If you’ve watched any of the Democratic debates this month you may have noticed that Sen. Bernie Sanders has changed his position on an issue that’s been central to this election. He announced that he no longer supports immunity for gun manufacturers and dealers. After voting for the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) in 2005 and defending that vote tooth-and-nail throughout the campaign, Sanders finally announced that he doesn’t support the special carve-out that he voted for 11 years ago that lets gun manufacturers and dealers avoid accountability for risky, negligent behavior that puts our communities in danger.
In America, auto companies, food producers, toy companies, chemical companies — all of these industries have to take steps to make sure their product is being used correctly and safely. Not gun manufacturers. They’re able to make billions in profits, without being subject to the most basic safety standards. That’s simply not right.
This issue is personal for me. My stepfather shot me when I was just a child 45 years ago and in the years since I’ve become an advocate for preventing both domestic abuse and gun violence. Tragically, those two things come together and end in tragedy with alarming regularity. In fact, 52 women are shot and killed every month by intimate partners.
So I applaud Senator Sanders for this important reversal but I believe he still has a long way to come before he catches up to Secretary Hillary Clinton on the issue. We need someone in the White House to lead on gun safety to continue the work that President Obama has already accomplished.
His executive actions earlier this year were important steps in narrowing the ‘unlicensed sale’ loophole that allows guns to be sold without background checks over the internet and at gun shows. But it doesn’t close the loophole entirely — in 32 states anyone can still go on websites like Armslist.com, find an unlicensed seller and buy a gun with no questions asked.
There is more work to be done and the next president will need to build on President Obama’s executive actions by prioritizing gun safety in his or her first term. As a survivor, it’s important to me that anyone who asks for my vote first clarify where he or she stands on the issue. So I’ve studied quite a bit and paid close attention when the candidates have come through my home state of New Hampshire. Between Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders I can see some clear differences.
Senator Sanders’s vote for PLCAA — a bill the head of the NRA called the most significant piece of pro-gun legislation in 20 years — caught my eye.
But what also caught my eye were his five votes against the Brady Bill. That’s legislation that instituted federal background checks for gun sales, and has kept more than 2 million guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. Senator Sanders voted against it. And against it. And against it. And against it. And against it.
That’s not complicated; it’s wrong.
This month, President Obama wrote in the New York Times: “Even as I continue to take every action possible as president, I will also take every action I can as a citizen. I will not campaign for, vote for or support any candidate, even in my own party, who does not support common-sense gun reform.”
The President is right. This should be an issue we vote on. As a gun violence survivor, anyone who asks for my vote must first prove that he or she is right on gun safety and is willing to take on the NRA. Senator Sanders’s past votes and his refusal to change his position on gun manufacturer immunity until very recently — only after it took months of pressure — leave me worried that he won’t prioritize gun safety as President. That’s why I’m supporting Secretary Clinton.