Bernie Sanders on Gun Policy

Overall, Bernie Sanders believes in a middle-ground solution in the national gun debate, saying in a recent interview:

“Folks who do not like guns [are] fine. But we have millions of people who are gun owners in this country — 99.9 percent of those people obey the law. I want to see real, serious debate and action on guns, but it is not going to take place if we simply have extreme positions on both sides. I think I can bring us to the middle.”

Gun Control: Gun control legislation should ultimately fall on individual states, with the exception of a federal ban on assault weapons and instant background checks to prevent firearms from finding their way into the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.

Manufacturer Liability: Gun manufacturers should not be held liable for the misuse of their products, just as any other industry isn’t held accountable for how end-consumers use their products.

Improve Mental Health: Gun control is not the only solution to curbing the epidemic of gun violence. There must be other efforts to assist those with mental health issues in order to prevent suicides by firearms or mass shootings at public places.

Take On The NRA: The National Rifle Association (NRA) is a powerful lobbying group with too much influence over gun legislation. Bernie wants to take on the NRA and limit their political influence so we can pass meaningful gun reforms.

Gun Control

Bernie believes that gun control is largely a state issue because attitudes and actions with regards to firearms differ greatly between rural and urban communities. Nevertheless, Bernie believes there are situations where the federal government should intervene. He voted in favor of requiring background checks to prevent firearms from getting into the hands of felons and the mentally ill, passing a federal ban on assault weapons, and closing loopholes which allows private sellers at gun shows and on the internet to sell to individuals without background checks.

What examples are there to show this divide between rural and urban communities?

The state of Vermont, which Bernie represents as senator, is the most gun-friendly state in the nation, while at the same time it boasts the absolute lowest rate of gun-related crime.

How does Bernie believe gun legislation in the United States should be handled?

Bernie believes in middle-ground legislation. As such, he understands that Americans in rural areas have a very different view towards guns than those who live in densely populated urban environments. Bernie believes in a solution which promotes gun rights for those who wish to possess them while also ensuring their safe and secure use so that they cannot be used to harm fellow human beings.

To what extent does Bernie believe that gun regulation should be a federal issue?

Bernie has voted in favor of a nationwide ban on military-style assault weapons, a nationwide ban on high-capacity magazines of over ten rounds, and nationwide expanded background checks that address unsafe loopholes.

Bernie believes assault weapons, as well as magazines holding more than ten bullets, should be banned nationwide. Why?

In a recent speech, Bernie explained that, in his view, assault weapons should be categorically banned:

What about bump stocks?

When a standard gunstock is replaced with a bump stock, a semiautomatic firearm can fire more quickly. The Route 91 Harvest Music Festival shooter used a bump stock. This tragic mass shooting resulted in fifty-eight deaths and hundreds of injuries.

Bernie supported the ban on bump stocks, noting that they provide an effective workaround to convert a legal weapon into an illegal one.” Bump stocks were banned on March 29, 2019.

What is the gun show loophole?

Federal law currently stipulates that only licensed firearms dealers are required to conduct background checks. Bernie supports closing the gun show loophole, which allows private sellers to sell firearms to private buyers without background checks. Currently only ten states require background checks for purchases at gun shows. Moreover, according to the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986, a private seller is classified as any seller who doesn’t rely on gun sales as the principal way of making their living. Because of this, it is easy to imagine that many individuals who have a regular source of income outside of selling firearms can claim that they are private sellers. This allows these individuals to exploit the gun show loophole and sell guns without requiring background checks.

What does Bernie propose to do about this?

Bernie has voted in favor of expanded background checks for all commercial sales with an exemption for sales between “family, friends, and neighbors.” Bernie has also voted in favor of a national instant background check system.

How does Bernie believe we should address mass shootings and other gun-related violence?

Bernie believes that we have a crisis in addressing mental health issues in this country, saying in a recent interview:

“We need strong sensible gun control, and I will support it. But some people think it’s going to solve all of our problems, and it’s not. You know what, we have a crisis in the capability of addressing mental health illness in this country. When people are hurting and are prepared to do something terrible, we need to do something immediately. We don’t have that and we should have that.”

Given that 23 percent of the perpetrators of mass shootings have been found to suffer from mental health issues, Bernie believes that expanding access to mental healthcare can address some of the root causes of gun-related violent crime.

Learn more about Bernie’s stances regarding access to mental healthcare here. Also, learn about his policies with regards to addressing other structural causes of violent crime here.

That may sound all good, but won’t universal background checks, closing of gun show loopholes, crackdowns on straw purchases, and a nationwide federal ban on assault weapons limit the rights of the Second Amendment?

The Second Amendment is highly valued in the United States Constitution because it gives all American citizens the right to bear arms. At the time of its inception in 1790, only muskets and bayonets existed. However, partly due to the Industrial Revolution, and the American Civil War and World War I, gun manufacturers stimulated production of handmade assault weapons and more powerful handguns and pistols with the only purpose of killing enemy soldiers with less accuracy and a higher concentration of bullets.

Just as if you said, “I’ll bomb the Eiffel Tower,” using an assault rifle or any other gun to murder innocent and defenseless citizens goes into a constitutional argument for gun control: the responsibility of the person to use the gun properly, just like having to use your words properly with freedom of speech. So, in theory, unlike claims by the Republican Senate Majority Leader and his colleagues that the Democrats want to take away your guns, any responsible gun owner that follows the law would still retain their gun, regardless of the implementation of background checks. That’s why Bernie has supported these gun control measures to curb the gun violence epidemic.

Manufacturer Liability

Manufacturers and sellers of firearms should not be held accountable for the misuse of their products, as long as the gun manufacturer and gun sale owner were not illegally responsible for handing their products to those with mental health issues, those on the terror watch list, or others that should not have guns in the first place.

What legislation has Bernie voted in favor of to support this?

Bernie voted in favor of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which prevents firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable for negligence as a result of the misuse of their products.

Why does Bernie support this?

In a recent interview, Bernie said:

“Now, the issues that you’re talking about is, if somebody has a gun and it falls into the hands of a murderer, and that murderer kills somebody with the gun, do you hold the gun manufacturer responsible? Not anymore than you would hold a hammer company responsible if somebody beat somebody over the head with a hammer. That is not what a lawsuit should be about.”

In other words, the instrument itself cannot be held responsible for it being misused by the individual.

Mental Health

Bernie believes that everyone has a right to adequate mental healthcare.

How does mental health relate to gun violence?

Although only a very small amount of gun violence is caused by mental health issues, guns play a disproportionately high role in suicides.

Studies show that one way to reduce the number of gun-related suicides is to work with mental health professionals on productive solutions.

What has Bernie done to improve mental healthcare?

One of the ACA provisions he successfully got added dramatically increased support for community health centers, which provide affordable primary care and mental health counseling to the underserved. The law authorized $11 billion to improve and expand community health centers over a five-year period. Mental healthcare is as important, if not more important, than physical healthcare in order to save the lives of others and not just the lives of the individuals with mental health issues.

Does Medicare For All include mental healthcare?

Yes, Bernie’s Medicare For All plan includes mental health services. More specifically, Medicare For All includes increased funding of the National Health Service Corps, as well as expanding Community Health Centers, both in rural and urban communities to organize their resources and effectively combat mental illness.

Check out our other article to learn more about Bernie’s healthcare plan.

Take On The NRA

The NRA is the largest pro-gun lobby in the United States. Politicians and their staffers consider the NRA to be one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the country.

Why do we need to take on the NRA?

There are two major reasons why Bernie wants to take on the NRA. First, Bernie wants to eliminate the overall influence big money has in politics. Second, the NRA uses their lobbying power to oppose the common sense gun reform that Bernie supports.

For example, the NRA opposes an assault weapons ban, opposed the ban on bump stocks, and opposes an expansion of background checks.

What has Bernie said about the NRA?

The first point of Bernie’s gun safety platform is “take on the NRA and its corrupting effect on Washington.” Bernie often criticizes the NRA for their lobbying efforts to oppose gun reform.

What does the NRA think of Bernie?

Like many lobbying organizations, the NRA releases grades for politicians based on their votes related to the field the group lobbies for.

Bernie regularly receives poor grades from the NRA:

  • 1992: D
  • 1994: F
  • 1996: F
  • 1998: F
  • 2000: F
  • 2002: F
  • 2004: D+
  • 2006: C-
  • 2012: D-