(NEW YORKER) – An hour into the first Democratic Presidential debate, in Miami, in June, Chuck Todd, one of the moderators, segued into what he called “the gun question.” He pointed out that Parkland, Florida, where seventeen people were killed in a school shooting last year, was just fifty miles away, and that the outpouring of teen-age activism against gun violence that followed had inspired many on the stage to unveil “robust plans” addressing the crisis. Todd mentioned the assault-weapons ban, a proposal supported by nearly all of the Democratic candidates, but asked Senator Elizabeth Warren what she believed the federal government should do about the “hundreds of millions of guns already out there.”
Todd’s question seemed to present Warren with a perfectly fitted moment for her credo, “I’ve got a plan for that.” Guns killed nearly forty thousand people in the United States last year. In 2016, a study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that Americans were ten times more likely to die as a result of a firearm than residents of other high-income countries, as classified by the World Bank. The dismal statistic has an obvious correlation––the United States has the highest per-capita rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. A 2017 survey estimated that there are three hundred and ninety-three million civilian-owned firearms in the United States, a rate of 120.5 guns for every hundred residents, twice that of the second-highest nation, Yemen.
Yet Warren deflected in her response. She called gun violence a “national health emergency in this country” and said, “We need to treat it like that.” But her solutions felt milquetoast. “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,” Warren said. “We need to treat this like the virus that’s killing our children.”