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Bernie Sanders on Gun Control

Socialist Jr Senator; previously Representative (VT-At-Large)

 


FactCheck: No, never supported by National Rifle Association

Hillary Clinton said about Bernie Sanders, "in his own book, he talks about his 1990 campaign, and here's what he said: He clearly was helped by the NRA, because they ran ads against his opponent." Is that true? We dug up the relevant section of Sanders' book:

"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!

Source: OnTheIssues FactCheck: 2016 Dem. primary debate in Brooklyn , Apr 15, 2016

I have shown courage against NRA on gun issues

Gov. O'MALLEY: In Maryland, we overcame the NRA's objections. [The lack of progress on federal un laws] i's because of the flip-flopping, political approach of Washington that both of my two colleagues on this stage have represented there for the last forty years.

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.

Source: 2015 ABC/WMUR Democratic primary debate in N.H. , Dec 19, 2015

People have the right to buy guns, with sensible regulations

O'MALLEY: Senator Sanders voted against the Brady Bill. Senator Sanders voted to give immunity to gun dealers. What we need on this issue is not more polls. We need more principle. When ISIL does videos that say the easiest way to get a combat assault weapon in the US is at a gun show, we should all be waking up. We need comprehensive gun safety legislation and a ban on assault weapons.

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.

Source: 2015 ABC/WMUR Democratic primary debate in N.H. , Dec 19, 2015

Do more than reverse gun manufacturer immunity

Q: You say that Senator Sanders took a vote on immunity that you don't like. Should he be tattooed by a single vote and that ruins all future opinions by him on this issue?

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.

Source: 2015 CBS Democratic primary debate in Iowa , Nov 14, 2015

I want to shield gun shops from lawsuits, not manufacturers

Q: For a decade, you said that holding gun manufacturers legally responsible for mass shootings is a bad idea. Do you want to shield gun companies from lawsuits?

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.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

Deal federally with straw-man gun purchasers

Q: You voted against the Brady Bill that mandated background checks. You also supported allowing riders to bring guns in checked bags on Amtrak trains.

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.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

Bring together rural states & urban states with common sense

SANDERS: I come from a rural state, and the views on gun control in rural states are different than in urban states. Our job is to bring people together around strong, commonsense gun legislation.

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.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

Common sense, incremental gun control plan

Q: Let's talk about the gun issue. You've called for moderation in this saying that you think you can bring both sides together.

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.

Source: Meet the Press 2015 interview moderated by Chuck Todd , Oct 11, 2015

1988: NRA opposed Congressional opponents more than him

The National Rifle Association turned against [my Republican opponent for U.S. Congress, Peter Plympton] Smith. In 1988, the NRA had supported both Smith and [my Democratic opponent, Paul] Poirier, and had opposed me. During that campaign, I was very clear that while I opposed the Brady bill because I felt that a handgun waiting period could be dealt with at the state level, I supported a ban on certain types of assault weapons, which was clearly a national issue. Both Smith and Poirier adopted the anti-gun control position of 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.)

Source: Outsider in the White House , by Bernie Sanders, p. 106 , Sep 28, 2015

1988: NRA opposed Congressional opponents more than him

The National Rifle Association turned against [my Republican opponent for U.S. Congress, Peter Plympton] Smith. In 1988, the NRA had supported both Smith and [my Democratic opponent, Paul] Poirier, and had opposed me. During that campaign, I was very clear that while I opposed the Brady bill because I felt that a handgun waiting period could be dealt with at the state level, I supported a ban on certain types of assault weapons, which was clearly a national issue. Both Smith and Poirier adopted the anti-gun control position of 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.)

Source: Outsider in the White House , by Bernie Sanders, p. 106 , Sep 28, 2015

Ban semiautomatic guns & gun show loophole

Q: Your Democratic rivals have been arguing that, when it comes to guns, you are out of step with liberal and progressive primary voters on the issue of gun control. One said that your gun votes had been driven by "political expediency," and that this is a dividing line between you and Hillary Clinton. Your response?

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.

Source: CNN SOTU 2015 interview series: 2016 presidential hopefuls , Aug 30, 2015

Instant background checks: no guns for criminals or unstable

Q: What about gun control?

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

Source: Meet the Press 2015 interviews of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Jul 26, 2015

Guns in Vermont are for hunting; but in L.A. are for killing

Q: The parents of one of the 12 innocent people killed during the Aurora movie theater shooting, sued to hold ammunition sellers liable for the attack, but their lawsuit was dismissed. And one of the reasons was a law that you voted for which protects manufacturers of ammunition from being sued. Why did you vote that way?

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.

Source: CNN SOTU 2015 interview series: 2016 presidential hopefuls , Jul 5, 2015

Gun legislation must work for both rural & urban Americans

Q: Recently you've been criticized as not being truly progressive when it comes to gun control. What's your response to that?

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.

Source: ABC This Week 2015 interviews of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Jun 28, 2015

OpEd: pro-gun votes in line with VT's political norms

Though Sanders has largely been to the left of his main democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, he is to the right of her in one notable way, as evidenced by his voting record: gun control. MSNBC notes that "it's important to realize that Vermont has some of the most lax gun laws in the nation, in large part because gun violence in the Green Mountain State is so low," and that Sanders' gun votes put him "in line with his home state's political norms."

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.

Source: Rolling Stone magazine on 2016 presidential hopefuls , Jun 18, 2015

Mixed approach to gun control vs. gun rights

On Guns: A mixed approach. No federal handgun waiting period. Some protection for gun manufacturers. Ban assault weapons.

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.

Source: PBS News Hour "2016 Candidate Stands" series , Apr 30, 2015

I'm pro-hunting, but no one needs an AK-47 to hunt

During the 1994 campaign the NRA had played a very forceful role against me. They distributed widely a "Bye, Bye, Bernie" bumper sticker.

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.

Source: Outsider in the House, by Bernie Sanders, p. 38-9 , Jun 17, 1997

Voted YES on banning high-capacity magazines of over 10 bullets.

Congressional Summary:

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.

Reference: Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act; Bill S.Amdt. 714 to S. 649 ; vote number 13-SV103 on Apr 17, 2013

Voted YES on allowing firearms in checked baggage on Amtrak trains.

Congressional Summary:AMENDMENT PURPOSE: To ensure that law abiding Amtrak passengers are allowed to securely transport firearms in their checked baggage.

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.

Reference: Wicker Amendment; Bill S.Amdt.798 to S.Con.Res.13 ; vote number 2009-S145 on Apr 2, 2009

Voted YES on prohibiting foreign & UN aid that restricts US gun ownership.

Amendment SA 2774 to H.R. 2764, the Department of State's International Aid bill: To prohibit the use of funds by international organizations, agencies, and entities (including the United Nations) that require the registration of, or taxes guns owned by citizens of the United States.

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.

Reference: Vitter Amendment to State Dept. Appropriations Bill; Bill S.Amdt. 2774 to H.R. 2764 ; vote number 2007-321 on Sep 6, 2007

Voted YES on prohibiting product misuse lawsuits on gun manufacturers.

A bill to prohibit civil liability actions from being brought or continued against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, or importers of firearms or ammunition for damages, injunctive or other relief resulting from the misuse of their products by others. A YES vote would:
Reference: Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act; Bill S 397 ; vote number 2005-534 on Oct 20, 2005

Voted YES on prohibiting suing gunmakers & sellers for gun misuse.

Vote to pass a bill that would prohibit liability lawsuits from being brought against gun manufacturers and dealers based on the criminal misuse of firearms. The bill would also block these actions from being brought up against gun trade organizations and against ammunition makers and sellers. The measure would apply immediately to any pending cases. Several specific exceptions to the ban exist. This includes civil suits would be allowed against a maker or dealer who "knowingly and willfully violated" state or federal laws in the selling or marketing of a weapon. Design and manufacturing defect lawsuits are also permitted when weapons are "used as intended.
Reference: Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act; Bill HR 1036 ; vote number 2003-124 on Apr 9, 2003

Voted NO on decreasing gun waiting period from 3 days to 1.

Vote to pass a bill requiring anyone who purchases a gun at a gun show to go through an instant background check which must be completed within 24 hours [instead of 72 hours].
Reference: Bill introduced by McCollum, R-FL; Bill HR 2122 ; vote number 1999-244 on Jun 18, 1999

Rated F by the NRA, indicating a pro-gun control voting record.

Sanders scores F by NRA on pro-gun rights policies

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).

Source: NRA website 02n-NRA on Dec 31, 2003

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Page last updated: Aug 18, 2016