NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana – Bernie Sanders decried what he dubbed a false “mythology” about his record on guns here Saturday night, speaking with reporters after a Democratic Party event after a recent mass shooting in the state.
The man who shot 11 people at a Lafayette, Louisiana movie theater last week was able to purchase a gun despite mental health issues, leading some to call for stricter new gun control measures nationally and in the state.
Fellow Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley, appearing via video before Sanders at the Louisiana Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner here, said the shooting exposed “a sickness of violence in our culture.”
“We need to insist on comprehensive gun safety legislation,” O’Malley said to applause. “And every candidate for president should say where they stand on this issue.”
Sanders spoke a few minutes later. He was the only candidate to appear in person at the Democratic fundraiser, which followed his meeting with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Baton Rouge earlier in the evening.
The Vermont senator did not mention the shooting or guns in his remarks, nor did he in his previous remarks to civil rights group in Baton Rouge.
But when asked by msnbc later about guns, Sander lamented the tragedy and said, “I strongly believe that we need a sensible gun control policy in America.”
“I know there’s some kind of mythology about me, but I have voted for instant background checks, I voted to ban assault weapons, and I voted to end the gunshow loophole. I don’t know what other people think they have done that I haven’t done,” he said.
Sanders is one of the most liberal politicians in Washington, but he has a somewhat mixed record on gun control, which includes a vote against the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act in 1993. More recently, he has generally supported gun control and touts his “F” rating from the National Rifle Association.
Asked if he would support new gun legislation in the Senate, he said he would. “But the important piece is: Anybody can bring up a piece of legislation tomorrow, but if it doesn’t have the support of folks who come from rural America, it’s not going to get passed,” he said, urging people to “stop shouting at each other and come forward with sensible ideas.”
Vermont, as Sanders mentions, is a rural state with a deep hunting culture and almost zero gun control laws.