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Sanders Addresses Malheur Occupation, Gun Control, His Path Forward

A win in Indiana on Tuesday added new momentum to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, and has added extra weight to the remaining primaries and caucuses.

Sanders told Think Out Loud that "we stand a good chance to win in Oregon and to win in a majority of the states that are yet in front of us ... It is possible — it is an uphill fight and I admit it — that we can get a majority of the pledged delegates."

Sanders has said he plans to stay in the race until the last primary vote is counted. Here are the highlights from our conversation with the candidate:

Dave Miller: Are you and Donald Trump tapping into the same veins of anger and disenchantment with the political system?

Bernie Sanders: Well, maybe a little bit. But Donald Trump's program and his views and his style are radically different than mine. What our job is, is to bring people together, not to divide them.

DM: At the beginning of this year, a few dozen armed occupiers took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon. They had various demands, but the overarching ones were anger at federal management of public lands. How would you balance competing uses of these lands — conservation, ranching, agriculture, logging, recreation?

BS: Well, that's what we've got to do: We have to do a balance. But at the end of the day, I think that we are very proud of the, for example, National Parks, that we own, that belong to all of the people. And I want to make sure that public lands are not simply used for private gain. I want to see them used and maintained for our children and our grandchildren.

DM: What lesson did you take from the armed occupation?

BS: Well, the lesson that I took is that there are some angry people who broke the law, and the government has got to deal with that reality.

DM: Over the last two decades Oregon has seen mass shootings at a high school, a shopping mall, and most recently a community college. You’ve said you believe gun control is largely a state’s issue. What should happen to prevent similar mass shootings in the future?

BS: My view on gun control is, as somebody who ... supported in 1998 ending the distribution of assault weapons, and the sale of assault weapons (and lost an election on that, by the way); who is working with President Obama to expand the instant background check; who believes that ultimately we should not allow guns to fall into the hands of people who should not have them by doing away with the so called gun show loophole; ... we have to do away with the straw man provision, which allows people to buy guns legally and then to sell those guns to criminals ... I think my views on guns have been consistent and that is we have to do everything that we can to make sure that guns do not fall into the hands of people who should not have them.

DM: If it turns out you don't get the nomination, what would you need to see in the Democratic party platform for you to say this was all worth it?

BS: What I would like to see is a platform that makes it clear that the Democratic Party is the party of working people, of the middle class, of the elderly, of the children, of the sick, and the poor. And that means a platform which says to the wealthiest people and largest corporations: 'You cannot have it all.' We're not going to tolerate this grotesque level of income and wealth inequality which currently exists. The wealthy and large corporations will start paying their fair share of taxes.

DM: You’ve been in elected office for 35 years, but this is your first national run. How has this race changed you?

BS: Any time you visit almost every state in this country and you speak to well over a million people, and you meet unbelievably wonderful people in every part of this country, you learn an enormous amount. And it certainly has — this whole campaign has changed me. And when I look out at crowds, like the crowd we had many months ago in Portland where we had 25,000 people, and you see the hope and the desire in the eyes of those people to do everything that we can to make sure that this country becomes the country that most people can become, it is very inspiring to me, and very moving to me. And it has changed me in a very profound way.

You can hear the full interview with OPB's Think Out Loud by clicking on the 'play' button in the audio player above.

<p>Bernie Sanders at the rally</p>

Jason Bernert


Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally in Portland on March 25, 2016.

Copyright 2016 Oregon Public Broadcasting