Gun Violence and Freedom from Fear

We can address the root causes of gun violence, which are deeply connected to many other issues at the core of this campaign: poverty, trauma, and corporate greed.

We should be free from fear in our homes, our schools, our workplaces, our places of worship, and our communities. With the number of mass shootings on the rise both nationally and in our own state, fear of gun violence has become a barrier to this freedom.

However, guns are deeply ingrained in American culture. They have a place in the lives of many Americans, who may enjoy deer hunting or need to protect cattle herds from predators. No matter how people may personally feel about guns, there is no practical way to remove all guns from our current society, and even the best attempt would not heal the many other harms that working-class people face.

Take on Gun Manufacturers

Corporate profits should not come before the safety of our community. For too long, gun manufacturers have fought for the right to flood our streets with military grade weapons marketed as consumer goods. Because of extensive lobbying by the NRA, gun manufacturers — unique from almost any other industry — have not had to face consequences when the products they create are used to harm people. I support the repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act to give victims’ families another avenue for seeking justice. I also support taxing firearm industry profits, just like alcohol and tobacco sales, to fund public safety and community programs.

Voluntary Federal Gun Buyback Program

With over 300 million guns in this country, there are many people who have guns who might no longer want them, without a safe and secure way of disposing them where they can ensure that these guns will be destroyed and not fall into someone else’s hands. Voluntary gun buyback programs already exist, but many are administered by police departments and do not destroy the weapons they remove. I support a federally funded buyback program, administered by the Department of Health and Human Services, that will fairly compensate those who wish to voluntarily give up their guns, and ensure that all guns given to this program are made inoperable.

Take Care of Our Veterans

Our veterans are stuck at the intersection of guns and complex trauma, and they are suffering because of it. People sign up for the military to serve their country, but are left behind when they return from service: Veterans commit suicide at a rate 150% higher than the rest of the population, and for women, the difference is even greater. Veterans also experience homelessness at higher rates than non-veterans, and are estimated to make up 10% of the unhoused population.

Our country spends more on the military than the next seven countries combined, but this money lines the pockets of arms contractors and serves the interests of oil companies; it does nothing to protect Americans. We need to end the forever wars that are harming those in the military and creating new victims of gun violence all across the globe — from our own soldiers experiencing PTSD to the civilians killed by drone strikes.

As part of our gun violence platform, I will decrease military spending to stop us from continuing the harm abroad, and instead I will redirect money at home to identifying at-risk populations and focusing efforts to make their needs are met with counseling services, Medicare for All, and community support.

Investing in Our Communities

We need to make sure that everyone has a safe, thriving community and the resources they need to live a good life, free from fear. We must invest in strong social programs for violence prevention, including ceasefire mentorship programs, reentry assistance, job training programs, and violence prevention stipends. We know the community-started and community-run programs are the most effective, so we should invest in organizations that provide support to people exiting gangs, that connect marginalized communities with material support. Violence is not property damage — violence is blocking people from accessing the things we need to survive, and working class people encounter this type of violence constantly. Many children grow up in it. The trauma of unmet needs adds up and leads to gun violence, and to effectively stop gun violence we must disrupt the violence that is its source.

Because of the violence that we experience, it is hard — even scary — to turn away from reactions that are rooted in fear. As we take care of people’s needs, we also need to dismantle the fear and suspicion that has become part of our communities. For this reason, I support stopping the Department of Defense’s 1033 program and stopping police from using military weaponry in our neighborhoods. I support investing in our communities in ways that care for people’s needs, not criminalize people for being poor: having well-funded public schools, building more community centers with after-school programs and access to services, hiring more social workers, and making our streets, sidewalks and public spaces safer and more accessible.

Social Workers as First Responders

Two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides. One way to address these gun deaths is to ensure that our emergency services are staffed with social workers and mental health professionals who are trained in de-escalation. People need to feel safe reaching out for help when they are experiencing suicidal thoughts. Under our current system, people may fear calling 911 and being involuntarily committed, which can be a highly traumatic experience that prevents them from seeking help. People with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed by police, providing additional evidence that mental health first responders are direly needed and will save lives. Further, undocumented immigrants who experience mental health crises can call 911 for help and find themselves funneled into deportation proceedings by police. We must ensure that vulnerable community members who need help with mental health issues are met with help, not incarceration or violence.

Having social workers and trained mental health professionals as first responders for domestic disputes will ensure that warning signs for escalating violence are not dismissed. Given rates of police violence are much higher when they are interacting with a person who is Black or disabled, we must consider the importance of these proposals as they relate to more marginalized communities. For these reasons, we must exchange a police response with one that brings healthcare professionals and social workers into situations where people need their help.

Disarm Domestic Abusers

The presence of a gun in the home can take a distressing and traumatic situation and make it lethal. People experiencing domestic abuse are five times more likely to be murdered if their abuser has access to a firearm. Preventing their partners from accessing guns will protect those trapped in abusive situations. I propose that when 911 calls are made relating to domestic violence, all firearms are temporarily removed from the home while the individuals involved are connected with counseling services.

Similar programs have shown remarkable success in lowering the rates of death by domestic violence. We need to believe survivors, and I support listening to advocacy groups when addressing this issue, because domestic abuse is one of the most underreported crimes and victims’ needs are often not taken seriously.

Finally, convicted domestic abusers should have their right to gun ownership permanently revoked. These measures will allow more victims of domestic abuse to live to see the day they call themselves survivors instead.

Federal Subsidies for Safe Gun Storage

We know that some people will never want to give up their guns, and many folks might have good reasons for having them. In any case, homes with guns that aren’t locked up face the constant threat of a gun falling into the wrong hands and being used fatally. We can keep families safe by making sure that gun owners can store their firearms safely, both to prevent tragic accidents and to place an obstacle in front of bad actors. I support subsidies to make sure that everyone can have a locked gun safe to keep their firearms, if they choose to have them.

Ban on Sale of Assault Weapons and Require Universal Background Checks

Many people may own rifles for hunting, trap shooting, or to protect their livestock, but there’s no reasonable cause for automatic assault rifles to be available to the public. I support a ban on the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, to stop gun manufacturers from profiting from the sale of these guns to the general populace. Additionally, even non-automatic firearms may be used to harm people when they fall into the wrong hands. We must fight for universal background checks as a common sense gun reform to prevent people with histories of violent behavior from having legal access to guns.