Countdown to 2020: Julián Castro on Gun Safety


In 2018, voters elected a wave of candidates who prioritized gun safety like never before. No longer a third rail of politics, gun violence prevention is now a top issue heading into the 2020 presidential election. In this regular series, we delve into the gun safety platforms of Democratic presidential candidates who have released initial policy plans to address this issue. While not an endorsement of any candidate or their platform, each post looks at a candidate’s record, explains their proposals, and shares our analysis.

Julián Castro’s Record on Gun Safety

As a proud Texan, Julián Castro understands that responsible gun ownership is an important part of life for many Americans. Secretary Castro’s home state has a long way to go in protecting residents from gun violence. Texas received an ‘F’ on our Gun Law Scorecard and has been the site of four of the ten deadliest mass shootings in modern American history.

Castro has long been a supporter of stronger gun laws. While gun safety is not a major focus of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, where Castro served as secretary, he did advocate for gun violence prevention during his time as mayor of San Antonio. He specifically cited the shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords as an illustration of why high capacity magazines are so dangerous.

“You’re not going to get rid of the Second Amendment…So the question is: Are there reasonable limits on that right so that we can have a safer America?” January 31, 2013

Julián Castro’s Plan to Address Gun Violence

Secretary Castro has spoken about the urgent need to act on America’s gun violence crisis since he launched his campaign in January. And in the wake of the recent horrific shootings in El Paso and Dayton, he released his comprehensive plan to reduce gun violence. Castro’s plan calls for universal background checks like H.R 8, the bipartisan bill that Mitch McConnell is currently blocking in the Senate, and the implementation of extreme risk protection order laws. We break down a few more highlights below:

Treating Semiautomatic Assault Weapons Like Machine Guns

The shootings in El Paso and Dayton reflected a tragic but familiar pattern in America: a young man with a desire to harm others easily gains access to an assault weapon and commits a massacre. To stop such tragedies from happening in the future, Castro wants to ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons. He also wants to regulate the estimated 15 million assault weapons already in circulation under the National Firearms Act (NFA), the law currently used to make sure machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, and other particularly dangerous firearms don’t get into the wrong hands. The NFA requires owners of those weapons to submit photo ID and fingerprints and is a big part of why such guns are rarely used in crime.

Waiting Periods for Gun Purchases

The majority of firearm deaths in America each year are suicides, a fact that is often overlooked in political debates about guns. Many of those deaths could be prevented. Suicide attempts are often impulsive acts that involve little planning, and firearms are a uniquely lethal method of suicide: Guns are used in just 5% of suicide attempts but are responsible for more than 50% of suicide deaths.
Castro’s plan calls for enacting a seven day waiting period between the purchase of a firearm and when the owner can take possession of the gun. That window of time can offer a critical cooling off period for someone in a crisis, which could lead to a significant reduction in gun suicide. Studies suggest that’s exactly what has occurred in states that have waiting periods.

“The NRA for years has said the answer to these mass shootings is more guns…but think about this: We’re in Texas. That shooter…knew he was going into a Walmart…where certainly people are packing. That didn’t deter him. And it didn’t keep those people safe.” August 4, 2019

Executive Actions

Castro knows that too many Americans have died while waiting for Congress to find the courage to pass commonsense gun laws. That’s why his plan contains a robust set of executive actions he promises to enact on his first day in office, including addressing the boyfriend loophole, reversing a Trump administration decision that made it easier for fugitives to buy guns, and banning the import of assault rifles.

Our Take

Secretary Julián Castro supports a set of lifesaving reforms to our nation’s gun laws that are not only good ideas—many of them have already been proven to work in states around the country. In releasing a plan that is thoughtful, comprehensive, and centered around evidence-based solutions, Castro joins an array of Democrats running for president who are making gun safety a key priority in their campaigns. That is no accident.

Voters nationwide are demanding leadership and action to save lives, and Democratic candidates are responding with vigor. Our voices are finally becoming louder than the gun lobby’s—we can’t let up now.