(CNN) — A question posed at Tuesday night’s town hall-style debate opened up a discussion into the issue of gun violence, but a survivor of the deadly July shooting in Colorado said the candidates’ responses were devoid of substantive ideas.
“The demands of 270,000 Americans for President Obama and Governor Romney to address gun violence broke through during tonight’s debate,” said Stephen Barton, a 22-year-old recent college graduate and Fulbright scholar, who survived a shot in the face and neck at the theater shooting in Aurora that left 12 others dead.
Barton continued in a statement after the debate: “I am glad that a concerned citizen asked about guns – but sadly, there were no real answers. We are going to keep demanding a specific plan from both candidates to end gun violence.”
Following the shooting, the candidates offered condolences to the victims’ families and suspended campaign activities. Both campaigns also took down ads in the state, and Obama visited families of the victims two days after the massacre.
The first presidential debate was held in Denver at the end of September, just ten miles from the site of the July shooting at a midnight showing of the film “The Dark Knight Rises.” Days before the first presidential match-up, Barton appeared in an ad sponsored by the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns pushing the candidates to address gun violence at the debate to no avail.
President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney faced-off again Tuesday night in Hempstead, New York in a town hall-style debate format. The candidates sparred on a range of issues, fielding questions from members of the 82-person, uncommitted-voters audience as well as follow-up questions from moderator CNN’s chief political correspondent Candy Crowley.
Responding to a questioner who asked what his administration would do to limit the availability of assault weapons, Obama pushed to enforce the gun laws already in place. He suggested a reintroduction of an assault weapons ban and deeper look into the source of the violence, pivoting to better education as a preemptive strategy.
“What I’m trying to do is get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban introduced but part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence,” said Obama at the debate.
For his part, Romney concurred with the president on urging preemptive education in schools but also encouraged support of two-parent households as a means to deter poverty and foster opportunity.
“I’m not in favor of new pieces of legislation on guns and taking guns away or making certain guns illegal. We, of course, don’t want to have automatic weapons, and that’s already illegal in this country to have automatic weapons,” said Romney.
He continued: “We can make changes in the way our culture works to help bring people away from violence and give them opportunity, and bring them in the American system.”
The Republican nominee then pounced on a botched gun sting operation that allowed hundreds of weapons to reach violent Mexican drug cartel known as Fast and Furious. Many of the weapons were “lost” and two of were found at the scene of the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent sparking an investigation into the operation and drawing criticism of the Obama administration.
Crowley noted that Romney signed an assault weapon ban when he served as governor of Massachusetts but no longer supports this legislation. Romney, in turn, reiterated that the Massachusetts assault weapon ban was a “mutually agreed-upon piece of legislation.”
“That’s what we need more of, Candy. What we have right now in Washington is a place that’s gridlocked,” he said.
To that, Obama quipped: “I think Governor Romney was for an assault weapons ban before he was against it.”