Here’s where Democratic presidential candidates stand on gun control

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Thousands gathered in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, 2019, for a vigil on the first anniversary of the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

As Democratic voters settle in to decide which candidate to support in the presidential primary contest, they’ll notice two things about their gun control policies.

First, the Democratic Party as a whole has tilted to the left on pushing for increasingly expansive federal gun control policies. Second, there’s not much broad-stroke distinction between the candidates’ views on how far to go.

The 2020 Democratic presidential candidates agree on big gun control policies, including banning the sale of semiautomatic rifles such as the AR-15. After deadly mass shootings and a mounting suicide toll, they’ve called out the president and the powerful National Rifle Assn., the gun rights group that spent more than $30 million to help put Donald Trump in the White House.


It’s in the details that differences emerge. Should the U.S. establish a gun buyback system? How far should it go? Here’s a look at where the candidates stand on gun laws:


Joe Biden

‘I know what it takes to beat the NRA, because I’ve done it twice before.’

In the Senate, where Joe Biden served from 1973 to 2009, he helped lay the foundation for the current background-check system and was one of the main supporters of the 1994 assault weapons ban, which lasted for a decade. Biden had hoped to revive the ban, along with other gun control policies, when he was vice president in the Obama administration, but he was stymied by pushback from Republicans and the NRA.

He’s now hoping to give the ban another go as president and require existing owners to register those guns with the government or sell them in a federal buyback program.


Bernie Sanders

‘I do not think it is unreasonable to say that you should be able to go to the store without the fear of being gunned down. We can and we will end the epidemic of gun violence in this country.’

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has taken somewhat moderate positions on gun control in the past — voting against a federal background-check system in 1993 and at one point earning a C- grade from the NRA, which is more prone to giving Democrats failing grades — but no longer.

Sanders has since unequivocally called for a ban on assault weapons sales and for treating the ownership of existing weapons as the government treats that of fully automatic weapons, which are heavily restricted.

Times staff writer Melissa Gomez contributed to this report.