As the US lurches from one mass shooting to another, Bernie Sanders has been criticized for not taking a more hardline stance against guns and this has made him speak out more and try and make his position clearer. He used a speech yesterday in Boulder, Colorado and recent TV appearances to do so.
Sanders has come under scrutiny since the shooting dead of nine people at Umpqua community college in Roseburg, Oregon on 1 October returned gun control to the headlines. The state he represents as an independent senator, Vermont, has some of the most lax gun control laws in the country. As his rivals in both parties have pointed out, his voting record on gun control legislation is varied.
In 1993, for example, when in the House of Representatives, he voted against the so-called Brady bill, which mandated federal background checks.
In Boulder, Sanders said there was “widespread support to ban semi-automatic assault weapons – guns which have no other purpose but to kill people”.
“I come from a state that has virtually no gun control. And yet, at political peril, I voted for an instant background check, which I want to see strengthened and expanded. I voted to ban certain types of assault weapons which are designed only to kill people. I voted to end the so-called gun show [purchase] loophole.
Sanders was also questioned about his vote in the House in 2005 for a law that protects, to some extent, gun manufacturers from liability over deaths from gun violence. The National Rifle Association – which does not grade Sanders highly – supported that law. It also funded a campaign against Sanders’ opponent in a 1990 House race that he won by 20 points.
“That was a complicated vote and I’m willing to see changes in that provision,” Sanders said of the 2005 law.
“Here’s the reason I voted the way I voted. If you are a gun shop owner in Vermont and you sell somebody a gun and that person flips out and then kills somebody, I don’t think it’s really fair to hold that person responsible, the gun shop owner.
“On the other hand, where there is a problem is there is evidence that … gun manufacturers do know they’re selling a whole lot of guns in an area that really should not be buying that many guns … probably for criminal purposes.
“So can we take another look at that liability issue? Yes.”
Meanwhile Saturday Night Live had a nice ad on America’s love affair with guns.