Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told people at a rally on Nov. 11 that forcing Americans to give up legally purchased firearms is against the U.S. Constitution.
“A mandatory buyback is essentially confiscation, which I think is unconstitutional. It means that I’m going to walk into your house and take something whether you like it or not. I don’t think that stands up to constitutional scrutiny,” Sanders, 78, one of the leading Democratic presidential contenders, said during the Iowa rally.
An unidentified voter told Sanders that “gun violence is an incredibly complex, large epidemic in our country” and asked him what his “plan is to combat this epidemic” before inquiring about the so-called mandatory buybacks for AR-15s and AK-47s that other Democratic candidates have suggested.
While Sanders has pushed a number of gun control proposals, including a ban on so-called “assault weapons,” he pushed back against the notion of mandatory buybacks.
While some gun control advocates have said confiscation isn’t the goal, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) said “Hell yes” when asked during a debate if he’d seize guns if elected president. He later said police officers would visit homes to confiscate legally-purchased guns if a ban on some guns passed.
Critics note that “mandatory buybacks” is an odd term because people don’t buy guns from the government.
While O’Rourke has since dropped out of the presidential race, other Democratic contenders have expressed support for confiscating guns.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said in May that he supports legislation that would see Americans get imprisoned if they were caught with assault weapons if a bill was passed for a buyback program.
“We should have a law that bans these weapons, and we should have a reasonable period in which people can turn in these weapons. Right now we have a nation that allows in streets and communities like mine these weapons that should not exist,” Booker said.
In responses to the New York Times survey about guns, a slew of other candidates said they support mandatory or voluntary buybacks.
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), Sanders, former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Penn.), billionaire Tom Steyer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and entrepreneur Andrew Yang support voluntary buybacks.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and former cabinet secretary Julian Castro want voluntary buybacks but would force gun owners who don’t sell their weapons to the government to register with a national registration system.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) haven’t indicated whether they support any buyback proposals.
Those in favor of confiscating guns include Booker, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam, and author Marianne Williamson.