Today in Las Vegas, ten of the remaining Democrats running for president will take to the stage for a “gun violence forum” sponsored by the gun control groups March For Our Lives and Giffords. The program, which will air live on MSNBC, will feature individual candidates talking with a moderator and taking questions from anti-gun activists, and is set to run for a whopping six hours.
Things kick off at 1 p.m. Eastern with South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and will continue until 7 p.m. Eastern, wrapping up with Senator Kamala Harris. Each candidate will get a half hour to answer questions, and there’ll be a break of an hour from 3-4 pm Eastern.
Will there be any fireworks on stage? It’s not a debate setting, so while you’ll likely see Beto O’Rourke going after Joe Biden for not coming out in support of a compensated confiscation program for semi-automatic rifles, you won’t get a chance to see Biden respond (he’ll actually be going on just before O’Rourke). In fact, I suspect O’Rourke, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris will try to use this event as one of the, best opportunities to boost their polling numbers before the November debate rolls around with its increased standards to get on the debate stage.
I also suspect that this event will consist of six hours of people largely agreeing with each other. For the most part, there are no big differences between the 10 candidates on the issue of gun control. Virtually all of them are in favor of a so-called “assault weapons ban”, “universal background checks”, and “red flag” laws, and there’s broad agreement on a federal gun license, gun rationing, increasing taxes on firearms and ammunition, and other measures aimed at restricting the legal ownership of firearms. It’s going to be hard for a candidate to stand out in terms of their proposals, so that leaves posturing as the best bet to garner headlines from their time on stage. How many f-bombs will Beto drop? Will Amy Klobuchar bring up her Uncle Dick in a deer stand? Will Joe Biden encourage people to buy a shotgun or mention Corn Pop? Will any candidate declare the NRA a “terrorist organization”?
One question that probably won’t get asked of candidates is “How would you actually enforce the gun control laws you want to put on the books?” Gun control activists aren’t holding this forum to delve into the details of how any of these proposals would work in practice. The goal here is to make as many unenforceable, unworkable, and unconstitutional proposals seem as “reasonable” and “commonsense” as possible, not to hash out problems with enforcing background checks, or building new prison beds to house Americans convicted of possessing a gun without a federal license.
We’ll have coverage of the forum throughout the day here on Bearing Arms, and you can also watch the event for yourself online through NBC News Now and MSNBC.com. Portions of the forum will also air live on MSNBC, but the network won’t air wall-to-wall coverage for six straight hours, as CNN did with its low-rated “climate change townhall” event.