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October 6, 2015

Democratic presidential candidates differ on gun control

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After last week’s school shooting at an Oregon community college, candidates running for president in the 2016 election discussed gun control and how to prevent mass shootings.

Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton took the opportunity this week to emphasize the differences between her own stance on gun control and that of her main Democratic opponent, Bernie Sanders.

Clinton renewed calls for universal background checks, creating a seven-point plan on how to address gun violence in America. “We have got to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them; domestic abusers, people with serious mental health problems,” Clinton said.

Clinton also pointed out the necessity of closing loopholes that exist under current gun laws so that background checks are carried out for everyone, including individuals buying firearms at gun shows and through online sales.

Bernie Sanders has taken a more moderate approach to gun control. In the 1990s, Sanders voted against the Brady Bill, which mandated federal background checks on all firearm purchases. In 2005, he voted for a successful bill that shielded gun manufacturers from lawsuits – a law that Clinton would like to repeal as part of her plan to combat gun violence.

The debate over gun control is in large part based on demographics, according to Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report. A Gallup study found that the majority of U.S. gun owners are white, male and live in the South, whereas women and minorities have the lowest rate of gun ownership. Sanders represents Vermont, an overwhelmingly white state with an older population, Walter said.

“This is an issue that plays very differently in Vermont than it does in Brooklyn,” Walter said.


 Vocab

gun control — regulation of the selling, owning, and use of guns

presidential primary — a preliminary election in which registered voters may vote to choose the candidate for their party’s nomination

demographics — statistical data relating to the population and particular groups within it

Warm up questions
  1. When is the next presidential election?
  2. What is gun control?
  3. Which party supports more gun control? Which supports less?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why does gun control come up as major topic of discussion each time there is a mass shooting in the U.S.?
  2. Why is Hillary Clinton interested in pointing out Bernie Sanders’ more moderate views on gun control?
  3. How does Sanders’ stance on gun control reflect the demographics of his state?
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