New Jersey senator Cory Booker (D.) announced a slate of new gun bans and gun-control measures on Monday in his race to win the Democratic presidential nomination for 2020.
In what amounts to a collection of the strictest gun-control policies instituted in deep blue states over the past several decades, Booker's proposals span from outright bans on certain guns to requiring the implementation of theoretical technology. He wants to require federal licensing of all gun owners, limit how many firearms Americans can buy, and direct the IRS to investigate the National Rifle Association.
"Cory's plan is the most sweeping gun violence prevention proposal ever advanced by a presidential candidate. To make justice a reality for all, we have to end the epidemic of gun violence and invest in communities that have been shattered by the trauma left in its wake. To do that, we need to adopt a plan that introduces aggressive gun safety measures — the most forward-leaning this country has ever seen," a release from Booker's campaign said. "Cory's plan would: Keep guns out of the wrong hands. Hold gun manufacturers accountable. Bring the fight to the NRA."
Booker's gun-control plan would make it illegal for Americans to own firearms unless they first apply for a license from the federal government. Anyone who applied for a license would be required to provide "basic background information," complete a "certified gun safety course," and submit their fingerprints to the federal government, according to Booker's release. An FBI background check, likely similar to the one already performed during new sales of firearms across the country, would then be performed on the applicant. The gun licenses would only be valid for five years.
The Booker campaign called for the Consumer Product Safety Commission to be given power over the gun industry. Booker claimed "nowadays, there is more regulation over toy guns than real ones" in his release. He went on to say firearms are "exempt" from "regulation by the federal government" despite the fact that federal law regulates the manufacture, wholesale, and retail of firearms in the United States as well as the import and export of firearms.
Booker's release said he also wants to ban "assault weapons," "high capacity" magazines, and bump stocks. Booker said the devices are "made for no other purpose than to kill people quickly and efficiently" but offered no explanation for what he believes constitutes an "assault weapon" or a "high capacity" magazine—definitions of which vary among the handful of states that have adopted bans on them.
Additionally, the sale and possession of bump stocks was already banned through unilateral action by the Trump administration earlier this year. Booker further called for the repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act that protects gun companies from lawsuits filed against them for the unlawful use of their products by third parties.
Another proposal requires handgun makers to adopt the theoretical technology of microstamping—engraving unique markings on the gun's firing pin in order to imprint them on shell casings fired by the gun—before they can sell their guns to the public. California is the only state to adopt such a requirement. The state instituted the requirement back in 2013, but not a single handgun has been produced using the technology since then and, therefore, no new handgun models have been approved for sale in the state over the last six years.
Booker also expressed support for red flag laws (which allow for court orders that temporarily remove guns from those perceived to be a danger to themselves or others), banning Americans from purchasing more than one handgun a month, universal background checks, and increasing funding for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
The National Rifle Association, which Booker said he is calling on the IRS to investigate, deemed the proposals unserious and "extreme."
"It's sad that politicians vying for the gun-control lobby's endorsement would rather score political points than improve public safety," Lars Daleseide, a spokesperson for the group's Institute for Legislative Action, told the Washington Free Beacon. "If they were serious about making communities safer they would propose solutions that focus on the underlying issues and punish criminals instead of the law-abiding. This extreme gun-control manifesto lacks facts, solutions, and common sense."
The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms called the senator's plan "disturbing" and "outrageous."
"Booker's brainstorm is nothing more than a combination of every pie-in-the-sky idea on the gun-control wish list," Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the group, said in a statement. "With this proposal, Booker isn't just one of those anti-gun politicians who claims to 'support the Second Amendment…but.'"
"He's literally throwing a constitutionally-enumerated right into the trash, and he knows it," Gottlieb continued. "For a person hoping to be elected to the highest office in the land to advocate such an outrageous proposal isn't just disappointing, it is disturbing."
Gun-control proponents took the opposite view with Brady and Everytown for Gun Safety saying they applauded the move and painted it as a sign that gun control is a key issue for Democratic primary voters.
"The scope and thoughtfulness of this plan shows not only how important ending gun violence is to the American public, but to Sen. Booker personally," Kris Brown, Brady's president, said in a statement. "As critical as it is to expand Brady background checks on gun sales and to ban assault weapons, it's just as crucial to fund research into gun violence and address crime guns at the source, and we're heartened to see that Sen. Booker is directly taking on those issues. This is an ambitious, comprehensive plan that recognizes that gun violence is a multi-faceted problem that requires a multi-faceted approach."
"Senator Booker and other candidates are making gun safety a key part of their presidential platforms because they know the American people are looking for leaders who will take action to stop preventable tragedies," John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement. "There is no question that gun safety will be a defining issue of the 2020 campaign."
Booker promised that if he is elected president he will immediately begin implementing his gun-control plan.
"Beginning on Day One in office, Cory would take action to close dangerous loopholes in gun sales, crack down on gun manufacturers, and invest in communities impacted by gun violence," Booker's release said.
Booker is currently polling at 2.5 percent in Real Clear Politics's average of Democratic presidential primary polls—putting him in seventh place.