Sept. 13 (UPI) — Democratic presidential hopefuls tackled a host of topics, including gun control, in the third round of debates the month after a series of shootings in Texas and Ohio.
Ten candidates took part in the single debate night at Texas Southern University on Thursday night, which took place in the same state where more than 20 people were killed in a shooting in El Paso and seven others were killed in another shooting near Odessa.
Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke reiterated his plan to implement mandatory firearms buybacks that would remove all banned assault weapons from private ownership.
O’Rourke reacted strongly to a moderator’s question about whether the policy would constitute confiscation, stating he was committed to removing military-style weapons from the public.
“Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, we’re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore,” he said.
California Sen. Kamala Harris defended her call for executive action on gun control against skepticism from former Vice President Joe Biden, who said he believes it would be unconstitutional.
“Instead of saying ‘no we can’t’ let’s say ‘yes we can,'” evoking former President Barack Obama’s campaign slogan.
She further said waiting for Congress to act on the issue neglects the pain that gun violence causes families and said President Donald Trump has also played a role in some of the acts of mass violence.
“Obviously he didn’t pull the trigger, but he’s certainly been tweeting out the ammunition,” she said.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar noted that all of the candidates agree on solutions such as universal background checks and magazine limits, while also calling for votes in the Senate on bills to provide universal background checks, altering a policy that allows gun sellers to sell guns if a background check takes longer than three days to complete and preventing domestic abusers from purchasing assault rifles.
“If you want action now, we have to send a message to Mitch McConnell, we can’t wait until one of us gets into the White House. We have to pass those bills right now,” she said.
Two former members of the Obama administration, Biden and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro sparred over the differences in their health care plans.
Castro said that Biden’s health plan would leave many people without coverage, stating that Biden’s proposal would require people to “opt in” to public health care coverage while his would allow them to be automatically enrolled.
“Barack Obama’s vision was not to leave 10 million people uncovered, he wanted every single person in this country covered, my plan would do that, your plan would not,” he said.
Biden responded that those who cannot afford private insurance would be automatically covered, while Castro said the former vice president had forgotten he had just said they would be required to opt in.
Describing his plan earlier in the debate Biden said he believes the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, worked and that he would seek to replace all the aspects of the law that have been cut by the current administration and add an option for Americans to choose public or private insurance.
He also questioned the cost of the plan proposed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who he said has “only gotten about halfway there” in his explanation.
“How are we going to pay for it? I want to hear tonight how that’s happening,” he said.
Sanders said his plan, dubbed Medicare for All, was actually less expensive than the current healthcare system.
“I intend to eliminate all out-of-pocket expenses, all deductibles, all co-payments. Nobody in America will pay more than $200 a year for prescription drugs because we’re going to stand up to the greed and corruption and price-fixing of the pharmaceutical industry,” he said.
Businessman Andrew Yang said he would not repeal tariffs against China on his first day in office but would seek a deal to lessen the impact on American farmers and producers.
He added that issues such as theft of intellectual property, which stand at the center of the ongoing trade war, must be solved.
“The imbalances are real, but we have to let the Chinese know that we recognize that President Trump has pursued an arbitrary and haphazard trade policy that has had victims on both sides,” he said.
South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg said it was clear that Trump “has no strategy” on negotiating a trade deal with China and criticized the absence of U.S. leadership at the G7 Summit.
“It’s one more example of a commitment not made. When that happens on the international stage people take note. Not just our competitors, our adversaries, but also our allies take note of the inability of the United States to keep its word or follow through on its plans,” he said.
Buttigieg added that American leadership is currently “needed more than ever” internationally and warned that tariffs on China are primarily harming the United States.
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker described Trump’s policies as isolationist, stating that the United States must rely on its allies to combat trade issues with China.
“We are the strongest nation on the planet Earth and our strength is multiplied and magnified when we stand with our allies in common cause and common purpose,” he said. “That’s how we beat China, that’s how we beat climate change on the planet Earth and that’s how American values are the ones that lead on the issues of trade and workers’ rights.”
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said American trade policy is “broken” because it is influenced by large corporations.
“Who sits at the table? I want to negotiate trade with unions at the table. I want to negotiate it with small farmers at the table, environmentalists at the table, human rights activists at the table,” she said.
Warren added that the international community has a desire to have access to the American market.
“That means that we have the capacity to say, right here in America, if you want to come sell goods to American consumers then you have to raise your standards. You’ve got to raise your labor standards and you’ve got to raise your environmental standards so that our companies can compete on a level playing field,” she said.