Former Vice President Joe Biden would seek legislation requiring owners of assault weapons to either sell their guns or register them with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, his campaign said Wednesday ahead of a major gun violence policy forum.
Biden’s proposal does not go as far as some of his Democratic rivals. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke has pushed for a mandatory buyback of all assault weapons, and Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have both argued for a federal gun licensing system.
Biden and other leading Democratic 2020 presidential contenders are set to speak at a forum in Las Vegas sponsored by the gun control groups Giffords and March For Our Lives. The forum is scheduled two years and one day after the deadliest mass shooting in American history, which killed 58 people at a country music festival in the city.
Biden’s plan, which would need to pass a potentially divided Congress, would offer a voluntary buyback program for assault weapons. Gun owners who don’t want to sell their weapons could register them with the ATF under the National Firearms Act. Owners are already required to register machine guns and short-barreled rifles under the law, which the Biden campaign says limits how frequently the weapons are used in criminal activity.
“The way the vice president approaches this is ‘first things first,’” a Biden adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters. “We have a comprehensive plan to deal with the problem of assault weapons.”
Biden would also push for universal background checks for gun purchasers, legislation barring all online gun and ammunition sales, incentives for states to enact red flag laws and gun licensing programs, limits on gun purchases to one per individual per month, and laws to make adults criminally liable for negligently giving a minor access to a firearm and to require gun owners to safely store their weapons.
Biden has a long history on gun violence. He was chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee when the existing background check system passed in 1993, and when the assault weapons ban (no longer in effect) passed in 1994. In 2014, as vice president, he served as the point person for the Obama administration’s unsuccessful push for tougher gun laws following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Biden’s campaign is also proposing the creation of a task force to “study rampant online sexual harassment, stalking, and threats, including revenge porn and deepfakes — and the connection between this harassment, mass shootings, extremism and violence against women.”
The plan also takes aim at a favorite proposal of some conservatives in response to school shootings. A theoretical Biden administration would bar the use of federal funds to train teachers on how to use guns.