The following comments are excerpted from NBC's transcripts of the June 26 and 27 broadcasts:
JUNE 26, 2019
Moderator Chuck TODD of NBC:
Senator Warren, we're going to get to the gun question here. In Parkland, Florida, it's just north of here in Broward County. As you know, it has created a lot of teenage activism on the gun issue. It has inspired a lot of you to come out with more robust plans to deal with guns, including assault weapons ban, but even if you're able to implement that, what do you do about the hundreds of millions of guns already out there? And does the federal government have to play a role in dealing with it?
U.S. Senator Elizabeth WARREN of Massachusetts:
So, in this period of time that I have been running for president, I've had more than 100 town halls. I've taken more than 2,000 unfiltered questions. And the single hardest questions I've gotten, I got one from a little boy and I got one from a little girl, and that is to say, when you're president, how are you going to keep us safe?
That's our responsibility as adults. Seven children will die today from gun violence, children and teenagers. And they won't just die in mass shootings. They'll die on sidewalks, they'll die in playgrounds, they'll die in people's backyards.
Gun violence is a national health emergency in this country. And we need to treat it like that.
So what can we do? We can do the things that are sensible. We can do the universal background checks. We can ban the weapons of war. But we can also double down on the research and find out what really works, where it is that we can make the differences at the margins that will keep our children safe. We need to treat this like the virus that's killing our children.
OK, thank you, Senator Warren. You didn't address -- do you think the federal government needs to go and figure out a way to get the guns that are already out there?
What I think we need to do is we need to treat it like a serious research problem, which we have not done. You know, guns in the hands of a collector who's had them for decades, who's never fired them, who takes safety seriously, that's very different from guns that are sold and turned over quickly.
We can't treat this as an across-the-board problem. We have to treat it like a public health emergency. That means bring data to bear and it means make real change in this country, whether it's politically popular or not.
Thank you, Senator. Senator Booker, you have a program ...
We need to fight for our children.
Senator Booker, you have a federal government buyback program in your plan. How is that going to work?
U.S. Senator Cory BOOKER of New Jersey:
Well, first of all, I want to say, my colleague and I both have been hearing this on the campaign trail. But what's even worse is I hear gunshots in my neighborhood. I think I'm the only one -- I hope I'm the only one on this panel here that had seven people shot in their neighborhood just last week. Someone I knew, Shahad Smith, was killed with an assault rifle at the top of my block last year.
For millions of Americans, this is not a policy issue. This is an urgency. And for those that have not been directly affected, they're tired of living in country where their kids go to school to learn about reading, writing, and arithmetic, and how to deal with an active shooter in their school.
This is something that I'm tired of. And I'm tired of hearing people all, they have to offer is thoughts and prayers.
In my faith, people say faith without works is dead. So we will find a way. But the reason we have a problem right now is we've let the corporate gun lobby frame this debate. It is time that we have bold actions and a bold agenda. I will get that done as president of the United States because this is not about policy. This is personal.
Thank you, Senator Booker.
Moderator Rachel MADDOW of MSNBC:
Secretary Castro, I'd like to talk to you about something that Senator Booker just mentioned there, the idea of active shooter drills in schools, as school shootings seem like an almost everyday or every week occurrence now. They don't make a complete news cycle anymore, no matter the death toll.
As parents are so afraid as their kids go off to school that their kids will be caught up in something like this, next to nothing has changed in federal law that might affect the prevalence of school shootings. Is this a problem that is going to continue to get worse over our lifetimes? Or is there something that you would do as president that you really think would turn it around?
Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian CASTRO:
You know, Rachel, I am the dad of a 10-year-old girl, Carina, who's here tonight. And the worst thing is knowing that your child might be worried about what could happen at school, a place that's supposed to be safe.
The answer to your question is no. We don't have to accept that. And I believe that, on January 20, 2021, at 12:01 p.m., we're going to have a Democratic president, a Democratic House, and a Democratic Senate.
And the activists of Parkland, folks from Moms Demand who have risen up across the United States and inspired so many people ... you know, we may not have seen yet legislative action, but we're getting closer. The House took a vote. In the Senate, the question often is, if the decision is between 60 votes, a filibuster, or passing commonsense gun reform, I'm going to choose commonsense gun reform. So I believe that we're going to be able to get that done in 2021.
Secretary Castro, thank you.
U.S. Representative Tim RYAN of Ohio:
Rachel, I have something to add to this briefly, because ...
We'll give you -- it'll be 30 seconds for a follow-up on that question -- on that answer from Secretary Castro. Congressman Ryan?
You're talking about in the schools. These kids are traumatized. I support all the gun reforms here. We need to start dealing with the trauma that our kids have. We need trauma-based care in every school. We need social and emotional learning in every school.
Ninety percent of the shooters who do school shootings come from the school they're in, and 73 percent of them feel shamed, traumatized, or bullied. We need to make sure that these kids feel connected to the school. That means a mental health counselor in every single school in the United States. We need to start playing offense. If our kids are so traumatized that they're getting a gun and going into our schools, we're doing something wrong, too, and we need reform around trauma-based care.
Thank you, Congressman Ryan.
Congressman O'Rourke, you're a Texan who's campaigned -- you campaigned all over the state in 2018 in the most conservative parts there. What do you tell a gun owner who may agree with you on everything else, OK, but says, you know what, the Democrats, if I vote for them in there, they're going to take my gun away, and even though I agree with you on all these other issues -- how do you have that conversation?
Former U.S. Representative Beto O'ROURKE of Texas:
Here's how we have that conversation in Texas. I shared with them what I learned from those students who survived the Santa Fe high school shooting, a young student named Bree. Her friend, Marcel, who survived another shooting, the mother of a victim who lost her life, Rhonda Hart, they talked about universal background checks, where you close every loophole. We know that they save lives.
We talked about ending the sales of assault weapons into our communities. Those weapons of war were designed to kill people as effectively and as efficiently as possible. They should belong on the battlefield and not in our communities.
Red flag laws, so if someone poses a danger to themselves or to someone else, they're stopped before it's too late. And what I found in each one of those 254 counties is that Democrats and independents and Republicans, gun-owners and non-gun-owners alike, agreed. But this effort must be led by the young people that you referenced at the beginning of this issue. Those students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas led the charge here in Florida, and they've been able to change those laws. They're making our democracy work, ensuring that our values and our interests and our priorities are reflected in the laws that we pass.
Thank you, Congressman O'Rourke.
Hang on. Let me give 30 seconds, Senator Klobuchar, the iron range. I'm curious. Gun confiscation, right? If the government is buying back, how do you not have that conversation?
U.S. Senator Amy KLOBUCHAR of Minnesota:
Well, that's not confiscation. You could give them the offer to buy back their gun.
But I'll say this. I look at these proposals and I say, does this hurt my Uncle Dick and his deer stand, coming from a proud hunting and fishing state? These proposals don't do that. When I was a prosecutor, I supported the assault weapons ban. When I was in the Senate, I saw those moms from Sandy Hook come and try to advocate for change, and we all failed. And then now these Parkland kids from Florida, they started literally a national shift.
You know why? It's just like with gay marriage. When kids talked to their parents and their grandparents, they say I don't understand why we can't put these sensible things in place, they listen. And if we get bested by a bunch of 17-year-olds...
All right, Senator, thank you.
... it's the best thing that ever happened. We need to get ...
Senator, thank you. Senator, thank you.
Senator Booker, let me go to you on another matter actually.
We've got to ...
Senator Mitch McConnell says that his most consequential achievement as Senate majority leader was preventing President Obama from filling a Supreme Court seat. Having served with Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, do you believe they would confirm your court nominees?
I'm going to use 20 of my seconds just to say there's one thing we don't all agree with when it comes to guns, and I think it's common sense, and over 70 percent of Americans agree with me. If you need a license to drive a car, you should need a license to buy and own a firearm.
And not everybody in this field agrees with that. But in states like Connecticut that did that, they saw 40 percent drops in gun violence and 15 percent drops in suicides. We need to start having bold agendas on guns. [Unrelated material deleted]
Mayor De Blasio ... [Unrelated material deleted]
Mayor Bill DE BLASIO of New York City:
Rachel, I am chief executive of the nation's largest city, and I also wanted to just say something quick on the gun issue and come to your question.
Look, I run the largest police force in America, too, and if we're going to stop these shootings, we want to get these guns off the street, we have to have a very different relationship between our police and our community.
I also want to say there's something that sets me apart from all my colleagues running in this race, and that is, for the last 21 years, I have been raising a black son in America. And I have had to have very, very serious talks with my son, Dante, about how to protect himself on the streets of our city and all over this country, including how to deal with the fact that he has to take special caution because there have been too many tragedies between our young men and our police, too, as we saw recently in Indiana.
So we need to have a different conversation in this country about guns, but also a different conversation about policing that brings policing community together. We've done that in New York City and we've driven down crime while we've done it. But to your question about Mitch McConnell, there is a political solution that we have to come to grips with. If the Democratic Party would stop acting like the party of the elites and be the party of working people again, and go into states, including red states, to convince people we're on their side, we can put pressure on their senators to actually have to vote for the nominees that are put forward ...
[Unrelated material deleted]
I'm going to get to -- I'm going to get a couple of you in here.
I'm going to get a couple of you in here. Thirty seconds, Congressman Delaney, you seem to believe you can do everything in a bipartisan manner. Mitch McConnell doesn't operate that way. He operates differently. Why do you think he is going to conform to your style?
Former U.S. Representative John DELANEY of Maryland:
I think we need to get things done. That's why I believe we need to operate in a bipartisan manner.
Listen, I will sign into law bills that come to the White House that are passed on a party-line basis, absolutely. But all the big transformative things we've ever done in this country's history have happened when huge majorities of the American people get behind them, which is why we need real solutions, not impossible promises.
We need to put forth ideas that work, whether it's on health care, creating universal health care so that every American gets health care, but not running on making private insurance illegal.
The gun issue is related. The gun safety issue is related, because I can't tell you how many times I've been with folks in Western Maryland, and they've said to me, you know, Democrats don't do anything for us, Republicans don't do anything for us. You fight all the time, so they vote on that single issue.
If we become the party of getting things done for the American people, with real solutions and not impossible promises, we'll be able to get all these things done.
JUNE 27, 2019
[Discussion of capitalism vs. socialism]
Senator Kirsten GILLIBRAND of New York:
I disagree with both their perspectives. The debate we're having in our party right now is confusing, because the truth is there's a big difference between capitalism on the one hand and greed on the other. And so all the things that we're trying to change is when companies care more about profits when they do about people.
So if you're talking about ending gun violence, it's the greed of the NRA and the gun manufacturers that make any progress impossible. It's the greed of the insurance companies and the drug companies, when we want to try to get health care as a right and not a privilege.
[Unrelated material deleted]
Congressman Swalwell, among this field of candidates, you have a unique position on gun reform. You're proposing that the government should buy back every assault weapon in America and it should be mandatory.
How do you envision that working, especially in states where gun rights are a strong flash point?
U.S. Representative Eric SWALWELL of California:
Keep your pistols, keep your rifles, keep your shotguns, but we can take the most dangerous weapons from the most dangerous people. We have the NRA on the ropes, because of the moms, because of the Brady Group, because of Giffords, because of March for our Lives.
But I'm the only candidate on this stage calling for a ban and buyback of every single assault weapon in America. I have seen the plans of the other candidates here. They would all leave 15 million assault weapons in our communities. They wouldn't do a single thing to save a single life in Parkland.
I will approach this issue as a prosecutor. I'll approach it as the only person on this stage who has voted and passed background checks. But also as a parent, of a generation who sends our children to school where we look at what they're wearing so we can remember it in case we have to identify them later. A generation who has seen thousands of black children killed in our streets. And a generation who goes to the theater and we actually look where the fire exits are. We don't have to live this way. We must must be a country who loves our children more than we love our guns.
Senator Sanders, a Vermont newspaper recently released portions of an interview you gave in 2013 in which you said: "My own view on guns is, everything being equal, states should make those decisions."
U.S. Senator Bernie SANDERS of Vermont:
Has your thinking changed since then? Do you now think there is a federal role to play?
No, that's a mischaracterization of my thinking.
It's a quote of you.
Look, we have a gun ... We have a gun crisis right now, 40,000 people a year are getting killed. In 1988, Rachel, when it wasn't popular, I ran on a platform of banning assault weapons and in fact lost that race for Congress. I have a D-minus voting record from the NRA. And I believe that what we need is comprehensive gun legislation that, among other things, provides universal background, we end the gun show loophole, we end the strawman provision, and I believed in 1988 and I believe today.
Assault weapons are weapons from the military and that they should not be on the streets of America.
Your plan leaves them on the streets. You leave 15 million on the streets.
We ban the sale -- we ban the sale and distribution ...
Will you buy them back?
... and that's what I've believed for many years.
Will you buy them back?
If people want to buy -- if the government wants to do that and people want to bring them back, yes.
You are going to be the government, will you buy them back?
Senator Harris, we're going to give you 30 seconds.
U.S. Senator Kamala HARRIS of California:
Thank you. I think your idea is a great one, Congressman Swalwell. And I'll say that there are a lot of great ideas. The problem is Congress has not had the courage to act which is why when elected president of the United States, I will give the United States Congress 100 days to pull their act together, bring all these good ideas together, and put a bill on my desk for signature. And if they do not, I will take executive action and I will put in place ... the most comprehensive background check policy we've had. I will require the ATF to take the licenses of gun dealers who violate the law. And I will ban by executive order the importation of assault weapons. Because I'm going to tell you, as a prosecutor, I have seen more autopsy photographs than I care to tell you. I have hugged more mothers who are the mothers of homicide victims. And I have attended more police officer funerals. It is enough. It is enough. There have been plenty of good ideas from members of the United States Congress. There has been no action. As president, I will take action.
Mayor Buttigieg, I want to bring you in on this, Sir. A lot of discussions about assault rifles that are often shorthanded as military-style weapons. You are the only person on this stage tonight with military experience as a veteran of the Afghanistan War. Will military families -- does that inform your thinking on this view? Do you believe that military families or America's veterans will at large have a different take on this than the other Americans who we have been talking about and who Congressman Swalwell is appealing to with his buyback program?
Mayor Pete BUTTIGIEG of South Bend, Indiana:
Yes, of course, because we trained on some of these kinds of weapons. Look, every part of my life experience informs this, being the mayor of a city where the worst part of the job is dealing with violence. We lose as many as were lost at Parkland every two or three years in my city alone. And this is tearing communities apart. If more guns made us safer, we would be the safest country on earth. It doesn't work that way. And common-sense measures like universal background checks can't seem to get delivered by Washington, even when most Republicans, let alone most Americans, agree it's the right thing to do. And as somebody who trained on weapons of war, I can tell you that there are weapons that have absolutely no place in American cities or neighborhoods in peacetime, ever.
Vice President Biden, 30 seconds.
Former U.S. Vice President Joe BIDEN:
A real 30 seconds?
A real 30 seconds.
OK. I'm the only person that has beaten the NRA nationally. I'm the guy that got the Brady Bill passed, the background checks, number one. Number two, we increased that background check when -- during the Obama-Biden administration. I'm also the only guy that got assault weapons banned, banned, and the number of clips in a gun banned. And so, folks, look, and I would buy back those weapons. We already started talking about that. We tried to get it done. I think it can be done. And it should be demanded that we do it. And that's a good expenditure of money. And, lastly, we should have smart guns. No gun should be able to be sold unless your biometric measure could pull that trigger. It's within our right to do that. We can do that. Our enemy is the gun manufacturers, not the NRA, the gun manufacturers.
Mr. Vice President ...
But the NRA is taking orders from the gun manufacturers, that's the problem.
[Debate continues on other topics]