Pete Buttigieg on Gun Reform, Universal Background Checks, and Banning AR-15s

Pete Buttigieg is a 37-year-old South Bend, Indiana mayor running for president in 2020. Here's everything you need to know about the Democratic candidate's stance on gun control.

Conversations About America's Future: Mayor Pete Buttigieg - 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals
(Image credit: Hutton Supancic)

By now, you probably know Pete Buttigieg. The 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana is competing with popular Democratic contenders like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, and Sen. Kamala Harris in the 2020 election. According to a March 2019 poll conducted by Quinnipiac University, he was tied with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and ahead of candidates like Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Not to mention, he raised over $7 million in the first quarter of 2019.

"This is just a preliminary analysis, but our team’s initial report shows we raised over $7 million dollars in Q1 of this year," he tweeted in April. "We (you) are out-performing expectations at every turn. I'll have a more complete analysis later, but until then: a big thank you to all our supporters."

Buttigieg, an Afghanistan war veteran and lieutenant in the United States Navy Reserve, could become America's first openly gay president. If it wasn't apparent from how much money he's raised so far, he's gained an incredible amount of momentum since launching his presidential exploratory committee on January 23, 2019. His popularity has remained steady, even months later. When it comes to key issues like gun control, Buttigieg has made it clear over the years where he stands: He supports universal background checks, and knows that mental health contributes to America's gun violence epidemic.

"Joined bipartisan Mayors Against Illegal Guns to do something about need for common sense gun safety. #NowIsTheTime."

"I'm with the majority of Americans (& gun owners) who agree with @POTUS that we need universal background checks to help #StopGunViolence."

"This #WorldMentalHealthDay is a good time to remember how many issues (safety, homelessness, gun violence, veteran well-being) are at stake."

"We believe SBGVI is the main reason SB was an exception to the increased gun violence in our region. Partnership is the key ingredient."

"Responsible gun owners didn't need this repeal. It was a bad idea. It should be reversed."

"When it's easier for a mentally ill person to get a gun than for them to get mental health care, we have a priorities problem."

"The worst part of my job is when we lose a young person to gun violence. I'm sick of fighting it with one hand behind my back. Americans favor common-sense reform such as the bipartisan Mayors Against Illegal Guns framework. It won't fix everything but it will make us safer."

Buttigieg is a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a bipartisan group within the Everytown network that's comprised of over 1,000 mayors advocating for gun safety. Think: Advancing policies and practices that reduce firearm suicides; and minimizing shootings by the police. After Parkland, he supported the young people within his community demanding that our country ends gun violence.


"What's really turning the tide here is young people lifting up their voices. People used to complain young people don't want to get involved, they're not paying attention to the world around them," Buttigieg told the South Bend Tribune in March 2018. "Take a look around here and that's obviously not true. That's the reason I'm allowing myself to believe that this time really might be different."

In 2017, he tweeted about his experience in Afghanistan to highlight the harm of having access to weapons of war on our streets. However, in March Buttigieg told WSBT 22, a local South Bend TV station, that it's important to have "a healthy national debate" about following the lead of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and banning assault weapons in America.

We had an assault weapons ban in this country in the '90s. I would like to see more research on the effect it had. I do think we need to draw a line. Look, compatible with the Second Amendment, there are some restrictions. Somewhere between a slingshot and a nuclear weapon, we’ve decided that the American people would draw a line. Whether, for example, an AR-15 is on this side or that side of the line, I’m skeptical that it belongs in our neighborhoods in peacetime, but let’s at least have a healthy national debate about what’s best for keeping our families, our homes, and our schools safe.

Buttigieg has been vocal about how change only happens when we learn how to work together and "communicate in an inclusive way." When asked by the same WSBT 22 reporter if gun control legislation would be a top issue on his presidential agenda, he replied, "Top on the agenda is democracy."

Expect to hear more on this at the first Democratic debates on June 26 and June 27, 2019 in Miami, Florida. Buttigieg will speak about topics like gun reform alongside Joe Biden, Michael Bennet, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, John Hickenlooper, Bernie Sanders, Eric Swalwell, Marianne Williamson, and Andrew Yang on the 27th. The other 2020 Democratic contenders will speak on the 26th.

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Rachel Epstein

Rachel Epstein is a writer, editor, and content strategist based in New York City. Most recently, she was the Managing Editor at Coveteur, where she oversaw the site’s day-to-day editorial operations. Previously, she was an editor at Marie Claire, where she wrote and edited culture, politics, and lifestyle stories ranging from op-eds to profiles to ambitious packages. She also launched and managed the site’s virtual book club, #ReadWithMC. Offline, she’s likely watching a Heat game or finding a new coffee shop.