Bernie Sanders is my favorite politician. Among U.S. Senators, it’s likely my views align a little more closely with those of Elizabeth Warren and possibly Sherrod Brown. But Bernie’s the one with the guts to take on the corrupt Clinton cabal and the neo-liberal Democratic establishment. For this, he deserves ever-lasting credit.
As I write, the closely connected evils of rampant economic injustice and ongoing ecological collapse compete to be crowned gravest current threat to world-wide well-being. In such a time, Bernie’s uncompromising stance for the 99% and against consolidated corporate power generally and the fossil fuel industry specifically make him easily the best candidate in the race for the Presidency.
Sadly, our Samson has a Delilah, his Achilles heel has been exposed on multiple occasions, Super-Sanders’ kryponite is guns. In the early-90s, he voted against the Brady bill on multiple occasions. Fortunately it passed and, along with much-improved police techniques and demographic shifts, has made our nation a much safer place.
I could forgive this serious error since it occurred over twenty years ago and ultimately the Brady background check and waiting period requirements were enacted. But Sanders continues to oppose commonsense gun control laws that would further lower the murder rate here. These positions harm the poor, Blacks, and Latinos, all of whom suffer from gun crimes at a higher rate than other Americans, disproportionately.
In the middle of the last decade, Sanders supported passage of a law exempting gun makers and dealers from product liability suits brought by victims of their dangerous wares. Although Sanders and others claimed such suits could have sounded the death knell for domestic gun manufacturing, the reality was that at least one manufacturer – Smith & Wesson – abandoned its pursuit of safer gun technology. This included a fingerprint scanner on each weapon that would have prevented anybody but a registered owner or user from discharging the gun and thereby would have all but ended unregistered transactions since the new purchaser would not be able to fire the weapon.
Another possible technological fix that gun makers did not implement in the wake of the liability exemption would have prevented buyers from attaching high-volume rapid-reloading magazines and drums. The liability exemption also removed any incentive that gun makers had to police and perhaps stop distributing to so-called “bad apple” gun shops. Preventing lawsuits against gun makers for manufacturing dangerous products nipped in the bud an incipient race to the top where gun makers vied to make safer products. Instead, we now see a race to the bottom.
One of my many criticisms of Secretary Hillary Clinton is her pattern of refusing to take responsibility for the damage her decisions have caused and to commit to a different course of action when it’s clear that old ways don’t work. Thus she has never come clean on the terrible damage the Bush/Cheney war on Iraq, which she supported, wreaked and she continues to champion neo-con foreign policy.
With guns, Sanders is following in those same misguided footsteps. He has never acknowledged the great benefits of the Brady Act. Perhaps even more problematically, despite murderous episodes like Sandy Hook, he continues to oppose holding gun manufacturers liable for selling products with design defects – such as easily modified guns or those without fingerprint scanners to prevent unauthorized users from discharging them.
On April 1, Sanders told the editorial board of the New York Daily News he does not believe the victims of gun crimes should be able to sue the manufacturers absent evidence the maker knew or should have known the guns would fall into the wrong hands. Such a test would preclude a case being brought against Remington by parents and the next of kin of the 20 children and six adults massacred at the Sandy Hook school on December 4, 2012. During the carnage, the killer fired over 150 rounds in under five minutes from an AR-15.
The murderers of 14 people late last year in San Bernardino, CA, modified an AR-15 illegally by attaching a 70-round drum to it. Sanders’ liability test would almost certainly preclude any defective products lawsuit in that matter as well. Sanders defends his position by noting he would ban assault weapons altogether even though he opposes allowing lawsuits against those manufacturing them. He argues “it’s a backdoor way” of getting guns off the street. The obvious retort is if we need to use the backdoor to protect our children, then we should use it. Sanders is dangerously wrong on guns.