Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders discussed gun control and prison issues last night in the last Democratic debate before the Iowa caucuses. The Associated Press did a fact check on some of their statements. Sanders boasted of a D-minus voting record from the National Rifle Association, and said he has “supported from Day 1 an instant background check” as well as a ban on assault-type weapons. Clinton said Sanders voted against the Brady bill on background checks five times” as well as for allowing guns in national parks and for shielding the gun industry from lawsuits. AP says both candidates “are singling out aspects of Sanders’ record that suit them, but that record is nuanced.”
Sanders backed an instant background check, but he opposed five- or seven-day waiting periods that gun control advocates see as a more effective way to flag people who should not be getting a gun. Clinton is right that he opposed various versions of the Brady bill but his poor marks from the NRA reflect a record that does lean toward stronger gun controls. Sanders now says he would support exposing gun makers to lawsuits. On prisons, Clinton said, “One out of three African-American men may well end up going to prison.” AP says that is “a stale statistic,” and Sanders has said nearly the same thing. Both drew on 13-year-old data that stated this as a projection, not a fact. In 2003, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics said one in three black males could go to prison if current incarceration rates remain unchanged,” but the incarceration rate for black men has gone down since then, according to the Sentencing Project.