Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who recently promised to “bring a fight to the NRA like they have never ever seen before,” on Monday morning introduced a sweeping gun-violence prevention plan that centers around a national gun-licensing program, the most comprehensive and far-reaching of any candidate in the Democratic presidential field.
“My plan to address gun violence is simple—we will make it harder for people who should not have a gun to get one,” Booker said in a statement, pledging to take executive action on the first day of his desired presidency.
“As president, we will make commonsense changes to our gun laws such as requiring a license to purchase a gun that includes universal background checks, banning assault weapons, and closing the loopholes that allow domestic abusers and people on terrorist watch lists to get their hands on a gun,” he continued. “I am sick and tired of hearing thoughts and prayers for the communities that have been shattered by gun violence—it is time for bold action.”
In introducing the plan, his campaign pointed to states like Massachusetts which has a gun-licensing program, as an example of the potential for the policy’s success at the national level, noting that data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the state had significantly lower gun deaths per capita in 2016 than neighboring New Hampshire, which did not have as stringent gun laws.
Under the plan, Booker proposes that an individual could seek out a license at a local office, comparing it to applying for passport renewal. Upon doing so, they would submit fingerprints, sit for an interview, and show completion of a certified gun-safety course. The FBI would then verify all the submitted materials and run a comprehensive background check before issuing the federal gun license. The license would then be valid for up to five years “with regular, automatic checks to flag non-compliance with license terms,” according to the plan.
While the licensing program is the largest plank of the plan, Booker also proposes repealing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), a 2005 law that provided protection for firearms manufacturers and dealers from liability; requiring handgun microstamping to allow law enforcement to identify the source of bullets used in crimes; and closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” which allows current or former unwed dating partners to purchase or own a gun even if convicted of domestic violence. The closing of that loophole is a major part of new language proposed for the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act.
Booker also wants to close the “Charleston loophole,” which was similarly addressed in House legislation earlier this year and refers to the means by which mass murderer Dylann Roof was able to acquire firearms. Booker also proposes banning assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and bump stocks, the last of which was banned by the Trump administration. Finally, the senator also wants to increase funding for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), limit gun buyers to one handgun per month, and call on the IRS to conduct an investigation of the National Rifle Association’s tax status.
The 2020 Democratic contenders have gotten more aggressive on gun control in the wake of a series of high-profile mass shootings, with Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) building his campaign around the issue and others fielding questions and discussing it at campaign events throughout the country.
Before Booker announced his proposal on Monday, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) was the only other candidate to roll out a specific gun-control policy plan.
Last month at a CNN town hall, she pledged to take executive action if Congress failed to pass “reasonable gun safety laws” within the first 100 days of her presidency. Harris said she’d mandate “near-universal background checks” by requiring anyone who sells five or more guns per year to run a background check on all gun sales; revoke the licenses of manufacturers and dealers who break the law, with the hope that PLCAA will be repealed by Congress; reverse the Trump administration’s definitional change of “fugitive from justice,” which she said allowed thousands with outstanding warrant arrest to buy guns; and close the “boyfriend loophole.”