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Countdown to 2020: Joe Biden 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. 

Joe Biden’s Record on Gun Safety

Vice President Biden has the longest gun safety track record of any of the 2020 Democratic candidates. While serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee in the 1980s and 1990s, Biden was closely involved in the passage of several pieces of gun-related legislation. The Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986, crafted as a compromise between opposing sides, significantly loosened federal regulations on gun sales while at the same time outlawing the production of machine guns. Biden went on to successfully push for the Brady Bill that established the NICS background check system for gun purchases in 1993, and the Federal Assault Weapons Ban prohibited the future manufacture of assault weapons in 1994. The ban expired in 2004, but taken together, these laws created much of the current system we have for keeping firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals.

His experience of taking on the gun lobby made Vice President Biden the obvious choice to lead President Obama’s task force on potential executive actions in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre. The task force met with 229 groups from across the political spectrum and proposed 23 executive actions to keep our communities safe from gun violence, all of which were signed by President Obama. Biden knows that the executive branch can only do so much on its own, however, which is why he’s been a strong voice for commonsense gun safety legislation since entering the presidential contest in April.

Joe Biden’s Plan to Address Gun Violence

Vice President Biden released his comprehensive plan to reduce gun violence on the two-year anniversary of the Route 91 Music Festival shooting on October 1. Biden is calling for universal background checks, regulating assault weapons, and extreme risk protection orders in addition to several other measures which are discussed in greater detail below.

Investing in Community Violence Intervention

While horrific mass shootings often drive much of the discussion around gun violence in our country, the reality is that far more Americans are killed in interpersonal shootings that receive a fraction of the news coverage. These shootings are disproportionately concentrated in underserved communities of color. In 2017, black men made up less than 7% of the population, but accounted for more than half of gun homicide victims.

Fortunately, cities across the country have made incredible progress in reducing homicides by investing in evidenced-based violence intervention programs. Oakland, for example, reduced shootings by 50% over five years by supporting programs that offer both positive and negative incentives to individuals at the highest risk for committing violence. Yet such programs are not effective without consistent funding. Biden’s plan calls for the creation of a $900 million initiative in 40 cities across the country that would save an estimated 12,000 lives over eight years.