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Advocates slam GOP presidential candidates for ignoring gun crisis

‘It appears every candidate either can’t or won’t answer the question about how to reduce gun violence,’ said gun safety advocate Fred Guttenberg.

By Oliver Willis - August 24, 2023
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2024 GOP presidential primary debate on Aug. 23, 2023
Republican presidential candidates stand on stage before a primary debate hosted by FOX News Channel, Aug. 23, 2023, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)

Gun safety advocates are criticizing Republican presidential candidates for failing to propose or endorse any federal policy solutions to the problem of gun violence during the party’s first 2024 presidential primary debate on Wednesday night.

Fox News debate moderator Bret Baier, who referenced a recent spate of shootings in Milwaukee where the debate was held, asked the candidates what they would do about gun violence.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie criticized prosecutors who he said are refusing to prosecute criminals and called for the Department of Justice to take over local prosecutions. 

“The problem is that these prosecutors in these localities in the states are refusing to do their job and to arrest violent criminals,” Christie said. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis blamed prosecutors and attacked financier George Soros for his support of candidates who back criminal justice reform.

“More cops in the streets, who are on the streets able to do their jobs without looking over their shoulder for getting sued,” was the solution offered by business executive Vivek Ramaswamy, who also called for addressing mental health issues. 

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson advocated for enforcing existing gun laws but did not say whether he would support new laws to combat gun violence. Hutchinson also called for halting the spread of fentanyl and prioritizing respect for the justice system.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum suggested that an emphasis on small town values would help to combat gun violence.

None of the candidates voiced support for restricting access to certain firearms or passing legislation to curb the supply of guns within the United States.

“Parents deserve to send their kids to school without worrying that they’ll never come home,” Peter Ambler, the executive director for the gun violence prevention group Giffords, said in a statement. “But as we saw tonight, not a single Republican candidate for president presented a plan to combat gun violence.”

David Hogg is a survivor of the 2018 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, and a co-founder of the gun safety group March for Our Lives. Hogg tweeted, “Not one of these ‘pro-life’ presidential candidates has talked about doing a damn thing about one of the top killers of young people- gun violence.”

His sentiment was echoed by gun safety advocate Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was killed in the Parkland shooting. “It appears every candidate either can’t or won’t answer the question about how to reduce gun violence,” he wrote.

President Joe Biden has repeatedly called for federal gun safety legislation.

“It is within our power to once again ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, to require safe storage of guns, to end gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability, and to enact universal background checks,” Biden said in a July 4 statement following a series of shootings that occurred on the holiday.

Additionally, Biden in 2022 signed the first major federal gun safety legislation to pass Congress in 30 years, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. The bill increased funding for state red flag laws, enhanced background checks for gun buyers under 21 and reduced gun access for those convicted of partner abuse.

Polls have shown widespread support for gun safety measures. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll taken in May found that 62% of respondents said their first reaction to news of mass shootings is support for stricter gun laws. In a Fox News poll of registered voters conducted in April, 61% of respondents said they supported an assault weapons ban.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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