New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, released a sweeping plan to combat gun violence on Monday, proposing a national gun licensing program, a ban on high-capacity weapons and bump stocks and an IRS investigation of the National Rifle Association.
“My plan to address gun violence is simple - we will make it harder for people who should not have a gun to get one,” Booker said in a statement announcing the plans. “I am sick and tired of hearing thoughts and prayers for the communities that have been shattered by gun violence - it is time for bold action.”
His campaign touted it as the boldest plan ever put forward by a presidential candidate. Ending gun violence is a major priority for Democratic primary voters, and is increasingly a winning issue for the Democratic Party in general elections.
The centerpiece of Booker’s plan is making gun licenses – which are increasingly popular at the state level – a national policy. Gun owners would need to seek a license at a local office in a process similar to applying for a passport. They would sit for an interview, submit fingerprints, pass a background check and prove they’ve passed a gun safety course before receiving a license that would be valid for five years.
Gun license laws in states like Massachusetts and Connecticut have led to reductions in gun homicides and suicides.
Booker would also give the Consumer Product Safety Commission oversight over firearms, remove the legal immunity Congress gave the gun industry in 2005 and close loopholes to create universal background checks for gun purchases. The plan would also increase funding for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, limit gun buyers to one handgun a month to help battle gun trafficking and investigate whether the NRA has abused its tax-exempt status.
Gun advocates praised Booker’s plan for increasing federal funding for violence intervention programs. A recent study from Giffords, the gun control group, found the implementation of an intervention program in Oakland, Calif. was able to cut the city’s homicide rate in half.
“It’s a bold, thoughtful plan that signals that Cory is planning on making gun safety a major part of his campaign, and if elected, his presidency,” Peter Ambler, the executive director of Giffords, told HuffPost in a phone interview. “He’s willing to confront gun violence in all its forms. He’s not just paying attention to the active shooter in the school, he’s paying attention to the walk to school in urban environments throughout the country.”
Booker’s campaign didn’t specify how much they would increase funding for the ATF or for violence intervention programs.
Booker’s plan comes a few weeks after California Sen. Kamala Harris, another 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, said she would give Congress 100 days to pass a series of gun control laws during her presidency. If Congress failed to act, she would take executive action to implement “near-universal” background checks and to revoke the licenses of gun dealers and manufacturers who break the law. Booker said he would take some steps “on day one” via executive action to close loopholes and boost communities traumatized by gun violence.
Booker, the former mayor of Newark, N.J., often notes on the campaign trail that he’s the only person running for president who lives in an urban neighborhood with high rates of poverty and violence. He often mentions the 2018 murder of Shahid Smith, who once lived in the same housing complex as Booker.
“In my community, kids fear fireworks on the Fourth of July because they sound like gunshots,” Booker said.