Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer blamed the United States’ gun violence epidemic on the political power of corporations in an interview Wednesday. Steyer told PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff that “decades of unchecked violence — gun violence — in this country” are due to “the gun manufacturers, through the NRA, [controlling] the Republican Party.”
Money in politics is one of Steyer’s central campaign issues, and he says the U.S. government is broken because corporate cash has “bought” the system.
The billionaire activist and philanthropist thinks two things led to the recent shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas. “There is the failure to check gun violence in the United States, and there is the racist rhetoric that the president has employed to create an atmosphere that empowers people to take on these acts,” Steyer said.
The attack in El Paso in particular has renewed criticism about and debate over President Donald Trump’s rhetoric about race and immigration. Law enforcement believes the shooter posted an anti-immigrant screed online minutes before his attack, in which he used language Trump has also used. The White House has stressed that the president is not responsible for another person’s actions.
“Over 90 percent of Americans want mandatory background checks on every gun purchase,” Steyer said. “There is no question here that the will of the American people is being frustrated and it’s being frustrated by gun manufacturers through the NRA.”
Other highlights from the interview
- On impeachment: After spending the past two years pouring millions of dollars into ads advocating for Trump’s impeachment, Steyer says he thinks Congress could act this year. “The only way to get this done is to bring in the American people and that means televised hearings like the ones in Watergate that convinced the American people that Richard Nixon was a crook who had to go,” Steyer said.
- On how he made his billions: Steyer made his sizeable fortune managing a hedge fund, which included investments in companies that ran coal mines and coal-fired power plants. Steyer has since divested of fossil fuel investments and says the American people need to do the same. “We all grew up in a fossil-fuel based economy, including you,” Steyer said. “We’ve all filled up at the pump. That is where we came from we need to go to a different place.”
- On climate change: Steyer has also put hundreds of millions of dollars toward environmental advocacy through his organization, NextGen America. He said on his first day as president, he would declare a national emergency to address climate change. “It is an emergency,” Steyer said. “The president should deal with it that way because we’re talking about the health and safety of every American.” Steyer has released a proposal on climate justice and says an important part is reaching out to the “most affected communities and getting their ideas of leadership to make sure the program works for them.”