Andrew Yang breaks down in tears over gun violence as 2020 Democrats in Iowa call for action after El Paso shooting

Just a week after two devastating shootings in Texas and Ohio, 2020 candidates face voters on gun control in Iowa

Clark Mindock
Des Moines, Iowa
Monday 12 August 2019 01:40
Andrew Yang tears up at 2020 gun presidential forum in Iowa

A week after two mass shootings left more than 30 dead, the issue of gun violence was unavoidable for Democratic presidential candidates at the Iowa State Fair.

As children zoomed down slides and munched on deep-fried Oreos, caucus goers still working out which Democratic candidates to support flocked to ask candidates how they might address the epidemic of shootings.

Of the 14 candidates who attended a last-minute forum in downtown Des Moines on Saturday, it was Andrew Yang, a businessman and long-shot candidate, who stole the show.

At the Everytown for Gun Safety forum, when asked by a woman named Stephanie, who lost her 4-year-old son to a stray bullet, how he would address the unintentional shootings of children in America. Mr Yang asked to give her a hug and broke down in tears.

“I have a six- and three-year-old boy, and I was imagining,” Mr Yang began, before becoming too choked up to continue. “I was imagining it was one of them that got shot and the other saw,” he eventually managed, before again choking up. “I’m so sorry.”

It’s a feeling that runs raw with Iowa caucus goers, and has a renewed sense of urgency after the killings at a Walmart in Texas and a bar in Ohio last week.

Heaven Chamberlain, a 23-year-old shift leader at a trampoline park in Des Moines who came to the Iowa State Fair to see as many candidates as she could, said she is among the generation of Americans who grew up with school lock downs for shootings.

Now, Ms Chamberlain is worried about her two little sisters, who she thinks could be facing the prospect of gun violence at school any day.

“My sisters are afraid to go to school, because they’re afraid that they won’t come back,” Ms Chamberlain said of her 10- and 11-year-old sisters. “Sorry, I always tear up when I think about them.”

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For many who came to see the Democrats, the fixes for mass shootings seem like common sense. They would like a ban on the semi-automatic versions of military rifles sold freely in many states and are used in many of the mass shootings that have shocked the county. They would like universal background checks. They want action.

“That’s the one thing I’m looking for in a candidate,” Makayla Warrick, a 19-year-old college student who wants to become a teacher, said.

Ms Warrick was waiting to ask a question of John Delaney, and said she’s a Republican, but doesn’t necessarily support Donald Trump. “Now it’s coming to the point where I’m scared to go into some classrooms.”

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Candidates, for their part, provided many answers. While congressman Beto O’Rourke stayed in his home town of El Paso to help his community, others forged ahead.

Senator Cory Booker stopped during the annual Iowa Wing Ding – a Democratic fundraising dinner - on Friday night and dedicated his entire speech there to the issue.

Kamala Harris promised to give Congress just 100 days to act, before she would take executive action on the issue. Joe Biden told a town hall he would push for background checks, and common-sense reforms.

And many, like Elizabeth Warren, said that the shootings in recent years – in Parkland, Florida, Las Vegas, and these recent two, among others – had shifted the momentum in favour of gun control.

“We are going to make change. We are going to pass gun safety laws in this country,” Ms Warren said.

Darla Connell, a 73-year-old who drove two hours to see Mr Biden and Montana governor Steve Bullock on Thursday, said the shootings in Texas and Ohio showed just how fragile things are.

“That can happen anywhere,” Ms Connell said. “And it could just as easily have happened to either the soapbox for Steve Bullock or Joe Biden. There’s a big group of people here. And, god forbid it doesn’t happen here at all. But it could.”

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