- The Washington Times - Monday, August 19, 2019

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Monday said she supports a ban and buyback of military-style, semi-automatic firearms, but also suggested that “assault” weapons aren’t really doing any harm if people are simply allowed to keep the ones they currently own at their homes.

Ms. Gillibrand said there should be a federal regulatory framework for the “assault”-style weapons akin to the rules for machine guns, which are heavily restricted for public use.

“You should have a nationwide buyback so that those people who did purchase these weapons because they’re gun enthusiasts could actually have them purchased back by the federal government,” the New York Democrat and 2020 presidential candidate said at a Washington Post event. “That is the framework you should use.”

Asked if people should be forced to sell the weapons back to the government, she said one would create “fear” by using that language.

“But you could basically get it done through the combination of a guaranteed federal buyback, combined with this mandatory registration as we use[d] that framework for machine guns over a decade ago,” she said.

She appeared open to imposing criminal penalties on people who would keep the guns in their homes.

“You [could] look at that, but the point is if it’s just in your home and you’re not using it or buying and selling it, there’s no harm there,” Ms. Gillibrand said. “So you want to make sure there’s no black market, you want to make sure there’s no buying and selling, and you want to make sure it’s illegal.

“So you can look at it — you can keep all options on the table — but your first step would be the regulatory framework we used for machine guns, combined with a ban of assault weapons and banning the purchasing and selling and use,” she said.

Bans on semi-automatic firearms have gained renewed attention in the wake of the recent shootings in Texas and Ohio that have left a total of more than 30 people dead.

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke has called for a mandatory buyback of assault weapons, while others such as Montana Gov. Steve Bullock have supported a voluntary buyback program.

Ms. Gillibrand, a former congresswoman, has a conflicted history on the gun issue, which has become a major litmus test for the 2020 field.

The National Rifle Association has circulated a 2008 letter that Ms. Gillibrand, then a congresswoman, sent to the gun-rights group touting her support for the Second Amendment and saying she appreciated the work the NRA did.

Ms. Gillibrand said Monday that she still supports the Second Amendment, but that she should have cared more about what was happening outside her district.

“I recognized pretty quickly that I was wrong and that I was going to lead on this issue,” she said. “The truth is, is when you meet a family who has lost someone to gun violence, it changes you.”

“I have the humility to recognize when I’m wrong, which many elected leaders do not — especially President Trump,” she said.

Though she has failed to catch fire in public polling on the 2020 Democratic presidential field, Ms. Gillibrand nevertheless pledged Monday that she would be on the next debate stage in September.

She said she has amassed slightly more than 110,000 individual donors, and has hit 2% support in one qualifying poll. Candidates need to secure contributions from 130,0000 donors across 20 states and hit 2% support in four qualifying polls to make it on the debate stage in Houston.

“It’s up to them,” she said when asked if a candidate who doesn’t make the stage should reconsider their campaign.

“It’s up to every candidate to decide what their campaign looks like, why they’re running, what they want to accomplish,” she said.

She also said she would be open to running on a 2020 ticket as the Democratic Party’s vice presidential nominee.

“I will do public service in all its forms,” she said. “I am here because my faith has really inspired me to serve, to make public service my life’s mission, and if I am called to serve in any capacity, I will do it.”

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