The Latest: Sanders pledges to take on NRA if he’s president

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LAS VEGAS (AP) – The Latest on the 2020 presidential campaign (all times local):

4:55 p.m.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is pledging to take on the NRA if he’s elected president.

Sanders made the vow at a rally Tuesday afternoon in Las Vegas, the site of the largest mass shooting in modern American history.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has knocked Sanders for backing a bill to make the gun industry immune from lawsuits in 2005. Sanders has since taken a tougher stance against gun rights.

On Tuesday, he vowed to pass universal background checks and an assault weapons ban. Sanders says “the American people and not the NRA” will determine gun policy.

On Oct. 1, 2017, a gunman perched in the window of a hotel on the Las Vegas Strip killed 58 people down below at an open-air music festival. More than 850 people were injured.

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2:50 p.m.

More than 36,000 Democrats voted in the first three days of a four-day early voting period ahead of the Nevada caucuses.

The Nevada Democratic Party says just over 10,000 people cast a ballot on Monday. Fifty-five early voting locations were open around the state on Tuesday, the last day for Democrats to fill out a ballot ahead of the Saturday caucuses.

Nevada’s Democratic Party is offering early voting for the first time. Voters can fill out a paper ballot marking at least their top three choices for president. Those votes will be combined with in-person votes at about 2,000 precinct caucus meetings on Saturday.

About 84,000 people participated in Nevada’s Democratic presidential caucuses in 2016.

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2:45 p.m.

Nevada’s governor says he wants successful caucuses on Saturday and “above all else” wants the state to remain first-in-the-West in the presidential nominating process.

Other than that, aides to Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak wouldn’t say Tuesday whether he supports changing from party caucus balloting to traditional primary voting.

In a statement issued through campaign aide Eva Black, the governor said long lines at sites during early balloting reflected party voter enthusiasm.

Democratic Party officials said more than 26,000 early caucus ballots were cast in the first two days.

Black didn’t respond to questions from The Associated Press about a Reno Gazette Journal report that Sisolak told people Monday at a caucus station in Reno there was a “real possibility” the Legislature would reexamine using state-overseen primaries. Sisolak said caucus lines were “way too long.”

Election administrators at the Nevada secretary of state’s office declined to comment.

The state Democratic Party moved the date of Nevada’s caucuses to third in the nation in 2008.

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1 p.m.

Pete Buttigieg says he’d use the “symbolic powers of the presidency” to call out and reject anti-Semitism, saying it’s urgent to confront white supremacy.

Buttigieg said at a Las Vegas town hall Tuesday that white supremacy has come closer than any foreign nation or terrorist group to destroying the United States, a reference to the Civil War fought over slavery.

He says Donald Trump’s presidency has seen the rise of bigotry that has been simmering beneath the surface. And he criticized the president’s response to deadly violence by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, when Trump said there are “very fine people on both sides.”

“I think we might live to see which side wins,” Buttigieg said. “The American dream, the American project — or these forces of white supremacy, of white nationalism.”

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9:45 a.m.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is jabbing the Democratic candidates for president, saying their health insurance proposals would hurt business owners.

At a speech in Louisville, Kentucky, on Tuesday during a conference for the Distilled Spirits Council, McConnell said he’s “never seen a Democratic party like we’re confronted with today.” He said even the centrist Democrat candidates who support a “public option” are supporting government-based insurance.

He said he is “hoping the Senate will still be in Republican hands after this election. If the worst were to happen, if the president were not re-elected and the House were not to become Republican, we (the Senate) would be the firewall.”

McConnell said that any public option or “Medicare for All” proposal would not make it through the Senate.

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9:05 a.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg is pledging to reduce police use of deadly force and lower recidivism rates as part of his criminal justice plan.

Bloomberg released the additional details Tuesday. Some parts would require congressional action, such as his commitment to sign a bill ensuring that deadly force is only used by federal agents to prevent serious injury or death, or his promise to sign the Violence Against Women Act.

Much of it outlines new administration policies and investments in criminal justice reform with the goal of cutting the incarceration rate in half by 2030. The proposal includes $22.5 billion to launch a Justice Department program to evaluate and fund criminal justice reform programs in the states, and $2.5 billion over 10 years on public defense.

Bloomberg also proposes increased funding for “family justice centers,” which would provide treatments for survivors of domestic violence, and funding for the creation of “restorative justice centers” at historically black colleges and universities, which would serve as hubs for research and policymaking surrounding policing.

The new details expand upon a plan he first released in December. Bloomberg launched his campaign by apologizing for his past support of “stop-and-frisk” policing practices, which have been found to disproportionately target minorities.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a campaign event at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
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