Inaction on gun control could affect Bernie Sanders’ chances in the US presidential nominations, says BONNIE GREER.
One of the most disconcerting things about being an American expat is the matter of pancakes.
The hope never dies that someday, somewhere, a proper “stack” will be placed on your table in some glorious eating establishment. Then that languishing plaque: “Real pancakes here, folks” can be finally affixed somewhere.
To begin with: pancakes are not crepes. Nor are they any other sort of concoction served in these isles or anywhere else in Europe.
This is what an American means when she orders pancakes: flat cakes made of flour; fried and drenched in butter and maple syrup. Not honey. Maple syrup.
Maple syrup is made from the sap of maple trees. In the United States, maple syrup comes from the state of Vermont.
Vermont is the country’s biggest producer, with over 1.32 million gallons at last count in 2013. As of 2003, the state produced 5.5% of the global supply. So for most Americans, Vermont is maple syrup, pancakes and the morning. This idea gives the state a benign, sleepy backwoods kind of ambience, a place where the men are men and the women are glad of that. As the old saying goes.
In fact, the sound of Vermont now could be a group called Mountain Man, an all-female trio of acapella experimental singers with an incredibly mellow and darkly inquisitive sound. They met at that progressive university for the arts and a crown jewel of the state: Bennington College. Its alumni include Peter Dinklage, Donna Tart and Brett Easton Ellis. In other words, Vermont is a Nice Place.
So it is interesting that It Can’t Happen Here, Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel of a fascist America, is set in Vermont. It tells the story of a fictitious politician: Senator Berzelius Buzz Windrip, who wins the 1936 presidential election on a platform of restoring America to greatness. He does that by incarcerating his opponents in concentration camps; arming a paramilitary force; reducing the influence of Congress, etc.
The novel opens with a gathering of fascists-Vermont-style:
“Here in Vermont the affair was not so picturesque as it might have been on the Western prairies. Oh, it had its points: there was a skit in which Medary Cole (grist mill & feed store) and Louis Rotenstern (custom tailoring – pressing & cleaning) announced that they were those historic Vermonters, Brigham Young and Joseph Smith and, with their jokes about imaginary plural wives, they got in ever so many funny digs at the ladies present…”
That gathering would have included a large number of gun owners.
Then as now, Vermont is a haven for Second Amendment evangelists.
It is “open carry”, i.e. you can walk around with an Uzi strapped to your back if you want. The state is considered liberal and has returned two men to the United States Senate. One Democrat and one sometime Democrat, but registered Independent: Bernie Sanders. Bernie is running again for the nomination of the Democratic Party for president of the United States in 2020. He has all of the liberalism that you would expect from a state that gave Trump 29.26% of their vote. The president’s approval rating here is net -29%.
By the way Vermont folks, pissed off with the choice of Hillary Clinton in 2016, wrote in Bernie’s name instead, giving him 5.68% of the vote. He is hoping that enough pissed-off Dems will win him the nomination this time. But Bernie, like his state of Vermont, has a gun problem. A serious gun problem.
As Vermont is “open carry”, you can carry a firearm concealed or out in the open without a permit. Your “permit” is “constitutional carry”, in other words, the United States Constitution. It is illegal to carry a gun in a school building or on a bus or in a courthouse. But you can in a Walmart or a McDonald’s.
The Vermont Constitution of 1777, dated before the Second Amendment, guarantees: “that the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the State.”
It is because it is a largely rural state that Vermont is “open carry”, or “constitutional carry”, because your gun “permit” is considered to be the US Constitution itself.
But in 2018, the state enacted laws requiring background checks for private sales; raised the minimum age to purchase firearms to 21; banned the sale of handgun magazines that hold more than 15 rounds and rifle magazines that hold more than 10 rounds; banned the possession of bump stocks, the mechanism that turns a weapon into an automatic one and is responsible for one man causing the massacre in Las Vegas that killed 58 people; and allowed police to seek a court order to seize guns from anyone deemed an extreme risk.
Bernie Sanders has what can be called a mixed record on guns.
He won election to Congress in 1990 in part because his Republican opponent changed his mind and said that he supported an assault weapons ban. This angered the NRA, bad news in Vermont.
In 1994 and 1996, Bernie supported a ban on semi-automatic assault weapons and opposed attempts to repeal it.
In 1999 he supported the requirement of background checks for all firearms purchased at gun shows.
In 2003 and 2005, Bernie supported legislation that protects gun manufacturers and sellers from lawsuits over the misuse of a firearm. This one, by the way, is his big problem among gun control advocates and the base of the Democratic Party.
In 2009 and 2013, he opposed allowing “conceal carry” between state lines. And also in 2013, he supported expanding background checks; a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines carrying more than 10 rounds and a ban on assault weapons.
The National Rifle Association gave Bernie a D in 2012. Nevertheless, there is his past. His problem is also the problem of Vermont and its traditions. And his problem is of, and Congress itself.
While Sanders is out there fighting against economic inequality; Medicare-for all, etc. the inaction on gun control is also his inaction. And it is America’s Number One problem.
Senator Kristen Gillibrand, who is also running for president, had an A rating from the NRA while representing the kind of rural district that resembles Vermont. She took up the cause of gun control in 2009 after being elected to an urban district and seeing the effect of guns. The NRA demoted her to an “F” rating.
If you want to understand why Bernie will not, once again, get the Democratic Party nomination for president, it will be because of guns.
He will continue to run and draw huge crowds and mega media coverage.
But many Dems want him to fully denounce his past. If he does not do this in a major address, plus lead the fight for Congress to amend the Second Amendment itself, he will return to Vermont empty-handed again.
Which he knows is a possibility.
He is registered as an Independent for the next Senate race.