The Democratic debate made one thing very clear — liberals don’t agree on guns.
There were five distinct points of view shared on stage when the topic shifted to that of gun control. And while the Democrats are not as divided on the subject of guns as the Republican candidates are on nearly everything else, the debate made evident that when it comes to guns, Bernie Sanders is himself a man divided.
In 1993, Congress passed The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, known alliteratively as “The Brady Bill.” The Brady Bill required background checks at the federal level for any individual purchasing a handgun and prior to the era of instant information, a five-day waiting period. A 1998 revision to the Brady Bill eliminated the waiting period, as the Internet made access to public records a more expedient process. While serving Vermont in the House of Representatives in the early 1990s, Sanders voted against the Brady Bill on not one, but five separate occasions. This fact may seem to be at odds with Sanders’ progressive platform, but when taking into account his representation style and a little bit of Green Mountain politics, “Sanders the Ideal” and “Sanders the Real” are not natural adversaries.
Sanders is a student of what political scientists call the delegate school of representation. That is a succinct way of saying that as an elected official, Sanders acts as a megaphone for his constituency. A delegate seeks to act upon the wishes of the people that voted them into office, rather than what is popular or in line with their view of how things should be done. The delegate school is increasingly uncommon in today’s Congress, as it is not the most effective strategy for getting re-elected, but in a small state like Vermont, it stands the best chance of success.
There is no mistaking it, Vermont likes its guns. Almost three-quarters of those Vermonters eligible to own firearms do so; more than any other state in the Union. And yet despite the fact that the majority of its residents are packing, according to 2010 U.S. Census data, only two of Vermont’s seven homicides were gun related. Vermont also happens to be home to many liberals, consistently ranking as one of the top five states with the largest population of Democrats. The minimal restrictions on gun ownership combined with a solid liberal political base make Vermont just the kind of place someone like Bernie Sanders could flourish. The challenge he faces is ramping his delegation-style up to a national scale.
So if you consider yourself a forward-thinker, but perhaps you own a gun, or maybe you just like the idea of someone with political clout advocating what you feel is the best policy, you show all of the symptoms of “Feeling the Bern.”
Amelia Schimdt is a Staff Writer for The Spectator.