Recently Bernie Sanders has come under attack for not being “Progressive enough” on gun control. It’s true his record on guns is different from most other Democrats and that is actually his great strength on this issue. By refusing to just push the party agenda Sanders has shown a broader understanding of the issue and he’s become the only candidate in a position to work with both sides. If we want to achieve real progress on one of the most important challenges facing our country today then Sanders’s record is exactly what we need in a leader.
As a Senator Sanders represents Vermont, a state with a lot of hunting and very high rates of gun ownership but very low rates of gun violence. He has advocated for his constituents’ interests by promoting gun safety and also respecting gun rights. He voted for legislation to ban certain types of assault weapons and against legislation that could have unfairly made gun shop owners responsible for the actions of customers. At the same time he’s working to reduce gun violence by calling for better background checks, closing the gun show loophole, and other measures. He’s acknowledged that guns in rural communities where hunting is an important part of life serve a different purpose than guns in urban communities. And he’s stood up for the many many responsible gun owners who support gun safety.
Senator Sanders is the only major candidate who has really gone beyond simply being pro-gun or anti-gun. He’s worked to understand the whole issue and find common ground. In contrast, the other candidates’ platforms are so far apart that they seem to be talking about two completely different issues. Rubio, Cruz, and Trump focus on “protecting the Second Amendment” while Clinton discusses “preventing gun violence”. Dividing the issue along party lines and refusing to even acknowledge the other point of view has lead to a stale mate where it’s almost impossible to make progress. Republicans don’t seem to want to do anything about the unacceptable levels of gun violence in this country. And the Democrats haven’t been able to pass gun legislation in the Republican controlled congress. Even worse, recent attempts at gun restrictions have actually caused increases in gun purchases and put more weapons into our communities. To pass meaningful legislation and reduce gun violence there has to be support from both sides, there has to be a conversation. Senator Sanders is the only candidate who can start that conversation and lead the way to thoughtful reform. His record proves that he understands the need for gun safety while respecting gun rights. His unique understanding and respect for the different view points is what will enable him to bring both sides together on this issue.
There may never be complete consensus on guns in America, but common ground does exist. If a leader is willing to deal fairly and reasonably with both sides, instead of digging in their heels and shouting their party line, we can move forward toward reducing the unacceptable level of gun violence in America. We don’t need a leader who is “Progressive” on the issue; we need a leader who can actually make progress. With our help, Bernie Sanders will be that leader.