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Gov. Steve Bullock: Mandatory Buyback Program for Assault Weapons Goes ‘Too Far’

Craig Millward
By Craig Millward | August 16, 2019 | 10:23 AM EDT

Montana Governor Steve Bullock (Photo by Chip Somodevilla-Getty Images)

Speaking on “CNN Newsroom With Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto” on Thursday, Montana Governor and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Steve Bullock said a mandatoy buyback program for assault weapons goes “too far.” 

Bullock says a mandatory buyback program feeds into the NRA narrative “that the federal government is going to come in and take away all of your guns.”

Bullock was asked by host Poppy Harlow, “We saw what happened in Philadelphia overnight – tragic – and that man was using an assault rifle. I know you support a voluntary buyback program for assault weapons. What about a mandatory one? Cory Booker’s talked about that. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand talked about that with me yesterday. That would mean criminal prosecution of those who don't sell back their assault weapons. Is that going too far?”

“There’s going to be a lot of discussion about this. From my perspective, it is going too far,” Bullock responded. 

He continued, “I think, in part, because, part of the whole narrative of this— When I was growing up, the NRA was a gun safety and hunting organization. Now, it really is a political organization. But the narrative of, for responsible gun owners, that the federal government's going to come in and take away all of your guns, I think that feeds that. Now, I think a voluntary program—”

Harlow interjected, “Just to be clear, I didn't say all. I said just for assault weapons.”

“Sure. But that's where the NRA has always had this narrative of the coming into your households… [indiscernible], and I think that you could do some things with a voluntary buyback that could make some meaningful differences. Any additional transfers, other than family transfers, as long as they're within the instant check system, as long as we know it, I think it could make a real difference,” Bullock said. 

Several 2020 Democratic presidential candidates such as Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Bill DeBlasio and Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke have expressed at least some support for a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons. 

In an interview with CNN earlier this month, Joe Biden said he would institute a “national buyback program” as president. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted on Aug. 5 the following: “The federal government must ban assault weapons and implement a buyback program to get assault weapons off the streets.”

However, one Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) told CNN on Wednesday that “pushing for mandatory buybacks would be a recipe for getting nothing done.”

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