Few have ever accused Senator and now presidential candidate Bernie Sanders of being middle of the road, but that’s exactly the position he’s choosing when it comes to the hotly contested issue of guns.
Sunday, on CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper, Sanders talked about guns and the “cultural divide.”
As much as I agree with Sanders on nearly every issue, his arguments about guns don’t make much sense, and are largely based on straw men. On State of the Union, Sanders talked about gun liability laws:
“If somebody has a gun and it falls into the hands of a murderer and the murderer kills somebody with a gun, do you hold the gun manufacturer responsible? Not any more than you would hold a hammer company responsible if somebody beats somebody over the head with a hammer. That is not what a lawsuit should be about,” Sanders said Sunday.
The law that Tapper is talking about is called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act and it says that gun manufacturers cannot be held liable for shootings. That might sound somewhat reasonable but there are some lawsuits going on right now, that claim gun manufacturers have been illegally selling guns and that they are selling military weapons (like AR-15s) to civilians. Both are topics worth being heard in a court of law, seemingly regardless of your political views, but because of the law that Sanders helped pass, it’s unlikely anything will become of the suits.
Sanders was also guilty of false equivalency when it came to “both sides” of the gun debate.
“Folks who do not like guns is fine. But we have millions of people who are gun owners in this country — 99.9% of those people obey the law,” Sanders said. “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.”
Here’s the video:
He should know that as with most political debates these days, what’s being called the middle is actually far right of center. No one with any power is calling for a ban on guns. Even a discussion of background checks is controversial. In Washington, there is no extreme left side in the gun debate, just the extreme left and something approaching the right of middle.
None of this is to say that Sanders is a gun nut, by any means. He has voted for expanded background checks and a ban on assault rifles, but he also voted against the Brady Act and for firearms on unchecked Amtrak luggage.
Now, about those “extremes” on both sides, on the left we have Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), whose most radical ideas are to ban assault weapons and armor piercing bullets. He has never suggested banning guns for target shooting or for hunting or for protection. On the right we have Sen. James Inhofe, who has never met a gun he hasn’t loved. He even voted against child safety locks.
Sanders of all people should recognize the false equivalency. It’s the same with raising taxes on the wealthy, corporate regulation and many of the other issues which Sanders is passionate about. Our country has swung so far to the right on both economic and gun issues that the center is hard to even see.
Featured image via YouTube video screen capture.