Bernie Sanders on AR-15s: They’re 'not for hunting. They’re for killing human beings’

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has once again called for a ban on the sale of assault weapons in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting that left 17 dead last Wednesday.

During a Sunday appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the former Democratic presidential candidate said that, for three decades, he has “believed we should not be selling assault weapons” like the accused gunman’s AR-15.

“These weapons are not for hunting,” he said. “They’re for killing human beings.”

He also said Congress should close the so-called gun show loophole ― the lack of federal rules mandating background checks on the sale of firearms between privates sellers.  

Sanders’ voting record on gun control became a focal point during the 2016 primary campaign as Hillary Clinton supporters sought to discredit his progressive credentials on the issue. 

Politico described Sanders as being a ”liberal standard-bearer on nearly every single policy issue ... [with] one notable exception – guns.”

RELATED: Vigils held after deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida

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Vigils held after deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida
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Vigils held after deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida
People attend a candlelight vigil the day after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
Students mourn during a community prayer vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, at Parkridge Church in Pompano Beach, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
A woman lights a candle during a vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Residents attend a candlelight vigil the day after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
A man reacts during a candlelight vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Daniel Journey (C), an 18-year-old senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, attends a community prayer vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at his school, at Parkridge Church in Pompano Beach, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. Journey said he lost two friends he had known and grown up with since they were seven years old in the shooting. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
A handwritten note to a lost friend is surrounded by candles and flowers at a candlelight vigil the day after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
A student places a candle with other tributes at a vigil the day after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
Mourners react during a community prayer vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, at Parkridge Church in Pompano Beach, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People attend a candlelight vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Mourners react during a community prayer vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, at Parkridge Church in Pompano Beach, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
A student rests his head against his mother as they attend a community prayer vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, at Parkridge Church in Pompano Beach, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
People attend a candlelight vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Students mourn at a community prayer vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, at Parkridge Church in Pompano Beach, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
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In Congress, he voted against a bill in the 1990s to require a five-day waiting periods to allow for criminal background checks before a gun could be purchased, voted to allow firearms on Amtrak, and came out against a lawsuit to hold gun manufacturers accountable for the 2012  at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. But he has also voted for universal background checks and an assault weapons ban.

Hunting is popular in Sanders’ home state of Vermont. Its gun laws are so permissive that an editor at the Burlington-based alt weekly Seven Days detailed how he “bought an AR-15 from five guys in a parking lot” in 2016. On Thursday, one day after the Florida shooting, Gov. Phil Scott (R) said the state would not consider new gun restrictions.

Sanders grew visibly frustrated by host Chuck Todd’s questions on his record on gun issues. He stressed that the National Rifle Association has given him a D-minus rating on its ranking of federal lawmakers. He also reiterated his long-argued claim that the NRA’s support for his opponent cost him a statewide election in 1988, though The Washington Post cast doubt over how big a role the gun lobby’s endorsement played in Sanders’ defeat.

“We’ve got to take on the NRA,” Sanders said. “The tragedy we saw in Parkland is unspeakable, and all over this country parents are scared to death of what might happen when they send their kids to school.”

Earlier on “Meet the Press,” Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), called for restricting people with criminal records or histories of mental illness from purchasing assault weapons. But he said it shouldn’t be made harder for others to do so.

“Some actually do hunt with an AR-15,” said Lankford, who received $5,000 in political contributions from the NRA in the 2016 campaign cycle. 

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

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