Unnecessary and Improper: Sanders on Gun Control

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Unnecessary and Improper: Sanders on Gun Control

Over the past year, Senator Sanders has been attacking Secretary Clinton with claims that she is not a Progressive; an attempt to seize the title as his own. While it is true that he has been championing Progressive causes – campaign finance reform, free higher education at public colleges and universities, universal health care, and investment in infrastructure – he has systematically ignored one major issue that bars him from becoming the standard-bearer of progressivism. I am of course talking about gun control.

Senator Sanders, who voted against the Brady Bill, has been on the wrong side of gun control for his entire tenure in Washington. His defense is that as a representative of Vermont, he views guns differently. This is not only an outlandish statement, as Senator hails from Brooklyn, but it breaks from any notion of Sanders being a progressive. By advocating that the States are entitled to set their own gun standards, Sanders is convoluting his message to the American people, which is that uniform and systematic change are necessary.

If Sanders wants to hold Wall Street liable to the Middle Class, fine, I support that. But why doesn’t he want gun manufacturers to be liable to the victims of gun violence? From what I can tell, guns only have one purpose, and that is to inflict bodily harm. Why shouldn’t manufacturers and sellers be liable when their products are purchased by psychopaths bent on killing innocent people? It’s logically similar to Senator Sanders’ proposal to tax speculation on Wall Street, but instead of savings accounts, the commodity being gambled with is human life.

While the Tenth Amendment is an important cornerstone of our federalist system, Congress is entitled to enact all laws necessary and proper when it comes to the health of our nation. In the age of rapid transportation across state lines, a Hamiltonian reading of the Constitution would suggest that our federal government has not only the authority, but the responsibility to set strict and uniform standards in order to ensure for the safety of our citizenry against gun violence. The trail of logic stems from South Dakota v. Dole where the Supreme Court held that Congress has the power to suggest to the States a national minimum drinking age to prevent a lack of uniformity in the system. This ruling cut down on drunk driving among minors, who would cross state lines to purchase and consume alcohol. Similarly, national gun regulations would close loopholes to prevent residents of New York City from driving to Burlington to purchase a gun, which could later be used in a mass shooting in Times Square.

It is not a stretch to say that gun control is a matter of national security. In the past decade, the biggest threat to domestic safety has been American citizens with semi-automatic weapons and concealable handguns. The need to combat this issue has never been greater as 30,000 Americans are dying each year from gun violence. In 2016 alone, there have already been over 7,000 gun-related incidents. If Sanders were actually a progressive, he would support uniformity in the law when it comes to gun control. This means that gun laws in Brattleboro would be identical to gun laws in San Francisco. His failure to join 21st Century progressives on this issue is not only shocking, but frankly disturbing.

On the other hand, Secretary Clinton has been very vocal on the policies she would put in place to not only reduce gun violence but to also hold those that manufacture and sell the products accountable to the victims and their families. This combined with her position on issues such as reproductive rights, the environment, criminal justice, education, immigration, and LGBTQ rights have shown the nation that she fits the mold of a modern American progressive. If Senator Sanders feels the need to continue to attack Secretary Clinton with these claims, he should take a good hard look in the mirror to reflect on his stance on gun control, or rather a lack thereof.