Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said Sunday that he supports an assault weapons ban, in a signal that the moderate Democrat is seeking to appeal to progressives as he tests the waters for a potential 2020 White House bid.
“If we really step back for a minute, I think most folks — be it in Montana or elsewhere — that are firearm owners want to keep themselves and their families safe,” he said. “It’s not unlike folks that say that all of these school tragedies and everything that’s been happening, what do they really want? Those same values.”
Bullock visited the Iowa State Fair last week and is planning a visit to New Hampshire this week. Both early-voting states are key stops for candidates considering a possible White House bid.
Bullock has typically touted his moderate bona fides, including the fact that he was reelected in 2016 by four percentage points in a state that Donald Trump won by 21 points. Bullock also was recently elected chairman of the National Governors Association, a position that could help him further make the case that he is a bipartisan pragmatist.
Yet his declaration of support for an assault weapons ban is a sign that he also is attuned to calls among the Democratic base for a more liberal candidate to challenge Trump in 2020.
In a May op-ed in the Great Falls Tribune, Bullock said he supports universal background checks and called for tighter limits on high-capacity magazines — a shift from his position on gun rights two years earlier.
“Thoughts and prayers are not solutions. They are excuses,” Bullock wrote in the piece, in which he described himself as “a gun owner who believes in the Constitution, yet also recognizes its limits.”
Bullock declined to say Sunday whether he thinks he could beat Trump in a 2020 matchup.
“Right now, really, what I’m doing is, I have been listening. I have been traveling the country quite a bit, listening probably more than I have been talking. I have shared what we have done in Montana. But, for now, that’s as far as it goes,” he said.