Election 2020

Sanders: Gun Control Not a 'Magic Formula' to Stop Mass Shootings

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Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley is taking advantage of the San Bernardino terrorist attack to go after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for his positions on guns.

But Sanders stressed that gun control isn’t a “magic formula” to stop mass shootings.

Asked on CBS’ Face the Nation Sunday what he would have said if addressing the nation from the Oval Office on the ISIS threat, Sanders kept his policy prescriptions to foreign policy and homeland security.

“And that means much tougher screening policies than we have right now. I think Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson is right. We should have more agents placed in other countries around the world. And it’s not just Muslim countries that we have to worry about. There are other countries as well that people can slip in to this country,” said the Democratic presidential candidate.

“Second of all, I think we need to do much, much better work, not only in our intelligence efforts, but in coordinating international intelligence. I think, clearly, Paris was an intelligence failure. And we need to be tapping the intelligence information that is being ascertained from countries all over the world.”

Host John Dickerson noted that “Democrats are going to notice that you didn’t list gun control in your responses.”

Sanders supports expanded background checks, blocking the sale of high-capacity magazines and assault weapons, making gun trafficking a federal crime, and expanding mental health treatment.

But on gun control as a whole, “I don’t think anybody believes it’s a magic formula.”

“Clearly, though, there is an obvious commonsense consensus, John, in this country that guns should not be falling into the hands of people who should not be having them,” Sanders said. “And, obviously, that goes without saying. I don’t think it’s very hard to understand that terrorists or potential terrorists should not have guns. People who are being barred from flying on airplanes should not have guns. I believe we must improve and expand instant background checks.”

Sanders was pressed on whether he regrets “having voted to protect gun manufacturers, giving them that immunity.”

“If a gun manufacturer understands and knows that the product that he is selling to a community is really getting out to criminal elements, that gun manufacturer should be held liable for what the company is doing,” the senator said. “There were elements in that vote back then that did make sense. In the sense that if a small gun-shop owner in the state of Vermont sells a product, a gun, legally to somebody else who then goes out does something crazy, do I think that that small gun-shop owner should be held liable for legally selling the product? No, I don’t.”

“But I think, bottom line is, that we should be rethinking that legislation and we should be doing everything that we can as a country to make sure that weapons do not get into the hands of people who should not have them.”

The campaign of former Maryland Gov. O’Malley lashed out at Sanders for not addressing “his own failed record on gun safety.”

“It’s shocking that just three days after yet another mass shooting in America — the 353rd this year — Senator Sanders didn’t once mention the need for commonsense gun safety laws,” Deputy Campaign Manager Lis Smith said. “It’s well known that he was elected to Congress with the help of the NRA, voted multiple times against background checks, and even helped give gun manufacturers and dealers blanket immunity, and his silence today confirms why he can’t be trusted to take on this critical issue.”

“Our next president needs the backbone to stand up to the NRA, and Martin O’Malley is only candidate who has the record of doing so.” 

The national affairs editor at Mother Jones wrote in a New York Times op-ed that the high mass shooting figure is incorrect: there have been four this year, according to their own database.

“Almost all of the gun crimes behind the much larger statistic are less lethal and bear little relevance to the type of public mass murder we have just witnessed again,” Mark Follman wrote. “Including them in the same breath suggests that a 1 a.m. gang fight in a Sacramento restaurant, in which two were killed and two injured, is the same kind of event as a deranged man walking into a community college classroom and massacring nine and injuring nine others.”

O’Malley has been hitting hard at Sanders in New Hampshire, the first test of whether either can make a dent in Hillary Clinton’s campaign, since last week’s attack in which 14 were killed and 21 injured by a husband-wife jihadi team.

“Leadership is about standing on principle, not following polls – and by taking action, not just saying the words. As Governor of Maryland, O’Malley enacted one of the nation’s most comprehensive gun safety laws and he has been consistent on this issue,” said O’Malley’s New Hampshire state director John Bivona. “When Senator Sanders campaigns in New Hampshire today, he should explain to Granite Staters why he did the NRA’s bidding and voted to give gun manufacturers and dealers immunity. New Hampshire voters also deserve to know why Senator Sanders voted multiple times against the Brady Bill and other common sense gun safety legislation during his decades in Washington — and whether his changing rhetoric this year signals he regrets those votes today.”

Speaking to the Des Moines Register in the early caucus state, O’Malley said of the perpetrators, “When they’re Caucasian and born in the U.S., we say, ‘That’s just the way it is. It’s just our gun culture.'” When it’s jihadis, we say, ‘What more can we do?’ Whether jihadis pull the trigger or a white Christian pulls the trigger, it’s the same unfathomable loss of life.”