Warner Reverses Course on 'Assault-Style Weapons' Ban

Sen. Mark Warner / Getty Images
April 2, 2018

Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.) has reversed course from his long-stated views on gun control, signaling that he now supports a federal ban on "assault-style weapons" and limits on high capacity magazines.

"I don’t know how I can responsibly look at those young people and not say ‘We need to do something,’" Warner said on Friday, according to The Virginian-Pilot. "We can debate around the edges where and what the perfect solution is. ... But it’s time for action."

Warner's change of heart comes as Congress weighs how to adequately respond to the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The shooting, which left 17 dead, has reignited the national conversation surrounding gun control and school safety.

Warner admitted that a blanket ban would be difficult to implement as it would require the federal government to find consensus on the definition of what constitutes an "assault weapon."

"The challenge with this is the fact that an assault weapon, in the law, is a kind of a vague term," Warner said. "You change the trigger, you change the sight, and some weapons are in, some weapons are out. There’s not going to be a perfect solution."

"The notion that just because it’s hard we shouldn’t do it," he added. "I just don’t think we can sit through more of the mass murders and not take action."

The senator also said he now supports limiting magazine capacity, another gun control measure he opposed in the past.

Warner, a former governor of Virginia, said he still considers himself a supporter of the Second Amendment.

"I don’t think there’s anything contradictory to say ‘I support your right to have a gun for self-protection, long gun for hunting purposes,’" Warner said. "You can still support that and recognize that military-style weapons are creating such havoc. The killing rate in our country is so much higher than any other nation in the world that the American public demands action."

Warner did not expand on his claim that the "killing rate" in the United States is higher than "any other nation in the world," which is inaccurate. While the United States does have a relatively high rate of death by firearm among high-income nations, more than 50 other nations had a higher rate of intentional homicide than the U.S., based on 2015 data from the United Nations.

In March, Warner hinted that he was opening up to supporting an "assault weapons" ban during an appearance on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Warner's reversal brings him ideologically closer to the national Democratic Party, which is increasingly making gun control a litmus test for its candidates. The volte-face also brings Warner into line with Virginia's other senator, Tim Kaine (D.), who has long touted his F rating from the National Rifle Association.

Warner, who has cut a moderate profile for himself since joining the Senate in 2008, has a mixed record on the Second Amendment, symbolized by the C rating he's garnered from the NRA. The senator has generally supported expanding background checks but has also supported efforts to expand concealed-carry. In the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook School shooting, Warner voted against reinstating the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which expired in 2004, and against limiting high capacity magazines.

Sen. Doug Jones (Ala.), Warner's newest Democratic colleague in the Senate, told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that he opposed an "assault weapons" ban and didn't believe such a measure could make it through Congress.