Civil Liberties

Bernie Sanders Wrong About 'Epidemic' of Gun Violence, Demands Gun Control

San Bernardino shooting brings out Sanders' inner gun restrictionist.


Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders is rapidly becoming as bad on gun rights as he is on so many other issues: in the wake of the San Bernardino shooting, he is calling for an assault weapons ban, universal background checks, and other restrictions on firearms.

The Vermont senator and self-described Democratic Socialist was once viewed as somewhat libertarian on select gun issues, but he's lurched leftward—probably in an attempt to avoid ceding ground to his rival, Hillary Clinton, who has always been reliably anti-gun.

On Thursday afternoon, he fired off a series of Tweets elucidating his shifting views:

It's probably true that there has been a slight increase in mass shootings in the United States (although that depends a great deal upon how "mass shooting" is defined), but it simply isn't the case that gun violence has "reached epidemic levels." As Reason's Nick Gillespie noted earlier, violent crime has plummeted since the early 1990s. If we've currently reached epidemic levels of gun violence, what were we enduring in 1995, when the violent crime rate was double what it is now? How can we "reach epidemic levels" if things are actually getting less bad? Even a single mass shooting is a tragedy, and it's worth discussing whether stricter gun laws would make such a thing less likely, but gun control activists can't pretend the country is getting much more violent. The facts suggest the opposite.

Nor does it seem to be the case that the policies Sanders now supports would have actually prevented San Bernardino, since many of them were already in place. Indeed, the state of California already bans assault weapons and requires universal background checks, according to Reason's Brian Doherty.

Sanders says "we need sensible legislation that prevents guns from being used by people who should not have them." But the policies he advocates would make it more difficult for everyone to have guns, not just the people who shouldn't have them.