With gun-control a hot button issue for Democrats, the 2020 Democratic nominee hopefuls called out U.S. President Donald Trump, the Congress and white nationalism after a shooter killed 20 in El Paso, Texas, most of them Hispanics.
Most candidates did not shy away from calling the shooting an act of domestic terrorism. President Trump’s hateful rhetoric was also called out, with the nominees also advocating for gun reform and gun control bills to be brought to vote in Senate.
Joe Biden Calls on Senate Majority Leader to Vote on Gun Reform Bill
Former Vice President Joe Biden stated “its past time we take action and end our gun violence epidemic” in the wake of the shooting. He later tweeted white nationalism is responsible for the epidemic, calling it an ideology “emboldened by a president who stokes the flames of hatred and coddles white supremacists with messages of support.”
He also called on Mitch McConnell to reconvene Senate and pass the House’s universal background check bill. House Democrats have passed universal background check bill, but Senate Republican leadership has not brought that bill up for a vote.
Bernie Sanders Advocates Assault Weapons Ban
Senator Bernie Sanders called for a ban on “manufacture, sale, and transfer” of assault weapons, stating they needed to be taken off the street. In a dig at the president, Sanders stated the U.S. needed a leadership, “that is unequivocal in condemning violence and hatred.”
Beto O’Rourke Calls out ‘White Nationalist’ Trump
Former El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke was one of the first among the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates to share his thoughts. Calling for universal background checks, red flag laws, and ending assault weapon sales, O’Rourke also stated the country needed to acknowledge the hatred and racism.
“There’s an environment of it in the United States. We see it on Fox News, we see it on the internet. But we also see it from our commander in chief and he is encouraging this. He doesn’t just tolerate it, he encourages it.”
O’Rourke also had some harsh words for the president, calling him a white nationalist.
“Anybody who begins their campaign for the presidency by calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals; anyone who, as president, describes asylum seekers at the US-Mexico border as an infestation or an invasion or animals … sows the kinds of fear, the kind of reaction that we saw in El Paso yesterday,” he added.
NRA Interests Should Be Put Aside, Says Elizabeth Warren
Senator Elizabeth Warren also called on McConnell to bring senators back to vote on the background check bills.
“We should vote within 48 hours on the two background check bills that have already passed the House,” Warren said. “It’s not everything we need to do on gun safety, but we could take important steps, and we could demonstrate to the American people that the gun manufacturers are not the ones who are calling the shots in Washington.”
Like other candidates, Warren called for the Senate Majority Leader to put aside National Rifle Association (NRA) interests for the good of the U.S. citizens.
She also called out “domestic right-wing terrorism,” identifying it as a threat to American values and safety.
Harris Says She Will Take Executive Action on Gun Control If President
Senator Kamala Harris stated mass shootings should be called domestic terrorism and called out Trump for “sowing hate and division” in the U.S. The former attorney general Trump “needs to go” because he has emboldened white nationalism in the U.S.
Harris also stated that action needs to be taken when it comes to gun safety reforms, and reiterated her campaign promise to take executive action if she becomes the president.
She called for stronger regulations to tighten background-check requirements, action to revoke licenses of gun manufacturers that break the law, and a ban on the import of assault weapons into the U.S.
‘Common Sense’ Gun Reform Can Save Lives, Says Castro
Former San Antonio mayor and Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Julian Castro stated Trump fanning the flames of hate has “real consequences.”
“Tragedies like the El Paso shooting are preventable, and also sadly the result of mixing high powered weapons of war with uncontested bigotry,” he added.
He also called out the government’s failure in protecting American lives and stated “common sense gun reform” can protect victims.
The former San Antonio mayor, while pointing toward the high rates of gun ownership in Texas, stated: “the answer is not more people with guns.” He added that the state’s open-carry policy did not deter the shooter.
Booker, Buttigieg Trump’s Biggest Critics After El Paso Shooting
The former mayor of South Bend Pete Buttigieg and Senator Cory Booker had the harshest criticisms towards Trump after the El Paso Shooting.
Buttigieg called out the White House, stating they amplify hate and white nationalists “feel validated from all the way at the top.”
“After 9/11, I joined thousands of other Americans in signing up to fight the threat to our nation. Now, in the face of white nationalist terror, our leaders must stand up to fight this threat to our national security,” he added.
He also noted a majority of Americans support gun safety measures, which shows that “the NRA no longer speaks for gun owners, it speaks for gun corporations.”
Booker called out Trump’s inaction to do anything significant for gun reform and his failure to condemn white supremacy.
“I think, at the end of the day, especially because this was a white supremacist manifesto that I want to say with more moral clarity that Donald Trump is responsible for this. He is responsible because he is stoking fears and hatred and bigotry,” Booker said.
Expect gun control to be a significant issue in upcoming Democratic debates. While the 2020 hopefuls cannot do much at the moment, Americans will be watching and listening closely. And gun-reform policies may be the make or break for many candidates.
Rahima Sohail is a contributor to Globely News, writing on U.S. politics and the geopolitics of Asia. She was previously a sub-editor and producer at The Express Tribune, a Pakistani English-language daily. She spends most of her time reading and ranting about politics and football.