Education News

CANDIDATE COMPARISON: Where do presidential hopefuls stand on gun laws?

By Amanda Menas

In the wake of a record number of school shootings in 2018 and a string of recent mass shootings in communities across the U.S., students and educators are among the millions of Americans pushing elected leaders to act.

NEA members are unified in the belief that schools should be safe spaces for learning. But the “hardening” of schools–with metal detectors, armed educators, and zero-tolerance behavior policies–has not been shown to make schools safer. 

According to a recent NEA poll, an overwhelming majority of educators–82 percent–say they would not carry a gun in school, including 63 percent of NEA members who own a gun.

It’s not just students and educators who believe it is long past time for lawmakers to enact stricter gun policies; the general public is with them.

A Monmouth University poll released in September found that 83 percent of the public supports comprehensive background checks, including 65 percent of NRA members.

And that’s just a first step in a long list of changes that could help keep our schools and communities safer.

So where do the presidential candidates stand on the issue of gun violence and school safety?

Almost every Democratic candidate in the race supports required background checks for firearm sales and a new federal ban on assault-style weapons. But there are differences in how that ban would be enacted, the voluntary versus mandatory buyback programs, and more. Learn what the candidates have said on this and other key issues using the NEA Candidate Comparison tool

Here is what the candidates have committed to so far on school safety and gun violence prevention:

Sen. Michael Bennet

The senator is opposed to gun licensing but supports mandatory and universal background checks.

He alsosupports a well-crafted assault weapons ban that would successfully get weapons of war off the streets.” 


Vice President Joe Biden

Biden believes that to reduce gun violence, the federal government should close gun-show loopholes and “ban the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.” If elected president, he pledges to “defeat the NRA again … I’ve done it before — twice.”

He previously led Congress to pass background checks and “bans on assault weapons.”


Sen. Cory Booker

Booker proposes creating a “national gun licensing program, banning assault weapons, [and] high-capacity magazines.”

For gun manufacturers, he would “allow them to be found liable in civil suits.”


Gov. Steve Bullock

The governor contends “the Second Amendment confers rights…they come with responsibilities…they can be forfeited.”

He supports red flag laws and the creation of a voluntary buyback program. He also believes that “arming teachers is absurd.”


Mayor Pete Buttigieg

The mayor believes that “it’d be such an enormous condemnation of our country if we were to become the only developed nation where it is necessary” to arm educators. He supports creating national gun licensing programs and banning assault weapons.


Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro

The secretary supports banning assault weapons, instituting universal background checks, and restricting high capacity magazines. He also cites the rise in hate crimes as an urgent call to repair “our nation’s weak gun laws [that] enable violent extremism.”


Rep. John Delaney

The congressman supports red flag laws to empower families with the ability to protect themselves and their communities from potential threats. He also supports instituting universal background checks, banning assault weapons, and funding “gun violence research.”


Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

Gabbard supports banning assault weapons, instituting universal background checks, and restricting high capacity magazines. She also believes in “closing the gun-show loophole,” and has co-sponsored a variety of gun control legislation.


Sen. Kamala Harris

The senator has pledged that if she is elected president, she “would use executive action for background checks and to regulate gun manufacturers.” She has also criticized the Trump administration’s suggestion about arming teachers in response to school shootings as “ridiculous.”


Sen. Amy Klobuchar

The senator supports banning assault weapons, instituting universal background checks, and restricting high-capacity magazines. She has outlined immediate executive actions she would take “to address gun violence” if elected president.


Mayor Wayne Messam

Messam supports improving background checks and banning assault weapons. He called proposals in Florida that would allow educators to carry guns in schools, “asinine.”


Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke

The former congressman supports creating a national gun licensing program and recommends banning assault weapons. The candidate also supports a mandatory buyback program.

Concerning the alarming frequency of mass shootings, he admits, “Yes, this is f–ed up.”


Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sanders supports banning assault weapons, implementing universal background checks, and restricting high capacity magazines. He says that he is “running for president because we must end the epidemic of gun violence…[and] take on the NRA.”


Joe Sestak

Sestak supports renewing the ban on assault weapons and instituting universal background checks.



Tom Steyer

Steyer supports banning assault weapons and universal background checks. According to Steyer, “the will of the American people of being frustrated …by gun manufacturers through the NRA.”


Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Stating that “enough is enough,” Warren proposes a plan that would reduce gun deaths by 80 percent by “reign[ing] in an out-of-control gun industry.”


Marianne Williamson

Williamson supports a ban on assault weapons and universal background checks. She also believes those suffering from mental illnesses need support and should be restricted from purchasing guns.


Andrew Yang

Yang believes that smart gun technology provides added safety as it “would make firearms harder to fire for non-owners of the gun.” He also supports a voluntary buyback program and universal background checks.


Compare the candidates’ positions on key issues using NEA’s candidate comparison tool.

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