Senator Bernie Sanders, who represents vehemently pro-gun Vermont, has built a fairly firearms friendly voting record during his time in the U.S. Senate. After he recently emerged as the 2016 presidential race’s standard-bearer for the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, progressive politicos who oppose gun rights began to complain about Sanders’ record on guns. In an apparent primary-season about-face on Sunday’s episode of NBC’s Meet the Press, Sanders radically adjusted his position on guns and advocated for a sweeping gun ban that would outlaw most firearms designed for home and self defense.
In the above-embedded clip from Meet the Press, which is featured on Bernie Sanders’ YouTube channel, he said, “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. And second of all I believe that we need to make sure that certain types of guns used to kill people, exclusively, not for hunting, they should not be sold in the United States of America, and we have a huge loophole now with gun shows that should be eliminated.”
While most of the positions that he advocated for on guns on Meet the Press fall within the mainstream of the Democratic Party, Media Research Center points out the fact that calling for a ban on all firearms “used to kill people” and “not for hunting” implies a ban on all weapons that are impractical for hunting but used primarily for self defense, including handguns, shotguns, and specific classes of rifles.
“Coming from a rural state, I think I can communicate with folks coming from urban states where guns mean different things than they do in Vermont where it’s used for hunting,” said Sanders, clarifying that he would continue to defend his home state’s hunting tradition but would oppose gun rights for people living in an urban area.
The Washington Post notes that the previously pro-gun Sanders won his first House seat with the help of an endorsement from the National Rifle Association.
In a May op-ed criticizing Sanders’ votes in favor of gun rights, Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern wrote, “Sanders, an economic populist and middle-class pugilist, doesn’t talk much about guns on the campaign trail. But his voting record paints the picture of a legislator who is both skeptical of gun control and invested in the interests of gun owners—and manufacturers. In 1993, then-Rep. Sanders voted against the Brady Act, which mandated federal background checks for gun purchasers and restricted felons’ access to firearms. As a senator, Sanders supported bills to allow firearms in checked bags on Amtrak trains and block funding to any foreign aid organization that registered or taxed Americans’ guns. Sanders is dubious that gun control could help prevent gun violence, telling one interviewer after Sandy Hook that ‘if you passed the strongest gun control legislation tomorrow, I don’t think it will have a profound effect on the tragedies we have seen.’”
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