As the only credible threat to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign so far, Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has been able to draw large crowds to his speeches around the country and is widely viewed as the liberal counterpart to the more moderate Clinton.
With his poll numbers on the rise, Sanders is now facing questions from his once concrete voting block over his record of supporting anti-gun control legislation.
In an interview with Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on July 26, Sanders sought to quell concerns over his past support for the National Rifle Association and his vote against the so-called Brady Bill of 1993 which would have expanded background checks for some firearms.
“I come from the state which has virtually no gun control. And yet, I voted to ban certain types of assault weapons, I voted to close the gun show loophole,” Sanders 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.”
While his remarks on “Meet the Press” were labeled a “very positive development” by Ladd Everitt, a representative for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Sanders’ vote in favor of a 2005 law is still being used as a sticking point for liberal activists.
The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, implemented a decade ago, prevents firearm manufacturers from being held liable for damages when a violent or criminal act has been committed with their products. Sanders voted in favor of the legislation, which the NRA called “the most significant piece of pro-gun legislation in twenty years,” according to its website. Sanders recently defended his vote for the bill in an interview on CNN, saying that a gun manufacturer should not be held responsible for a crime committed by a second party, Bloomberg News noted.
Sanders' stance on gun issues has evolved since the December 2012 shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. He publicly announced his regret for voting against the Brady Bill nearly two decades before and supported new measures that would have closed loopholes in the national firearm background check system and banned assault weapons. He still did not believe these laws would have helped reduce gun violence throughout the nation.
If Congress “passed the strongest gun control legislation tomorrow, I don’t think it will have a profound effect on the tragedies we have seen,” Sanders told Vermont newspaper Seven Days in March 2013.