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• Sanders did vote against the Brady bill, including a shifting mix of background check provisions, five times.
• The most recent of those votes took place 26 years ago, and in his 2020 campaign, Sanders is fully supportive of expanded background checks and other gun control policies supported by a wide range of Democratic politicians.
Former Vice President Joe Biden went after his presidential campaign rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., over gun policy during an interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie.
Sanders "voted against the Brady Bill five times for background checks on people," Biden said in the March 5 interview.
The Brady Bill line was also an attack that Sanders’ 2016 presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, used, and Biden, like Clinton before him, is correct about the number of times Sanders voted against the landmark gun law, which among other things would have tightened background check requirements. However, Biden’s assertion glosses over the fact that Sanders now supports tighter background checks.
Before it became law in 1993, the Brady bill underwent many transformations. Sanders, then Vermont’s sole representative in the U.S. House of Representatives, voted against the bill in its entirety five times:
2. The Senate then voted to decrease the waiting period to five days, and the bill returned to the House. In November 1991, Sanders voted against that version. Although it passed in the House, the Senate didn’t muster enough votes for the new version.
5. The final compromise version of the Brady bill — an interim five-day waiting period while installing an instant background check system — was passed and signed into law on Nov. 30, 1993. Sanders voted against it.
The Sanders campaign told PolitiFact in 2015 that Sanders voted against the bill because he believed a national waiting period was a federal overreach and because he was answering to his constituents.
"He wasn't opposed to states having (waiting periods) if they wanted to. The Republicans wanted to repeal waiting periods in states that had them, and Bernie voted that down," Sanders aide Jeff Weaver told us at the time. "He said he would be against waiting periods, and he kept his word to the people of Vermont."
In recent years, Sanders has moved closer to an anti-gun position that is more in line with the norms within the Democratic Party.
Sanders has voted in favor of banning assault weapons, closing the gun show loophole, regulating high capacity magazines, and expanding background checks, spokesman Michael Briggs told PolitiFact in 2015. And over the past 15 years, he has received mixed marks from the National Rifle Association, ranging from a C-minus to F. His most recent pro-gun vote came in 2009.
Early in the 2016 campaign, Sanders sounded something of a middle-ground message, such as telling CNN’s Jake Tapper in July 2015 that "we need a sensible debate about gun control which overcomes the cultural divide that exists in this country, and I think I can play an important role in this."
But later in the 2016 campaign, after primary rivals had hit him on his past votes, Sanders sharpened his anti-gun rhetoric and said he would repeal the law he previously voted for that blocks lawsuits against gunmakers.
In his current presidential campaign, Sanders has made clear his support for tighter gun restrictions. On the issues page of his campaign website, Sanders promises to expand background checks, ban the sale and distribution of assault weapons, and prohibit high-capacity ammunition magazines, among other policies.
Biden said Sanders "voted against the Brady Bill five times for background checks on people."
Sanders did vote against the Brady bill, including a shifting mix of background check provisions, five times. The most recent of those votes took place 26 years ago. In his 2020 campaign, Sanders is fully supportive of expanded background checks and other gun control policies supported by a wide range of Democratic politicians.
We rate the statement Mostly True.
PolitiFact, "Hillary Clinton: Bernie Sanders voted against Brady bill five times," Oct. 13, 2015
Vox.com, "Bernie Sanders’s record on gun control, explained," March 4, 2019
Bernie Sanders, campaign website issues page, accessed March 5, 2020
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