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Where Do Democratic Candidates Stand On Gun Reform?

Illustration of an assault style gun.
Illustrated by Stephanie Serrano

Nevada is home to the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. As the caucus approaches, gun reform is one key issue that Democratic presidential candidates are addressing. KUNR’s Paul Boger sat down with Stephanie Serrano to break down what we know about their policies.

Boger: What kind of stance have Democratic presidential hopefuls taken on gun policy?

Serrano: For the most part, they have all spoken in favor for better gun control policy. Most of the candidates have backed the support of universal background checks and federal bans on assault style weapons and high-capacity magazines. A high-capacity magazine is a gun attachment that can hold more rounds than the gun's original design. Some magazines can hold 100 rounds and can fire 41 rounds in 30 seconds. 

Several candidates have a history of fighting gun violence. Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders were all co-sponsors of the Senate bill to ban assault weapons in 2013. Joe Biden helped author a federal assault weapons ban in 1994, also known as the Brady Bill. Biden also headed the gun task force that led the Obama administration to push universal background checks in 2013. 

Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have all proposed to federal buyback programs. 

Boger: What kind of gun reform has already been put in place to address gun violence?

Serrano: According to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that tracks mass shootings across the U.S., there were 417 mass shootings last year. The organization defines a mass shooting as an incident where more than four people were shot, not including the shooter. 

As of last year, a federal ban on bump stocks has been issued. A bump stock is a firearm attachment that shoots rounds at an incredibility fast rate: mimicking a machine gun. 

The ban came after the tragic Las Vegas mass shooting and killed 58 and wounded 489. The person behind the gun attached a high-capacity magazine and a bump stock to their firearm. Those two together allowed the person to shoot 100 rounds in 10 seconds. 

Boger: With so many candidates still in the race, have any of them created a plan that sticks out? 

Serrano: The candidates who did have concrete ideas on how to tackle gun violence have dropped out of the race. Currently, candidates like Tom Steyer and Pete Buttigieg have proposals on gun licensing. 

Steyer stands for a national licensing for all gun owners, similar to a driver's license, and Buttigieg is asking for national licensing for gun owners and sellers. 

Boger: How are gun violence advocates feeling about the candidates take on gun policy right now? 

Serrano: I spoke with Stephanie Pizzoferrato, who is a Las Vegas native, a teacher, a mother and a member of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. She's been impacted by gun violence twice: the first time was almost nine years ago when her four-year-old daughter Dayla was shot and killed by a stray bullet near BLM land in Las Vegas, and second was when her community was at the center of the nation’s deadliest mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival.

"Waking up that morning was very surreal," Pizzoferrato said. "Hearing how scared people were, and not knowing where their loved ones were, and just knowing that I was one of those people in the hospital with my child on life support. Reliving that, my heart just sank for anyone who was impacted, and not forgetting those who weren’t directly hit by a bullet because they are also the victims of this tragedy, too. They have to carry those mental wounds with them.”

Pizzoferrato described what she has experienced as life altering, but she said it’s a really exciting time to see gun policy at the forefront of the conversation by so many candidates, because eight years ago, this conversation did not exist. 

Stephanie Serrano (she/her/ella) is an award-winning multimedia bilingual journalist based in Reno, Nevada. Her reporting is powered by character-driven stories and is rooted in sound-rich audio. Her storytelling works to share the experiences of unserved communities in regards to education, race, affordable housing and sports.
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