Joe Biden on Gun Control

Former Vice President; previously Democratic Senator (DE)


Close loopholes in Federal gun background check system

Gun violence is a public health crisis. Every day, gun violence--community violence, domestic violence, suicides, and mass shootings--takes American lives and forever alters many more. Last year, we saw record levels of homicides in cities throughout our country. The Federal gun background check system is a proven tool to reduce gun violence and save lives. This system, called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, has kept millions of guns out of potentially dangerous hands. The Administration encourages closing existing loopholes in this system in two bills, H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021, and H.R. 1446, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021. The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to strengthen the Federal gun background check system and take other commonsense steps to reduce gun violence. [See details of H.R.8 / S.529]
Source: White House press release by 2021 Biden Administration , Nov 4, 2021

We're not changing the Constitution; we're being reasonable

I don't want to become confrontational but we need more Senate Republicans to join the overwhelming majority of Democratic colleagues, and close the loopholes required in background checks purchases of guns. We need a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines. We're not changing the Constitution. We're being reasonable. I think this is not a Democrat or Republican issue. I think it's an American issue.
Source: 2021 State of the Union address , Apr 28, 2021

No bill repealing liability protection for gun manufacturers

PROMISE MADE: "On my first day of office," Biden said in February 2020, "I'm going to send a bill to the Congress repealing the liability protection for gun manufacturers, closing the background check loopholes and waiting period."

PROMISE BROKEN: Biden has not yet sent any gun legislation to Congress. Biden did take six gun-related executive actions on April 8, but those actions did not cover his Day One pledge.

ANALYSIS: Executive actions do not require the approval of Congress, like legislation does. Executive actions can be overturned by the next President, while bills are more permanent, requiring another act of Congress to overturn. All three issues mentioned by Biden have strong opposition by the gun industry, but "liability protection" refers to overturning 2005's Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) was enacted in 2005 to shield gun manufacturers and dealers from civil litigation.

Source: ABC News on Biden Administration promises , Apr 26, 2021

Treat gun violence as a public health epidemic

PROMISE MADE: (2020 campaign website JoeBiden.com): Direct the ATF (the Justice Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) to issue an annual report on firearms trafficking. This report will provide officials with critical information to better identify strategies for curbing firearms trafficking.

PROMISE KEPT: (White House press release, "Gun Violence Public Health Epidemic," April 7, 2021): The Justice Department will issue an annual report on firearms trafficking. [The previous report in] 2000 summarized information regarding its investigations into firearms trafficking. But there is good reason to believe that firearms trafficking channels have changed since 2000. A new, comprehensive report gives policymakers the information they need to help address firearms trafficking today.

ANALYSIS: The "change since 2000" is to treat gun violence as a public health epidemic, toward a multi-state settlement as with the tobacco industry.

Source: White House press release on Biden Administration promises , Apr 7, 2021

Regulate "ghost guns" and 3D-printed gun parts

PROMISE MADE: (2020 campaign website JoeBiden.com): One way people who cannot legally obtain a gun may gain access to a weapon is by assembling one on their own, either by buying a kit of disassembled gun parts or 3D printing a working firearm. Biden will stop the proliferation of these so-called "ghost guns" by passing legislation requiring that purchasers of gun kits or 3D printing code pass a federal background check.

PROMISE PARTLY KEPT: (White House press release 4/7/21): The Justice Department will issue a proposed rule to help stop the proliferation of "ghost guns." We are experiencing a growing problem: criminals are buying kits containing nearly all of the components for finishing a firearm within as little as 30 minutes and using these firearms to commit crimes.

ANALYSIS: Executive orders are not legislation and can be reversed by a future president. Biden calls these "initial actions" and supports the Senate passing gun control bills.

Source: White House press release on Biden Administration promises , Apr 7, 2021

I go skeet-shooting, badly, and my sons go bird-hunting

Q: How do you propose to sell your gun reform ideas to those who either own a gun or feel strongly about protecting Second Amendment rights?

BIDEN: I taught constitutional law. No amendment is absolute. None of you can stand up--[despite] the First Amendment on free speech--and yell "fire" here; you'd be arrested. From the very beginning, the founders said, not everyone is able to have a gun and you can't have any weapon you want. That has simply never been the case. There are limitations. I happen to have a 12-gauge shotgun and a 20-gauge shotgun, because--I haven't done it in a long time--but I skeet shoot. And I'm not very good at it, I might add. But my sons, they bird hunt. They haven't in a while. The point of the matter is that from the very beginning you're not allowed to have any weapon you want. This idea that you're going to need an AR-15 or any other assault weapon or you need any clip, any clip that has a hundred rounds in it, is absolutely bizarre.

Source: CNN S. C. Town Hall for 2020 Presidential primary , Feb 26, 2020

I pushed Brady Bill when other Dems voted against it

I come from a state that's a major gun owning state. I introduced the first assault weapons ban. I in fact got it passed. I'm the only guy that beat the NRA twice. While I was pushing the Brady Background Bill to check background checks, Bernie voted five times against that when he was in the House.
Source: 8th Democrat 2020 primary debate, St. Anselm College in NH , Feb 7, 2020

I beat the NRA twice: AR-15s & high-capacity magazines

I'm the only one on this stage who has taken on the NRA and beat them twice. We were able to get assault weapons off the streets for 10 years. The way to deal with AR-15s and assault weapons is to do what we did with machine guns. You must register that weapon. I'm the only one that moved to make sure that we could not have a magazine that had more than 10 rounds in it. Go after the gun manufacturers and take back the exemption they have of not being able to be sued.
Source: October Democratic CNN/NYTimes Primary debate , Oct 15, 2019

I'm the only candidate who beat the NRA with the Brady bill

Q: You have pointed to your ability to reach across the aisle to get things done, but four months after Sandy Hook, a measure to require expanded background checks died on the Senate floor. If you couldn't get it done after Sandy Hook, why should voters give you another chance?

BIDEN: Because I got it done before. I'm the only one up here that's ever beat the NRA --only one ever to beat the NRA nationally. I'm the guy that brought the Brady bill into-into focus and became law.

Source: September Democratic Primary debate in Houston , Sep 12, 2019

I'm the guy who got the Brady Bill passed

Joe Biden: I'm the only person that has beaten the NRA nationally. I'm the guy that got the Brady Bill passed, the background checks. We increased that background check during the Obama-Biden administration. I'm also the only guy that got assault weapons banned, and the number of clips in a gun banned. Our enemy is the gun manufacturers, not the NRA, the gun manufacturers.

Rep. Eric Swalwell: But the NRA is taking orders from the gun manufacturers, that's the problem.

Source: June Democratic Primary debate (second night in Miami) , Jun 27, 2019

Public supports gun control; Congress has not caught up

What matters the most to Biden these days is whether he can persuade Congress to enact meaningful gun-control laws. After the Sandy Hook shooting, in Newtown CT, Obama asked Biden to head up the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. Though his efforts so far have failed to overcome congressional resistance, he says that he is not giving up.

Q: The background-check measure failed in the Senate, even though it was supported by 90% of the American people. What does it mean that we can't pass even the weakest measures to curb gun violence?

A: It means two things. One, that we have had an impact on the public's thinking. If we did that poll a week before Sandy Hook, my guess is you wouldn't have 90% of the American people. We've won the battle with the American public on this, not just on background checks but on magazines, on assault weapons, etc. This is a case where the public is way ahead of Congress. There has been a seminal shift in the attitude of the American public toward gun safety.

Source: Douglas Brinkley in Rolling Stone Magazine , May 9, 2013

Moral obligation to diminish senseless gun violence

It's been 33 days since the nation's heart was broken by the horrific, senseless violence that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School. No one can know for certain if this senseless act could have been prevented, but we all know we have a moral obligation--a moral obligation--to do everything in our power to diminish the prospect that something like this could happen again.

I've worked in this field a long time--in the US Senate, having drafted the last gun violence legislation. I have no illusions about how hard the task is in front of us. But I also have never seen the nation's conscience so shaken by what happened at Sandy Hook. The world has changed, and it's demanding action.

The President asked me to put together a set of recommendations about how we should proceed to meet that moral obligation we have. The Cabinet and I sat down with 229 groups from law enforcement agencies to public health officials, to gun advocacy groups, to sportsmen & hunters & religious leaders.

Source: Remarks by the President & Vice President on Gun Violence , Jan 16, 2013

Keep assault weapons ban; close gun show loophole

Q: How many of you, in your adult lifetime, have had a gun in the house?

[Show of hands]: Senator Gravel, Senator Biden, Senator Dodd, Governor Richardson, Congressman Kucinich.

Q: Sen. Biden, what could the federal government have done to save those kids at Virginia Tech?

A: What they could have done is three things.

  1. In the so-called Biden crime bill, we put 100,000 cops on the street. Iíve worked with law enforcement for the past 30 years, with armor-piercing bullets, waiting periods, etc. But the one thing thatís clear: We should not have let the assault weapons ban lapse.
  2. We should close this so-called gun show loophole, so you canít go into a gun show and buy a gun that you couldnít buy walking into a gun shop.
  3. We have let the country down in the way in which we have not focused on mental illness. We should know that your kid is safe at college. If teachers determine that a child is a danger, the school should be able to take them off the campus.
Source: 2007 South Carolina Democratic primary debate, on MSNBC , Apr 26, 2007

Voted NO on prohibiting lawsuits against gun manufacturers.

A bill to prohibit civil liability actions from being brought or continued against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, or importers of firearms or ammunition for damages, injunctive or other relief resulting from the misuse of their products by others. Voting YES would:
Reference: Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act; Bill S 397 ; vote number 2005-219 on Jul 29, 2005

Voted NO on banning lawsuits against gun manufacturers for gun violence.

Vote to pass a bill that would block certain civil lawsuits against manufacturers, distributors, dealers and importers of firearms and ammunition, mainly those lawsuits aimed at making them liable for gun violence. In this bill, trade groups would also be protected The bill would call for the dismissal of pending lawsuits against the gun industry. The exception would be lawsuits regarding a defect in a weapon or ammunition. It also would provide a 10-year reauthorization of the assault weapons ban which is set to expire in September 2004. The bill would increase the penalties for gun-related violent or drug trafficking crimes which have not resulted in death, to a minimum of 15 years imprisonment. The bill calls for criminal background checks on all firearm transactions at gun shows where at least 75 guns are sold. Exemptions would be made available for dealers selling guns from their homes as well as members-only gun swaps and meets carried out by nonprofit hunting clubs.
Reference: Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act; Bill S.1805/H.R.1036 ; vote number 2004-30 on Mar 2, 2004

Voted YES on background checks at gun shows.

Require background checks on all firearm sales at gun shows.
Status: Amdt Agreed to Y)50; N)50; VP decided YES
Reference: Lautenberg Amdt #362; Bill S. 254 ; vote number 1999-134 on May 20, 1999

Voted NO on more penalties for gun & drug violations.

The Hatch amdt would increase mandatory penalties for the illegal transfer or use of firearms, fund additional drug case prosecutors, and require background check on purchasers at gun shows. [A YES vote supports stricter penalties].
Status: Amdt Agreed to Y)48; N)47; NV)5
Reference: Hatch Amendment #344; Bill S. 254 ; vote number 1999-118 on May 14, 1999

Voted NO on loosening license & background checks at gun shows.

Vote to table or kill a motion to require that all gun sales at gun shows be completed by federally licensed gun dealers. Also requires background checks to be completed on buyers and requires gun show promoters to register with the Treasury.
Reference: Bill S.254 ; vote number 1999-111 on May 11, 1999

Voted NO on maintaining current law: guns sold without trigger locks.

Vote to table [kill] an amendment to make it unlawful for gun dealers to sell handguns without providing trigger locks. Violation of the law would result in civil penalties, such as suspension or revocation of the dealer's license, or a fine.
Reference: Bill S 2260 ; vote number 1998-216 on Jul 21, 1998

Rated F by the NRA, indicating a pro-gun control voting record.

Biden scores F by NRA on pro-gun rights policies

While widely recognized today as a major political force and as America's foremost defender of Second Amendment rights, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has, since its inception, been the premier firearms education organization in the world. But our successes would not be possible without the tireless efforts and countless hours of service our nearly three million members have given to champion Second Amendment rights and support NRA programs.

The following ratings are based on lifetime voting records on gun issues and the results of a questionaire sent to all Congressional candidates; the NRA assigned a letter grade (with A+ being the highest and F being the lowest).

Source: NRA website 02n-NRA on Dec 31, 2003

Other candidates on Gun Control: Joe Biden on other issues:
2020 Presidential Candidates:
Pres.Donald Trump (R-NY)
V.P.Mike Pence (R-IN)
V.P.Joe Biden (D-DE)
Sen.Kamala Harris (D-CA)
CEO Don Blankenship (Constitution-WV)
CEO Rocky De La Fuente (R-CA)
Howie Hawkins (Green-NY)
Jo Jorgensen (Libertarian-IL)
Gloria La Riva (Socialist-CA)
Kanye West (Birthday-CA)

2020 GOP and Independent primary candidates:
Rep.Justin Amash (Libertarian-MI)
Gov.Lincoln Chafee (Libertarian-RI)
Gov.Larry Hogan (R-MD)
Zoltan Istvan (Libertarian-CA)
Gov.John Kasich (R-OH)
Gov.Mark Sanford (R-SC)
Ian Schlackman (Green-MD)
CEO Howard Schultz (Independent-WA)
Gov.Jesse Ventura (Green-MN)
V.C.Arvin Vohra (Libertarian-MD)
Rep.Joe Walsh (R-IL)
Gov.Bill Weld (Libertarian-NY,R-MA)

2020 Democratic Veepstakes Candidates:
State Rep.Stacey Abrams (D-GA)
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D-GA)
Rep.Val Demings (D-FL)
Sen.Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Sen.Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Sen.Maggie Hassan (D-NH)
Gov.Michelle Lujan-Grisham (D-NM)
Sen.Catherine Masto (D-NV)
Gov.Gina Raimondo (D-RI)
Amb.Susan Rice (D-ME)
Sen.Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Sen.Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Gov.Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI)
A.G.Sally Yates (D-GA)
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2020 Withdrawn Democratic Candidates:
Sen.Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Mayor Mike Bloomberg (I-NYC)
Sen.Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Gov.Steve Bullock (D-MT)
Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-IN)
Secy.Julian Castro (D-TX)
Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-NYC)
Rep.John Delaney (D-MD)
Rep.Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)
Sen.Mike Gravel (D-AK)
Gov.John Hickenlooper (D-CO)
Gov.Jay Inslee (D-WA)
Mayor Wayne Messam (D-FL)
Rep.Seth Moulton (D-MA)
Rep.Beto O`Rourke (D-TX)
Gov.Deval Patrick (D-MA)
Rep.Tim Ryan (D-CA)
Sen.Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Adm.Joe Sestak (D-PA)
CEO Tom Steyer (D-CA)
Rep.Eric Swalwell (D-CA)
Marianne Williamson (D-CA)
CEO Andrew Yang (D-NY)

Page last updated: Mar 05, 2022