Gun Control Groups to Host Democratic Primary Forum

No candidates have yet announced their participation

Former representative Gabrielle Giffords / Getty Images
August 1, 2019

Two of the country's leading gun control groups announced plans on Thursday to host a Democratic primary forum focused on gun policy.

The two activist groups, Giffords and March for Our Lives, said the forum would take place October 2 in Las Vegas. That's one day after the second anniversary of the attack on a music festival in the city where 58 people were murdered—the worst mass shooting in American history.

"Never before has our country had a presidential forum singularly dedicated to the issue of addressing gun violence, but this year, we're changing that," Giffords said in an email to supporters. "If we're serious about tackling the biggest problems facing our country, we need serious conversations about solutions. This forum will create an important opportunity for candidates concerned about gun violence to speak with voters about their plans to make our country a safer place to live, work, learn, and play."

Former U.S. representative Gabrielle Giffords, who formed her namesake gun control group after being shot in the head during an attack in 2011, said the goal of the forum is to find out what solutions Democratic presidential candidates would offer to deal with gun violence.

"If we're serious about tackling the biggest problems facing our country, we need serious conversations about solutions," Giffords told the Associated Press.

Many of the Democratic candidates started their primary campaigns pushing aggressive gun control policies. New Jersey senator Cory Booker proposed a sweeping plan that would ban certain guns, place limits on the number of guns Americans can purchase in a month, and require all law-abiding gun owners to obtain a government license. Eric Swalwell proposed a ban on the sale of so-called "assault weapons" that would include confiscation. The California congressman made the confiscation effort the marquee policy of his campaign.

Many of the candidates, including California senator Kamala Harris, embraced Swalwell's confiscation policy in the first debate. Frontrunner and former vice president Joe Biden went a step further and said he would ban the sale of any firearm he doesn't consider a "smart gun," a policy that would effectively ban the sale of all firearms currently on the American market.

However, Swalwell's gun-control-centric platform was never able to earn him more than 1% in polls and he became the first to drop out of the race.

When asked about gun policy in Tuesday's debate, Democrats appeared to revert back to more traditional gun control proposals like universal background checks and a ban on the sale of "assault weapons." Wednesday's debate featured no questions on gun policy and none of the candidates broached the subject on their own.

David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland shooting and March for Our Lives organizer, complained the four debates did not adequately address gun policy.

"I'm sick and tired of only talking about mass shootings," Hogg tweeted. "We need presidential candidates to tell us how they're going to address ALL forms of gun violence. The #DemDebates haven't done this, so we're doing it ourselves with @GiffordsCourage."

The groups did not announce if any candidates had agreed to participate in the forum or how they would determine which candidates would participate but Hogg did ask his followers to tweet at the candidates and ask if they'll be there.