In the first major attack of the first Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton led a charge Tuesday against Bernie Sanders’s relatively moderate views on gun control — opening the door for a fierce back-and-forth on the issue between Sanders and Martin O’Malley.
Confronted by CNN moderator Anderson Cooper over his longtime opposition to the Brady Bill and his support for legal-immunity provisions for gun-shop owners, the Vermont senator noted that he’d earned a D-minus voting grade from the National Rifle Association.
“Do I think, if a gun shop in the state of Vermont that sells, legally, a gun to someone, and that person goes out and does something crazy, that that gun-shop owner should be held responsible?” Sanders asked. “I don’t.”
“Secretary Clinton, is Bernie Sanders tough enough on guns?” Cooper asked.
‘I think we have to look at the fact we lose 90 people a day from gun violence. This has gone on too long, and it’s time the entire country stand up against the NRA.’ — Hillary Clinton
“No, not at all,” Clinton immediately replied, prompting a surprised look from Sanders to her right. “I think we have to look at the fact we lose 90 people a day from gun violence. This has gone on too long, and it’s time the entire country stand up against the NRA.”
“Senator Sanders did vote five times against the Brady Bill,” Clinton said, her voice rising over audience applause. “Since it was passed, at least 2 million prohibited purchases have been prevented. He also did vote, as he said, for this immunity provision.
#share#“I voted against it,” she continued. “I was in the Senate at the same time; it wasn’t that complicated to me. It was pretty straightforward to me, that he was going to give immunity to the only industry in America — everybody else has to be accountable, but not the gun manufacturers. And we need to stand up and say, ‘Enough of that. We’re not going to let it continue!’”
A shaken-looking Sanders pushed back. “As a senator from a rural state, what I can tell Secretary Clinton is that all the shouting in the world is not going to do what I would hope all of us want,” he said, “and that is keep guns out of the hands of people that should not have those guns and end this horrible violence that we are seeing.”
“Senator, it’s not about rural America,” O’Malley said. “Have you ever been to the Eastern Shore? Have you ever been to western Maryland? We were able to pass [gun control] and still respect the hunting traditions of people who live in our rural areas. We did it by leading with principles, not by pandering to the NRA.”
#related#“As somebody who has D-minus voting record, I don’t think I’m pandering,” Sanders said.
“And I have an F from the NRA,” O’Malley shot back.
“But you have not been in the United States Congress,” Sanders said.
“Well, maybe that’s a healthy thing,” O’Malley replied quickly.
Though rocked on his heels by the full-court press, Sanders refused to bend. “If you think that we can simply go forward and pass something tomorrow without bringing people together, you are sorely mistaken,” he told O’Malley and Clinton.
— Brendan Bordelon is a political reporter for National Review Online.