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Where do some of the 2020 Democratic candidates stand on gun control?

By Simon Epstein, Producer and Roey Hadar, Gwen Ifill Fellow

The May 31 mass shooting at a municipal building in Virginia Beach, Va., has refocused national attention on the issue of gun control and prompted a closer look of the policy positions held by some of the 24 presidential candidates running for the Democratic nomination.   

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, California Sen. Kamala Harris, and California Rep. Eric Swalwell have made gun control a central theme of their campaigns.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker has made fighting gun violence a priority since he was elected as mayor of Newark in 2006. He is proposing a 14-part plan which includes:

  • Universal background checks
  • Assault weapon bans
  • High-capacity magazine bans
  • Bump stock bans
  • Better enforcement of existing laws

California Sen. Kamala Harris spent years in law enforcement before becoming a senator, first working as a prosecutor before becoming California’s attorney general. She is a proposing executive orders if Congress fails to act that would mandate:

  • "Near-universal" background checks
  • Revoking licenses of manufacturers and dealers that break the law
  • Renewing assault weapons ban
  • Closing the loophole that allows people convicted of domestic violence to purchase guns

California Rep. Eric Swalwell has made gun control the central issue of his presidential campaign.  Swalwell is the son of a police officer and a criminal prosecutor.  His plan includes:

  • Bans on military-style semi-automatic assault weapons, including buying them back from their owners
  • Background checks on all gun purchases
  • Investments to prevent gang violence
  • Confiscating guns from domestic abusers

Other candidates who have elaborated on their policy positions on gun control include:

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has a series of gun proposals including implementing “red flag” laws that allow for the temporary removal of guns from people police or family members deem to be a threat to themselves or others.

Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro would block teachers from being armed in schools as part of his education reform plan.

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has called for banning people on the terror watchlist from buying guns.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has rolled out a set of gun control proposals, including raising the minimum age for purchasing a gun to 21.

Author and activist Marianne Williamson is proposing restrictions on gun ownership for people with documented mental health issues, laws restricting children from accessing guns including mandating child safety locks and allowing the CDC research on gun violence.

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang has proposed a tiered licensing system that would create varying levels of restrictions on guns based on their lethality.