Gun reform has received little attention in past presidential races, but it’s a key issue among Democrats vying for the White House in 2020. Several candidates have released briefs detailing how they’d handle gun policy from the Oval Office, and a couple — namely Cory Booker and Eric Swalwell — have made conquering gun violence a centerpiece of their campaigns.
To bring some clarity to the discussion, The Trace surveyed the 21 candidates who have qualified for the Democratic debates on a range of gun policies. We picked issues ranging from the mainstream (universal background checks) to the wonky (the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s authority over firearms). We also asked each candidate whether or not they own a gun.
In order to do an apples-to-apples comparison among the candidates, we asked yes-or-no questions and did our best to slot every response into one of those categories. If a candidate’s answer was ambiguous, we labeled it with a question mark, and we noted any candidates for whom no specific position could be discerned. We also provided space for the contenders to explain their positions in their own words.
In an earlier era, we would have scrutinized these candidates’ relationships with the National Rifle Association, but “NRA-friendly Democrat” is now an oxymoron. Every candidate on this list who’s been graded by the NRA received an “F” in the most recent evaluation (except for Steve Bullock, who has a “C”).
So far, ten candidates’ campaigns have submitted responses to The Trace’s questionnaire. For those who haven’t, we’ve drawn on a candidate’s public statements, campaign website, and/or legislative record to fill in the blanks. We’ll update this page throughout the primary season, whenever a new campaign responds to our questionnaire or a candidate takes a public position on any of the issues we’re tracking. At the bottom of the page, you’ll find a list of all the updates we’ve made since publication. If you spot something that we missed, please let us know.
Michael Bloomberg co-founded Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group. Everytown’s charitable arm, the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, provides funding to The Trace. Mayors Against Illegal Guns is also part of Everytown for Gun Safety.
Additional reporting by Tom Kutsch. All photos from AP Images. Icons by Eleonor Wang from flaticon.com.