It’s unclear whether or not Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) believes families of gun violence victims should be able to sue the company that manufactured the shooter’s weapon. In a Sunday interview with CNN’s Dana Bash, Sanders defended his past contradictory statements on the topic, saying he believes small business owners — along with the victims’ families — should be allowed fair protections.
At Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate, Sanders said that while he doesn’t believe he owes the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims an apology, he does “support them and anyone else who wants the right to sue.”
Bash pointed out that an earlier statement he made in an interview with the New York Daily News, saying they shouldn’t be able to sue a gun manufacturer, directly contradicts this. But Sanders said it’s less about the families’ right to sue, more about where the blame should actually be placed.
“Of course they have the right to sue,” he told Bash. “But do I end up believing that if a small gun store owner that sells you a weapon, legally, and you go out an shoot someone, should that small gun store owner be held liable? No I don’t, I really don’t.”
Sanders then steered the conversation to the bigger topic of gun control, mentioning his history of opposition to the sale and distribution of assault weapons in the United States.
“That’s the type of weapon that caused a horrific tragedy in Sandy Hook. Those weapons should not be available in the United States of America,” Sanders said. “So in that sense, I agree with the Sandy Hook parents. But it’s a question as to how you go forward.”
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Sanders has drawn recent criticism from gun violence prevention advocates and fellow candidate Hilary Clinton over his 2005 vote for the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a federal law that gave gun stores — and gun manufacturers — broad immunity from lawsuits. Meanwhile, his support of small gun manufacturers in the U.S. drew praise from the National Rifle Association in March.