Vermont Sen. and Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is determined to prove to the Democratic base he is not soft on gun control.
He told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of The Union” Sunday, “I do not accept the fact that I have been weak on this issue. In fact, I have been strong on this issue. And, in fact, coming from a rural state which has almost no gun control, I think I can get beyond the noise and all of these arguments and people shouting at each other and come up with real, constructive gun control legislation which, most significantly, gets guns out of the hands of people who should not have them.”
The issue is a sensitive one for Sanders. He is the lone Independent-Socialist in the Senate who caucuses with the Democrats, but he ran his first congressional campaign in 1990 with the endorsement of the National Rifle Association against Republican incumbent Rep. Peter Smith, and Sanders now finds Democratic voters asking him where he stands on guns.
Sanders will often defend small rural states like Vermont, when it comes to owning a firearm, but will say that states with large urban areas should have tighter gun control measures.
Sanders never owned a gun in his life, but Smith came out in favor of the Assault Weapons Ban in 1990 after previously promising to oppose it two years prior. However, the NRA wanted to hold Smith up as an example to any lawmaker who planned to cross them in the future.
“It is not about Peter Smith vs. Bernie Sanders,” The NRA’s Wayne LaPierre told reporters at the time . “It is about integrity in politics.”