This week, President Obama announced that he’ll take new steps to take on gun violence in America — and not a moment too soon. Every day 88 Americans are shot and killed and hundreds more are injured with guns. We can’t go on like this.
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.
I’m grateful to President Obama for taking action. It’s an important step 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 voted to make it more difficult to crack down on gun dealers who break the law. And he voted twice for a bill the head of the NRA called the most significant piece of pro-gun legislation in 20 years — legislation that gave gun manufacturers sweeping immunity for their actions.
The second time the bill came before Congress, President Obama — then a Senator from Illinois — and Hillary Clinton both voted against it.
Senator Sanders voted with the NRA. Just yesterday he dug in further and declined to change his position, saying: “It’s not a mistake. Like many pieces of legislation, it is complicated.”
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. And when they make lethal products, they’re able to avoid facing any consequences whatsoever, or being held accountable to the people they hurt.
That’s not complicated. It’s wrong.
Senator Sanders has been pressed on this vote in every Democratic debate. And the truth is, even Hillary Clinton has cast votes she later said she regretted. So I’d understand if Senator Sanders would just stand up and say, “I got this one wrong. I made a mistake. I’m sorry.”
But he hasn’t. He’s defended the vote time and again. Three months ago, he said he would “consider” some changes to the law — but he hasn’t come forward with anything since.
What’s more, Senator Sanders voted against the Brady Bill five times. 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.
This week, 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. And until he changes his position on immunity for gun sellers and gun makers, Senator Sanders is wrong on gun safety. And he’s the wrong candidate for President.