Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), said Monday that his campaign is assembling a “comprehensive package” of measures to address gun violence and that he believes there is a way to bridge the country’s deep political divisions over the issue.
Sanders’s comments came late in a day in which Hillary Rodham Clinton, his chief rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, made headlines for pledging to stand up to the gun lobby and push for genuine reforms in the wake of last week’s shootings at an Oregon community college.
Gun control remains a challenging issue for Sanders, who by nearly every other measure has the most progressive record in the Democratic field. But Sanders represents a largely rural state with a strong hunting tradition and relatively few restrictions on firearms, and he has a mixed voting record that includes opposition to the landmark Brady Bill in 1993 and support of legislation in 2005 that shielded gun manufacturers from lawsuits.
“The status quo clearly is not working and people on both sides of this issue cannot simply continue shouting at each other,” Sanders said in a statement Monday. “Nobody wants more mass killings and serious people are going to have to engage in serious discussion.”
As he has in recent days, Sanders cited several measures he can support, including a strengthened system of instant background checks, closure of the “gun-show loophole,” a ban on semi-automatic assault weapons “designed strictly for killing human beings” and far greater investments in mental health.
“Like the rest of the nation, I am appalled by gun violence in our country and the mass shootings in our churches and colleges,” Sanders said. “While there is no simple fix, that does not mean we should do nothing.”
Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, another Democratic candidate, has also sought to assert his credentials on the issue.
During an appearance Sunday night in Rochester, N.H., O’Malley touted a sweeping gun-control bill passed in Maryland during his tenure and challenged Clinton and Sanders to support several initiatives on the federal level that he supports, including a requirement that those who purchase guns get licenses and be fingerprinted.
Among other things, Clinton promised tighter controls on sales of firearms at gun shows if she is elected, and pledging to go around Congress if necessary.