WASHINGTON — Cory Booker called Monday for a law requiring a license to buy or possess a firearm as part of a policy to curb gun violence, an aggressive proposal that comes as he tries to gain traction in the Democratic presidential primary.
While nearly all Democrats now call for tougher gun laws, Booker’s licensing plan goes beyond even his own party’s political consensus and adds a dramatic idea to the policy contest unfolding in the Democratic primary.
Booker, a New Jersey senator, has struggled so far to break through in the crowded field, and has stressed big policy plans in recent weeks.
His package on guns would also require background checks for purchases at gun shows; close several other loopholes in the background check system; end the legal immunity that shields gun makers from civil lawsuits; limit buyers to one handgun purchase per month and ban assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and bump stocks, which allow guns to fire faster.
Most of those ideas have widespread support among Democrats, but the national licensing requirement would go beyond political safe ground. Booker cited the frequency of mass shootings, as well as everyday shootings in places like his hometown, Newark, in unveiling his plan.
“This is a moment where we have a national crisis,” he said on CNN Monday morning. “The carnage in our communities, the fear that we see in neighborhoods like mine … enough is enough.”
The idea would face steep odds of getting through Congress, where even modest proposals have failed, and it could become a flash point if Booker succeeds in the primary and challenges President Donald. J. Trump in the general election next year, particularly in swing states such as Pennsylvania.
But the plan is also in keeping with some Democrats’ arguments that they need to push the boundaries of debate and offer big ideas on liberal priorities.
The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday morning, though advocates for gun owners would likely argue that a licensing requirement would unduly infringe on a Constitutional right.
Booker’s campaign compared gun licenses to the concept of requiring a license to drive. It cited a 40 percent drop in gun homicides and 15 percent reduction in gun suicides in Connecticut after the state passed a law requiring a purchasing license for handguns.
Under Booker’s plan people seeking a license to buy or own a gun would have to submit fingerprints, background information and show that they have completed a certified safety course, according to his campaign. The FBI would run a background check. The license would be valid for up to five years.
Booker has also called for legalizing marijuana nationwide and for “baby bonds,” government-funded savings accounts for all newborns.
— Jonathan Tamari