Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has explained his mixed record on gun control, in part, by pointing out that he represents a rural state - Vermont - in the U.S. Senate. In a recent interview, "Face the Nation" moderator John Dickerson asked Sanders what liberals who support stricter gun laws might not understand about gun culture.
"Maybe some of them don't understand that in a rural state - not just Vermont, not just New Hampshire, but all over this country - you have husbands and wives and kids who go out and they hunt," Sanders explained. "And it is a way of life in my state. A majority of the people in my state own guns."
The "vast majority, 99.9 percent of gun owners, are not criminals," he continued. "They don't use their guns in illegal ways. And I think it's important to understand. You know? That some folks, you know, maybe in New York City sit around and they, you know, drink fancy wine and very expensive restaurants and so forth. Other people go out into the countryside and they enjoy that environment. It's part of our way of life. And that should be respected."
"Gun purchases have gone up quite a lot," Dickerson pointed out. "That's not just all hunters."
"No, that's right. There's no question about it," Sanders responded. "I think there's a lot of fear in this country. You know, what we saw in San Bernardino touched a lot of people. But look, I would say, look, no question, when you have 30,000 people a year who are killed as a result of guns, many suicides but we've seen these terrible mass murders. You know what? It is a very important issue."
Sanders' Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, has suggested his record on gun control is not strong enough, pointing to a handful of votes he's cast during his time on Capitol Hill. Sanders, in the interview, emphasized that he doesn't have many fans among the gun lobby.
"I have a D minus - that's D as in David - D minus voting record from the NRA," he said. "I have voted to strengthen and expand the instant background checks. I voted to do away with the gun show loophole. I voted to ban assault-type weapons...I now believe that we have to move very vigorously in terms of this straw-man situation where people are buying guns legally and then selling them to criminals. I think my record is very strong."
Clinton has been particularly critical of Sanders' vote in favor of a 2005 bill that shielded gun manufacturers from any legal liability for the use of their products in crimes. In the interview, which was taped Friday, Sanders suggested he'd be willing "to take a hard look" at that bill and revisit some of the provisions in it, but he said there were other provisions he'd like to preserve.
On Saturday, Sanders came out in favor of a bill sponsored by Democrats in Congress that would amend the 2005 legislation. He proposed an amendment that would protect small, "non-negligent," "mom and pop" gun shops.
In an interview on Sunday with "Face the Nation," Clinton said she was "pleased that Senator Sanders has flip-flopped on legal immunity for gun makers."