Gun Laws & Legislation

Here Are The Gun Control Positions Of The Democratic Candidates After Two Debates

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Guns and Gear Contributor
Font Size:

By Larry Keane

Democratic hopefuls squared off in the first primary debate over two days and they had plenty to say about the gun control plans they would enact if elected. Perhaps the most important take away from the two nights is that the candidates advocated or passively supported gun confiscation, rhetorically couched as “gun buybacks.” Not a single one of the 20 candidates spoke in opposition to confiscation or the respect for the Second Amendment.  So, the Democrats really are coming for your guns.  The other key takeaway is that former Vice President Joe Biden believes the firearm industry is the “enemy.”

In addition, nearly all candidates embrace a ban on modern sporting rifles and standard capacity magazines and instituting universal background checks. Biden would mandate that all firearms sold be equipped with unreliable biometric authorized user recognition technology, sometimes called “smart guns.” Let’s recap what the candidates had to say about infringing on the Second Amendment. –


  • Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.): equated crimes with firearms to a health crisis, calling it a ‘national health emergency,” but ducked answering whether she supports confiscation proposals.
  • Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said, “I hear gunshots in my neighborhood,” and proposed a national licensing program, requiring training standards. Sen. Booker also wants to restrict handguns sales to once per month. He claimed to MSNBC that the majority of Americans agree with his plans to require licensing and training standards to exercise American rights.
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) tried to convince debate viewers that a forced buyback scheme to collect the more than 16 million privately-owned modern sporting rifles isn’t confiscation as long as the government makes an “offer.”
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio portrayed gun control as a race issue, invoking his biracial son and quickly pivoted to policing.
  • Secretary Julian Castro (D-Texas), former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, predicted a Democratic sweep of The White House and Congress, ushering in unprecedented gun control. He’s previously said there would be no handguns in an ideal world.
  • Former U.S. Rep. Robert “Beto” O’Rourke (D-Texas), called modern sporting rifles “weapons of war” that “belong on the battlefield and not in our communities.”
  • Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) steered clear of committing to gun control on the stage, referring to changes in mental health care instead. Ryan was once a Lifetime NRA member, but has since embraced gun control platforms and even donated $20,000 of NRA contributions to gun control groups.
  • Former U.S. Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) didn’t get to directly answer questions on gun control other than to say solutions must be reached in a bipartisan manner. However, Rep. Delaney cosponsored legislation to ban modern sporting rifles and standard capacity magazines and would criminalize private firearms transfers.
  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) spoke on military arms on the debate stage, but didn’t offer her previous stance on the issues, where she’s supported banning modern sporting rifles, standard capacity magazines and implementing universal background checks.
  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee also struggled to be heard, getting just five minutes of speaking time, the least of anyone on the stage the night he debated. However, Gov. Inslee is a strident gun control supporter who voted for the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 when he served in Congress and supports the recent gun control initiatives passed in Washington by ballot initiative.


  • Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) answered the first question on guns, promoting his mass confiscation program, which even the moderators refused to acknowledge was a confiscation, labeling it, instead, as a “buyback.” Swalwell said Americans would be allowed to keep pistols, rifles and shotguns.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) defended a previous position that states should decide gun laws and pivoted to his support for universal background checks and claimed so-called “assault weapons” are from the military, refusing to understand the modern sporting rifles as designed in the 1950s as a sporting rifle and sold by Colt as such before being adopted by the military and converted to the M-16.
  • Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) reiterated her demand for legislation within 100 days if elected and threatened executive action to ban modern sporting rifle imports. She also said “guns” would be priority for a Harris administration.
  • Mayor Pete Buttegieg (D-Ind.) blamed guns for the crime problems in America, saying they make Americans less safe. He called modern sporting rifles “weapons of war” and wants universal background checks.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden (D-Del.) said gun manufacturers were the enemy, adding he would conduct a modern sporting rifle confiscation under the guise of a “buyback” and require all firearms sold to be equipped with so-called “smart-gun” or authorized-user technology that does not exist in a reliable form.
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said crimes committed with firearms were the fault of “greed” by gun manufacturers.
  • Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) didn’t speak on guns from the debate stage but has a mixed record on gun rights. He voted for a ban on standard capacity magazines, but also said he opposes on restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms.
  • John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) touted his passage of universal background checks in Colorado while governor, but didn’t mention the ban on standard capacity magazines that caused Magpul to leave the state. Gov. Hickenlooper has put forth a national gun license requirement proposal, enacting age-based gun bans and banning modern sporting rifles.
  • Andrew Yang (D-N.Y.) didn’t speak on guns from the debate stage, but has proposed a tiered national gun licensing scheme, bans on suppressors, standard capacity magazines and implement age-based gun bans.
  • Marianne Williamson (D-Calif.) also didn’t speak on guns, but does support a ban on all semiautomatic firearms, standard capacity magazines, universal background checks and mandatory waiting periods for firearms purchases.

Whoever is ultimately nominated by the Democratic Party, there will be stark contrast between the Democrat candidate and President Donald Trump on the Second Amendment. The issue could very well determine the outcome of the election and the future existence of our industry.

Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.