Last week, the five Democratic candidates running for the 2016 presidential election (CNN also had an open podium backstage on standby for Vice President Biden) took the stage for their first debate.
After introductions and a round of individual questions for the candidates, Moderator Anderson Cooper brought the first major issue to the floor: gun control.
Calling upon Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders first, Cooper covered Sanders’ voting history on gun control. Cooper mentions his vote against the Brady Bill (which included mandated background checks) and support for riders to bring guns in checked bags on Amtrak trains (which was signed in by Obama in 2009… the NRA always forgets this).
It’s important to note that Sanders supported the Brady Bill’s background check provision, but he took issue with its mandatory seven-day waiting period, believing that was a decision best left to the states.
Sanders would vote against the bill 4 more times, including the final version which featured a five-day waiting period when purchasing a firearm (this provision ended in 1998 after the National Instant Criminal Background Check System was created).
I’m not feeling “the Bern” on this one. Under the current federal law, if a background check requires more information to determine if a firearm purchase can be made the FBI has only three days to make a decision. If the Bureau has not reached a decision in that 72-hour period, the gun dealer can sell the weapon. If that sounds like a recipe for disaster, it’s because it is.
According to the non-profit Everytown for Gun Safety organization, 15,000 sales were made to “prohibited people” due to the three-day loophole over the last five years. One of the most infamous benefactors of the loophole is South Carolina mass shooter Dylann Roof.
Although he shares many views with his fellow candidates, Sanders is to the right of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when it comes to this particular issue. Clinton did not hesitate to make that known when asked by Cooper if Sanders was “tough enough on guns?”
“No, not at all. I think that we have to look at the fact that we lose 90 people a day from gun violence,” Clinton responded. She’s right. According to a 2013 CDC report, 33,636 deaths were attributed to guns. Although the majority are suicides, our nation has 92.15 deaths a day from guns.
Unlike Sanders, Clinton has advocated for closing the three-day loophole.
Martin O’Malley, current candidate and former Maryland Governor, successfully passed gun control in his state.
The Firearm Safety Act of 2013 includes:
- Prohibits individuals who have been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility from owning a firearm.
- Limits gun magazines to 10 rounds.
- Requires to submit fingerprints for license.
- Bans 45 types of assault weapons.
“We were able to pass this and still respect the hunting traditions of people who live in our rural areas,” O’Malley said from the stage.
This debate segment is also notable for being the first time that former Virginia Senator Jim Webb would complain about not having enough time.
If doing a shot every time “Reagan” is uttered during a GOP debate puts you in a coma, Jim Webb made sure you at least had your stomach pumped at the end of the night with the words “time” and “waiting.”
Although Webb supports background checks, he has also parroted the type of gun rhetoric you would find scrawled on the wall in an NRA bathroom stall.
When addressing Webb, Cooper mentions “You’ve said gun violence goes down when more people are allowed to carry guns.” Of course, we know this is bullshit.
“There are people at high levels in this government who have bodyguards 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The average American does not have that, and deserves the right to be able to protect their family,” Webb said.
None of the gun control policies supported by the candidates prohibit a law-abiding, mentally stable citizen from purchasing a firearm.
Also, I have a hard time believing the “average American” receives the same number of death threats a day as President Obama.
Former Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee would take a different approach to gun control:
“I would bring the gun lobby in and say we’ve got to change this. Where can we find common ground? Wayne LaPierre from the NRA, whoever it is, the leaders. Come on, we’ve got to change this.”
Does Lincoln think the NRA is a political party?
“Only in the Orwellian world of double-speak employed by Barack Obama and billionaire elitist Michael Bloomberg would nonsense be hailed as ‘common sense.’”
That is the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre writing about universal background checks in a piece for The Daily Caller in February. Good luck, Lincoln.
As I type this, news is breaking that three people have been shot on the Tennessee State University campus in Nashville.
Chicago’s shootings are so frequent that local affiliate stations have weekend violence reports covering the city’s shootings from Friday night to Monday morning.
The CBS Chicago affiliate reported this past weekend that 3 were killed and 19 were wounded. Among the dead was a 3 year-old boy.
The weekend prior? 3 killed and 17 wounded. These are the Fall numbers. They get higher in summer.
The Fourth of July weekend saw 9 killed and 53 wounded in the Windy City.
Between now and next November’s election, we are going to have multiple mass shootings that will add to the thousands of Americans affected by gun violence.
A lot has changed with our Democratic race since last week. Vice President Joe Biden announced he will not be entering the race and Jim Webb has dropped out of the primaries, finally finding enough time for… something.
Now, if we could just change our nation’s gun policies.
Update: Lincoln Chafee has dropped out of the race.