(CNSNews.com) - "I come from a state that has virtually no gun control," Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont socialist, told CNN's "State of the Union" with Jake Tapper on Sunday.
"But the people of my state understand, I think, pretty clearly, that guns in Vermont are not the same thing as guns in Chicago or guns in Los Angeles. In our state, guns are used for hunting. In Chicago, they're used for kids in gangs killing other kids or people shooting at police officers, shooting down innocent people."
Sanders called for a "sensible debate" about gun control that bridges the "cultural divide that exists in this country."
He said he can play an important role in that debate by finding middle ground, but he didn't explain what that middle ground would be:
"I voted to ban semiautomatic assault weapons," Sanders said. "I voted to make sure that there's an instant background check. I voted to make sure that guns do not get into the hands of people who should not have them by doing away with a loophole that exists in the gun show legislation."
Sanders boasted that he has a D-minus rating from the National Rifle Association.
But in 2005, Sanders voted in favor of an NRA-backed bill that shielded firearms and ammunition manufacturers from negligence lawsuits in cases where their products were used in crimes. "Why did you vote that way?" Tapper asked him.
"Now, the issues that you're talking about is, if somebody has a gun and it falls into the hands of a murderer, and that murderer kills somebody with the gun, do you hold the gun manufacturer responsible? Not any more than you would hold a hammer company responsible if somebody beat somebody over the head with a hammer. That is not what a lawsuit should be about," Sanders said.
"Folks who do not like guns is fine, but we have millions of people who are gun owners in this country -- 99.9 percent of those people obey the law.
"I want to see real serious debate and action on guns. But it is not going to take place if we simply have extreme positions on both sides. I think I can bring us to the middle."
Tapper did not press him any further.
Sander's home state has one of the lowest murder rates in the country. In 2013, according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, there were ten murders in Vermont, or 1.6 per 100,000 people. Five of those murders involved guns.
In that same year, there were 706 murders in Illinois, or 5.5 per 100,000 population, and at least 364 involved guns. Many of those murders were in Chicago.
More recently, over the three-day July 4th weekend, 10 people were killed and 54 wounded in shootings across Chicago, press reports said.