One of the benefits of the already tiring 2016 presidential election season is watching prospective nominees stake out positions that are getting more extreme with each passing day. On the Democratic side, it has been interesting observing Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders pull Hillary Rodham Clinton farther to the left. Really, there is little to Bernie Sanders’ positions to oppose for liberals and progressives, but on Sunday he revealed that there is one area that he is to the right of the former Secretary of State and Senator from New York, Hillary Clinton.
It is indisputable that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is obviously not any kind of conservative, or a Republican, but on Sunday he parroted something right out of the NRA fanatic wing of the Republican ranks. In fact, if someone had never heard Senator Sanders speak, or follow his decidedly left-leaning votes in the Senate, they might think he memorized a wildly popular NRA statement, verbatim, to respond to calls for sane gun laws following a mass shooting making the headlines a couple times every year. On a CNN Sunday political program, host Jake Tapper asked the Vermont Senator about his support and vote for the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). The PLCAA is the law that protects gun and ammunition sellers from liability when they sell weapons that are used to kill human beings.
Senator Sanders explained his support for the retail gun industry thus; “If somebody has a gun and it falls into the hands of a murderer and the murderer kills somebody with a gun, do you hold the gun manufacturer responsible? Not any more than you would hold a hammer company responsible if somebody beats somebody over the head with a hammer. That is not what a lawsuit should be about.”
Now, the idea of a hammer as a deadly mass murder weapon on par with a gun argument is a favorite of the NRA, 2nd Amendment crowd; frankly it was surprising to hear it coming from Senator Sanders. It is also an intellectually dishonest analogy. There have been no mass murders with a hammer like those at Sandy Hook, Aurora, Columbine, West Virginia Tech, or Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church ever. It is a pathetic argument to even pretend that a hammer is like a gun, and Senator Sanders is certainly better than the NRA gun fanatic crowd.
The Senator and Democratic presidential candidate said there is a major “difference between Vermont, a rural state with little gun control where hunting is a way of life, and cities like Chicago, where guns are used by gangs.” Citing Vermont where hunting is a way of life is fine, but Colorado, a state where hunting is also a way of life, like Connecticut, West Virginia, and South Carolina are not like Chicago either, but those states have witnessed mass shootings by gun fanatics who should never have been sold massive amounts of ammunition, or guns for that matter. If nothing else, the idea of a gun seller being held to some account for selling weapons and ammunition to ‘unstable’ maniacs would serve as an incentive for them to support and perform even a cursory check on perspective purchasers; gang members, no matter what city they reside, are not frequenting the local gun retailer or online sellers.
Sanders said, “Folks who do not like guns is (sic) fine. But we have millions of people who are gun owners in this country — 99.9% of those people obey the law. I want to see real, serious debate and action on guns, but it is not going to take place if we simply have extreme positions on both sides. I think I can bring us to the middle.” Here is the rub, though, with Senator Sanders’ argument to support his vote for the PLCAA. Several states did have laws in place to hold irresponsible gun sellers accountable for selling weapons and ammunition to maniacs who should not have them. However, those states’ laws were eliminated with the passage of the federal PLCAA that Sanders voted in support of. For the record, then-Senator Hillary Clinton, like many Democrats, voted against the PLCAA.
Senator Sanders claims, and there is no reason to dispute his assertion, that 99% of American gun owners are responsible, obey the law, and certainly will not go into a Colorado high school, a Connecticut elementary school, a West Virginia college dorm, a historic African American church or a crowded Colorado theatre and fire several magazines worth of bullets into human beings, but they are not the people laws like the PLCAA are protecting. The PLCAA is designed, by the NRA, to protect retail gun sellers like online gun retailer Lucky Gunner that sold 4,300 rounds of ammunition without any screening to the gun maniac James Holmes who killed 12 human beings and injured 70 more in an Aurora theatre.
One family did attempt to sue Lucky Gunner for negligence for “entrusting a mentally ill” James Holmes with thousands of bullets, online no less, without performing so much as a cursory background check. The family’s lawsuit never made it to a jury because Congress passed the “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act” and the law performed exactly as the NRA designed it to protect a gun and ammunition seller from bearing any responsibility for selling thousands of rounds of ammunition to a mentally ill gun fanatic.
To Bernie Sanders’ credit, sort of, he did say that he “wants to bring us to the middle on guns.” But really, he also said that “it is not going to take place if we simply have extreme positions on both sides.” Apparently, Senator Sanders means the NRA’s extreme position of putting several guns in the hands of every man, woman, and child in America, as opposed to the other side’s extreme position calling for sane gun safety laws like universal background checks for gun purchases, or holding retailers selling maniacs guns and ammunition liable for their lust for profit at innocent American lives’ expense.
Maybe that is the position a senator representing “a rural state with little gun control where hunting is a way of life” has to take to stay in office. However, it is highly unlikely that most residents in Vermont, whether they hunt as a way of life or not, would ever equate a hammer with a firearm unless they have been bombarded with propaganda from the National Rifle Association. Times have certainly changed in America because the NRA and gun fanatics were, at one time, the only people claiming hammers are as deadly and dangerous to human life as firearms.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.