What's at Stake for Gun Control in the 2020 Election

Four years later, the Trump administration shows no signs of prioritizing gun safety.

what's at stake for gun control 2020 election
(Image credit: Design by Hanna Varady)

While nearly 40,000 Americans (opens in new tab) die from gun violence every year, the Trump administration continues to champion the rights of gun owners and firearm dealers, rather than focusing on the safety of the American people. In a direct response to this, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refuses to bring H.R.8 (opens in new tab)—the most historic piece of gun legislation our country has seen in decades, which requires universal background checks—to the Senate floor for a vote. It's been sitting on his desk since February 2019.

America's gun violence epidemic did not originate from the Trump administration, but President Trump has shown no signs of prioritizing gun safety the past four years. In fact, in the early days of the pandemic, while healthcare workers lined up outside of hospitals in personal protective equipment, Americans lined up in front of gun shops (opens in new tab) after President Trump, a friend (opens in new tab) of the National Rifle Association (NRA) (opens in new tab), deemed gun shops as "essential businesses." While doing so, he tweeted (opens in new tab) dangerous calls to action like, "LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!" The tweet refers to the historic gun safety legislation passed in Virginia (opens in new tab), which requires background checks on all gun sales, mandates reporting of lost and stolen firearms, and reinstates Virginia’s one-handgun-a-month policy. Additionally, over the summer, St. Louis couple Mark and Patricia McCloskey pointed guns at peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors walking past their home. President Trump rewarded their behavior by allowing them to speak (opens in new tab) at the Republican National Convention (RNC).

Gun control groups like Everytown for Gun Safety (opens in new tab) and Moms Demand Action (opens in new tab) continue to warn citizens about the Trump administration's threat to gun safety, which most recently involves Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Judge Barrett, who Moms Demand Action classifies as "a gun rights extremist," has strong views on the Second Amendment, and would likely uphold those views during her lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should she be confirmed by the Senate. (More on her views here (opens in new tab).)

"I will make this issue front and center during next week’s hearing to show how Judge Barrett’s extremist, hard-right view of the Second Amendment will do real harm to real lives in real ways," Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said on a press call (opens in new tab) with gun control leaders and experts on October 8. "Judge Barrett’s jurisprudence would undercut and even block efforts to achieve universal background checks, emergency risk protection orders, safe storage laws, an end to the immunity from liability that gun manufactures have and other commonsense measures to reduce gun violence. That is a real danger, clear and urgent, to millions of Americans across the country who want gun violence protections."

Those who have been affected by gun violence understand the need for competent leadership when it comes to gun safety. Manny and Patricia Oliver (opens in new tab), parents of Joaquin "Guac" Oliver, who was killed in the Parkland shooting, have been demanding change through their organization Change the Ref (opens in new tab) and galvanizing the American people to vote since that tragic day on February 14, 2018. Fred Guttenberg (opens in new tab), father of Parkland shooting victim Jaime Guttenberg, has also been an outspoken leader on gun control since his daughter's murder. Then there are the groups like Concerned Citizens (opens in new tab) and Community Justice Action Fund (opens in new tab), who are dedicated to helping the American people understand that gun violence is an everyday reality (opens in new tab) for Black and brown people in America—not just when you hear about it on the news—and raising awareness about the fatal consequences for Americans should Trump be reelected.

Although the issue of gun control has not been spoken about at the presidential or vice presidential debates held thus far (you can see President Trump's unofficial record on gun reform here (opens in new tab)), Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris have laid out a clear plan (opens in new tab) to help end gun violence in America should they be elected in November. This includes, but is not limited to, the following actions:

  • Banning the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines
  • Instituting a program to buy back weapons of war
  • Reducing stockpiling of weapons by restricting the number of firearms an individual may purchase per month to one
  • Requiring background checks for all gun sales
  • Closing the "boyfriend loophole"
  • Closing the "hate crime loophole"
  • Closing the "Charleston loophole"
  • Closing the “fugitive from justice” loophole
  • Giving states incentives to set up gun licensing programs
  • Adequately funding the background check system
  • Establishing a new Task Force on Online Harassment and Abuse to focus on the connection between mass shootings, online harassment, extremism, and violence against women
  • Requiring gun owners to safely store their weapons
  • Supporting survivors of gun violence

While the presidential race is, of course, the most high-profile race in the 2020 election, there are down-ballot races to pay attention to as well. Nearly 50 volunteer leaders (opens in new tab) within Everytown and Moms Demand Action are running for office, and you can find gun sense candidates in your area here (opens in new tab). As Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, told Marie Claire (opens in new tab) in August, a gun sense presidential ticket matters now more than ever, and "we deserve leaders who understand that Americans are suffering, and who are ready to act."

RELATED STORY

marijuana election november 2020

(Image credit: Hanna Varady/Getty)

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.