Why Clinton turns to gun control to beat Bernie Sanders in Iowa

Hillary Clinton will appear Saturday in Ames, Iowa, with Gabby Giffords, the former Democratic congresswoman from Arizona.

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington in March 2015, about bipartisan legislation on gun safety. In past five years, Giffords has hiked the Grand Canyon, raced in a 40-mile bike ride, sky dived and founded an advocacy group that helped convince President Obama to take executive action on gun control.

As the Iowa caucuses draw near, Democrat Hillary Clinton is highlighting rival Bernie Sanders' votes against tougher gun restrictions.

Her presidential campaign says Clinton will appear Saturday in Ames, Iowa, with Gabby Giffords, the former Democratic congresswoman from Arizona.

Giffords was gravely wounded in a shooting five years ago in Tucson, Arizona, and has become a prominent gun control advocate.

Clinton wants caucus-goers to make gun control a "voting issue." She's tried to portray Sanders as a National Rifle Association ally by citing his votes against a waiting period for gun purchases and for granting gun manufacturers legal immunity.

Sanders now supports efforts to repeal that immunity and says he's been a tough opponent of the pro-gun lobby.

As CNN reported earlier this week, Sanders is moving to woo more liberal voters by shifting his position on gun control.

Bernie Sanders will co-sponsor a bill to repeal legal protections for the firearm industry that he'd supported a decade ago, taking another step to undo the political damage of that vote and smooth over his relationship with gun control advocates.

Tad Devine, Sanders' top strategist, confirms that Sanders has agreed to be a co-sponsor of the repeal bill.

According to a release from the Brady Campaign, Sanders will co-sponsor the repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which protects gun manufacturers in lawsuits involving shootings. Sanders had voted in favor of the protections while in the Senate and has up to this point resisted reversing course on the issue.

For Sanders, it's all an effort to undo the damage of a 2005 vote for a bill that protected gun manufacturers from lawsuits when their firearms are used in crimes. Then-New York Sen. Hillary Clinton opposed that bill, and has repeatedly pointed to Sanders' vote as evidence he was aligned with the National Rifle Association.

Polls show a tight race between Clinton and Sanders in Iowa.

Nate Silver of the FiveThirtyEight.com blog notes that Sanders hasn't yet closed the gap in Iowa.

The first challenge for Sanders is that he appears to be trailing in Iowa. Our “polls-only” forecast gives Clinton a 68 percent chance of winning the state, compared with 32 percent for Sanders, on the basis of her being about 4 percentage points ahead in our weighted polling average. Our “polls-plus” forecast, which assigns some additional credit to Clinton because of her massive lead in endorsements, has Clinton as a 76 percent favorite.

To be clear, those forecasts aren’t predicting that Clinton will win Iowa by 30 percentage points. They’re projecting a close finish and saying that Clinton is somewhat more likely — a little better than a 2-to-1 favorite — to come out on top. But Iowa polls are not all that accurate, and even some polls that show Clinton ahead envision Sanders winning if his voters come out. A Sanders win wouldn’t be all that much of an upset, in other words, at least relative to where the polls stand now.

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