Las Vegas Sun

October 18, 2019

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What will the candidates do about gun violence?


John Locher / AP

In this Jan. 19, 2016, file photo, handguns are displayed at the Smith & Wesson booth at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas.

Polling shows that many Americans are in favor of additional gun safety legislation such as expanded background checks and an assault weapons ban.

So where do 2020 presidential candidates stand on the issue? To find out, the Sun posed the following question to each candidate: If you are president, what steps will your administration take to address gun violence?

Several candidates offered responses, which are posted below. For candidates who did not answer, their positions were pulled from campaign websites or from public appearances.


Michael Bennet: senator from Colorado: “There are many steps we need to take to address the gun violence epidemic that continues to plague communities across the country. My top priorities include expanding and improving universal background checks, limiting the size of magazines and keeping weapons of war off the streets with an assault weapons ban.”

Joe Biden, former vice president (did not respond): Biden has expressed support for an assault weapons ban, a gun buyback program and universal background checks.

In the September Democratic debates in Houston, Biden touted his past actions on gun control, including his vote for the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which implemented background checks and a waiting period.

“I’m the only one up here that’s ever beat the NRA — only one ever to beat the NRA nationally,” he said at the debate. “I’m the guy that brought the Brady Bill into focus and became law.”

Cory Booker, senator from New Jersey: “Tackling the epidemic of gun violence is a personal fight for me, and I’m proud to have put forward the most sweeping gun violence prevention plan in history. At its core it is a simple idea: licenses for guns — because if you need a license to drive a car, you should need one to own a gun. Beginning on day one in office, I will fight to pass universal background checks, hold gun manufacturers accountable, ban weapons of war and invest in communities impacted by gun violence. I will bring a fight to the NRA like they have never seen before.”

Steve Bullock, governor of Montana: “I’ve lowered the flags nine times since the shooting in Las Vegas. To say we haven’t done enough is a gross understatement. It’s time we recognize that gun violence is a public health issue, and that we begin to address it as such. We need to fight relentlessly for evidence-based solutions that will make our communities safer: universal background checks, ending straw purchases, banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines and red flag laws to keep guns out of the wrong hands. When we come together, we can break the NRA’s stranglehold on Washington and enact real change.”

Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind. (did not respond): Buttigieg has expressed support for universal background checks, a nationwide gun licensing system, a nationwide red flag law, an assault weapons ban and more.

Buttigieg, a Naval Reserve veteran who served a tour of duty in Afghanistan, said on his campaign website that military-style weapons have no place in neighborhoods.

“Our democracy is broken when 90% of Americans — including most Republicans and gun owners — support a policy like universal background checks, and Congress can completely ignore the will of the American people,” he said. “Forcing our political system to respond will require dramatic action to build and sustain political power.”

Julián Castro, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development: “If I’m elected president, I’ll act on day one to end the epidemic of gun violence in our country. I’ll start by directing the FBI to deny firearm sales to those with warrants for their arrest, clearly defining firearm dealer licensing requirements, banning the import of assault weapons and closing the boyfriend loophole so people with domestic violence convictions can’t get a gun. I will continue my action by implementing a federal license to buy guns and ammunition, an assault weapons ban and buyback program and investing in community violence prevention programs. We need moral, common-sense policy changes to end this crisis.”

John Delaney, former congressman from Maryland (did not respond): Delaney, on his campaign website, says he supports universal background checks, bans on assault weapons and bump stocks, a national red-flag law and more.

“The time has come for action on gun violence,” the site reads. “According to the CDC, guns were responsible for nearly 40,000 deaths in 2017, more than the number of deaths caused by automobile accidents.”

Tulsi Gabbard: congresswoman from Hawaii (did not respond): Gabbard has backed a new assault weapons ban, bans on aftermarket products that accelerate rates of fire, preventing domestic abusers from possessing firearms and more.

“She has long called for reinstating a federal ban on military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines, requiring comprehensive pre-purchase background checks, closing the gun-show loophole and making sure that terrorists are not allowed to buy guns,” her website reads. “Tulsi has an F-rating from the NRA, a 0% rating by the Hawaii Rifle Association, and a 100% rating by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.”

Kamala Harris, senator from California: “We cannot wait any longer to take action to reduce gun violence. If Congress does not pass comprehensive gun safety legislation in my first 100 days in office, I will take executive action to mandate near-universal background checks and revoke the licenses of gun manufacturers and dealers that break the law. I’ll also reverse President Trump’s dangerous move that’s allowed thousands of wanted fugitives to buy guns, close the ‘boyfriend loophole’ and ban the importation of AR-15-style assault weapons.”

Amy Klobuchar, senator from Minnesota: “Gun violence has cut short far too many lives, torn families apart and plagued communities across the country — including Las Vegas. As president, I’ll never fold to the NRA and gun safety will be a top priority. I’ll introduce legislation including putting universal background checks in place, closing the Charleston loophole (which allows transfers of guns before the completion of background checks on some purchases) and banning bump stocks, assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. There are also important steps the president can take without waiting for Congress, including closing the ‘boyfriend loophole,’ investing in research into gun violence and restoring rules to prevent those with severe mental illnesses from acquiring guns.”

Wayne Messam: mayor of Miramar, Fla. (did not respond): From Messam’s campaign website: “When I’m president, it will be the number one priority for my administration to prevent mass shootings. I believe law enforcement should remove mass shooting weaponry from the hands of those suffering from mental illness, those who have a history of domestic abuse, and anyone on the terrorist watch list.”

Beto O’Rourke: former congressman from Texas: “Following the lead of the Moms Demanding Action and (March For Our Lives), Beto believes we can end this epidemic that kills nearly 40,000 Americans every year,” said Aleigha Cavalier, O’Rourke’s national press secretary. “He is the only 2020 presidential candidate who supports a mandatory buyback of assault weapons like those used to carry out attacks in Las Vegas, El Paso, and countless other communities across the country. Beto’s plan would also implement universal background checks, create a nationwide gun licensing system and registry, establish a federal red flag law and close loopholes that allow dangerous individuals and domestic abusers to acquire guns.”

Tim Ryan, congressman from Ohio (did not respond): Ryan once was a recipient of an “A”’ rating from the NRA, but has distanced himself from the organization.

Ryan does not have a section on his campaign website detailing gun policy but has voted for stronger background check legislation and has signed on to multiple bills in the House of Representatives, including an assault weapons ban, a red-flag law, a bill limiting the size of magazines and more.

Bernie Sanders: senator from Vermont: “Bernie will enact universal background checks and end the gun show loophole. Bernie will ban assault weapons, bump stocks, high-capacity magazines and the 3-D printing of firearms,” his campaign said. “For existing assault weapons, Bernie will institute strict licensing requirements for ownership along with a voluntary buyback program to get guns off the streets. Furthermore he supports grants to states to improve handgun licensing programs. He will pass legislation to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and stalkers and “red flag” laws to allow for temporary removal of firearms from those deemed a danger to themselves or others.”

Joe Sestak, former congressman from Pennsylvania: “As president, I will reinstate the assault weapons ban, restrict high-capacity magazines, institute universal background checks, close the ‘gun kit loophole’ and the ‘ghost gun loophole,’ repeal the Dickey Amendment, close the ‘boyfriend loophole,’ pass a federal ‘red-flag’ law, ban bump-stocks permanently, provide more funding for mental health care, close the Charleston loophole, mandate a one-week waiting period to buy a gun, legalize civil liability lawsuits against gun manufacturers, limit gun purchases to one per month, and create a national gun licensing requirement.”

Tom Steyer: businessman: “This isn’t a conversation about the Ssecond Aamendment — it’s about corruption and cowardice. Gun manufacturers and the NRA own the Republican Party. If Congress won’t act, Tom will take executive action,” Steyer’s campaign said. “He’d use a national referendum to put a strong gun control bill before the American people to pressure congressional action. He’d institute universal background checks, red flag laws and ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. And he’d take guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. This country’s talked about better gun laws for too long. Tom will take action.”

Elizabeth Warren, senator from Massachusetts: “As president, I will immediately take executive action to rein in an out-of-control gun industry — and hold gun dealers and manufacturers accountable for the violence promoted by their products; I will break the NRA’s stranglehold on Congress by passing sweeping anti-corruption legislation and eliminate the filibuster to get comprehensive gun violence prevention legislation signed into law within my first 100 days,” Warren said. “We’ll revisit this legislation every year and update it based on new data to reach my goal of reducing gun deaths in America by 80%. My plan lays out all this and more in detail.”

Marianne Williamson: author (did not respond): On her campaign website, Williamson posted detailed proposals for gun control actions.

Williamson would ban assault weapons, require universal background checks, institute mandatory waiting periods and more.

“While the Second Amendment, just like every other amendment in our Bill of Rights, must remain sacrosanct, our right to bear arms does not come without rules, regulations, human decency or common sense,” she said on her website. “The second and third words in the Second Amendment, after all, are ‘well-regulated.’”

Andrew Yang, businessman (did not respond): On Yang’s campaign website, he expresses support for closing the gun show loophole, creating a federal licensing system, banning assault weapons, creating laws governing the transportation of firearms and more.

“Responsible gun owners should continue to enjoy the right to bear arms, subject to licensing and education requirements that will enhance public safety,” the site says. “But we need to ban the most dangerous weapons that make mass shootings as deadly as they have become, and address the other violence — particularly suicide — that is plaguing this country.”


Mark Sanford, former governor and congressman from South Carolina (did not respond): Sanford also has no dedicated page on his site on the issue of gun violence. The Independent Journal Review, a conservative-leaning outlet, published an interview with Sanford in which he backed both red-flag laws — which would allow law enforcement to temporarily take someone’s gun if the person was deemed a threat — and closing the Charleston loophole.

Donald Trump, president of the United States (did not respond): Trump took action to ban bump stocks after the Oct. 1 shooting in 2017 but has remained fairly neutral on gun legislation since then.

According to the Associated Press, Trump had said he would veto a recently-passed House bill implementing increased background checks but that the administration hopes to release a gun plan to the public soon.

Joe Walsh, former congressman from Illinois: In a recent GOP debate sponsored by Business Insider, Walsh called for closing background check loopholes. “Here’s what our focus should be on — we don’t want anybody who shouldn’t have a gun to have a gun,” he said. He added that mental health issues in the country deserve a “serious look.”

Bill Weld, former Massachusetts governor (did not respond): In an interview with the Independent Journal Review that Weld shared to his campaign website, he said guns should be kept out of the hands of people who are “unstable” or have a history of mental illness. He offered no details.

This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.