Countdown to 2020: Cory Booker 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.

Cory Booker’s Record on Gun Safety

Cory Booker’s focus on gun safety is personal. Shootings are an everyday reality in Booker’s home city of Newark. Just last year, gun violence took the life of someone he knew, a young man who lived in the same apartment building as Booker for eight years. Booker has refused to accept gun violence as routine or inevitable—and Gabby Giffords and Cory Booker under his watch as mayor, Newark marked its first month without a murder in 44 years.

In Washington, Booker has emerged as a leader on gun safety by speaking out passionately on the issue from his influential post on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The NRA consistently gives Booker ‘F’ ratings, and he has never taken a dime from the gun lobby.

Cory Booker’s Plan to Address Gun Violence

Senator Booker was one of the first 2020 Democratic candidates to release a detailed policy plan for combating America’s gun violence crisis. Booker is an advocate for universal background checks, funding for gun violence research, strengthening ATF, and more. A few of his other key proposals are highlighted below.

Gun Licensing

“If you need a license to drive a car, you should need a license to own a gun.”

People are required to get licenses for activities ranging from driving to fishing, but we don’t require a license to buy a gun. In the states that have them, firearm licensing laws have been proven to save lives. Booker wants to build on that success by expanding the requirement to the federal level. Under his proposal, getting a gun license would be like getting a passport: prospective gun owners would have to provide biographical information and certify that they have passed a gun safety course before being permitted to purchase a firearm.

Suicide Prevention

Although guns are used in just 5% of suicide attempts, they account for 50% of all suicide deaths. One proven tool to reduce firearm suicides is called an extreme risk protection order, which allows law enforcement or a family member to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from someone in crisis. Extreme risk protection order laws have strong bipartisan support and have been proven to save lives, but are currently available in only 15 states. A key part of Booker’s platform is incentivizing more states to pass these lifesaving laws.

Repeal Gun Industry Immunity

With nearly every American industry and product, civil liability can be used as a vital check on irresponsible manufacturers and sellers. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to the gun industry. When Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act in 2005 after unprecedented gun lobby spending, the gun industry was granted immunity from nearly all lawsuits, leaving families of gun violence victims without an avenue to seek justice. Booker’s plan calls for treating the gun industry just like any other by repealing gun industry immunity and allowing civil liability to be used as a check on reckless behavior.

Reducing Urban Gun Violence

“People in this community know…we have mass shootings in our country, in the aggregate, every single day.”

Booker knows firsthand that far too many communities face gun violence on a daily basis, and that this daily gun violence hits underserved communities of color especially hard. He also knows that there are solutions out there that can dramatically reduce gun violence in our cities. His gun safety platform calls attention to a recent report by Giffords Law Center that details how Oakland has cut shootings in half since 2012 through community-driven violence intervention programs. Booker has pledged to direct new federal funding towards such programs should he be elected president.

Our Take

Cory Booker has said his fight to end gun violence is personal. His record—and his detailed policy platform—shows he’s serious about taking action. After the Virginia Beach shooting on May 31, Booker refocused his previously planned remarks and called attention to yet another tragic example of our nation’s gun violence crisis.

“It is time that we come together and… take the fight to the NRA.”

So far, he is the only Democratic candidate to release a specific plan to reduce firearm suicide. But Booker is not the only Democratic candidate treating gun violence as a key issue—a broad array of presidential candidates are making this a central issue in their campaigns. Voters are taking note, and so are we.