Democrats Renew Calls for Gun Measures at Presidential Forum

Flowers adorn a makeshift memorial near the scene of a mass shooting at a shopping complex on Aug. 4, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

(CN) – Three members of the crowded field of Democratic presidential candidates continued their party’s call Tuesday for swift action and new restrictions on guns in the wake of last month’s massacre in El Paso, Texas, where a shooter killed 22 people and injured dozens of others.

“Ultimately, we need to enact magazine limits and the assault weapons ban,” Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said at a presidential forum in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.

Klobuchar, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg each outlined their visions on how to curb mass shootings in the U.S. in a series of short speeches to the conference crowd, followed by one-on-one conversations with Noticias Telemundo anchor Jose Diaz-Balart.

The suspected gunman in the Aug. 3 shooting in El Paso allegedly wrote a manifesto that was posted online just before the attack denouncing the growing Hispanic population in Texas. According to an arrest affidavit, he told police he had targeted “Mexicans.”

“This has all been about race,” Klobuchar said in her opening remarks Tuesday. “This has been white nationalists at work. It is more important than ever that we talk about the value of immigrants in this country.”

The candidates spoke of a need to address the threat of domestic terrorism alongside new restrictions on guns, with Booker saying he would set up a White House office dedicated specifically to combating white supremacy if elected president.

“There hasn’t been enough conservation about how this was the Latinx community targeted,” Booker said of the El Paso shooting. “Let’s be clear: folks are hunting Latinx Americans, LGBTQ Americans, black Americans.”

Booker has called for a nationwide licensing system that would cover all gun owners, and in his remarks described the idea as a modest one.

“If you need a license to drive a car in America, you should have a license to buy a gun,” he said.

“We know that universal background checks would make a difference,” Buttigieg said in his appearance at the forum, adding that if elected, he would “empower” the federal government to research gun violence.

“Presidential leadership should get it done within a matter of days,” the mayor said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has signaled he’ll wait for a show of support from President Donald Trump before letting the Senate consider any gun control measures.

Klobuchar on Tuesday called on McConnell to “immediately” allow votes on various bills that House Democrats have put forth in the wake of recent mass shootings, drawing applause from the conference crowd.

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