Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has an F rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA), urged Congress to pass sensible gun safety legislation in the wake of the latest mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.
The latest massacre took place on Wednesday at a center for individuals with disabilities, leaving 14 people dead and at least 21 others injured. Thursday, Sanders echoed President Barack Obama’s call for additional gun safety: “What he said is, this is not an easy problem to solve,” Sanders said Thursday in a speech on the Senate floor. “But just because it is not an easy problem to solve does not mean that we should not do everything that we can.”
Sanders has been criticized in the past for his position on gun control, and he hasn’t always been in line with his Democratic colleagues. In 1993, he voted against the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention act – which would have mandated a national criminal background check system. Sanders has evolved on the issue and now favors background checks.
In 1997, Sanders publicly stated that he supported the banning of assault weapons, saying, “I’m pro-hunting, but no one needs an AK-47 to hunt.”
In his speech, Sanders listed the legislative actions that have strong public support saying, “…there is a strong consensus, perhaps 60, 70 percent of the American people who agree on common sense gun safety legislation. We need to significantly expand and improve background checks,” Sanders said. “Who is arguing that people who should not have guns because of a criminal background, because of mental problems, should … be able to purchase guns? Very few Americans disagree with that.”
Touching on the issue of mental illness, he said, “And very significantly, we need to greatly expand and improve our mental health capabilities. These people need treatment when they need treatment, regardless of their income, regardless of their insurance status.”
Here are some more highlights from his speech:
“We need to significantly expand and improve background checks. Who is arguing that people who should not have guns because of a criminal background, because of mental problems should not be able to purchase guns? Very few Americans disagree with that.
“We need to renew the assault weapons ban. We need to end the sale of high capacity magazines.
“We need to make gun trafficking a federal crime and give law enforcement the tools they need to get illegal guns off the streets.
“We need to close the gun show loophole, as well as loopholes that allow gun purchasers to buy a gun after the waiting period expires without a completed background check.
“We need to close loopholes that allow domestic abusers and stalkers to obtain guns.
“We need to strengthen penalties for straw purchasers who buy guns from licensed dealers on behalf of someone prohibited from purchasing a gun.
“And very significantly, we need to greatly expand and improve our mental health capabilities. The sad reality is that in America today there are many thousands of people who are walking our streets who are suicidal or homicidal. And these people need treatment when they need treatment, regardless of their income, regardless of their insurance status. When they are in crisis they should be able to get treatment today, not two months from now.
“These are just some of the ideas that in fact are supported by the vast majority of the American people, and it’s time the Congress move forward in response.”