Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang was overcome with emotion at a forum in Iowa on Saturday after a woman in the audience opened up about her family’s tragic experience with gun violence.
“My beautiful 4-year-old daughter Dayla was struck by a stray bullet” in March 2011, Stephanie Pizzoferrato said at the Everytown for Gun Safety event in Des Moines. “My son ― my daughter’s twin brother ― witnessed what happened that day. She died two days later.”
Pizzoferrato, a Las Vegas resident, then asked Yang what he would do as president to address unintentional shootings by children, noting that firearms are the second leading cause of death for children and teenagers in the U.S.
Before answering the question, the businessman thanked Pizzoferrato and asked if he could give her a hug.
″I have a 6 and 3-year-old boy,” Yang said as he broke down into tears. “I was imagining it was one of them that got shot and the other saw it. I’m so sorry.”
“The biggest downside of running for president for me is that I don’t get to see my family very much,” he continued. “So I get pictures, I FaceTime, I see pictures of my boys and just that scene that she described, I’m sorry, it’s just very, very affecting.”
Yang said he would push for more Americans to upgrade their firearms to “personalized” guns, also known as “smart guns.” These types of firearms use technology such as fingerprint readers or other biometric sensors to prevent unauthorized users from firing them.
“If we can convince Americans that personalized guns are a good idea then … if the child gets ahold of the gun then they can’t do anything with it,” he said. “Then it just becomes a very heavy, expensive prop. One of my proposals is to actually help gun owners upgrade their guns to personalized guns free of charge.”
Before moving on to the next question, he addressed Pizzoferrato’s experience once more.
“That story should not be possible,” Yang said. “I’m so sorry”
Pizzoferrato, a member of the Nevada chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, wrote about Dayla’s death in a powerful blog post in May.
“She was a vivacious little girl who was going to make a mark in this world; I just never thought it would be in this way,” Pizzoferrato wrote. “Because of one person’s irresponsible actions, my daughter paid the ultimate price.”
The Iowa forum follows multiple mass shootings across the country in recent weeks, including at a food festival in Gilroy, California, where two of the three people killed were children.