The Vermont senator said legislators will need to stand up to the NRA to get something done on the issue of gun control. When asked by 'Meet The Press' host Chuck Todd if the Senate had done enough to prevent school shootings, Sanders said: "Of course not."
“But it’s like every other issue," Sanders said, "the American people are united overwhelmingly — gun owners, non-gun owners — on common sense gun safety legislation. Expand background checks, do away with the gun show loophole."
"It is unspeakable," he added. "It really is, to see that kids all over this country who go to a place where they should feel safe where they can focus on learning are now worried about the things we saw in Texas or Florida a few months ago. It’s unspeakable."
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I) VERMONT: Good to be with you.
TODD: So, let me ask you to respond to the concern now that you've heard from national Democrats -- and I know technically your organization didn't back Ms. Eastman in Nebraska, but many other progressives did -- and they're now -- they're not writing the race off, but they are now backing off on their hopes of what they think, oh, she's not electable enough. What do you say to national
Democrats who say, you know what, be careful of this nominating folks that are too progressive?
SANDERS: I think that they are wrong. And I think they are misreading where the American people are at.
You know, Chuck, many of the issues that I campaigned on two years ago, issues like Medicare
for all, raising the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour, taking on the pharmaceutical industry, making public colleges and universities tuition-free, legalizing marijuana, a few years ago those were seen
as radical, fringy ideas. Well, you know what, in every instance those ideas are now supported by the American people, by a majority of the American people overwhelming percentage of Democrats.
So I think what candidates all over the country are now beginning to understand is that it is more important to reach out to the people in your community, working people, the middle class, lower
income people, than rather than just worry about what wealthy campaign contributors want you to say.
So, I think candidates run on a progressive agenda, which demands that we take on the billionaire class, that we end the movement to an oligarchy in this country, that we fight for the rights and I think that's not only good public policy. I think that's good politics. And I think many of those candidates will win, because you're going to see voter turnout go up at a level of excitement that conservative Democrats don't raise.
TODD: Do you buy the idea that there is such thing as electability, that that should be part of a primary argument?
SANDERS: Well, sure. We all want to win. The question is what constitutes electability. Four years ago, as you will recall, Republicans, Republicans won a landslide victory all across this country and the reason was, primarily, that we had the lowest voter turnout since World War II, some 37 percent of the American people voted, because establishment Democrats don't generate excitement. And I think when you have progressive candidates, and we have seen this now for the last year, last year and a half since Trump has been elected, we have seen progressive candidates, seeing voter turnout go up
because the people in their communities know that it's time to stand up and fight. That's what they want to see.
So the goal of the Democrats, it seems to me in 2018, has got to be significantly raising voter
turnout and you do that by talking about the issues that working families care about.
TODD: Well, it's funny you talk about -- you got the messaging there. And I think I have an
idea of where your answer is going to be. But we spent a lot of time, I spent a lot of time just now talking about the Russia investigation, the Mueller probe, there is a lot of serious allegations that are being investigated.
At the same time, you hear from rank and file voters, Senator Klobuchar, for instance, a Democrat from Minnesota, said recently, they're not asking me about Russian bots, OK? They're asking me about things like soybean exports. How much should Democrats talk about Russia and the Mueller investigation on the campaign trail, in your opinion?
SANDERS: Well, I don't think, Chuck, that it's either/or. I think you've got to do a lot of things if you are a serious candidate. I think it's appropriate to talk about the need to protect American democracy to make sure and examine fully and support the Mueller investigation to determine whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. I think that's terribly important.
I think that when we talk about preserving and fighting for American democracy, we have got to
stand up to voter suppression, which Trump and many Republican governors all over this country are pushing, trying to make it harder for people to vote. We have got to deal with excessive gerrymandering. So when we talk about protecting American democracy, absolutely, you have to look at what Mueller is doing, but that's not all that's going on in this country.
What you are seeing all over America, in my state and all over this country, is people trying to survive on $9 or $10 an hour. They can't afford housing. They can't afford prescription drugs. They have no health care, or they can't afford health care. They can't afford to send their kids to college. They're sick and tired of seeing the growth in income and wealth inequality, you must talk about those issues as well.
TODD: Do you think it's still jumping thegun to talk impeachment? Do you still discourage -- Nancy Pelosi said the talk of impeachment on the campaign trail is actually a gift to the Republicans and President Trump. Do you agree with her?
SANDERS: Yeah, I do. I mean, I think you allow the investigation to go where it goes.
I'm a member of the United States Senate, and if Trump is impeached I will have to be making a decision, voting on that. You can't jump the gun and determine that somebody should be impeached when you are going to be voting on the impeachment issue.
So, I think you allow Mueller investigation to do its course. You fight against anybody who wants to impede that investigation, but I think it is too early to talk about impeachment.
TODD: All right, I want to move to the tragedy from Friday, because there was a young high school student who said something that really I think touched a lot of people. Here's one of the survivors, Paige Curry. Take a listen, senator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAIGE CURRY, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: It's been happening everywhere. I felt -- I've always kind of felt like eventually it was going to happen here, too. So -- I don't know. I wasn't surprised. I was just scared.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: What does it say that we have high school students that oh, yeah, I expected this? How did we get here?
SANDERS: Chuck, it is unspeakable, it really is, to see the kids all over this country who go to a place where they should feel safe, where they can focus on learning, are now worried about the things we saw in Texas or in Florida a few months ago.
TODD: Have you guys done enough? Have you guys done enough in the Senate?
SANDERS: Of course not! Of course not! But it's like every other issue, the American people are united overwhelmingly, gun owners, non-gun owners, on common sense gun safety legislation -- expand background checks, do away with the gun show loophole, do away with....
TODD: If they are, how come this stuff doesn't ever pass?
SANDERS: It's a three-letter word, it's the NRA, and it's Trump and the Republicans who don't have the guts to stand up to these people and that's pretty pathetic. And what you are seeing in general, it's not just the NRA, it's tax reform where you give huge tax breaks to billionaires, where Republicans want to throw 32 million people off of health care, you have got a congress dominated by a handful of billionaires and the NRA and the right-wing organizations, and that is enormously unfair to the children of this country, kids in those high schools, and the American people in general.
TODD: There was a time you weren't so tough on the NRA back in the '90s. Do you believe they've changed, or you've changed?
SANDERS: First of all, in 1988 I probably lost an election because I called for the ban on assault weapons in a state that had no gun control. But the NRA, frankly, which one was, believe it or not, a gun safety organization, teaching kids how to use guns safely, has moved to be part of -- to become a right-wing political organization far beyond guns, as a matter of fact.