Joe Biden is proposing to force owners of assault-style rifles to either sell their firearms through a voluntary buyback program or register them with the federal government under the same law that was first used to strictly control sales of machine guns in the wake of the gangland shootings of the 1920s and ’30s.
The gun control plan that Biden’s campaign unveiled on Wednesday also aims to tackle urban gun violence with an eight-year, $900 million program that would go toward efforts to combat shootings in 40 cities with the highest rates of gun violence.
It would eliminate legal protections that prevent gun manufacturers from being held liable for how their products are used.
And it includes a series of measures backed by nearly all of the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential primary contenders. Among them: closing loopholes in background checks before gun purchases, banning the sale of assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines, and allowing states to implement “red flag” laws.
The former vice president’s package of gun proposals stops short of the high-profile plans other Democratic presidential candidates have offered, such as former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s call for mandatory buybacks of assault-style rifles and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s proposed national gun registry.
Instead, Biden’s campaign focused on measures that a “broad consensus” of Americans support, a senior Biden aide told reporters in a call previewing his proposals.
“The only people who haven’t come to that realization are Donald Trump, Leader McConnell, congressional Republicans and the National Rifle Association,” the aide said.
Biden’s proposal would regulate possession of assault-style rifles under the National Firearms Act, which was enacted in 1934, a time of rampant gangland shootings using machine guns. Currently, those who own short-barreled rifles, silencers and machine guns are required to undergo background checks and register their firearms with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Existing assault-style rifles would face the same requirements under Biden’s plan.
Biden is also proposing a national task force that would study online sexual harassment, stalking and threats such as revenge porn and “deepfakes” – in which artificial intelligence is used to create convincing fake video – and would seek connections that those forms of targeting women have with extremism, mass shootings and violence against women.
Biden’s campaign unveiled the plan the morning that the student-led gun control advocacy group March For Our Lives, which was founded in the wake of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, is hosting a forum with presidential candidates in Las Vegas.
Biden and his campaign have argued that his four-plus decades in Washington position him to get more done than other Democratic 2020 hopefuls. Those decades include battles against the National Rifle Association in the 1990s – when he successfully pushed for a 10-year ban on the sale of assault-style rifles, part of the 1994 crime bill, which has become a flashpoint in the Democratic presidential race – and a 1993 bill mandating background checks for gun sales.
“Joe Biden has been pushing the conversation on guns for at least the past 25 years, and he’s the only Democratic presidential candidate who on the national stage has defeated the National Rifle Association – and he’s done it twice,” the Biden aide said.
The aide said some of Biden’s proposals could be enacted through executive action but many of them would need congressional approval.
The aide said Biden “thinks that, from that experience and from seeing President Trump reverse some of the executive actions – especially executive action on gun violence that he worked on – that legislation is really, you know, the key here, to ensure we have lasting change.”