During a Monday night town hall with CNN, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) was asked what he would do to prevent another mass shooting, like what took place at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston in 2015. Sanders raddled off the typical anti-gun talking points of passing universal background checks, ending the "gun show loophole" and banning so-called "assault weapons." He did, however, create a new gun control argument that is totally false: the idea that a "strawman provision" takes place.
"It's very clear to me that there's a growing consensus in this country. I'm not going to tell you everybody agrees on every nuance, but there is a growing consensus between gun owners, non-gun owners, rural states like mine and urban states, about several things," Sanders explained.
"Number one: we need universal background checks. People who have a violent past, including domestic violence, should not be owning guns," he said. "Number two: we have to end the so-called 'gun show loophole,' which allows people to legally purchase guns while avoiding a background check."
"Number three: we gotta end the so-called 'strawman provision,' which allows you to walk in, buy as many guns as you want, and then sell them to gangs and criminal elements," Sanders explained. "Number four: what we gotta do – and something that I have supported for like 30 years – is ban the sale and distribution of assault weapons in this country."
We all know universal background checks won't actually fix the issues we have had over the last several years. Just look at how many shooters passed their background checks because they didn't have a criminal history (Las Vegas) or law enforcement agencies failed to properly flag or investigate warnings they received (Charleston and Parkland). Then there are the cases where the gunman illegally obtained their firearm (Sandy Hook).
The real solution here is to make the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) as wholesome as possible. The Fix NICS Act requires law enforcement agencies to submit criminal convictions to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), which oversees NICS. The first semi-annual report in November showed an additional six million convictions were added to the system, but many are still missing. And again, background checks are only helpful if a prohibited possessor decides to attempt to purchase a firearm through a gun dealer.
There is no such thing as the "gun show loophole." Most of the sellers at gun showers are Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs). By law, they're required to perform background checks on all sales, regardless of where the sale takes place (either at a gun show or at their brick and mortar store). A private transaction can take place in certain states without a background check. And it doesn't have to happen at a gun show. If the seller believes the buyer is a prohibited possessor or is on any kind of controlled substance, the sale is actually deemed illegal.
"Assault weapon" is a made-up term for guns that are big, black and scary. And what makes a firearm, like an AR-15, legal vs. illegal? Cosmetic features, like a collapsible stock and a detachable magazine. Nothing that actually changes the function of the firearm. In anti-gunners' minds, how the gun looks changes whether or not it's a semi-automatic or fully automatic. Hint: it doesn't.
The thing that Bernie said that was surprising is his "strawman provision" comment. It is definitely illegal for someone to complete a "straw purchase." These purchases are when someone who has no criminal convictions or have not been deemed mentally incompetent decide to purchase a firearm on behalf of someone else. They fill out a 4473 form, which is used for the background check. They lie, say the firearm is for themselves. They then go to the black market and sell the gun or knowingly give it to a prohibited possessor.
People like Bernie need to quit reciting talking points handed to them from Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action. Instead, they should take an hour and learn the basics of firearm legislation before they propose making things illegal. They can't make something even more illegal than it already is. And the sad part is people believe 100 percent of the things he says. But because he invoked the typical "I'll take on the NRA" type of comment, his followers ate up what he said.
“My administration will do what the American people want, not what the NRA wants,” says Bernie Sanders, on how his administration would prevent future massacres like the one at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. #CNNTownHall https://t.co/Hs9u25CAZk pic.twitter.com/i0aIxq7Nsa— CNN (@CNN) February 25, 2020