Democratic candidates debate: Gun reform

ABC News’ David Muir asks the 2020 Democratic candidates how they plan for heavier new gun reform laws.
15:44 | 09/13/19

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Transcript for Democratic candidates debate: Gun reform
I want to turn to the deadly mass shootings in this country and we are mindful of where we stand. We are in Texas, where 29 people have lost their lives in just the last month alone. El Paso, which we've discussed, and I know there are survivors from El Paso right here in the hall tonight. Vice president Biden, I do want to direct this to you, because we all remember sandy hook, 26 people died in that school, 20 of them children. Those first graders would be in eighth grade today. At the time, there was a ground swell in this country to get something done. President Obama asked you to lead the push for gun control. You have pointed to your ability to reach across the aisle to get things done, but four months after sandy hook, a measure to require expanded background checks died on the senate floor. If you couldn't get it done after sandy hook, why should voters give you another chance. Because I've got it done before. I'm the only one up here that's ever beat the NRA. Only one to beat the NRA nationally. I brought the Brady bill into focus and became law. And so, that's number one. Number two, after sandy hook, a number of things happened. It went from a cause to a movement. Look what's happened now. Mothers, the organization, mothers against violence, gun violence, we've seen what's happened again. We have young people marching on Washington, making sure things have going to change. There's been a sea change. Those proposals I put forward for the president had over 50% of gun -- members of the NRA supporting them. And overwhelmingly the rest of the people supported them. Now the numbers are much higher, they realize what we've all been saying is correct. Over 90% of the American people think we have to get assault weapons off the street. And we have to get buy-backs and get them out of their basements. So, the point is, things have changed. And changed a lot. And now what's happening is, by the way, the way Beto -- forgive me for saying Beto. That's okay. Beto's good. The way he handled what happened in his hometown is meaningful. To look into the eyes of those people, to see those kids, to understand those parents, you understand the heartache. But this is the problem. This is the problem. Mr. Vice president, you did bring up assault weapons here. You did bring up assault weapons here, and many of you on this stage have talked about executive order. Senator Harris, you have said that you would take executive action on guns within your first 100 days, including banning imports of ar-15 assault weapons. President Obama, after sandy hook, executive actions and here we are today. Vice president Biden said some really talented people are seeking the nomination. Biden saying there's no constitutional authority to issue that executive order when they say I'm going to eliminate assault weapons, saying, you can't do it by executive order anymore than trump can do things when he says he can do it by executive order. Does the vice president have a point there. Some things you can. Many things you can't. Let the senator answer. Well, I mean, I would just say, hey, Joe, instead of saying, no, we can't, let's say yes, we can. Let's be constitutional. We have a constitution. And yes, we can, because I'll tell you something. The way that I think about this is, I've seen more autopsy photographs than I care to tell you. I have attended more police officer funerals than I care to tell you. I have hugged more mothers of homicide victims than I care to tell you. And the idea that we would wait for this congress, which has just done nothing, to act, is just -- it is overlooking the fact that every day in America, our babies are going to school to have drills. Elementary, middle and high school students, where they are learning about how they have to hide in a closet or crouch in a corner if there is a massshoot er roaming the hallways of their school. I was talking about this at one of my town halls and this child was 8 years old, probably, came up to me, it was like it was a secret between the two of us, he tugged on my jacket and he said, I had to have one of those drills. It is traumatizing our children. El Paso and Beto, god love you for standing to courageously in the midst of that tragedy. People asked me in El Paso, they said, you know, because I have a long-standing record on this issue. They said, do you think trump is responsible for what happened? And I said, well, look. Obviously he didn't pull the trigger, but he certainly been tweeting out the ammunition. Senator Harris, thank you. Vice president Biden? Do you still stand by what you said on an executive order? What I said was -- speak to constitutional scholars. If we can say, by the way, you can't own the following weapons, period, cannot be sold anymore. Check with constitutional scholars. Can I tell you what you could do in 100 days? I'm going to work down the row here, I want to come to congressman O'rourke, because I know this is personal to you. El Paso is your hometown. Some of the stage have suggested a voluntary buy-back for guns in this country. You have said, quote, Americans who own ar-15s and ak-47 have to sell them to the government, all of them. You know that critics call this confiscation. Are you proposing taking away their guns and how would this I am, if it's a weapon that was designed to kill people on a battlefield. If the high impact, high VEL los till round, when it hits your body, shreds everything inside of your body because it was designed to do that so you would bleed to death on a battlefield and not be able to get up and kill one of our soldiers. When we see that being used against children and in Odessa, I met the mother of a 15-year-old girl who was shot by an ar-15 and that mother watched her bleed to death over the course of an hour because so many other people were shot by that ar-15 in Odessa, there weren't enough ambulances to get to them in time. Hell, yes, we're going to take your ar-15, your ak-47. We're not going to allow it to be used against a fellow American anymore. Congressman, thank you. And, I want to say this -- I'm listening to the people of this country, the day after I proposed doing that, I went to a gun show in Conway, Arkansas. To meet with those who were selling ar-15s and those who were buying those weapons and you might be surprised, there was some common ground there. Folks who said, I would give that up, cut it to pieces, I don't need this weapon to hunt, to defend myself. It is a weapon of war, so, let's do the right thing, but let's bring everyone in America into the conversation. Republicans, Democrats, gun owners and non-gun owners alike. I want to bring in senator klobuchar on this, because you are talked about your uncle and the proud hunters back home in Minnesota. I wanted to get your response to congressman O'rourke tonight. Where do you stand on mandatory gun buy-backs? I so appreciate what the congressman's been doing, and I want to remind people here that what unites us is so much bigger than what divides us. Everyone up here favors an assault weapon ban. Everyone up here favors magazine limitations, which, by the way, would have made a huge difference if that was in place in El Paso in that store with all those ordinary people showed such extraordinary courage and certainly in Dayton, Ohio, where in 30 seconds, one man guns down innocent people. The cops got there in one minute and it still wasn't enough to save those people. That's what unites us. You know what else unites us? And I'll tell you this, what unites us is that right now, on Mitch Mcconnell's desk are three bills. Universal background checks, closing the Charleston loophole and passing my bill to make sure that domestic abusers don't get ak-47s. So, we want to get something done and I personally think we should start with a voluntary buy-back program, that's what I think, David. But I want to finish this, because if you want action now, if you want action now, we got to send the message to Mitch Mcconnell. We can't wait until one of us gets in the white house. We have to pass those bills right now to get this done. Senator klobuchar. We cannot spare another life. Thank you, thank you. I want to turn to senator booker, because you said just this week about guns and about the candidates on this stage, that the differences do matter. Those were your words. You have argued, if you need a license to drive a car in this country, you should have a license to buy a gun. Gun owners would have to pass a background check, they would have to on stain a federal license to buy a gun. This would require, as you know, congress to pass legislation. If Democrats can't get universal background checks, how would you get this done and can you name one republic colleague in the senate right now that would be on-board with this idea? So, background checks and gun licensing, these are agreed to by overwhelmingly the majority of Americans of. 83% of Americans agree with licensing. This is the issue. Look, I grew up in the suburbs. It was about 20 years ago that I came out of my home when I moved to inner city Newark, new Jersey, and witnessed the aftermath of a shooting. It's one of the reasons why shooting after shooting after shooting in neighborhoods like mine for decades, this has been a crisis for me, it's why I was the first person to come out for gun licensing. And I'm happy that people like Beto O'rourke are showing such courage now and coming forward and also now supporting licensing. But this is -- what I'm sorry about, I'm sorry that it had to take issues coming to my neighborhood or personally affecting Beto to make us demand change. This is a crisis of empathy in our nation. We are never going to solve this crisis if we have to wait for it to personally affect us or our neighborhood or our community before we demand action. You want to know how we get this done? We get this done by having a more courageous empathy where people don't wait for this hell to visit upon their communities. They stand up and understand the truth of what king said, that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. I will lead change on this issue because I have seen what the carnage creates in communities like mine, because we forget, national shootings, these mass shootings are tragedies, but the majority of the homicide victims come from neighborhoods like mine. Nobody has ascended to the white house that will bring more personal passion on this issue. I will fight this and bring a fight to the NRA and the corporate gun lobby like they have never seen before. Senator booker, thank you. A quick followup. Americans watching tonight know the reality of congress in Washington. I asked, do you have a Republican colleague in the senate that would be on-board with this idea to get this done? You know, if that was the attitude when Thurmond had the longest filibuster ever on civil rights, that we can't get it done because of the situation in the senate -- I'm looking to lead a movement. The number one reason why governments are formed is to protect the citizenry. Think about this. We have had more people die due to gun violence in my lifetime than every single war in this country combined from the revolutionary war until now. This is not a side issue to me. It is a central issue to me. That is the kind of fight, because the majority of homicide victims, behave a mass shooting every single day in communities like mine. We must awaken a more courageous empathy in this country so that we stand together and fight together and overwhelm those Republicans who are not even representing their constituency, because the majority of Americans, the majority of gun owners, agree with me, not the corporate gun lobby. It is time for a movement on this issue and I will lead it. Senator booker, thank you. Senator Warren, I want to come to you next. Because you have actually said in recent days that there are things you can get done with Republicans in the senate. What can you get done on gun control? So, let's start by framing the problem the right way. We have a gun violence problem in this country. The mass shootings are terrible. But they get all the headlines. Children die every day on streets, in neighborhoods, on playgrounds. People die from violence from suicide and domestic abuse. We have a gun violence problem in this country and we agree on many steps we could take to fix it. My view on this is, we're going to -- it's not going to be one and done on this. We're going to do it and we're going to have to do it again and we're going to have to come back some more until we cut the number of gun deaths in this country significantly. But here's the deal. The question we need to ask is, when we've got this much support across the country, 90% of Americans want to see us do -- I like registration, want to see us do background checks, want to get assault weapons off the streets, why doesn't it happen? And the answer is corruption, pure and simple. We have a congress that is be-holden to the gun industry. And unless we're willing to address that head-on and roll back the filibuster, we're not going to get anything done on guns. I was in the United States senate when 54 senators said, let's do background checks, let's get rid of assault weapons and with 54 senators, it failed because of the filibuster. Until we attack the systemic problems, we can't get gun reform in this country. We've got to go straight against the industry and we've got to change congress. So, it doesn't just work for the wealthy and well-connected, so it works for the people. Senator Warren, thank you. You bring up eliminating the filibuster, which means you would need, simply, a simple majority and a Republican senate to get something done. I want to turn to senator Sanders on this, because you've said before of this, if Donald Trump supports ending the filibuster, he's talked about himself, you should be nervous. Would you support ending the filibuster? No. But what I would support, absolutely, is passing major legislation, the gun legislation the people here are talking about. Medicare for all, climate change legislation that saves the I will not wait for 60 votes to make that happen. And you can do it in a variety of ways. You can do that through budget reconciliation law. You have a vice president who will, in fact, tell the senate what is appropriate and what is what is an order and what is but I want to get back to a point that Elizabeth made. And that, in fact, in terms of gun issues, picking up on Cory and Beto and everybody else, what we are looking at is a corrupt political system, and that means whether it is the drug companies or the insurance companies or the fossil fuel industry determining what's happening in Washington or in this case, you got an NRA which has intimidated the president of the United States and the Republican leadership. I am proud -- I am proud that year after year, I had an "F" rating from the NRA. And as president, I will not be intimidated by the NRA. Senator Sanders, thank you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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