DES MOINES, Iowa -- Sixteen Democratic presidential candidates attended a forum in Des Moines to make their positions on guns clear.
The "gun safety" forum was hosted by the Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action. Many of those who went to hear the candidates speak have been personally affected by gun violence.
“My son was killed. Trey was 19 years old, in college, and someone chose to shoot into a crowd of people and he sacrificed his life to save two young ladies,” New Jersey mother Regina Thompson-Jenkins said.
“My son was killed to senseless gun violence in October 10, 2012. His case is still unsolved. We don’t have any leads in his case and I am here to advocate for common-sense gun laws,” said another New Jersey mother Glenda Torres-Scott.
Many said it starts with universal background checks, getting guns off the streets and passing "red flag" legislation to temporarily take firearms from people deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.
“That’s a great opportunity to prevent something from happening. If you know a person is mentally unstable, this is an opportunity to seize that weapon before a bigger tragedy can happen,” New Jersey father John Jenkins said about proposed red flag laws.
Mass shootings are tragedies students have come all too accustomed to.
“Twice a year, I think, we do an active shooter drill, the normal stuff: run, hide, fight,” 15-year-old Anika Jackson said.
One student said different forms of gun violence will constitute different approaches.
“Inner city gun violence is so different than mass shootings. That’s so different than suicides. You can’t have a one-size-fits-all-approach to all types of gun violence,” Students Demand Action member Nidhi Krishnan said.
Krishnan hopes candidates look at how different issues intersect with gun violence.
“I want candidates that understand this is a structural racism issue. I want candidates that understand this is a women’s right’s issue, that this is a domestic abuse issue,” Krishnan said.
“During the Iraq War, more women were killed in this country than service people in that conflict, and I think because it’s so common, people don’t even realize it’s happening,” Iowa Lutheran Pastor Sarah Trone Garriott said.
With caucuses and elections right around the corner, visitors say "gun sense" needs to be a priority.
“My hope for this election is no matter who you vote for, no matter who you agree with, that gun sense is at the forefront of your mind and is at the forefront of what you are electing into office,” Students Demand Action member Georgia Rylee Holland said.