You have probably heard, or maybe you will soon, attacks from Hillary on a specific Sanders’ gun control vote. Let me clear the air for you so you can explain it to others and understand for yourself.
In 2005, Sanders voted for a bill that granted nearly complete immunity (aka protection from liability) to gun manufacturers and dealers. He explained that he voted for it because he felt the alternative was that manufacturers and retailers (especially small ones) would be unfairly held liable if a crime was committed with a gun they made or sold. That’s an example of Sanders being independent, bipartisan and choosing not to support silly, unreasonable gun control.
Hillary has been attacking him on this because, without delving into the issue, it can be twisted into the talking point of “he voted the way the NRA wanted!” Progressive Democrats don’t like that. Technically he did vote for what the NRA supported, but that’s just because they always oppose all gun control legislation all the time. Sanders still has a D- rating from the NRA. However, he also has an 85% approval rating (the highest of any member of congress) from his rural, high-gun-ownership state of Vermont.
Since Hillary has been attacking him, Sanders has not only explained and supported his 2005 vote, but also stated he’ll carefully consider his upcoming vote on a bill that would partially repeal the legislation he voted for in 2005. He currently supports it. Hillary portrays this as a flip-flop but it’s not. Sanders hasn’t definitively said how he’ll vote, just that he supports it and he’ll be thinking about it carefully.
Even if he does vote seemingly contrary to his 2005 vote, it’s only because he felt that his 2005 vote was the lesser of two evils. The way the 2005 bill was written, there was either total liability for manufacturers and retailers or nearly none. Sanders voted for shielding manufacturers and retailers because he felt the alternative of total liability across the board was unjust and excessive. The new senate bill he’ll be voting on soon will not be fully repealing the 2005 bill – it will be adding more liability in some ways, that’s all. That’s why he supports it. Or he may reconsider it, feel that it still goes too far, and he’ll vote against it. We’ll have to wait and see. Currently he’s said he’ll vote for it.
From The Guardian:
“If you are a gun manufacturer who is selling guns into an area,” Sanders said at the forum, “and you’re selling a whole lot of guns and you have reason to believe that a lot of those guns are not meant for people in that area, but are being distributed to criminal elements, should you be prosecuted? Damn right.”
Because, unfortunately, evidence does show that gun makers often turn a blind eye to high gun sales to areas in which they know the guns are being trafficked elsewhere for criminal purposes. He wants to hold them accountable for that, but not for the mass shooting no one could’ve predicted. He wants to hold a retailer accountable for selling a gun to an incapacitated, unstable, or impaired person – or to a criminal – but not for selling a gun to a sound-of-mind citizen who later has it get stolen and used by someone else in a crime.
Of course, if he votes to restore a bit of liability to manufacturers and retailers, the gun lobby will immediately spew propaganda about “Sanders wants to hold gun manufacturers and dealers accountable for crimes anyone commits with their guns!” When we know that’s a distortion and generalization of the situation. He only wants liability in specific scenarios. Remember his 2005 vote mentioned above?
Also, if he votes for this bill, Hillary will praise his “new” stance but accuse him of flip-flopping. If he changes his mind and votes against it, she’ll accuse him of being anti-gun control, pro-NRA, and not progressive enough.
Unfortunately, hardly anyone who is voting will look into the issue as much as I have and get an educated understanding of what Sanders is doing. Hillary knows people won’t. The NRA knows people won’t.
Sanders looks at the particulars and nuances of legislation and carefully considers them before voting.
Here’s the best synopsis of the new bill, which is an amendment to the one passed in 2005. The first four paragraphs are short and the most important.