The Democratic Party’s first debate of the 2016 Presidential campaign is exactly one week from today and after the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon last week, gun control will likely take center stage.
Several of the candidates have laid out new proposals addressing gun violence in the last few weeks — Hillary Clinton did so on Monday — energizing gun control advocates across the country.
“This is really a sea change in terms of how presidential candidates are talking about this, where they would not have in the past,” Shannon Watts, Founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, told ABC News. “It was the third-rail of politics.”
Watts called the renewed focus on the issue “a big deal.”
Compared to their GOP counterparts, the Democratic presidential contenders have a lot in common when it comes to gun control policy. For example, Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders all agree on banning combat-style assault weapons and improving background checks.
But there are key differences in their proposals. Here’s a look at where they agree and where they don’t:
IMPROVING BACKGROUND CHECKS:
Where They Agree: Clinton, Sanders and O’Malley all talk about the need to improve the current system of background checks and close the so-called “gun show loophole,” which would require gun dealers selling at shows and adhoc venues to run background checks.
Where They Disagree: Clinton and O’Malley are specifically calling for universal background checks. O’Malley says he would seek to end Internet-sales all together and require all weapons purchases be made in person. Clinton says she would take “administrative action” to close the gun show and Internet-sale loopholes. Sanders has said the country must “strengthen and enforce” the instant background check system currently in place and that his campaign is in the process of assembling a more comprehensive package on gun control measures. While in the Senate, Sanders did vote in favor of a bill calling for universal background checks.
Clinton and O’Malley are also both proposing action against what is referred to as the “Charleston loophole.” Dylan Roof, who allegedly shot and killed nine members of an African-American church in Charleston this summer, was able to purchase a gun despite a previous felony, because of a long-standing default rule, wherein purchases can go through when law enforcement fails to complete a background check within three business days. Both O’Malley and Clinton promise to abolish this default and grant law enforcement as much time as they need to run a check.
Where They Agree: Both Sanders and Clinton say “straw purchases” (when one person buys a gun for another) should be made a federal crime.
Where They Agree: O’Malley and Clinton both include in their proposals banning anyone convicted of domestic abuse or stalking from owning a gun.
Where They Disagree: In addition to requiring buyers to pass a background check, O’Malley wrote in his policy position paper released in early September, that he wants everyone seeking a gun (whether through a sale or a gift or transfer) to “obtain a fingerprint-based license and complete safety training.” He is also proposing a federal age requirement (21-years-of-age) for handgun ownership, and new requirements and definitions for safe home storage of firearms.
Where They Disagree: Clinton is also calling on the federal government to finish and enforce its rules to ensure the “severely mentally ill,” involuntarily committed into treatment centers, are prohibited from purchasing guns.
MANUFACTUERS’ LIABILITY AND DEALER LICENSING:
Where They Agree: Clinton and O’Malley are both pushing for the repeal of the “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act,” which prevents victims of gun violence from suing gun manufactures or dealers for damages. Clinton voted against this bill in the Senate in 2005.
They also both promise to devote more attention and resources to gun store inspections, and empower and better fund the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’s ability to revoke licenses of noncompliant dealers.
Where They Disagree: Sanders voted in favor of the “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act,” while serving in the House of Representatives.
Where They Disagree: O’Malley is also calling for the creation of a national firearms registry.
“This might be an easier issue for people to wrap their heads around if there was one easy answer, but like most complex public policy issues there isn’t,” Pia Carusone, spokesperson for Gabby Giffords’s gun control PAC Americans for Responsible Solutions, told ABC News. “It is a series of actions that need to be taken by Congress, by the executive branch and all the way down to the community level in terms of supporting your local mental health center.”
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense says they will eventually endorse a candidate.
“These shootings are making single-issue voters out of mothers and women,” Watts said, “In a perfect world, every single candidate will have something we can look at and compare. … If you’re caught off-guard and you don’t have a policy or proposal on this, you look pretty tone deaf.”