What You Need To Know About The 2020 Candidates' Plans To Fight Gun Violence

With the first 2020 Democratic presidential debates underway, we wanted to brush up on where the candidates stand on gun reform.

According to research from Everytown for Gun Safety, 100 Americans are killed with guns, and hundreds more are shot and injured, every single day. And the gun suicide rate in America is 10 times greater than in other high-income countries. Gun violence is clearly an epidemic in need of not only our attention but also smart legislation that will prevent additional senseless deaths and mass shootings.


“All of the [Democratic] candidates have been really good on [the gun reform] issue and actually are competing to see who can be the best,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action and author of the recently released Fight Like A Mother, told Refinery29. “Some of the candidates have put together very innovative policy platforms on this issue.”

While they all "flunked out" according to their NRA scores — all of them have Fs — we wanted to track the different ways in which the Democratic candidates are distinguishing themselves on the issue. Read about their positions, ahead.

This is a developing story. We will update it with more candidates, and as more information becomes available.

Photo: Shutterstock.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar

On June 18, 2019, Klobuchar released her plan for "More Than 100 Actions for Her First 100 Days as President," which includes closing the gun-show loophole, banning bump stocks and assault weapons, better background checks, and identifying gun violence as a public health issue in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studies. It earned her praise from Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, a part of Everytown.

“Sen. Amy Klobuchar has been a champion [for gun reform] in the Senate,” Watts said, citing her legislation to close the “boyfriend loophole,” which expanded the definition of convicted domestic abusers prohibited from purchasing weapons to include stalkers and dating partners. Its previously limited definition only included people who were married to, have children with, or lived with their victim.

In 2013, Klobuchar also voted to ban “large-capacity ammunition feeding devices” (magazines that can hold over 10 rounds) and to expand background checks for firearm purchases. She also co-sponsored the Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act.

In the past, the Democratic senator has voted in favor of gun rights legislation, including an amendment in 2009 that allowed Amtrak passengers to carry handguns in their checked baggage. Minnesota is also a state that values hunting and fishing, and Klobuchar has said she “would do nothing to hurt hunting.” Recently, she has stated that she believes in “common-sense gun legislation” like banning assault weapons and universal background checks.
Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call.

Sen. Kamala Harris

When asked about school shootings during a recent CNN town hall, California Sen. Kamala Harris said that political leaders have failed to pass common-sense legislation, like renewing the assault weapons ban or requiring universal background checks for gun purchases.

“Upon being elected, I will give the United States Congress 100 days to get their act together and have the courage to pass reasonable gun safety laws,” Harris said. “And if they fail to do it, then I will take executive action.” She said that as president she would issue a requirement for background checks on dealers who sell “more than five guns a year,” and she would direct the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms to seize licenses from sellers who break the law.

During her time as California’s attorney general, in 2011, Harris announced the seizure of over 1,200 firearms from individuals who were either mentally unstable or convicted of a crime that would not allow them to have a firearm. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence endorsed Harris’ Senate run in 2016.

Harris herself is a gun owner, which she says she keeps for personal safety, given her time as a career prosecutor. Her aides have said she is a responsible gun owner and keeps the handgun locked up.
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren

When the Massachusetts Democrat was running for senator in 2012, extending the federal assault weapons ban was part of her platform. Shortly after becoming senator, in April 2013, Warren voted to ban “large-capacity ammunition feeding devices” (magazines that can hold over 10 rounds) and to expand background checks for firearm purchases. She also co-sponsored the Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act, along with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and 19 others.

Throughout her time in office, Warren has been firm in her stance on the need for gun reform. “We lose eight children and teenagers to gun violence every day,” Warren wrote in her 2014 memoir A Fighting Chance. “If a mysterious virus suddenly started killing eight of our children every day, America would mobilize teams of doctors and public health officials. We would move heaven and earth until we found a way to protect our children. But not with gun violence.”

In recent years, Warren has also pushed to restore funding to studying gun violence and its public health consequences. After the Parkland shooting in 2018, Warren wrote letters to nine gun company shareholders asking them to use their positions to pressure gun companies to take steps to reduce gun violence.
Photo: Julius Motal/AP/Shutterstock.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

“Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is unique in that she had a change of heart and mind, and went from having an A rating from the NRA to an F,” said Watts.

A day after announcing her 2020 presidential run, Gillibrand apologized on The Rachel Maddow Show for her past conservative views issues including guns and immigration. “I just knew I was wrong," she said in the interview, explaining how learning about a teenage girl’s death in 2009 changed her mind. Soon after, Gillibrand drafted legislation to crack down on gun trafficking. That year, she also voted “no” on an amendment (which ultimately passed) that allowed Amtrak passengers to carry handguns in their checked baggage, and voted to close the “gun-show loophole,” supporting requirements for background checks for sales at gun shows.

After the Sandy Hook mass shooting in 2012, she penned an op-ed in the New York Daily News urging Congress to act on gun reform, including the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act she co-authored. In 2013, Gillibrand voted to ban “large-capacity ammunition feeding devices” (magazines that can hold over 10 rounds) and co-sponsored the Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act. She has also pushed to fund gun violence research in recent years and supports universal background checks.
PHoto: Patsy Lynch/Shutterstock.

Sen. Cory Booker

As part of his presidential platform, Booker unveiled a 14-part-plan in May 2019 that among other things includes a gun-licensing program, closing the "boyfriend loophole," and a ban on assault weapons, bump stocks, and high-capacity magazines. “My plan to address gun violence is simple — we will make it harder for people who should not have a gun to get one,” Booker said in a statement at the time. “I am sick and tired of hearing thoughts and prayers for the communities that have been shattered by gun violence.”

Booker himself is part of one of said communities: He resides in Newark, NJ. “I think I’m the only... I hope I’m the only one on this panel here that had seven people shot in their neighborhood just last week,” he said during the first presidential primary debate on June 26. “Someone I knew, Shahid Smith, was killed with an assault rifle at the top of my block last year.”

As the mayor of Newark, the Democrat implemented a gun buyback program. As a senator, he has advocated for the expansion of background checks and blocking suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms.
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