Sen. Bernie Sanders says “99.9 percent of gun owners” would never commit gun violence, but wants them to make “concessions” following the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
The Democratic presidential candidate has somewhat distinguished himself from his Democratic opponents, who have proposed sweeping gun control measures -- but the U.S. senator from Vermont took a more conciliatory tone to gun rights during an appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast on Tuesday.
When the conversation turned to gun rights, Sanders expressed condolences to those who were killed or wounded in El Paso and Dayton but noted that nearly all gun owners would never commit such violence.
“All that I ask of the gun owners — and you’re absolutely right, 99.9 percent of gun owners would never in a million, billion years think of doing these horrible things — but at the moment that we are living in, I think we are all going to have to make some concessions to the reality of what’s going on, and that is that there is a small number of — call them whatever you want, depraved people — who are prepared to do that,” Sanders said.
“I wish I could say in the best of all possible worlds, yeah, you can own any weapon you want and so forth and such. We’re not in the best of all possible worlds. We’re living in a world where we’re shocked every day by horror,” he added.
“All that I ask of the gun owners — and you’re absolutely right, 99.9 percent of gun owners would never in a million, billion years think of doing these horrible things — ... I think we are all going to have to make some concessions to the reality of what’s going on ..."
Sanders later added that he doesn’t have a “magical solution” to fix the mass shooting problem in the U.S., but noted “all we can do is the best that we can do.”
His comments are likely to reinforce his progressive critics’ claims that for most of his political career Sanders hasn’t been supportive of gun control and voted against bills infringing on Second Amendment rights.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) backed Sanders’ 1990 congressional campaign after his opponent, Republican Peter Smith, came out in support of an assault weapons ban.
“We don’t like everything that Mr. Sanders has to say about firearms,” NRA lobbyist James Baker told the Rutland Herald in 1990. “But he’s been upfront about it. He’s at least as good, if not better, than Mr. Smith.”
Following the election, according to the left-wing site AlterNet, Sanders repeatedly voted against bills that would require waiting periods for those buying firearms and opposed an effort to allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to fund research on gun violence.
Even in 2015, Sanders voted in favor of a 2005 law protecting gun manufacturers from lawsuits. The legislation was later hailed by the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre as a “historic victory.”
Yet amid Sanders’ run for the top office in the country, he has slightly shifted his views on gun rights to the left.
Following the Christchurch shooting back in March, Sanders celebrated New Zealand’s move to ban “military-style semi-automatic weapons” and urged for a similar policy in the U.S.
“This is what real action to stop gun violence looks like. We must follow New Zealand's lead, take on the NRA and ban the sale and distribution of assault weapons in the United States,” Sanders tweeted.