Why Bernie is Still an Anti-Gun Factor in this Presidential Election

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posted on April 10, 2020
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Photos by Gage Skidmore; composite by A1F Staff

So Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has suspended his campaign for president of the United States. This clears the way for former Vice President Joe Biden to win the Democratic nomination. Bernie, though, hasn’t exactly said he’ll be campaigning for Biden. Bernie, in fact, is still asking his supporters to vote for him in upcoming primaries, as the more delegates he wins, the more power he’ll have to push his socialist policies within the Democratic Party.

In his speech announcing his intention not to actively run against Biden, Bernie said he will still be using this process to attempt to “change America.” One of the fundamental changes Bernie wants is an end to our Second Amendment rights.

This isn’t something Biden needs to be convinced to do, but Bernie’s positions on guns, and his insistence on staying in this process, does have a lot to say about this upcoming election.

Bernie’s public positions on the Second Amendment have, after all, been a slow coming-out process. On occasion, he actually voted for gun rights to get elected and then to stay in office in Vermont, a state that has long had constitutional carry and that has often been deemed to be the safest state in the nation. But when he decided to run for national office, Bernie began publicly moving away from this particularly American freedom.

Part of the reason for this public shift was that, in 2016, our Second Amendment-protected rights were perhaps the only public policy area Hillary Clinton could get to Bernie’s left on. At the time, Hillary actually accused Bernie of siding “with the gun lobby” because he voted in 2005 for the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), legislation that protects gun makers and dealers from being held liable for the actions of criminals.

The PLCAA, by Congress’ standards, is a short and straightforward document. Despite media reports to the contrary, it says that both gun manufacturers and dealers can be held liable for damages resulting from defective products, for breach any of contract issues and for any criminal misconduct done by a gun manufacturer or dealer, just as any other U.S.-based manufacturer can be held liable for bad products or criminal conduct. The PLCAA simply prevents gun makers and dealers from being sued because some criminal decided to use one of their products to commit a crime.

After 2016, Bernie decided to protect his left flank by declaring this commonsense vote for our right to keep and bear arms a mistake. “I’ve cast thousands of votes, including bad votes. That was a bad vote,” said Bernie at the Democratic-primary debate in South Carolina last February.

Bernie’s supporters in the media liked this admission; for example, when Bernie was a frontrunner in this election cycle, The Atlantic analyzed Bernie’s positions on the Second Amendment this way: “The senator from Vermont’s hallmark has been his consistency as an unbending progressive over four decades in elected office. Yet if Sanders has embodied left-wing purity more than any of the other potential Democratic nominees, gun policy is one area where his record has been far from pristine in the eyes of progressives.”

This hole in Bernie’s progressive record was something that both Michael Bloomberg and Biden aimed for. Bloomberg actually said Bernie was “beholden to the gun lobby.” Biden confronted Bernie on the debate stage and said Bernie has blood on his hands for his vote for the PLCAA.

Bernie kept grumbling that wasn’t him anymore and gun-control activists were glad to hear this. “I am happy to see that Bernie Sanders, by his own admission, has evolved on this issue and is in line with where I think the conversation around guns is in this country,” said Igor Volsky, the executive director of Guns Down America.

So, on guns, Bernie and Biden have actually been mostly in sync throughout this election cycle.

Biden and Bernie both said they want the states to implement mandatory gun-owner-licensing schemes. Biden and Bernie have both publicly supported so-called “buyback” (confiscation) programs, as if the government once owned the 17 million-plus AR-15-type rifles now owned by Americans. Biden also wants to repeal the PLCAA so they can go back to bankrupting America’s gun makers and dealers—and, more lately, so does Bernie.

Biden, meanwhile, has said some very odd things about making “smart guns” mandatory, about shooting through doors with shotguns and has said he’d make failed candidate Beto “hell-yes-we’re-going-to-take-your-AR-15” O’Rourke into an anti-gun czar in his administration or something.

What’s interesting is that, with Bernie still out there actively courting his supporters in his effort to keep the Democratic Party moving left nationally, Biden won’t have an easy time using rhetoric to pretend to shift to the center on this or other issues for the general election.

So, in this presidential election, we’re sure to have a clear choice as to which presidential candidate is for and which is opposed to our freedom.

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