What Bernie Sanders' gun control plan reveals about the power of political parties

Though institutionally weak, they are still ideological forces to be reckoned with

Bernie feels the heat.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Image courtesy Porter Gifford/Corbis)

Bernie Sanders, as you may know, is from the fine state of Vermont. Among Vermont's many notable features, in addition to green mountains, muddy roads, and an astonishing lack of non-white people, is an active hunting culture. So it is that even the most liberal Vermont politicians tend to be indulgent of guns. This got Howard Dean into some trouble in 2004 when people realized that the newly crowned champion of young liberal Democrats had for years gotten "A" ratings from the National Rifle Association — and in the wake of yet another mass shooting, it could become a 2016 problem for Sanders.

It's a problem he's moving quickly to address. Sanders has a mixed history on guns — voting for some gun control measures and against others (there's a comprehensive roundup of his record here). Most notably, he voted against the Brady Act in 1993, and in 2005 supported a bill that gave gun manufacturers immunity from lawsuits holding them liable for what people do with their products. But now he's about to put out a plan to address gun violence, which will lean heavily on measures that are supported by liberals and opposed by conservatives.

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Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is a senior writer with The American Prospect magazine and a blogger for The Washington Post. His writing has appeared in dozens of newspapers, magazines, and web sites, and he is the author or co-author of four books on media and politics.