The PJ Tatler

Sanders to Those Who Call Him 'Gun Nut': Understand My State

“Bernie Sanders, Gun Nut”? Slate thinks so:

Before liberal Democrats flock to Sanders, they should remember that the Vermont senator stands firmly to Clinton’s right on one issue of overwhelming importance to the Democratic base: gun control. During his time in Congress, Sanders opposed several moderate gun control bills. He also supported the most odious NRA–backed law in recent memory—one that may block Sandy Hook families from winning a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the gun used to massacre their children.

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.” (He has since endorsed some modest gun control measures.)

In April 2013, Sanders, then chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, crossed the aisle to support an amendment that would have ensured VA beneficiaries got a judicial review before having their ability to own a gun stripped away.

Sanders has a “D-” grade with the NRA; he told MSNBC yesterday that to the best of his recollection he got an “F” in their lawmaker ratings. “That doesn’t quite make me a gun nut,” he said.

“In my state of Vermont, we are a very rural state where guns are about hunting, target practice, antique guns, and we have a pretty low crime rate,” Sanders further explained. “I do believe, obviously, that nationally, guns in Baltimore and guns in Los Angeles are very different. I have voted against the importation of assault weapons. And I understand not every part of America is the state of Vermont.”