Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders plans to change his vote on a bill that would empower victims of gun violence to sue firearm manufacturers and dealers that sell their wares to convicted criminals. The move comes on the heels of rival Hillary Clinton‘s prominent and repeated criticism of Sanders for refusing to support the gun control measure.
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Sanders’ initially voted for a 2005 bill that protected gun manufacturers and dealers from such lawsuits. The popular presidential hopeful has since weathered scorn from Democratic legislators and gun control advocates, including Clinton, who believe that such protections only serve to perpetuate gun violence and unethically line the pockets of the firearm industry.
According to Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Sanders’ change of heart came at a conspicuously convenient time in the election cycle. “This is the least he can do,” he said. “The difference between Clinton and Sanders is that she didn’t wait until the campaign to champion gun violence prevention.”
“Sanders has a long road ahead of him to prove to all of us who have been victims of gun violence that he is sincere in his efforts to stand up to the gun lobby,” Gross added. The bill is not expected to pass through Congress due to the Republican majority, with or without Sanders’ support, but the move represents an important shift in the Vermont senator’s platform and closes off an avenue of attack for the Clinton campaign.
Although Sanders only became an official co-sponsor of The Equal Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act on Thursday, he offered support for the bill when it was released earlier in January. “I’m pleased that this legislation is being introduced,” he said. “As I have said for many months now, we need to look at the underlying law and tighten it up.”