Sep 22, 2019

Vulnerable Democrats worry Beto puts too much focus on guns

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Democrats in swing seats are more comfortable supporting new gun restrictions than they were just a few years ago, but most still aren't on board with Beto O'Rourke's "hell, yeah" stance on confiscating assault weapons.

Why it matters: Some vulnerable Democrats up for reelection next year are nervous that too much attention is being paid to mandatory gun buyback programs — thanks to Beto — ahead of 2020.

  • Sens. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Reps. Cindy Axne (Iowa-3), Susie Lee (Nev.-3) and Angie Craig (Minn.-2), all told Axios they don't support mandatory buybacks for assault rifles.
  • Some 2020 presidential candidates also refuse to go as far as Beto: Andrew Yang and Sen. Amy Klobuchar support voluntary buyback programs, and the plan by Sen. Elizabeth Warren includes a mandatory assault weapon registration or buyback.
  • Yes, but: Joe Biden and Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker support mandatory assault weapon buyback programs.

Our thought bubble: Regardless of the divide within the party, O'Rourke has successfully shifted the debate so that expanded background checks or an assault weapons ban look more modest by comparison.

The big picture: Democrats' divisions on buybacks reflect America's divisions. Just over half of Americans polled by Monmouth University said they somewhat or strongly opposed the idea of an assaults weapons buyback program

Go deeper

Beto ignites split among 2020 Democrats on guns

O’Rourke speaks at the gun forum in Las Vegas Tuesday. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

LAS VEGAS — Beto O'Rourke's proposal to implement a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons ignited a split among 2020 Democrats at the Giffords/March for Our Lives gun safety forum on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The caution around the issue shows how some in the field are being careful to distance themselves from what they view as a polarizing position and are instead sticking with pushing a voluntary buyback program as a way to appeal to the center.

Go deeperArrowOct 3, 2019

Where 2020 Democrats stand on gun control

Warren and Biden on the debate stage on Jan. 14. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduced a new gun reform bill on Thursday with Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) that calls for raising the minimum age for all gun purchases to 21 and increasing the excise tax on gun sales to 30% and ammunition sales to 50%.

The big picture: 2019's mass shootings in El Paso, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; Virginia Beach; and near Odessa, Texas, have pushed 2020 Democrats to take harder stances on gun control than in the last presidential election, when Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton only briefly addressed the issue in their primary debate.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jan 30, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Dianne Feinstein endorses Biden for 2020

Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) formally endorsed Joe Biden for the 2020 presidential election on Tuesday, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

What she's saying: In her statement on Tuesday, Feinstein applauded Biden's gun reform policy, describing it as "one of the pillars of his campaign." She emphasized that she believes he can get real work done in a Congress "dominated by ideological polarization," per the Chronicle.

Go deeperArrowOct 8, 2019