Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, a 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, says he’s supportive of certain gun control measures but that they’re not a cure-all and that it’s important for people in urban areas to understand the cultural ties the issue has for people of rural America.
“I think guns and gun control is an issue that needs to be discussed,” Mr. Sanders told NPR’s David Greene in an interview that aired Thursday. “Let me add to that, I think that urban America has got to respect what rural America is about, where 99 percent of the people in my state who hunt are law abiding people.”
In the wake of last week’s deadly shootings at a church in South Carolina, some Democrats, including former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the front-runner for the party’s 2016 presidential nomination, have issued a renewed call for gun control, which she described as “common-sense gun reforms.”
“So obviously, we need strong sensible gun control, and I will support it,” Mr. Sanders said. “But some people think it’s going to solve all of our problems, and it’s not. You know what, we have a crisis in the capability of addressing mental health illness in this country. When people are hurting and are prepared to do something terrible, we need to do something immediately. We don’t have that and we should have that.”
Mr. Sanders said his home state has tens of thousands of people who are hunters and who enjoy the outdoors, and has “virtually” no gun control.
“But I think the people of Vermont and I have understood for many years that what guns are about in Vermont is not what guns are about in Chicago or Los Angeles or New York, where they’re used not for hunting or target practice but to kill people,” he said.
“I can understand if some Democrats or Republicans represent an urban area where people don’t hunt, don’t do target practice, they’re not into guns. But in my state, people go hunting and people do target practice,” he said. “Talking about cultural divides in this country — it is important for people in urban America to understand that families go out together and kids go out with their parents and they hunt and enjoy the outdoors and that is a lifestyle that should not be condemned.”
Mr. Sanders also pointed out during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” this week that his lifetime record with the National Rifle Association is about a D-minus.
“I have been very strong and voted for a ban on assault weapons, for background checks, to make sure that guns do not fall into the hands of people who should not have them,” Mr. Sanders said on MSNBC. “So I think it is not quite correct to say that I do not have strong positions on gun control. That’s something we will be talking about.”