Bernie Sanders on Gun Control
Democratic primary challenger; Independent VT Senator; previously Representative (VT-At-Large)
SANDERS: No, that's a mischaracterization of my thinking.
Q: It's a quote of you.
SANDERS: Look, we have a gun crisis right now, 40,000 people a year are getting killed. In 1988, when it wasn't popular, I ran on a platform of banning assault weapons and in fact lost that race for Congress. I have a D-minus voting record from the NRA. And I believe that what we need is comprehensive gun legislation that, among other things, provides universal background, we end the gun show loophole, we end the strawman provision, and I believed in 1988 and I believe today.
Rep. Eric SWALWELL: Your plan leaves them on the streets. You leave 15 million on the streets.
SANDERS: We ban the sale and distribution [of assault weapons].
SWALWELL: Will you buy them back?
SANDERS: If the government wants to do that and people want to bring them back, yes.
SWALWELL: You are going to be the government, will you buy them back?
While there may not be any guaranteed answers as to how we end mass shootings, that does not mean that we should not be doing everything possible to prevent them. We need action. While the American people are divided over various aspects of gun control, the more important truth is that there is now widespread & growing agreement on a variety of actions that would almost certainly lower the level of gun violence in this country.
Clinton is attacking Sanders for refusing to support the Sandy Hook victims in their lawsuit against gun manufacturers. The reason Sanders opposes the lawsuit because he believes a gun manufacturer should not be criminalized for selling a product which is legal to sell to people. But Sanders would support the victims if they could prove the gun manufacturer knew the person they were selling a weapon to would misuse the weapon, like massacre people with it.
SANDERS: Let's begin by understanding that Bernie Sanders has a D-minus voting rating from the NRA. Back in 1988, when I first ran for Congress, I supported a ban on assault weapons. And over the years, I have strongly supported instant background checks, doing away with this terrible gun show loophole. And I think we've got to move aggressively at the do away with this gun show loophole, that we have to address the issue of mental health, that we have to deal with the straw-man purchasing issue, and that when we develop that consensus, we can finally, finally do something to address this issue.
SANDERS: I wouldn't use the word, "moderation." That's not quite the right word. This is what I do believe. 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 loophole. What I think there needs to be is a dialogue. And here's what I do believe: I believe what I call common sense gun reform. Plus, a revolution in mental health, making sure that if people are having a nervous breakdown, or are suicidal, or homicidal, they get the care they need when they need it. I think the vast majority of the American people can support and agenda composed of those features.
SANDERS: As a nation, we can't continue screaming at each other; we've got to find common ground.
Q: Well, what is that?
SANDERS: For a start, universal instant background checks. Nobody should have a gun who has a criminal background, who's involved in domestic abuse situations, people should not have guns who are going to hurt other people, who are unstable.
Q: In the situation in Louisiana, instant background checks didn't catch what was necessary. Instant background checks lead to more speed & more mistakes. Don't you need longer waiting periods?
SANDERS: Well, what we need to do is, whatever we need, is a system that works. Bottom line is, I hope that nobody in America disagrees that people, as in the case of the shooter in Louisiana, who has a history of mental instability, should not be having guns. People who have criminal backgrounds, people who are abusing wives, should not be having guns. That is the issue that I think we can bring people around
SANDERS: We have been yelling and screaming at each other about guns for decades, with very little success. I come from a state that has virtually no gun control. But the people of my state understand, I think, pretty clearly, that guns in Vermont are not the same thing as guns in Chicago or guns in Los Angeles. In our state, guns are used for hunting. In Chicago, they're used for kids in gangs killing other kids or people shooting at police officers, shooting down innocent people. We need a sensible debate about gun control which overcomes the cultural divide that exists in this country. And I think I can play an important role in this.
SANDERS: Well, I think the people of Vermont know differently. They know in every single race that I have run, with the exception of one, the NRA and other gun lobbyists supported my opponent. I voted for banning assault weapons, doing away with the gun show loophole and fighting for instant background checks so that we make sure that guns do not fall in the hands of those people who should not have it. So, I have a strong record. But what we need to do is bridge this cultural divide between rural America and urban America and come up with some common sense legislation that accommodates everybody. What we really need is a national dialogue.
Sanders voted against the pro-gun-control Brady Bill, writing that he believes states, not the federal government, can handle waiting periods for handguns. In 1994, he voted yes on an assault weapons ban. He has voted to ban some lawsuits against gun manufacturers and for the Manchin-Toomey legislation expanding federal background checks.
Vermont is a rural state in which tens of thousands of people enjoy hunting and own guns. VT is an "outdoor" state--and hunting is a key part of that way of life. I am pro-gun, and pro-hunting. But I don't believe that hunters need assault weapons and AK-47s to kill deer. I voted for the ban on assault weapons, which brought the wrath of the NRA down on me.
Biden said, "The biggest mistake that Sen. Sanders made, he voted to give the gun manufacturers a loophole that does not allow them to be sued for the crimes they have created."
Sanders voted in favor of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005, which largely protects licensed manufacturers & firearms dealers from civil lawsuits over the misuse of guns or ammunition. But the legislation included six exceptions where civil suits could still be brought. The exceptions include cases in which a firearm seller acted with negligence, cases involving the transfer of a firearm with the knowledge that it would be used to commit a crime, and cases of sales in violation of state or federal law.
A decade later, Sanders switched positions and signed on as a cosponsor of an unsuccessful bill that sought to repeal the law he helped enact.
SANDERS: It is unspeakable to see that kids go to a place where they should feel safe, where they can focus on learning, are now worrying.
Q: Have you guys done enough in the Senate?
SANDERS: Of course not! But the American people are united, overwhelmingly, on common sense gun safety legislation. Expand background checks, do away with the gun show loopholes--
Q: If they are, how come this stuff doesn't ever pass?
SANDERS: It's a three-letter word, it's the N-R-A! And it's Trump and the Republicans who don't have the guts to stand up to these people, and that's pretty pathetic. You got a Congress dominated by the NRA, and all the right-wing organizations, and that is enormously unfair to the kids in these high schools, and the American people in general.
When it comes to gun violence, Sanders stresses the expansion of background checks; doing away with gun show loopholes where people can buy guns without background checks; banning strawman purchases where criminals can get guns; and making provisions banning the sale and distribution for assault and military weapons.
"In 1988, the NRA had supported [my Republican opponent Peter] Smith and had opposed me [partly because] I supported a ban on certain types of assault weapons. A few months after taking office, Smith suddenly announced that he would vote FOR the ban on assault weapons. The NRA was furious at his about-face. While the NRA has never endorsed me or given me a nickel, their efforts against Smith in 1988 clearly helped my candidacy."So Hillary is TECHNICALLY accurate, but Bernie was only "helped" by the NRA campaigning against his opponent, and not for him--because he opposed the NRA's desired stance too! And Bernie was never financially supported by the NRA at all!
CLINTON: I have been for the Brady bill; I have been against assault weapons.
SANDERS: In 1988, just to set the record straight governor, I ran for the U.S. House. I said, "I don't think it's a great idea that we sell automatic weapons in this country that are used by the military to kill people very rapidly." Gun people said, "Vote for one of the others, but not Bernie Sanders." I lost that election by 3%. Quite likely for that reason. Do not tell me that I have not shown courage in standing up to the gun people, in voting to ban assault weapons, voting for instant background checks, voting to end the gun show loop hole and now we're in a position to create a consensus in America on gun safety.
SANDERS: It's a country in which people choose to buy guns. More than half of the people in Vermont are gun owners. That's the right of people. I think we have to bring together the majority of the people who do believe in sensible gun safety regulations. Who denies that it is crazy to allow people to own guns who are criminals or mentally unstable? We've got to eliminate the gun show loophole. We have got to see that weapons designed by the military to kill people are not in the hands of civilians.
CLINTON: I would love to see Senator Sanders join with some of my Senate colleagues that I see in the audience: Let's reverse the immunity.
SANDERS: Let's do more than reverse the immunity.
Q: Was that a mistake, Senator?
SANDERS: Let me hear if there's any difference between the Secretary and myself. I have voted time and again for background checks, and I want to see it improved and expanded. I want to see us do away with the gun show loophole. In 1988, I lost an election because I said we should not have assault weapons on the streets of America. I don't know that there's any disagreement here.
O'MALLEY: Oh, yes there is. I think we do need to repeal that immunity that you granted to the gun industry.
SANDERS: Of course not. This was a large and complicated bill. There were provisions in it that I think made sense. For example, do I think that a gun shop in the state of Vermont that sells legally a gun to somebody, and that somebody goes out and does something crazy, that that gun shop owner should be held responsible? I don't. On the other hand, where you have manufacturers and where you have gun shops knowingly giving guns to criminals or aiding and abetting that, of course we should take action.
CLINTON: Senator Sanders did vote for this immunity provision. I voted against it. I was in the Senate at the same time. It wasn't that complicated to me. It was pretty straightforward that he was going to give immunity to the only industry in America. Everybody else has to be accountable, but not the gun manufacturers.
O'MALLEY: Have you ever been to the Eastern Shore? Have you ever been to Western Maryland? We were able to pass this and still respect the hunting traditions of people who live in our rural areas. We did it by leading with principle, not by pandering to the NRA.
A few months after taking office, Smith suddenly announced that he would vote FOR the ban on assault weapons. The NRA and other elements in Vermont's sportsmen community were furious at his about-face. They felt betrayed and worked hard to defeat him. While the NRA has never endorsed me or given me a nickel, their efforts against Smith in 1988 clearly helped my candidacy. (I should add here that in 1992, '94, and '96, the NRA strongly opposed me.)
SANDERS: I have, as I understand it, a lifetime voting record from the NRA of D-minus. I voted very strongly for instant background checks. I want to see them made stronger, probably the most important thing that we can do. Number two, I voted in a state which has almost no gun control, not an easy vote--I voted against the NRA, and I voted to ban certain types of semiautomatic weapons. I voted to eliminate this gun show loophole which allows people to purchase guns without a background check. And, by the way, in addition to that, what I believe is, we need to do a lot, lot better job in terms of mental health in this country.
Gun control advocates see Clinton as "an ally who can finish the push for tightened background checks that has stalled in President Obama's second term," The Hill reports.
Proponent's Argument for voting Yes: Sen. BLUMENTHAL: This amendment would ban high-capacity magazines which are used to kill more people more quickly and, in fact, have been used in more than half the mass shootings since 1982. I ask my colleagues to listen to law enforcement, their police, prosecutors who are outgunned by criminals who use these high-capacity magazines. I ask that my colleagues also listen to the families of those killed by people who used a high-capacity magazine.
Opponent's Argument for voting No: Sen. GRASSLEY. I oppose the amendment. In 2004, which is the last time we had the large-capacity magazine ban, a Department of Justice study found no evidence banning such magazines has led to a reduction in gun violence. The study also concluded it is not clear how often the outcomes of the gun attack depend on the ability of offenders to fire more than 10 shots without reloading. Secondly, there is no evidence banning these magazines has reduced the deaths from gun crimes. In fact, when the previous ban was in effect, a higher percentage of gun crime victims were killed or wounded than before it was adopted. Additionally, tens of millions of these magazines have been lawfully owned in this country for decades. They are in common use, not unusually dangerous, and used by law-abiding citizens in self-defense, as in the case of law enforcement.
On page 37, between lines 8 and 9, insert the following: "Allowing Amtrak Passengers to Securely Transport Firearms on Passenger Trains.--None of amounts made available in the reserve fund authorized under this section may be used to provide financial assistance for the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) unless Amtrak passengers are allowed to securely transport firearms in their checked baggage.
Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Sen. ROGER WICKER (R, MS). This amendment aims to ensure that gun owners and sportsmen are able to transport securely firearms aboard Amtrak trains in checked baggage, a practice that is done thousands of times a day at airports across the country. I emphasize that this amendment deals with checked, secured baggage only. It would return Amtrak to a pre-9/11 practice. It does not deal with carry-on baggage. Unlike the airline industry, Amtrak does not allow the transport of firearms in checked bags. This means that sportsmen who wish to use Amtrak trains for hunting trips cannot do so because they are not allowed to check safely a firearm.
Opponent's argument to vote No:Sen. FRANK LAUTENBERG (D, NJ): I object to this disruptive amendment offered by the Senator from Mississippi. He wants to enable the carrying of weapons, guns, in checked baggage. One doesn't have to be very much concerned about what we are doing when they look at the history of attacks on railroads in Spain and the UK and such places. This amendment has no place here interrupting the budgetary procedure. The pending amendment is not germane and, therefore, I raise a point of order that the amendment violates section 305(b)(2) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974.
Proponents support voting YES because:
Sen. VITTER: This is a straight funding limitation amendment. Many folks who haven't followed the proceedings on this in the U.N. may ask: What is this all about? Unfortunately, it is about an effort in the United Nations to bring gun control to various countries through that international organization. Unfortunately, that has been an ongoing effort which poses a real threat, back to 1995. In 2001, the UN General Assembly adopted a program of action designed to infringe on second amendment rights. The Vitter amendment simply says we are not going to support any international organization that requires a registration of US citizens' guns or taxes US citizens' guns. If other folks in this Chamber think that is not happening, that it is never going to happen, my reply is simple and straightforward: Great, then this language has no effect. It is no harm to pass it as a failsafe. It has no impact. But, in fact, related efforts have been going on in the U.N. since at least 1995. I hope this can get very wide, bipartisan support, and I urge all my colleagues to support this very fundamental, straightforward amendment.
No opponents spoke against the bill.
While widely recognized today as a major political force and as America's foremost defender of Second Amendment rights, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has, since its inception, been the premier firearms education organization in the world. But our successes would not be possible without the tireless efforts and countless hours of service our nearly three million members have given to champion Second Amendment rights and support NRA programs.
The following ratings are based on lifetime voting records on gun issues and the results of a questionaire sent to all Congressional candidates; the NRA assigned a letter grade (with A+ being the highest and F being the lowest).
The Christian Coalition Voter Guide inferred whether candidates agree or disagree with the statement, 'Further Restrictions on the Right to Keep and Bear Arms' Christian Coalition's self-description: "Christian Voter Guide is a clearing-house for traditional, pro-family voter guides. We do not create voter guides, nor do we interview or endorse candidates."
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