Politics

The Debate Between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, Explained

Early on in Sunday night's Democratic debate, Bernie Sanders found himself on the defensive about his record on gun control. Sanders was asked to respond to Clinton's latest criticisms of his voting record.

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton on Guns

 

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton on Guns

Sanders immediately set to work clarifying his current stances and his voting history, citing his "D-" rating with the NRA and his long support for bans on the sale of military-style assault weapons to civilians. He also argued that his unique position as a senator from rural Vermont, where gun control laws are famously more lax, enables him to unite people with conflicting ideologies about the issue.

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Clinton responded with a list of Sanders' gun control shortcomings, arguing that Sanders "has voted with the gun lobby, with the NRA, numerous times." The former secretary of state referenced Sanders' record of voting against the Brady bill, famous gun control legislation, five times, as well as Sanders' support for what she called the "Charleston loophole." That loophole, which Sanders voted for in 1993, allows an individual to buy a gun, regardless of their background check, within three days of starting the buying process, according to Politico. Many, including the Clinton campaign, have attributed Dylann Roof's ability to get a gun to this loophole. Roof killed nine people in a historically Black church in Charleston, not far from the debate venue.

Clinton also cited Sanders' votes on policies that enable AMTRAK riders to carry guns, create immunity for gun sellers, and stop research for combating gun violence.

You can watch the moment in full here:

 

Here's how Sanders has responded to criticism of his gun record.

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Although he did not bring it up in the debate, Sanders has deflected questions about his votes against gun control in the Brady bill, saying that he's always supported background checks and other gun control provisions. A Washington Post factcheck piece found this argument to be somewhat misleading, citing multiple media accounts from the early 90s where Sanders is coy about his votes against the Brady bill.

As for Sanders' vote on an amendment enabling guns on AMTRAK trains, which Clinton cited at Sunday night's debate, it is worth noting that the amendment referred to checked, secured baggage as oppose to carry-on.

Finally, on the question of whether gun sellers should be held liable for violence caused by guns they've sold, Sanders explained that he did not want to put legal gun sellers at risk.

"Do I think that a gun shop in the state of Vermont that sells legally a gun to somebody, and that somebody goes out and does something crazy, that that gun shop owner should be held responsible? I don't," Sanders explained. "On the other hand, where you have manufacturers and where you have gun shops knowingly giving guns to criminals or aiding and abetting that, of course we should take action."