Sanders calls for gun restrictions after "epidemic" of shootings
Following a number of high-profile mass shootings, Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is intensifying his call for "common sense" gun laws in America, hoping to shake off the image that he has not pushed hard enough for firearm restrictions.
"Here is the very sad truth and that is that it is very difficult for the American people to keep up with the mass shootings that we seem to see almost every day," Sanders said in a Senate press conference Thursday. "Yesterday, San Bernardino, a few days ago, Colorado Springs, before that Roseburg, Oregon, before that Chattanooga, Tennessee, and on and on it goes."
Sanders voiced support for a number of proposals at the press conference, including an assault weapons and high-capacity magazine ban, background check improvements and the closing of the gun show loophole.
He also blasted out an email from his presidential campaign address Thursday, highlighting similar issues and calling gun violence in America an "epidemic."
Sanders prioritized the expansion of mental health services as a crucial step to fight gun violence.
"We need to greatly expand and improve our mental health capabilities," he said in Washington. "The sad reality is that in America today there are many thousands of people who are walking our streets who are suicidal or homicidal."
Sanders has a complicated history with guns as a senator from a state that loves hunting.
Democratic primary contestant Hillary Clinton has found a weakness in Sanders' legislative voting history on guns, and has attacked him on the issue in Democratic debates. She and others have pointed to Sanders' support of a law allowing guns to be checked in baggage on Amtrak trains, as well as his disapproval of a bill that would have made gun manufacturers and dealers legally liable for firearm misuse.
In a 2013 interview with Seven Days, Sanders said "If you passed the strongest gun control legislation tomorrow, I don't think it will have a profound effect on the tragedies we have seen."
Sanders has pointed to his D-minus rating from the National Rifle Association, as well as his support for an assault weapons ban and expanded background checks.
And in an election season that has already seen its fair share of mass shootings, Sanders is approaching the issue with new urgency.
"It's time to address the all too common scene of our neighbors being killed," he told supporters. "It's time to pass a common sense package of gun safety legislation."
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