Presidential contender U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is either straight-out lying, ignorant or seriously uninformed about gun laws in the United States. None of these is a viable qualification to set policy on America’s right to keep and bear arms.
Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.) answered questions at a CNN town hall event just prior to the South Carolina debate and primary about how his proposed administration would tackle the criminal misuse of firearms. He immediately pivoted to gun control talking points that have no foundational truth. Sen. Sanders laid out his attack on Second Amendment rights in a five-part plan.
Criminals Already Prohibited
“Number one, we need universal background checks,” Sen. Sanders said. “People who have a violent past, including domestic violence should not be owning guns.”
The Vermont senator clearly glosses over what is already standing law. Individuals who have been convicted of violent felonies and domestic violence crimes are already prohibited individuals.
The background check Form 4473, which is required to the purchase of a firearm at retail, asks the individual if they are under indictment or have been convicted of a felony for which a judge could imprison that person for more than a year. It’s questions 11 (b) and (c). Answering yes to either of these questions is an automatic disqualifier.
If someone lies on that answer, it’s also a federal crime and if they are indicted or convicted, the background check run through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) will come back with a denial to the federal firearms licensee, which immediately halts the sale.
Nonexistent Gun Show Loopholes
“Number two, we have got to end the so-called gun show loophole which allows people to legally purchase guns while avoiding a background check,” Sen. Sanders said.
This is a fallacy. The “gun show loophole” is a gun control talking point that has no basis in fact.
Licensed firearms retailers that sell guns at gun shows are required to run background checks the same way it happens in a store. The person buying the firearm must complete the background check form, then the firearms retailer verifies with the FBI’s NICS that the individual is not prohibited.
“Unlicensed dealers” selling is a euphemism for criminals. If someone is “engaged in the business” of selling firearms, they must be licensed and regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. That means maintaining detailed records, abiding by all applicable federal and state laws and regulations and being prepared for ATF inspection. If someone is selling firearms for a living without doing this, they are criminals, plain and simple.
NSSF’s Don’t Lie Campaign
“Number three, we’ve got to end the so-called strawman provision which allows you to legally walk in, buy as many guns as you want and sell them to gangs and criminal elements,” Sen. Sanders added.
This one is out of left field, where apparently the senator gathers his gun control ideas. Someone who attempts to buy a firearm for another who is unable to pass the required federal background check, or does not want his or her full name associated with the purchase, is committing a crime.
This is a felony, punishable by 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. NSSF, as the firearms and ammunition industry’s trade association, partnered with the ATF to combat this and funds retailer education seminars to identify the signs of a potential straw purchase and stop it in its tracks.
NSSF also funds its Don’t Lie for the Other Guy campaigns with retailers and law enforcement to remind the public of the dangers and consequences of this crime.
Aside from the crime of buying a firearm for someone who isn’t the true recipient, anyone passing along a gun to a known criminal is committing another felony. Sen. Sanders said he wants this to be against the law, but he should know, as a federal lawmaker, that this is already the case.
“Number four, what we have got to do and something I have supported for like 30 years, is ban the sale and distribution of assault weapons in this country,” Sen Sanders said.
Again, this is already against the law. Any automatic firearm made after 1986 cannot be sold to the general public, as outlined in the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986. Those made prior to 1986 are available but require extensive additional background checks, including fingerprinting and registration with the ATF. They are also prohibitively expensive because they’re so rare.
What Sen. Sanders is really calling for is a ban on the sale of modern sporting rifles, which are semiautomatic rifles. They’re the most popular selling centerfire rifle on the market today.
More than 17.7 million of these rifles are in circulation, making them commonly owned. Sen. Sanders wants a ban on technology that is more than 100 years old and would jeopardize the Second Amendment rights of all Americans to purchase the firearms of their choosing to self-defense, hunting and recreational shooting.