Virginia Sen. Mark Warner (D) said Sunday that he would reconsider his previous opposition to a ban on assault-style weapons, following a day of gun-control marches across the country that attracted hundreds of thousands of participants.
Warner, one of 15 Democrats who voted against a ban on assault-style weapons in 2013, said “it’s time to change our positions and reexamine” gun control laws in the United States.
“I’d always been in favor of universal background checks, particularly after Sandy Hook, but I think it’s time for us to have a legitimate debate about restrictions on gun magazines and assault weapons,” Warner said on CBS’s Face the Nation.
“You get into definitions, but the basic notion of these weaponized, militarized weapons need to be off our streets.”
Warner also voted against a ban on high-capacity magazines in 2013. At that time, the senator had an A grade from the NRA, although he took a more active role in speaking out against gun violence following the Sandy Hook shooting.
Warner’s marked change in position on gun control might be a sign that the protests — organized by survivors from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead last month — are resonating with some politicians.
The recent spending bill included some basic gun control measures, including permission for the CDC to research gun violence, money for safety training in schools, and a measure to strengthen background checks at the state level.
Warner expressed hope that Congress would do more on gun control before the mid-term elections in November.
“There was finally some incremental movement, but in this era of fake news and disinformation, to see the genuineness of all those young people, I think this time it’s going to be different,” he told Face the Nation. “I think their demand for sensible gun control, I think we can actually get it done.”
As part of their platform for gun control, the organizers of the March for Our Lives are calling for a ban on assault-style weapons, a ban on high capacity magazines, and universal background checks for would-be gun owners.
According to surveys from the Pew Research Center, all three of those policies are supported by a majority of voters in both parties, with closing the loophole on background checks for private gun purchases and gun shows earning support from 90 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of Republicans.
A poll published on Sunday by Fox News also found high support for universal background checks, with 91 percent of registered voters in favor of the policy.
Organizers of the march have also said that they plan to continue working to mobilize young voters to participate in the mid-term elections, something that Warner voiced his support for.
“I think the most important thing they can do, register and vote,” Warner said. “End of the day, that’s the way you change democracy.”