DES MOINES — A week after mass shootings in Texas and Ohio killed 32 people, Elizabeth Warren promised to set a goal of reducing gun deaths in the country by 80% through an array of executive action and legislation, from an assault weapons ban to more ambitious measures that would impose sweeping restrictions on firearm sales, capping purchases to one gun per month and creating a federal licensing system for the purchase of any type of firearm or ammunition.
Warren has released a long list of policy plans in her seven months as a presidential candidate, but Saturday’s proposal is her first on the subject of gun violence in America. It was prepared by her campaign in the wake of last week’s deadly shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, and ahead of a forum organized here this weekend by the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety.
“In 2017, almost 40,000 people died from guns in the United States,” the Massachusetts senator wrote in a Medium post outlining the plan. “My goal as president, and our goal as a society, will be to reduce that number by 80%. We might not know how to get all the way there yet. But we’ll start by implementing solutions that we believe will work.”
Much of what Warren is proposing has already been put forward by other candidates. Sen. Cory Booker’s plan, released in early May, is centered on a federal licensing program for gun owners; Sen. Kamala Harris’s plan, released in late April, proposes going around Congress through executive action on things like closing the “boyfriend” loophole, which lets people who commit domestic violence buy or own guns if they are not married to their partner.
The Democratic field isn't unified on these ideas — earlier this summer, former vice president Joe Biden questioned how useful a federal gun licensing program would be, telling reporters "gun licensing will not change whether or not people buy what weapons."
Warren, who joined Booker in calling for the repeal of a 2005 law that protects manufacturers from liability when their firearms are used in crimes, also called for a “new private right of action” allowing mass shooting survivors to sue manufacturers for compensatory damages.
“Gun manufacturers make billions in profit by knowingly selling deadly products,” Warren said in her proposal. “Then they are let completely off the hook when people take those deadly products and inflict harm on thousands of victims each year.”
Warren, much like Sen. Bernie Sanders in his crusades against companies like McDonald's, Walmart, and Amazon, is quick to take on fights with major corporations as part of her pitch on the campaign trail for “big, structural change.” On Friday, she called on Walmart, one of the world’s largest gun retailers, to stop selling firearms, pointing to CVS’s decision in 2014 to discontinue the sale of cigarettes.
Walmart — whose heavily trafficked store in El Paso, on the US–Mexico border, was the site of the shooting last week — continues to sell guns but recently instructed employees to remove violent imagery from the store's display cases, including in the video game and hunting departments.
“The weapons they sell are killing their own customers and employees. No profit is worth those lives,” she said in a series of tweets. “Do the right thing — stop selling guns.”
The Warren plan also includes a higher tax on guns and ammunition, $100 million in federal funding for gun safety research, and an ongoing study of the effect of gun control laws to “see what’s working and send Congress updated reform proposals on an annual basis.”
As president, she said, she would enact new gun laws within her first 100 days in office.