September 10, 2019 / 5:38 PM / 3 months ago

Factbox: Democratic presidential candidates back gun restrictions after mass shootings

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In the month since shooting sprees in Texas and Ohio that killed 31 people, Democrats running for president are pointing to inaction in Washington as evidence they should be elected, offering their own plans and proposals to curtail gun violence.

Republican President Donald Trump appeared to back expanded background checks in the immediate aftermath of the shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. But he has since backed away from that position, arguing the problem is not firearms, but rather mental health and violent entertainment.

Republican leaders in Congress have said they will defer to Trump to determine what legislation should be considered.

Here is a look at proposals and recent comments from Trump and 10 Democratic contenders for the White House who have qualified for the next Democratic presidential debate on Thursday.

Republican President Donald Trump

In a speech shortly after the August shootings, Trump proposed tighter monitoring of the internet, mental health reform and wider use of the death penalty as a response to the shootings.

“Mental illness and hate pulls the trigger, not the gun,” Trump said in a speech after the shootings. “We must stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace.”

Trump also said then that he would direct the Department of Justice to investigate domestic terrorism and would propose legislation to ensure those who are convicted of hate crimes or mass murders face the death penalty.

He added that the country needs to reform mental health laws to identify disturbed people as well as work with social media companies to detect possible mass shooters.

“We must make sure those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms and that if they do, those firearms can be taken through rapid due process,” he said, in an apparent reference to “red flag” laws.

But when he met with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia on Sept. 5 to discuss possible gun measures, he did not endorse any bills.

Former Vice President Joe Biden

Biden, who supports a renewal of the assault weapons ban imposed in the 1990s, has also called for a federal gun buyback program to reduce the number of weapons on the street.

Biden helped pass the 1994 law prohibiting the manufacture for civilian use of assault weapons when he was a U.S. senator, but the law expired a decade later.

In addition to more background checks, Biden advocates so-called “smart guns” that require owners’ biometrics to pull the trigger.

“If we cannot rise to meet this moment, it won’t just be a political failure. It will be a moral one,” Biden wrote in an opinion article in the New York Times in August. “It will mean that we accept the next inevitable tragedy. That we are desensitized to children running from schools and bodies littering parking lots, that our outpouring of thoughts and prayers will grow increasingly hollow.”

U.S. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey

Booker introduced a 14-part plan earlier this year to tackle gun violence. It includes a ban on assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and “bump stocks,” which allow semiautomatic rifles to function like automatic weapons. It also would limit handgun purchases to one per month.

The plan also includes a gun licensing program that would require those hoping to buy a gun to submit fingerprints, complete a gun safety course, sit for an interview and pass a background check.

“This is a national crisis,” Booker wrote on Twitter after the August mass shootings, calling on Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to call the Senate back from recess and hold votes on gun proposals. “Enough. We need to end this carnage now.”

Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana

Buttigieg announced a plan to require universal background checks, close gun purchasing loopholes and ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and to support “red flag” laws that disarm domestic abusers and other high-risk people like those with serious mental illness.

The plan also would invest $1 billion to prevent and fight violent extremism. It would bolster the FBI’s domestic counterterrorism staff, revitalise the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to counter violent extremism, and study whether there is a link between white supremacist groups and gun violence.”We are the only country in the world with more guns than people. It has not made us safer. We can respect the Second Amendment and not allow it to be a death sentence for thousands of Americans,” Buttigieg said at a Democratic candidate forum in Las Vegas shortly after the shooting in El Paso, referring to the constitutional amendment on the right to bear arms.

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California

Harris has endorsed an assault weapon ban that was proposed in the Senate, and backs universal background checks. She has also proposed using powers granted to the U.S. attorney general under the Gun Control Act of 1968 to ban the import of assault weapons. Harris estimates that as many as 4 million assault weapons currently in the United States may have been imported.

“On the issue of gun violence, in addition to the issue of the white nationalism and the hate that are behind this, we need action and we need action that is called on by the president of the United States and that is acted on by the United States Congress. But we see a failure across the board,” Harris said on MSNBC in August.

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota

Klobuchar said she shifted her views about gun control after meeting the family of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Connecticut. Minnesota, the state she represents, has a long tradition of hunting, and she has tried to balance both interests.

Klobuchar has backed universal background checks and banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines like the one used by the shooter in Dayton. She authored Senate legislation to close the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” which allows people convicted of abusing someone they are dating to buy or own a gun. Current law only applies to spouses.

In response to Trump’s August gun speech, Klobuchar tweeted: “‘Mental illness & hate pulls trigger, not the gun’ is President’s dodge to avoid truth: there’s mental illness & hate throughout world, but U.S. stands alone w/high rate of gun violence. When someone can kill 9 people in a minute, that gun should never have been sold. Action!”

Former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas

O’Rourke has backed an assault weapon ban and universal background checks. He also would bar members and candidates for Congress from accepting political donations from political action committees, which he said would reduce the influence of the National Rifle Association lobbying group. Following the shooting in his hometown of El Paso, O’Rourke focused on Trump’s rhetoric.

“We have a racism in America that is as old as America itself,” O’Rourke said in a speech he delivered when he resumed campaigning after the shootings. “What President Trump says, and what he does, does not just offend our sensibilities or our understanding of the traditions of this great country. It changes who we are as a country.”

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont

Sanders supports universal background checks, an end to the gun show loophole for firearms sales, a ban on the sale and distribution of assault weapons, a crackdown on straw purchases of guns for criminals, and the prohibition of high-capacity ammunition magazines.

After the August shootings, he called for an immediate Senate vote on a bill requiring a background check on every gun sale and transfer, which passed the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives in February. It has not been taken up by the Republican-controlled Senate.

“Talk is cheap. We need action,” Sanders wrote to Trump on Twitter after the president’s August gun speech. “Tell McConnell to pass gun safety legislation the American people want.”

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts

Warren has backed several gun control measures, including the assault weapon ban, universal background checks and creating a federal licensing system that requires gun owners to register their firearms. She has called for repealing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which would allow the victims of gun violence to sue weapon manufacturers for liability.

“The majority of Americans want to see us put sensible gun legislation in place, to get the guns out of the hands of people who pose threats like this, and yet it doesn’t happen,” Warren said on MSNBC.

Former U.S. Housing Secretary Julian Castro

In the wake of the El Paso shooting, Castro released a dual-focused plan to address both guns and white supremacists. Castro supports banning assault-style weapons.

He supports requiring a license for all gun purchases and banning magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The Texan also supports allowing victims to sue gun makers.

“My plan to disarm hate starts with comprehensively identifying the threat of white supremacist terrorism and combating it directly with a coordinated federal response,” Castro said in a post on

Businessman Andrew Yang

Yang has backed comprehensive gun control measures that the rest of his party is behind, including an assault weapon ban and prohibiting high-capacity magazines.

He also supports creating a tax credit to incentivise upgrading guns to use smart technology, like biological indicators, to unlock the firearm.

Yang said if more Americans embrace smart technology, a child who gets hold of a gun will have a “heavy, expensive prop” instead of a deadly firearm.

“You can upgrade the guns for free - that would help make kids safer in our homes,” Yang told CNN.

Reporting by Ginger Gibson; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

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