Where 2020 Democrats stand on gun control

This image is a four-way split between Andrew Yang, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Elizabeth Warren.
Andrew Yang, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren. Photos: Osh Edelson/AFP and Scott Eisen via Getty Images

Beto O'Rourke became the latest Democratic presidential contender to release a gun control plan in his August campaign relaunch, which came after the mass shooting in his El Paso hometown.

The big picture: Recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, Dayton, Ohio and near Odessa, Texas have propelled the national conversation on gun control forward, as House Democratic leaders call for the Senate to vote on stalled legislation. 2020 Democrats have a bigger stake in gun control than they did in 2016, when Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton only briefly addressed the issue in their primary debate.

Policy standouts

Sen. Elizabeth Warren: Wants to reduce the number of U.S. gun deaths by 80%, noting 39,773 died in 2017 alone. Her plan includes appointing an attorney general to investigate the NRA's business practices and making it harder to export guns from the U.S. Warren would also try to pass a federal assault weapons ban.

  • Her plan wraps gun control into a broader anti-corruption package and includes identifying white nationalism as a form of domestic terrorism, in reference to the alleged shooter in El Paso.

Sen. Kamala Harris: If Congress doesn't pass gun reform within 100 days of her potential inauguration, Harris says she would take executive action to institute background checks, require the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to revoke the licenses of gun dealers "who violate the law," and ban the importation of assault weapons.

Former tech executive Andrew Yang: Wants to require a federal background check and federal buyback program, eliminate the gun show loophole, ban high-capacity magazines and prohibit the manufacture and sale of bump stocks, suppressors, incendiary/exploding ammunition and grenade launcher attachments.

  • Yang references smart guns in his policy and says he plans to "invest in innovative technology that would make firearms harder to fire for non-owners of the gun."
  • Those who currently own firearms under Yang's plan would be grandfathered in with their existing licenses and receive one-time “Good Gun Owner” tax credits for adhering to additional requirements.

Sen. Cory Booker: Proposed a 14-part plan in May calling for a national gun licensing program that would force Americans to apply for 5-year gun licenses and ban assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and bump stocks.

Former Vice President Joe Biden: Biden released a plan in October that calls for banning the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. It stops short of a mandatory buyback program, but gives those who own such guns two choices: sell the weapons to the government or register them under the National Firearms Act.

  • It also mandates universal background checks for all gun sales, except for gifts between close family members.
  • Biden also would like to end the online sales of guns and incentivize states to implement gun licensing programs of their own.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg: Wants to spend $1 billion to help law enforcement combat white nationalism and "respond to domestic terrorist attacks before they occur," in reference to recent mass shootings. His plan would ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, institute universal background checks and a national gun licensing system, and fund gun violence research at the federal level.

  • The National Counterterrorism Center would arrest white supremacist suspects internationally under his plan.
  • Online platforms like 8chan would also be monitored by law enforcement.

Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke: O'Rourke wants to create a nationwide gun licensing system that would ensure anybody who wants to purchase a gun goes through an assessment by law enforcement. Guns would also be registered, and all new handguns micro-stamped.

  • He also supports a ban and buyback program for assault weapons, as well as universal background checks.

Author Marianne Williamson: Wants to ban assault rifles, semi-automatic weapons, bump stocks and high capacity magazines, require universal background checks and mandatory waiting periods for gun dealers, reinstate "restrictions on the ability of the mentally ill to purchase a gun," and remove "limits on the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) ability to track and record gun ownership numbers."

  • Reality check: A spending bill signed by President Trump in 2018 gave the CDC the authority to study the causes of gun violence — but "researchers who study gun violence are unimpressed," NPR reports.

Rep. Tim Ryan: On debate night, he linked the question of gun control to mental illness, saying: “73% of [school shooters] feel shamed, traumatized or bullied." He called for mental health professionals to be installed in every school in the country.

Standard fare

Sen. Bernie Sanders: Wants to ban the sale and distribution of assault weapons, institute universal background checks and end the gun show loophole. He says he has a D- voting record from the NRA.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar: Wants to implement universal background checks, close gun show loopholes and ban assault weapons, bump stocks and high-capacity magazines.

Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro: Supports universal background checks, banning assault weapons and limiting magazine capacity.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Supports a federal ban on "military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines," stronger background checks and ending the gun show loophole.

Editor's note: Kirsten Gillibrand and Jay Inslee have been removed after dropping out of the 2020 presidential race.