Gun Safety Forum: Live updates from Las Vegas

One day after the second anniversary of the Las Vegas massacre, 2020 presidential candidates gather to discuss gun safety in a forum presented by March for Our Lives and Giffords and moderated by MSNBC's Craig Melvin.
One day after the second anniversary of the Las Vegas massacre, 2020 presidential candidates gather to discuss gun safety in a forum presented by March for Our Lives and Giffords and moderated by MSNBC's Craig Melvin.Gabe Ginsberg / for MSNBC

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Nine of the leading Democratic presidential contenders discussed gun safety Wednesday at a policy forum in Las Vegas organized by advocacy groups March For Our Lives and Giffords and moderated by "MSNBC Live" anchor Craig Melvin.

Candidates clashed over gun buyback and licensing plans while discussing how to address the causes of gun violence during the six-hour forum.

The event came a day after the second anniversary of the Route 91 Harvest music festival mass shooting — the deadliest in recent U.S. history.

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Yang: $1,000 'Freedom Dividend' could help reduce gun violence

Andrew Yang made the case his signature proposal to give residents a “Freedom Dividend” of $1,000 a month would help reduce gun violence by reducing economic pressure on households. 

“If you’ve heard anything about me, you know that I want to give every American $1,000 a month," he said, responding to a a question about his cash proposal. "And there are many reasons why I’m certain we should do this, but it even impacts the causes, the underlying root causes of gun violence, because if you look at the series of events that leads to gun violence, what do we talk about? We’re talking about the composition and stress levels in homes and the family. We’re talking about what’s happening in our school systems.”

Yang has also proposed a variety of new gun laws, including a three-tiered licensing requirement that would mandate that purchasers meet higher standards before purchasing more advanced firearms.

Yang says his 'democracy dollars' plan would counter gun lobby influence

Yang proposed using his "democracy dollars" plan to counter the influence of the gun lobby in Washington. 

The plan is to give each American voter $100 in publicly funded vouchers — earmarked for campaign donations only. He said that putting money in the hands of voters would shift the perspective of lawmakers on gun safety legislation who rely on campaign donations from industry lobbyists. 

"That's how we override the stranglehold the gun lobby has over our lives," he said. 

Andrew Yang speaks to moderator Craig Melvin at the Gun Safety Forum in Las Vegas on Oct. 2, 2019.Gabe Ginsberg / for MSNBC

Amy Klobuchar says she'd focus on limiting magazine sizes

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said she'd rather focus on limiting the size of gun magazines than gun sales. 

Asked if she was in favor of restricting the number of guns a person could purchase to one a month, Klobuchar said she was "open" to the idea, but had other priorities, including universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons. 

"One of the things I think is a great idea that just we haven't talked about a lot is the magazine limitations. I think the public is very open to this," she said, adding that it's one of the measures that passes her "Uncle Dick" test: "Does this hurt my Uncle Dick in his deer stand?" 

"These ideas we've talked about" — background checks, red flag laws, closing the so-called boyfriend loophole and putting limits on magazine sizes — "they don't hurt him in his deer stand, they don't hurt other hunters in their deer stands," she said. "I would focus more on that than limits on the numbers of guns." 

Buttigieg visits Las Vegas hospital that treated mass shooting victims

After speaking at today’s forum, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg made a stop at the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, which treated more than 100 victims of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, where he joined medical staff for a roundtable discussion. 

Amy Klobuchar on the ‘boyfriend loophole’

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. talked about her work to try to close the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” which allows people convicted of domestic abuse or stalking charges against dating partners to retain a gun in some cases. 

Arguing the issue affected more than just individual families, Klobuchar recalled a case in Minnesota in which a police officer was killed responding responding to a domestic violence case.

“Domestic violence and domestic violence homicides with guns are not just about the immediate victim, they’re about our entire community,” she said. “When we think about this gun issue, we can’t just isolate it to the mass shootings.”

Amy Klobuchar speaks to moderator Craig Melvin at the Gun Safety Forum in Las Vegas on Oct. 2, 2019.Gabe Ginsberg / for MSNBC

Under current federal law, people can lose their guns, or be barred from buying guns, over misdemeanor domestic violence. But the law doesn’t cover every type of relationship — it’s limited to current or former spouses, live-in partners or people with whom the perpetrator has a child. 

Democrats in the House passed a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in April that expanded the law to cover more types of domestic abuse, including stalkers and current and former dating partners. As Klobuchar noted, the Senate has not brought it forward yet. The NRA opposes the expanded definition, arguing it’s too broad and could include nonviolent offenses. 

Biden says he's astonished at Trump attacks

Earlier Wednesday, while addressing what moderator Craig Melvin called the "elephant in the room," Biden took a moment to talk about the allegations that President Donald Trump has been hurling against him and his son Hunter. 

"It is way beyond anything that I, quite frankly, thought he would do," Biden said, speaking shortly after Trump called him "stone cold crooked" at a press conference with Finland's president.

"Nobody has ever asserted that I did anything wrong except he and what's that fella's name? Rudy 'Hudy' or whatever his name — Guiliani, that's it," Biden quipped. 

He also took aim at Trump's inaction on guns after he'd vowed to make changes, including tougher background checks.

"I want to talk about guns and what this guy has done with regard to lack of doing anything rational relating to guns," Biden said. "I know he did have time for one meeting, [National Rifle Association head] Wayne LaPierre spent some time with him in return, I suspect, for help in his impeachment proceeding, but as my mother would say, good luck, Mr. President."

The New York Times reported last week that Trump and LaPierre met at the White House on Friday and discussed gun measures and whether the NRA "could provide support for the president as he faces impeachment and a more difficult re-election campaign."


Beto O’Rourke: Buttigieg ‘afraid of doing the right thing’ on assault weapon buybacks; jabs Booker on licensing

Beto O’Rourke defended himself from criticism by Democrats that his call for a mandatory buyback of assault weapons is making it harder to build support for gun reform, throwing a pointed jab at South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg in particular. 

“I heard some of the comments made today on his stage, those who are worried about the polls and want to triangulate or talk to the consultants or listen to the focus groups — and I'm thinking about Mayor Pete on this one, who I think probably wants to get to the right place, but is afraid of doing the right thing right now,” O’Rourke said. “To those who need a weatherman, let me tell you that in this country, mandatory buybacks are supported by a majority of Americans.” 

Earlier at the forum, Buttigieg said mandatory buyback proposals were a “shiny object” that distracted Democrats from progress on more established policies like red flag laws and universal background checks.

O’Rourke also responded to comments from Sen. Cory Booker, who had noted that O’Rourke criticized his plan for gun licensing only to adopt a similar one after the El Paso shooting. 

“I will say this: I want to give Senator Booker all the credit in the world for being a leader on this,” he said. “This is not a moment to seek division.”

But O’Rourke also noted that it’s “a really good thing” that Booker endorsed calls for a mandatory buyback of assault weapons after O’Rourke had backed the idea. 

Biden defends state-based plan for gun licenses

Biden defended his new gun plan, out Wednesday, that would provide grants to states to set up a license requirement for residents to obtain a license before they buy a gun. 

While Biden’s plan encourages others to join, it doesn’t go as far as some proposals in the field that would set up a national licensing program, like Booker has proposed. 

“The comparison’s always made, you need a license to drive a car,” Biden said. “They’re state licenses. You don’t need a federal license to drive a car.” 

Booker, without naming Biden, criticized the voluntary state approach in his appearance at the forum earlier Wednesday and said it would enable criminals to exploit states with looser gun laws.

Biden says gun fears in school 'significantly more real' than Cold War nuclear fears

Answering a question from former Arizona congresswoman and shooting survivor Gabby Giffords, Biden compared the safety drills students have to do now to prepare for a possible mass shooting to the "duck and cover" drills in case of a nuclear attack during the Cold War. 

He said his own grandchildren are scared of going to school. 

"When I was a kid you ducked and covered for the Soviet Union maybe dropping a thermonuclear device. This is significantly more real," he said. "What a hell of a way to raise a child."  

He also offered warm words for Giffords for launching her own gun safety organization. "God love you — you're incredible. You started something that didn't exist before," he said. 

Biden’s plan to track assault weapons

Biden came out on Wednesday for a plan to require owners of assault weapons to register their firearms and pass a background check, similar to the way machine guns are currently regulated. 

“I want that for all assault weapons, I want that for [high-capacity] magazines,” Biden said. “Because what happens is if we know you have one, the likelihood that it ever is used in the commission of a crime, after a voluntary buyback, is highly unlikely.” 

Joe Biden speaks at the Gun Safety Forum in Las Vegas on Oct. 2, 2019.Gabe Ginsberg / for MSNBC

Machine guns are still legal to own after their manufacture for civilian use was banned, but are used in crimes extremely rarely. Some gun safety groups have called for regulating assault weapons bans in this way, and Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have signed on to the idea. 

March For Our lives, which helped organize the forum, has called for a mandatory buyback program to remove existing assault weapons instead of a registration system, which Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Cory Booker support. Biden has called for a voluntary buyback program.

Biden says he'd take gun control fight to manufacturers, touts $900 million urban gun violence plan

Former Vice President Joe Biden said he'd take the battle for gun control directly to gun manufacturers, vowing to push to have a law protecting them from civil liability repealed and get them to focus on safety measures like more smart guns. 

Lifting legal protections would give the gun manufacturers "an epiphany," Biden said. The smart gun would require biometric markers to fire, meaning they could only be used by the gun's owners. That technology already exists, but gun manufacturers have been lax in promoting it, Biden said.

He also touted his plan to combat urban gun violence with an eight-year, $900 million program that would go toward efforts to combat shootings in 40 cities with the highest rates of gun violence. It would include investments in education, psychiatric care and social workers, he said.