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Clinton Surrogates, Sanders Spar Over Guns

Connecticut Democrat expresses confusion about Sanders' views on gun manufacturer liability

Clinton supporter Christopher Murphy goes after Bernie Sanders on guns. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Clinton supporter Christopher Murphy goes after Bernie Sanders on guns. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Earlier this year, Sen. Bernie Sanders had expressed support for legislation that would roll back current prohibitions on liability for firearm manufacturers, despite past votes, but bill sponsor Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut said he’s now perplexed.  

“Sen. Sanders either doesn’t understand the law that he claims to support, or he no longer supports it,” Murphy, a Democrat, told reporters Wednesday. “He said with disturbing clarity that he does not support the ability of Sandy Hook parents to sue the gun manufacturers in order to be made whole for the murder of their children.”  

Murphy was speaking on a conference call organized by Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton’s campaign. He referred to a recent interview transcript in which Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont and Clinton’s competition, told The New York Daily News editorial board that he opposes holding gun manufacturers liable in cases like the mass shooting at Sandy Hook in Connecticut in December 2012, which killed 20 first-graders and six adults.  

“From our position in Connecticut, we cannot support a candidate for president who is willing to waver on the fight against the gun lobby,” Murphy said. “And I am less sure today than ever before as to whether Senator Sanders is for us or against us when it comes to our fight against the gun lobby.”  

Sanders acknowledged the criticism in an interview Wednesday with CBS News , but pivoted to attack Clinton for her vote on the Iraq war.  

“I think we are all aware of what happened at Sandy Hook; it was a tragedy that happened beyond comprehension,” Sanders told correspondent Nancy Cordes. “But maybe Secretary Clinton might want to apologize to the families who lost their loved ones in Iraq.”  

Connecticut voters go to the polls on April 26, a week after their neighbors in New York. Also on Clinton’s campaign call was a former Democratic House member, Carolyn McCarthy of New York.  

McCarthy’s decades-long career in Congress began after her husband was shot and killed, and son was injured, in the Long Island Railroad shooting in 1993, which killed six and injured 19. She was among the most vocal advocates for gun control in Washington.  

Also see: A History of Gun Control Policy in Washington
McCarthy spoke out on Wednesday’s call: “I’ve known Bernie Sanders for an awful long time. I used to go down on the floor and talk to him continuously about gun legislation that was coming up in front of us.  

“So when I read the Daily News transcripts yesterday, I was not surprised on where his stance was. He’s never been there for the gun issue. He’s never been there for people that have been extremely hurt by what has gone on, and it’s time that stopped.”  

Sanders’ views on guns and the Second Amendment have always been something of an anomaly from his generally liberal credentials, though not terribly surprising given his long-time service as a House member and senator from the state of Vermont, holding positions more in line with rural communities.  

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