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

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 as do 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 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:

The gun show loophole should be closed to prevent private sellers from selling firearms without background checks.

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.

Manufacturer Liability

Manufacturers and sellers of firearms should not be held accountable for the misuse of their products.

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 the being misused by the individual.