Klobuchar invokes 6-year-old Gilroy shooting victim as Democrats debate gun control

Neighbor of Gilroy shooting victim: ‘How do you tell your kids their best friend is gone’

Six-year-old Stephen Romero was among the victims in the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting on July 28, 2019. A friend and neighbor of the family speaks about the boy.
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Six-year-old Stephen Romero was among the victims in the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting on July 28, 2019. A friend and neighbor of the family speaks about the boy.

A candidate debating gun control at Tuesday’s Democratic presidential primary debate invoked the youngest victim of the mass shooting Sunday at a garlic festival in Gilroy, California.

“When that little 6-year-old boy died, Stephen Romero, when his dad said, ‘he’s only 6 years old’ — all I can say is: He’s 6 years old. We have to remember that,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., as she called for gun control measures such as universal background checks.

Romero and two others were killed on Sunday when a gunman opened fire at the Northern California town’s annual event. The boy’s father, Alberto Romero, said Stephen had just celebrated his sixth birthday at Legoland, NBC reported.

“My son had his whole life to live and he was only 6,” the father told NBC. “That’s all I can say.”

The boy lived in San Jose, near Gilroy.

“He was an awesome little 6-year-old kid,” Mario Ramos, a neighbor of Romero’s family, told the Sacramento Bee. “It’s just a tragedy … A 6-year-old kid, never did anything to nobody.”

Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, responded to Klobuchar’s gun comments with a criticism at the CNN-hosted debate in Detroit, Michigan.

“This is the exact same conversation we’ve been having since I was in high school,” Buttigieg said, mentioning that he was a junior in high school when there was a mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. “Something is broken if it is even possible for the same debate around the same solutions … We know what to do, and it has not happened.”

Klobuchar blamed the National Rifle Association, telling the audience at the Fox Theatre that President Donald Trump once agreed in a meeting to background checks but changed his mind after meeting with the pro-gun group.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg participate in the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Paul Sancya AP

“This is about the NRA,” Klobuchar said. “As your president, I will not fold. I will make sure we get universal background checks passed.”

The Minnesota senator also brought up the mass shooting last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

“What is broken is the political system,” Klobuchar said. “The people are with us now, after Parkland.”

Klobuchar said the House passed a universal background check bill, but blamed Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for letting the legislation die in the Senate.

Buttigieg also blamed Washington.

“What we’re doing hasn’t worked because we haven’t had a system in Washington capable of delivering what the American people have told us they want,” Buttigieg said, adding that “90 percent of Republicans want universal background checks, not to mention the common-sense solutions like red flag laws that disarm domestic abusers and flag mental health risks and an end to assault weapons, things like what I carried overseas in uniform that have no business in an American neighborhood in peacetime, let alone anywhere near a school.”

The other candidates debating on Tuesday night were Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, author Marianne Williamson and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.

The 10 other candidates who made the debates will appear together Wednesday, including early front-runner in the polls former Vice President Joe Biden, as well as California Sen. Kamala Harris.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.