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In the aftermath of the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida last year, there were a lot of calls on the left to ban all semi-automatic weapons. This post is an example of that.

My question is, have any 2020 Democratic presidential candidates expressed support for a semi-automatic weapons ban?

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    During the two debate evenings: Restricting sales (as in requiring a permit): basically all of them. Banning sales: several. Taking existing ones out of circulation (as in buying them back): only a few of them. Can't remember the specifics though. The debates are on YT, and there are a few short segments on the topic: youtube.com/watch?v=vJ6MrDO0kgY youtube.com/watch?v=cX7hni-zGD8 – Denis de Bernardy Jun 28 at 2:53
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    @DenisdeBernardy I watched both debates (the second one got over one minute ago), and neither of the debates mentioned a ban on all semi-automatic weapons. There was just discussion of assault weapons bans. But there are semiautomatic weapons which wouldn’t be banned by the assault weapons ban. – Keshav Srinivasan Jun 28 at 3:03
  • Oh, my bad. I had misread your question and understood it to be about assault rifles. I honestly can't imagine any of them banning semiautomatic weapons. Hunting rifles are often semiautomatic... – Denis de Bernardy Jun 28 at 3:12
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    @DenisdeBernardy I’m sure every last one supports an assault weapons ban. But in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting there were a lot of calls on the Left for a complete ban on all semiautomatic weapons. So I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility that some of the more progressive candidates support such a ban. And yeah, there are some semiautomatic hunting rifles, but it’s not like you can’t hunt with a rifle that’s not semiautomatic. – Keshav Srinivasan Jun 28 at 3:16
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    Would you accept an answer that discusses de facto bans of semi automatics in addition to de jure bans? I would argue Joe Biden’s position last night is a de facto ban on all guns that exist whether they are semi-automatic or not because the “smart guns” he would keep legal don’t actually exist as consumer products. – Joe Jun 28 at 11:21
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+100

It's important to note that banning all semi-automatic weapons is a far more expansive stance than most candidates are willing to take (which is remarkable in a year when they've run further Left on some equally important issues).

A semi-automatic gun is a gun that

  • Discharges one bullet per trigger pull
  • Ejects the spent cartridge
  • Loads a new round

This is known as double action in some types of guns (the hammer cocking is part of the trigger pull).

For contrast, a fully automatic (machine) gun is one where you can hold an automatic gun trigger down and it will continue to fire until released or out of ammunition (this category is illegal to manufacture for public sale).

A single action revolver has a chamber that hold bullets and revolves between firings, but requires manually cocking the hammer between pulls as well. These do not qualify as semi-automatic.

Assault Weapons are a poorly defined subset of Semi-Automatic

Most Democrats support Diane Feinstein's Assault Weapons Ban of 2019, which has as cosponsors

  • Corey Booker
  • Elizabeth Warren
  • Amy Klobuchar
  • Kirsten Gillibrand
  • Bernie Sanders
  • Kamala Harris

Virtually all Democrats support an assault weapons ban. They do so because it's a more nebulous term

Some gun experts insist that the term “assault rifle” only refers to a very specific set of weapons: those that are fed ammunition from a detachable magazine, and can switch between semiautomatic and fully automatic fire, a capability known as “select fire.” By that narrow standard, the number of assault rifles in private hands is very small.

But most laws regulating “assault weapons” use a broader definition that some experts say is overly broad. California, Washington, D.C., New York, and five other states have regulations that typically apply to any magazine-fed, semiautomatic rifle that incorporates other design features, which can include a second grip to stabilize the weapon while firing, a rack for mounting accessories, or a muzzle that suppresses the explosive flash of each discharged round. Many of these accessories are mostly for aesthetics, to evoke a combat or “tactical” vibe.

Remember that it's reasonable to assume (no hard statistics exist) that 1 in 3 US guns are semi-automatic. That's a lot of people to tell that you're coming for their property.

The only candidate I can find who has been willing to go out on the "ban all semi-automatics" limb is Maryanne Williamson (emphasis mine)

Eliminating the sale of assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons

  • You might also want to define the term "semi-automatic weapon" and distinguish it from (for example) a single-action revolver. That might help to contextualize the question. I fear that a lot of people may be using the term "semi-automatic" without actually knowing what it means (and unlike "assault weapon," "semi-automatic" does have a clear, mostly accepted definition). – Kevin Jul 4 at 18:27
  • Good point. Added some definitions – Machavity Jul 4 at 18:49
  • @kevin double action revolver is also not semi-auto – Agustus Jul 5 at 17:07
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Most candidates, as Machavity points out have declared support for banning some semiautomatic weapons. No candidate that I found has explicitly called for a complete ban on all semiautomatics. Candidates that have declared supporting a ban on some semi-automatic weapons specifically, (non-exhaustive list):

Steve Bullock (mischaracterised quote by Politico, see transcript referenced by Brythan):

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock on Sunday said he would support a ban on semiautomatic weapons

John Delaney:

Delaney cosponsored the Assault Weapons Ban Act, which would ban semiautomatic weapons that have military-style features, including the AR-15.

Candidates that have declared not supporting a ban on semi-automatic weapons specifically: Andrew Yang

Promote a stringent, tiered licensing system for gun ownership (think a CDL vs. a regular driver’s license):

Tier 2 – Semi-automatic rifles

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    Good post on 3 of the 4, but I dispute that claim about Pete Buttigieg (at least based on the tweet you posted). "Do something about access to certain ..." sounds much more like background checks and limited regulations rather than a ban. In fact, further down the thread he specifically mentions background checks. So, while he's certainly in favor of increased gun control, I haven't seen anything that suggests he's in favor of a ban on semi-automatic guns. – divibisan Jul 2 at 0:31
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    @divibisan yea, I've removed that one. While the context seems to imply he's for such a ban, my research suggests that he's really careful not to mention the semi-auto ban by name. Instead, he only refers to assault weapons and military-style, which (imho) is a bit vague. – JJ for Transparency and Monica Jul 2 at 0:44
  • Delaney is expressing his support for banning assault weapons, not all semi-automatics. In writing my answer, I've noted more than a few have tiptoed around this terminology and are careful to limit it to just assault. "Military style" is just another way to put it. Good find on Bullock tho – Machavity Jul 2 at 1:01
  • @Machavity what about H.R. 5087, he cosponsored that and it does ban semiautomatics (though excludes legal weapons obtained before the bill comes into effect). I'd say that's still a ban though. – JJ for Transparency and Monica Jul 2 at 1:19
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    Bullock did not support a ban on all semi-automatic weapons. He supported the more typical "assault weapon" ban. See the transcript. "They have pushed for what they call an assault weapons ban, a ban on some forms of semiautomatic weapons. Would you support a ban like that?" Politico misquoted him rather badly (or to be precise, mischaracterized the question that he was asked). – Brythan Jul 2 at 14:54
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Pretty much all of them support banning semi-auto rifles with a pistol grip and detachable magazines (what they like to call "assault weapons").

  • Note this comment by the asker asserting "There was just discussion of assault weapons bans. But there are semiautomatic weapons which wouldn’t be banned by the assault weapons ban." – JJ for Transparency and Monica Jul 6 at 22:29
  • @JJJ the original question asks if candidates were supporting a semi-automatic weapons ban, and as I have pointed out Yes, they support banning semi-automatic rifles (weapons) with pistol grips and detachable magazines – Agustus Jul 6 at 22:42
  • So your answer is: All support banning a ** specific subset** of semi-automatic weapons. – BobE Sep 20 at 13:56

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