August 19, 2015
The Honorable Bernie Sanders
United States Senator
P.O. Box 905
Burlington, VT 05402
Dear Senator Sanders:
I am writing to you today both in your capacity as a present United States Senator, as well as a candidate for the presidency of the United States; nothing hereafter is intended to offend nor to denigrate you, but rather exists solely to express sentiments shared by millions of Americans, including myself. It ought not to be presumed that I am writing on behalf of any organizations I am affiliated with or lead. I write this merely with the perspective of a concerned voter . . .
On July 5th of this year, you appeared on CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper, where you briefly spoke on policy pertaining to American gun violence. Towards the conclusion of your conversation with Mr. Tapper, you stated: “I want to see real serious debate and action on guns.” This, coupled with other encouraging statements you have made in the past several years — the time since I began looking up to you as a fellow ambitious, New England-based progressive — has provided me with hope that you may ultimately become the advocate that so many of us want (and desperately need) you to be.
Many proponents of the common sense gun regulations our entire country is sorely lacking — from Burlington to Baltimore, and everywhere else — have been extremely disappointed not just by certain statements you have made and votes you have cast, but also by what you have yet to say in spite of the prevalence and ameliorable nature of the epidemic we face in preventable gun violence. You have repeatedly defended your record on this issue when asked about it — despite voting both against the Brady Bill and in favor of allowing firearms on Amtrak — but rarely seem to speak on the matter if not prodded to do so.
Other candidates, at least in the Democratic primary, seem to get it — Martin O’Malley and Hillary Clinton alike have been much more vocal on this topic, and rumored candidate, Vice President Joe Biden, has been as well. In fact, when I went to see Biden speak at the Make Progress National Summit in D.C., which took place just after your appearance on CNN, I couldn’t help but think of how Biden — who was primarily discussing campaign finance, the environment, and gun violence — spoke in a way that reminded me of your campaign in all but the final category, to my stark disappointment (or approval, in Biden’s case). To put it simply, your position on this issue is inconsistent with your reputation for being one of, if not the most progressive public servants, and presidential candidates, in the United States.
I do not want you to believe this letter is meant to condemn you; if that were the purpose, there wouldn’t be a letter at all — I simply would opt to vote for another candidate. But the fact of the matter is that I desire both to vote for, and actively support you — I genuinely do. However, many feel as though an opaque or conservative position on gun violence should preclude a candidate from receiving their support; having conversed with parents who have lost children, children who have lost parents, and being aware of far too many additional permutations of relatives both taken and left behind as a result of preventable shootings — I must overwhelmingly concur with the necessity of said preclusion. The purpose of this letter, then, is to ask that you enable my cohorts and I to support you without consequently supporting a candidate less interested in combating this crisis than several alternative office seekers. I am asking you to acquire what many have begun to refer to as “gun sense.”
As I’ve mentioned, I am far from the only person who will be unable to support you based on your present policy position (or lack thereof). Organizations working to prevent gun violence such as Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America number well into the millions, and undoubtedly among these, and similar national groups, are many who would otherwise consider voting for you. At a recent town hall in Nevada, a state with an upcoming referendum to determine whether or not basic background checks ought to be requisite for gun purchases, Hillary Clinton asked members of Moms Demand Action to stand so that she could recognize their emotionally exhausting efforts. I can assure you, from working with and knowing many in groups such as these, that they do their research, inform their networks and communities, and most importantly, will absolutely not forget to vote for and actively support candidates who possess sufficient “gun sense.”
This perpetual scourge necessitates immediate attention from someone unafraid to stand up to groups like the NRA, and more importantly, to stand with the families of the 88 Americans who are being killed every single day — in our cities, suburbs, and rural areas, in our schools, churches, and movie theaters… and just about any other setting you could possibly conceive of. On numerous occasions, you have shown that you are undaunted by the prospect of diverging from the crowd, and are willing to fight for the best interests of the American people regardless of political consequences. I am having immense difficulty understanding how someone of your integrity, which I have always admired very much, is capable of disregarding or downplaying such a copious and utterly senseless loss of human life. Hillary Clinton may have voted for the Iraq War, but you have indisputably been to her ideological right on this equally indefensible domestic conflict, wherein our nation’s citizens comprise both sides of belligerents.
That being said, if and when you do decide to make it clear that this deadly quandary is something you are willing to prioritize, at least to the extent of your Democratic opponents (Clinton & O’Malley, particularly), I intend to do all I can to assist your campaign; in the meantime, however, I will seek to contribute to candidates who exhibit a desire to amend this grand societal wrong that has many Americans living in fear — or ceasing to live altogether — on a daily basis.
Many fellow activists have told me that you will never be the advocate for this cause to the extent that Secretary Clinton, Governor O’Malley, and numerous (albeit far too few) others, both seeking and occupying various offices, have committed to being. All I can do is hope that you will prove that assertion to be unequivocally false — and if your recent decision to incontrovertibly demonstrate support for racial justice is any indication, you certainly appear willing to expand your platform so as to encourage further, necessary transformations of an unacceptable status quo.
So in closing, I ask you this, Senator Sanders — Will you defend the American people you seek to lead from devastating, ceaseless gun violence, or will you stand idly by while we continue to be gunned down, one at a time, while the rest of the world looks on thoroughly appalled by our seeming indifference towards a domestic war every bit as bloody as those abroad in which we so often find ourselves entangled, and which an individual of our mutual persuasion would be commonly thought to condemn?
I respectfully request that you consider the rampant gun violence so permeating our beloved nation, and furthermore, that you consider the families of the tens of thousands from our body politic being killed every single year. Do they not merit occupancy of a plank on your platform, or thirty seconds of your campaign speech?
I urge you to ally yourself with those leading this vital effort, and sincerely hope that I find myself able to support the many positive aspects of your platform, without having to conscientiously abstain from supporting your candidacy for president of the United States. I thank you, senator — or whomever the reader of this may be — for your time and consideration, and eagerly await your response.
Michael J. Hout
(This open letter originally appeared at medium.com)