Clinton Ramps Up Pressure on Sanders' Gun Record

The front-runner challenged her rivals hours after an aide suggested that he may not be able to secure the president's endorsement.

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Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Hillary Clinton turned up the heat on her rival for the Democratic nomination Friday, just a day after President Barack Obama's pledge to withhold support candidates who do not support "common-sense gun reform." 

"When it really mattered, Senator Sanders voted with the gun lobby and I voted against the gun lobby," she said on MSNBC's Hardball, referring to 2005 legislation that protects gun manufacturers from legal liability in gun violence lawsuits. 

"This is a significant difference," she added. "Maybe it's time for Senator Sanders to stand up and say, 'I got this one wrong.'"

Later, the Sanders campaign asked a pointed question from its official Twitter account: "Maybe Hillary Clinton should apologize for this?" in a reference to an apparent mailing from Clinton's 2008 campaign that attacked Obama's gun record.

Clinton challenged Sanders hours after an aide suggested that he may not be able to secure Obama's endorsement if he were to become the Democratic nominee because of differences over gun policy.

"It’s not every day that a sitting president is unable to commit to supporting a potential nominee of his party," Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon said on a conference call, responding to Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver's assertion earlier in the day that there's "about zero daylight between the president and Senator Bernie Sanders" on guns.

The clash comes at the tail end of a week of increasing tension between the two leading campaigns for the Democratic nomination. The Clinton campaign came out swinging against Sanders' speech on Wall Street regulation—even before he delivered it. The two campaigns also arm-wrestled over their paid family and medical leave policies.

Fallon's suggestion that Obama might not be able to support Sanders draws on the president's op-ed published in Friday's New York Times. "I will not campaign for, vote for or support any candidate, even in my own party, who does not support common-sense gun reform," he wrote. Sanders has voted against the Brady Bill and in favor of 2005 legislation that protects gun manufacturers from legal liability in gun violence lawsuits.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday that Obama would need to evaluate Sanders's record on guns in order to determine whether he could support Sanders. "If Democratic voters across the country confirm that [Sanders] is the Democratic nominee, then I'm confident that we're going to spend some time here learning about this record and learning about what is on his agenda to make that decision," he told reporters at his Friday press briefing.

The Clinton campaign piled onto Weaver's claim of "zero daylight" not long after he made it, with campaign chairman John Podesta calling it "just not true." 

Democrats have "a real choice because standing up to the gun lobby is a real difference between Senator Sanders and Hillary Clinton," Podesta said, suggesting that only Clinton's record shows a determination to do so. 

Weaver stressed that "we certainly see ourselves on the same side as President Barack Obama on this," citing Sanders' initiative to expand background checks.

"Senator Sanders voted for instant background checks as early as 1991," Weaver said. "So I think we’re walking arm and arm on this one.”

Arit John contributed reporting.

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