Many of the Democratic presidential candidates were asked during a recent campaign event to define what an “assault weapon” is — a question that nearly all of the candidates tried to avoid answering with any specifics.
The lone exception was Joe Sestak, a little-known former Democratic representative who is polling at the bottom of the field.
The candidates were asked the questions by Turning Point USA (TPUSA) last month during the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa.
Sestak told Turning Point USA that an “assault weapon” is a “semi-automatic” firearm, adding that he thinks the Bill Clinton-era assault weapons ban did not go “far enough.”
Front-runner Joe Biden, who has faced questions in recent months about his fitness, responded to the question by saying: “If you don’t know when you see it, you don’t understand.”
Biden’s remarks come after he said this week that “details are irrelevant in terms of decision-making.” Biden also called for banning all magazines that hold “multiple bullets” — an extreme proposal that would ban nearly all firearms.
Other presidential candidates, like Marianne Williamson, showed their lack of knowledge on the issue, saying that “all of it, everything that is military,” is an assault weapon. The definition from Williamson, who has called for banning assault weapons and certain types of bullets, would result in the banning of nearly all handguns as civilians are able to buy many of the handguns that are used by the U.S. military.
Here is how the other candidates answered:
- Julian Castro: “The AR-15 definitely qualifies”; refused to answer further.
- Amy Klobuchar: “I think you know what it is. It’s the weapon that killed nine people in Dayton in 30 seconds.”
- Bernie Sanders’ campaign: [Refused to answer (based off what was available on video)].
- Cory Booker: “It is defined in our legislation.”
- Jay Inslee (no longer running): “As defined in the [Clinton-era] 1994 bill.”
- Tim Ryan: “A lot of different kinds.”
- Andrew Yang: “There is the military-style.”
- Bill de Blasio: “I can get you a legal definition.”
TPUSA was not able to ask all of the Democratic candidates how they define “assault weapons.” Candidates that have not yet been asked include Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Rep. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke (D-TX), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).