Democrats mostly agree on gun control needs
After two mass shootings that killed at least 31 people over the weekend, gun control and gun policy have become key topics to address for the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.
Dozens more people were wounded in the two shootings that occurred in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in the span of 13 hours, igniting nationwide heartache and outrage over another mass shooting.
So far in 2019, there have been 255 mass shootings — in which 4 or more individuals are shot — resulting in 273 fatalities and leaving 1,067 individuals injured, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit online archive.
Most of the candidates competing for the Democratic nomination for president have outlined proposals for gun policy change. Many agree on some of the same issues. But not everything.
Here’s a summary of their plans and records on the issue:
Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado
In a CNN town hall, Bennet said he supports banning assault weapons. He also told CBS News that he thinks the Senate should pass HR 8, the gun control legislation mandating federal criminal background checks on all gun sales, which passed in the House in February. Previously, Bennet voted to ban high-capacity magazines after the Aurora, Colorado, shooting in 2012, but voted against the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, according to POLITICO.
Former Vice President Joe Biden
Biden has long called for bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and has supported universal background checks. Biden also said he would push for a federal gun buyback program to take assault weapons off the streets in an interview on CNN that aired Monday night. As a senator, Biden wrote the 1994 assault weapons ban in 1994 and voted for the the Brady Bill in 1993, which created the country’s background check system. Following the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012, as vice president Biden led the White House’s Task Force on Guns. It led to two dozen executive actions on gun violence, which included narrowing the gun show loophole. Despite his progressive track record on gun control and an F rating from the NRA, Biden voted for the Firearm Owners Protection Act in 1986, which the NRA has has called “the law that saved gun rights” in America and led to that gun show loophole.
Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey
Booker’s plan calls for the ban of “assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and bump stocks” and passing universal background checks to “close the loopholes that allow people who should never have a gun to get one.” He also calls for a gun licensing program, saying “if you need a license to drive a car, you should need a license to buy and possess a gun,” according to a press release. This program would require potential gun owners to complete a gun safety course and an FBI background check in order to obtain a license.
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Montana Gov. Steve Bullock
Bullock supports “universal background checks and cracking down on straw purchases of guns,” in a 2018 op-ed in The Great Falls Tribune. During the 2020 Montana gubernatorial race, Bullock told CNN he would support a ban on semiautomatic weapons and that “there are things that we can do immediately, everything from red flag laws to closing, sort of having a universal background check, to make sure that we’re doing everything we can, some age restrictions, magazine restrictions.” He also believes “dark money” is preventing real action on gun policy in the U.S. Bullock has a personal history with gun violence: His 11-year-old nephew was shot and killed by another student.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
After the shootings in Dayton and El Paso, DeBlasio in a TV interview called for Congress to come back from their August recess to pass HR 8, the background check bill. DeBlasio also called for gun control in a tweet after a school shooting in Colorado, not far from Columbine High School and around the 20th anniversary of the Columbine shooting. “20 years later. 7 miles from Columbine. 0 actions taken in Washington to protect kids from gun violence,” de Blasio tweeted. “This is sickening. We have to keep demanding action even when it feels like we’re screaming into a void. GUN CONTROL NOW.” He does not have a gun violence policy proposal on his campaign website.
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Buttigieg “supports a new federal ban on assault-style weapons, as well as a voluntary buyback program for existing assault-style weapons,” a campaign spokesperson told POLITICO. He also calls for establishing a nationwide gun licensing system, closing the “boyfriend loophole” while disarming domestic abusers, and investing in “evidence-based urban gun violence intervention programs proven to work,” according to his campaign website. A military veteran, Buttigieg in 2017 tweeted he “did not carry an assault weapon around a foreign country so I could come home and see them used to massacre my countrymen.”
Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro
Castro said at a CNN town hall that he supports gun buybacks and universal background checks and is a “strong supporter of common sense gun reform.” After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left 26 people dead, Castro supported the renewal of the federal assault weapons ban and, recently, supported the Assault Weapons Ban of 2019.
Former Rep. John Delaney
Delaney supports requiring background checks for gun sales, legislation for new regulations that would ban all accessories designed to increase the rate of fire of semiautomatic weapons and updating the Violence Against Women Act, according to his campaign website. Delaney previously co-sponsored the Assault Weapons Ban Act, which would ban semiautomatic weapons.
Sen. Kamala Harris of California
Harris has called for an assault weapons ban, universal background checks and prohibiting those convicted of federal hate crimes from buying guns, according to her campaign website. Harris also released a plan earlier this year detailing that she would act on gun control within her first 100 days as president if Congress didn’t and would renew the 1994 assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004.
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper
After the Aurora movie theater shooting that left 12 people dead, Hickenlooper as governor signed into law “reforms on gun safety that required background checks for private and online gun sales and banned high-capacity magazines,” according to his campaign website. As president, he says he would: require national gun licenses that would include a background check; fund gun violence research at the Centers for Disease Control; and raise the age to purchase a firearm to 21.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York
Gillibrand supports universal background checks, banning assault weapons and closing gun sale loopholes, according to her campaign website. Gillibrand co-sponsored two Senate bills to ban assault weapons and the Proposed Assault Weapons Ban of 2013. Years ago, she had an A rating from the NRA, but that later fell to an F. Gillibrand said she “was changed by conversations with families who’d been devastated by gun violence in cities,” she told ABC.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii
Gabbard has supported several pieces of gun legislation in the U.S. House, such as the Automatic Gunfire Prevention Act and HR 8, a bipartisan bill that would require a background check before person-to-person firearm sales could be conducted. That bill aims to end the gun show loophole. Gabbard also supports “universal background checks … and reinstating a federal ban on military-style assault weapons,” according to her campaign website.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee
During his time in Congress, Inslee voted in favor of the 1994 assault weapons ban, and then lost his seat in the House. In May, Inslee signed a group of bills into law as governor aimed at reducing gun violence. On Tuesday, Inslee announced a ten-point plan to “stop the epidemic of white nationalist gun violence.” His plan included seven measures aimed at gun control, including a national assault weapons ban, targeting people who are try to buy guns despite not being eligible, banning untraceable firearms, overhauling the ATF, and closing the “default proceed” loophole on background checks lasting longer than three days.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota
Klobuchar supports universal background checks, banning bump stocks and other high capacity ammunition feeding devices, and banning assault weapons, according to her campaign website. She also authored a proposal to prevent individuals who have abused dating partners from buying or owning firearms, referred to as the “boyfriend loophole.”
Mayor of Miramar, Florida, Wayne Messam
Messam states on his campaign website that it will be “the number one priority” of his administration to prevent mass shootings. He advocates for the removal of “mass shooting weaponry” from individuals who have mental illnesses, histories of domestic abuse, or are on the terror watch list. As mayor, he proposed and passed a measure that expanded background checks.
Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts
Moulton penned an op-ed in the New York Daily News outlining his proposals for gun control, drawing on his experience from the Marine Corps. He supports eliminating military-style assault weapons, requiring background checks for every gun purchase, and preventing people on terror watch lists from buying guns. Moulton supports lifting the restrictions on researching the causes of gun violence. He also authored bipartisan legislation to ban bump stocks after the device was used in the mass shooting in Las Vegas in 2017, according to ABC News.
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke
O’Rourke supports ending the sale of assault weapons, universal background checks, closing the boyfriend loophole, employing “red flag” laws, and investing in research on gun violence, according to a campaign news release. He also shared these views in an op-ed for the Houston Chronicle in May. He supports a voluntary federal buyback program for assault weapons, a campaign spokesperson told POLITICO.
Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio
At the first Democratic debate, Ryan spoke about school shooters who feel “shamed, traumatized, or bullied” and advocated for counselors in every school to help students “feel connected to the school.” After the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, he condemned Republican leaders for refusing to bring forth legislation on background checks, which he called “a basic step that 99% of the American people support.” Ryan had an A grade from the NRA for multiple terms, but after the shooting at Sandy Hook in 2012, he changed his positions and his rating fell to an F, according to The Atlantic.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont
Sanders advocates for banning the sale and distribution of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines on his campaign website, in addition to cracking down on “straw purchases,” where individuals buy guns for criminals, and the gun show loophole to expand background checks. “The NRA has become a partisan lobbying public-relations entity for gun manufacturers, and its influence must be stopped,” he wrote. However, Sanders voted against the 1993 Brady Bill, which created the nation’s background system.
Former Rep. Joe Sestak
Sestak supports universal background checks for gun owners, closing the gun show loophole, and an assault weapons ban, according to his website. He also wants to fix the National Instant Criminal Background Check System “to ensure guns stay out of the wrong hands.”
Billionaire Tom Steyer
Steyer supports “universal background checks, red flag laws, banning assault weapons, and restricting high-capacity magazines,” as well as “banning gun possession for those who have been convicted of domestic violence,” according to a statement from his campaign. The statement also said Steyer supports funding the study of gun violence as a public health issue. Steyer pledged $1 million to help register young voters after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in the hopes that they would elect pro-gun control politicians in the midterm elections, according to CNN.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts
Warren said in a press release that she supports banning assault weapons, closing the loophole that allows turning semi-automatic rifles into fully-automatic weapons, and banning large capacity magazines. She also wants to pass universal background checks, close the loophole that allows domestic abusers to obtain firearms, and end the limitations on research about gun violence.
Author Marianne Williamson
Williamson advocates eliminating of assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons, banning bump stocks, and instituting universal background checks and mandatory waiting periods for all dealers, including gun shows and sports retailers, according to her website. She wants every gun to have a child safety lock and to have “strict control of gun use among children.” She is also an advocate of Extreme Risk Protection Order Laws, which allow “family members and law enforcement to seek court permission to to temporarily remove guns from a person in danger of harming himself or others.”
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang
Yang has released a plan to institute a three-tiered licensing system for gun ownership. All tiers would be required to pass a federal background check, eliminating the gun show loophole. Tier 1, which covers “basic hunting rifles and handguns,” also requires a safety course and purchase of a gun locker or trigger lock. A Tier 2 license covers semi-automatic rifles. Only individuals 21 or older are eligible, and they must hold a Tier 1 license for at least a year and pass an advanced firearm safety class. A Tier 3 license for advanced and automatic weapons requires submission of fingerprints and DNA to the FBI, a gun locker inspection, and regular refresher trainings. The plan stipulates that with a history of violence, domestic abuse, or violent mental illness would be restricted from receiving a license. Yang also supports a ban on high-capacity magazines, bump stocks and exploding ammunition, and would implement a voluntary federal buyback program.