson told AFP at the forum.

“The biggest uphill battle is not with the public (but) the politicians, mainly in the GOP, who are supporting the gunmakers.”

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