Stop Giving Bernie Sanders a Pass on Gun Control
This morning, Bernie Sanders appeared alongside Senators Diane Feinstein and Richard Blumenthal to back Feinstein's legislation to ban things like the bump stock, which turn semi-automatic weapons into automatic machine guns. 24 other Democrats are already cosponsors of the legislation, and sister legislation is being introduced in the House by Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.
In the mean time, Bernie Sanders has been releasing statements and tweets that can make someone lacking historical perspective believe that Bernie's position on guns and gun violence is nearly identical to your garden variety progressive Democrat.
That is why historical perspective is important. The truth about Bernie's history is that the one thing that the NRA was pivotal to the launch of Bernie's Congressional career. The truth about Bernie's history is that for the longest time Bernie Sanders has opposed mandatory waiting periods, background checks if they happen to inconvenience a potential mass shooter, and supported the NRA's pet project of special corporate immunity for gun manufacturers and dealers. The truth of Bernie Sanders is that he voted against the Brady bill five times, and had no serious interest in progressive gun legislation until he became a serious candidate for president.
Of course, the Feinstein bill is limited in its scope and narrow in its target. It does not enact broad gun control policies, choosing instead to merely outlaw equipment that turns a legal weapon into an illegal one. It is designed to attract the Republican support it will need to be passed. One might even say it's one of those dreaded political things: pragmatic.
So ask yourself, why is Bernie Sanders, who screamed at the top of his lungs during the 2016 campaign that pragmatic, incremental progress was too insignificant, who berated his Democratic primary opponent for not being bold enough to propose things that had no chance of passing, be suddenly interested in the most incremental piece of gun legislation?
The answer would seem to be obvious. This bill is a chance to support something that looks like gun legislation but doesn't really affect the bottomlines of the gun lobby, while at the same time providing the convenience of limelight. This is a golden opportunity for Bernie to showcase his faux-gun control credentials while not having to worry about offending his white, rural, gun-loving NRA constituents in Vermont.
Still, incremental as it may be, what Feinstein is proposing is essential. I, the sellout pragmatist and believer in incrementalism of course believe it should be passed. But it is not actual progressive gun legislation, and I am afraid that is exactly what Bernie is trying to project by seeking to share the limelight.
Bernie Sanders is free to cosponsor any legislation he likes, and vote for those if and when brought to the floor. But before turning up the spotlight on himself, Bernie must explain his lifelong record of supporting the gun lobby and lax gun legislation. Bernie Sanders cannot get a pass.
Because Bernie Sanders can be trusted on guns as much as Donald Trump can be on taxes.
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