During a Sunday appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the former Democratic presidential candidate said that, for three decades, he has “believed we should not be selling assault weapons” like the accused gunman’s AR-15.
“These weapons are not for hunting,” he said. “They’re for killing human beings.”
He also said Congress should close the so-called gun show loophole ― the lack of federal rules mandating background checks on the sale of firearms between privates sellers.
Sanders’ voting record on gun control became a focal point during the 2016 primary campaign as Hillary Clinton supporters sought to discredit his progressive credentials on the issue.
Politico described Sanders as being a ”liberal standard-bearer on nearly every single policy issue ... [with] one notable exception – guns.”
In Congress, he voted against a bill in the 1990s to require a five-day waiting periods to allow for criminal background checks before a gun could be purchased, voted to allow firearms on Amtrak, and came out against a lawsuit to hold gun manufacturers accountable for the 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. But he has also voted for universal background checks and an assault weapons ban.
Hunting is popular in Sanders’ home state of Vermont. Its gun laws are so permissive that an editor at the Burlington-based alt-weekly Seven Days detailed how he “bought an AR-15 in a Five Guys parking lot” in 2016. On Thursday, one day after the Florida shooting, Gov. Phil Scott (R) said the state would not consider new gun restrictions.
Sanders grew visibly frustrated by host Chuck Todd’s questions on his record on gun issues. He stressed that the National Rifle Association has given him a D-minus rating on its ranking of federal lawmakers. He also reiterated his long-argued claim that the NRA’s support for his opponent cost him a statewide election in 1988, though The Washington Post cast doubt over how big a role the gun lobby’s endorsement played in Sanders’ defeat.
“We’ve got to take on the NRA,” Sanders said. “The tragedy we saw in Parkland is unspeakable, and all over this country parents are scared to death of what might happen when they send their kids to school.”
Earlier on “Meet the Press,” Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), called for restricting people with criminal records or histories of mental illness from purchasing assault weapons. But he said it shouldn’t be made harder for others to do so.
“Some actually do hunt with an AR-15,” said Lankford, who received $5,000 in political contributions from the NRA in the 2016 campaign cycle.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that an editor at the Burlington-based alt-weekly Seven Days bought an AR-15 from five guys. In fact, it was bought in the parking lot of a Five Guys restaurant.