Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took a mildly surprising stance on gun buybacks in response to an audience question during a presidential campaign event in Iowa over the weekend.
An attendee at the Q&A told Sanders she was an undecided voter looking for a candidate who would prioritize gun violence as an issue to be addressed, and asked him where he stood on mandatory gun buybacks (she specifically referenced AR-15s and AK-47s), something that other candidates have expressed or hinted at support for.
"A mandatory buyback is essentially confiscation which I think is unconstitutional," Sanders replied. "It means I am going to walk in your house and take something whether you like it or not. I don't think that stands up to constitutional scrutiny."
Democrats running for president rarely appeal to the ways the Constitution protects the right to gun ownership for Americans; rather, they more often argue that there are arbitrary limits to Second Amendment rights based on how powerful a particular weapon is or how often it is used to commit acts of mass violence.
It's not the first time Sanders has expressed a more conservative (relative to his competitors) view on gun ownership and gun rights. On "The Joe Rogan Experience" podcast, Sanders defended the Second Amendment and acknowledged that most legal gun owners are responsible.
"And Joe, as you might know I am a senator from the state of Vermont, and the state of Vermont is one of the most rural states in America," Sanders told Rogan. "Every fall, thousands and thousands of people are out in the woods hunting, and it's something that is part of our tradition. I believe in it, I believe in the Second Amendment.
"But all that I ask of the gun owners — and you're absolutely right, 99.9 percent of gun owners would never in a million, billion years think of doing these horrible things — but at the moment that we are living in, I think we are all going to have to make some concessions to the reality of what's going on, and that is that there is a small number of — call them whatever you want, depraved people — who are prepared to do that," Sanders said.
Still, Sanders is no gun rights advocate. On his website, his gun safety plan includes a ban on the sale and distribution of "assault weapons" and a prohibition on "high capacity ammunition magazines."