It's nice of the Washington Post to remember that Bernie Sanders first became a Senator from Vermont with more than a little help from Wayne LaPierre and the NRA.
A few days before Election Day in 1990, the National Rifle Association sent a letter to its 12,000 members in Vermont, with an urgent message about the race for the state’s single House seat.
Vote for the socialist, the gun rights group said. It’s important.
“Bernie Sanders is a more honorable choice for Vermont sportsmen than Peter Smith,” wrote Wayne LaPierre, who was — and still is — a top official at the national NRA, backing Sanders over the Republican incumbent.
That was odd. Sanders was the ex-hippie ex-mayor of Burlington, running as an independent because the Democrats weren’t far enough left. He had never even owned a gun.
But that year, he was the enemy of the NRA’s enemy.
Smith had changed his mind about a ban on assault weapons. The NRA and its allies wanted him beaten. They didn’t much care who beat him.
“It is not about Peter Smith vs. Bernie Sanders,” LaPierre wrote, according to news coverage from the time. “It is about integrity in politics.”
Today, Sanders is a senator and a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, drawing huge crowds with his calls to break up big banks, increase taxes on the rich and make college free. The election of 1990 launched him. When Sanders won, he became the first socialist in Congress since the 1950s.
That campaign also marked the beginning of Sanders’s complicated relationship with the issue of gun rights — the one area where Sanders’s Democratic presidential rivals have been able to attack him from the left.
Having said that, Sanders currently has a big fat F from the NRA on guns, and has voted for banning high-capacity magazines and against decreasing the federal waiting period on guns from 3 days to 24 hours.
On the other hand, Sanders has voted to allow firearms in carry-on bags on Amtrak trains, and voted several times to protect gun manufacturers from lawsuits. It is a complicated relationship, and it's one that Sanders has to answer for as far as I'm concerned.