In town hall meetings in New Hampshire Monday, Hillary Clinton is calling for tougher gun control laws.
Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign has branded him as the more progressive alternative to the Democratic front-runner Mrs. Clinton. But Mr. Sanders' Achilles heel for some liberals just might be guns.
Representing a rural Vermont constituency with many hunters has left Senator Sanders with a checkered history on gun control. On Friday, National Public Radio's Jessica Taylor wrote “The last thing Bernie Sanders needs right now is a conversation about guns,” crystallizing the problem he now faces.
Taylor noted that he has “voted to allow guns on Amtrak, against the Brady Bill, and against legislation that would have allowed lawsuits against gun companies. In fact, the [National Rifle Association] even helped Sanders win his first race for Congress.”
The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act was a landmark piece of gun control legislation that federally mandated background checks and waiting periods for firearm purchases. As Politifact reported:
According to Sanders' campaign manager Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ reason for opposing the Brady bill was two-fold. First, he believed implementing a national waiting period was federal overreach. And second, he was doing his job.
"He wasn't opposed to states having (waiting periods) if they wanted to. The Republicans wanted to repeal waiting periods in states that had them, and Bernie voted that down," Weaver said. "He said he would be against waiting periods, and he kept his word to the people of Vermont."
As NBC News reported, Mrs. Clinton will announce a plan on Monday that calls for closing the “gun show loophole”, tightening the rules governing Internet sales, and permitting victims of gun violence to sue gun manufacturers. She has also been highly critical of the NRA’s chokehold on Congress, and said if legislation could not be passed, she would use executive orders to fulfill her agenda.
If Congress won't act Clinton "will take administrative action to require that any person attempting to sell a significant number of guns be deemed 'in the business' of selling firearms," a Clinton aide told CNN, meaning they will fall under background check laws.
Current law allows weapons to be bought from private "occasional" sellers without background checks.
The Clinton aide said that she will pledge to repeal the 2005 "Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act," which prevents victims of firearm violence from suing gun manufacturers and dealers. Clinton will also call for legislation that prohibits all domestic abusers from buying a weapon.
Groups supporting former Maryland governor and Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley have been targeting Sanders in campaign ads for his record on gun control. Last month, The Christian Science Monitor reported on Mr. O'Malley's plan to cut the national gun violence death toll in half:
O’Malley’s vocal stance on gun violence is intended to set him apart from his rivals in the election. It is, then, by no means a coincidence that fellow Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders voted in favor of the bill protecting gunmakers from litigation when it passed in Congress.
Sanders has staunchly defended his current views, arguing for a semi-automatic gun ban, instant background checks, and ending the gun show loophole. And he is by no means a gun nut or NRA parrot like some have dubbed him. The group currently grades him at D-, and he peaked at C- in 2006. But whether Sanders has evolved or not, opponents may seize on his record as candidates calling for more gun-safety laws grow louder.