Former tech executive and Democratic hopeful Andrew Yang was one of over a dozen candidates to attend the Everytown for Gun Safety Town Hall in Des Moines over the weekend, but his appearance there was perhaps the most notable one after a clip of him breaking down into tears went viral. It’s as if we’ve all lost sight of the possibility for us to elect an actual human into office in 2020. Seriously though, Yang crying was the epitome of empathetic leadership, a quality that many of us have sorely missed since 2016.
Yang became openly emotional in response to a question from an audience member, Stephanie, who lost her 4-year-old to unintentional gun violence — and whose twin brother was an unfortunate witness. Stephanie cited firearms as the second leading cause of death for minors as well as the millions of guns that are loaded left unsecured in homes across the United States. She asked Yang how he intended to reduce accidental shootings like the one that affected her family.
Yang honored Stephanie’s story with remarkable vulnerability of his own, moved to tears by her words. He struggled to get through his response, covering his face and sobbing as he shared that he is the father of two young boys. “I was imagining it was one of them that got shot and the other saw,” he admitted, adding, “The biggest downside of running for president for me has been that I don’t get to see my family very much.”
Addressing the question, Yang cited the fact that having a gun in the house does not statistically keep us safe. “[You’re] more likely to have a child get shot or the owner get shot than to kill, let’s say, an intruder into the house. Those are just numbers, those are just the facts.” He offered his support for smart guns (also known as personalized gun), which are in a nutshell firearms that can only be used by their registered owners, the way that smartphones are accessed through biometrics like fingerprints or how modern cars function in proximity to their keys. “If we can convince Americans that personalized guns are a good idea then again, if the child gets ahold of the gun then they can’t do anything with it, then it just becomes a very heavy, expensive prop,” he explained. He suggested that he would work to offer free smart gun upgrades to all gun owners because, after all, many gun owners are also parents. In a nationally representative survey from 2016, approximately 60 percent of respondents expressed that they were willing to purchase a smart gun.
It’s worth noting that Yang’s campaign has been built around futuristic concepts and innovation; many of his positions as a candidate are based on what the data says regarding proposals like universal basic income (UBI). “I don’t expect people to agree with me on everything- that would be odd,” Yang tweeted on Saturday. “My main hope is that people trust that I’m trying to solve problems and I’m open to different approaches – particularly if the data drives in a particular direction.” A UBI would be provided to Americans through the Freedom Dividend, funded by taxes on certain corporations. Elon Musk, another proponent of UBI, recently endorsed Yang via Twitter.
Yang is the ninth Democratic candidate to qualify for the third Democratic primary debate coming up next month.