Gun rights has found an unlikely champion: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Sanders, one of politics’ most recognizable liberals, offered a surprisingly conservative defense of Americans’ right to bear arms in a conversation with NPR Wednesday.
At a time when his Democratic colleagues like Martin O’Malley are all too eager to rush in their gun control agenda after the tragic murders in Charleston, South Carolina, Sanders is taking a different tone.
"If anyone thinks that gun control itself is going to solve the problem of violence in this country, you're terribly mistaken. So, obviously, we need strong, sensible gun control and I will support it. But some people think it's going to solve all of our problems. It is not," he said.
The fact that Sanders represents a very pro-gun state, Vermont, can offer some explanation for his stance.
"I can understand that if some Democrats or Republicans represent an urban area where people don't hunt, don't do target practice; they're not into guns. But, in my state, people go hunting and people do target practice. Talking about cultural divides in this country, you know, it is important for people in urban America to understand that families go out together and kids go out with their parents and they hunt and they enjoy the outdoors and that is a lifestyle that should not be condemned."
This a strong declaration of support for American gun owners, but does the senator’s actions match his words? Yes and no.
The senator has supported bills that would allow guns on Amtrak and voted against the Brady bill, which would enforce federal background checks to be conducted on firearm purchasers. Yet, in 2013, Sanders voted in favor of the assault weapons ban in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.
Sanders’ mixed record on gun rights leaves many questions for how he would treat the Second Amendment if he were to be elected president. For now, he’s made it clear he’s no gun grabber.