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2020 Democrats Respond to El Paso and Dayton

The Primary: Recent shootings in El Paso, Dayton, Gilroy, and Chicago have reignited the gun control debate and launched it to the forefront of the 2020 race. Here is what candidates have to say about gun violence in the United States. 

Who? What? Why?: Democrats’ varying views on gun policy have  formed unlikely alliances across the party. Elizabeth Warren has proposed oversight and investigations into the NRA, an association which boasts one of the most influential lobbying branches in Washington. Booker’s 14-part plan is similar to Pete Buttigeg’s, which would also ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines. Sanders, Klobuchar, O’Rourke and Castro all argue for universal background checks and hope to ban assault rifles. Both Biden and Yang have expressed interest in “smart gun” research.  This week, Biden also saidhe would institute a gun buyback program as president. Yang is on board, too. 

The Baseline: However, change may occur under the current administration. Trump recently tweeted that "serious discussions are taking place" regarding expanding background checks. The president is in a unique position to affect real change, and experts believe his base will support him in these efforts. If Trump can push gun legislation across the finish line, it could help him sway moderates in the next election. However, some are skeptical of Trump’s support for background checks (including his own aides, according to The Atlantic), given his response to the Parkland shooting, and the Republican-controlled Senate. Either way, gun control is shaping up to play a much bigger factor in this election than it did in 2016. 

From the Left: Alex Kingsbury of the NYT has little hope for change in America’s gun culture, even with legislation. Citing the increase of assault gun purchases, (one million in 2016 alone) Kingsbury believes the only way the U.S. will reduce its domestic gun arsenal is if Americans can be convinced they’re safer without firearms. 

From the Right: Kimberly Strassel of the WSJ says that Democrats alienate voters when they tout anti-gun policy. The threat of restricting guns, she writes, is fundamentally offensive to middle-America.

Go Deeper: Democrats are not pulling punches. Biden accused Trump of stoking racial tensions in a speech in Iowa while Elizabeth Warren called Trump a white supremacist. Beto O'Rourke, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders and others agree. Although such name-calling has become the new norm, Axios notes that labeling the president a "white supremacist" is "an extraordinary charge at an extraordinary moment in American politics." 

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