Clinton storms Connecticut with gun-control message

Clinton storms Connecticut with gun-control message
© Getty

Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump turns up heat on AG Sessions over recusal Mellman: Trump love? Overnight Cybersecurity: Senate Judiciary reportedly drops Manafort subpoena | Kushner meets with House Intel | House passes Russia sanctions deal | What to watch at 'hacker summer camp' MORE is accentuating her support for gun control in the run-up to Tuesday’s Democratic primary in Connecticut, the site of one of the worst school shootings in American history.

The former secretary of State met last week in Hartford, Conn., with the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and has launched ads in the state featuring victims of gun violence.

ADVERTISEMENT
“I am here to tell you I will use every single minute of every day, if I’m fortunate to be your president, looking for ways to save lives so we can change the gun culture,” Clinton said to victims of the Newtown massacre in Hartford on Thursday, according to The Associated Press. 

Mailers supporting Clinton that have been sent to registered Democrats in Connecticut feature Gabby Giffords, a former Arizona congresswoman and shooting victim who has become one of the biggest national advocates for changing gun laws.

“Time and time again, Hillary Clinton has done and said what is right, not what is politically expedient,” Giffords says on the mailers. “She is the only candidate I trust to stand up to the corporate gun lobby’s intimidation and bullying.” 

Clinton has repeatedly attacked her rival in the Democratic race, Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Healthcare: Senate votes to begin ObamaCare repeal debate | McCain returns to vote | GOP floats scaled-down healthcare bill OPINION | Healthcare vote a political death wish for GOP in 2018 Senate parliamentarian: More parts of ObamaCare repeal will need 60 votes MORE, as being too soft on the gun industry — one of the few areas where she has been able to run to his left in the primary race.

Sanders has denounced the attacks, saying it’s “unfair” to portray him as an ally of the National Rifle Association (NRA).  

"In 1988, I probably lost a congressional election because I said maybe we should not have assault weapons being sold in America," Sanders said in January on MSNBC.

"So to say that I'm kind of a supporter of the NRA is really a mean-spirited and unfair and inaccurate statement," Sanders added. 

Polls give Clinton an eight-point lead in Connecticut before Tuesday’s primary, according to a RealClearPolitics average, as she seeks another delegate haul that could her closer to the Democratic nomination. It is just one of five states that will be voting on Tuesday, with contests also being held in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Delaware and Maryland.

Clinton has been using the gun issue “as a way to respond when [Sanders] goes after her with not standing up against Wall Street, to kind of counter with, ‘you’re not standing up to the gun manufacturers,” said Douglas Schwartz, the director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

The strategy has appeared to pay off in Connecticut.

Rep. Elizabeth Esty, a Democrat whose district includes Newtown, has endorsed Clinton. She said the issue of gun control is “deeply personal” for her constituents. 

Clinton has also been endorsed by the Newtown Action Alliance, a pro-gun control grassroots organization, and several members of Connecticut’s seven-member congressional delegation. Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy is in her corner as well. 

“Gun violence prevention is an issue that is really important for Newtown and Connecticut residents and for many of us, we’ve become a single issue voter because of it,” said Po Murray, Chairman of the Newtown Action Alliance.

“There are a lot of important issues but when elementary school students get killed by an assault rifle it really changes your perspective,” Murray said.

Still, surveys suggest the majority of Democrats support gun control, some doubt that the issue will be a difference-maker for voters. 

Only 3 percent of likely Democratic voters in Connecticut listed gun policy as the most import issue when deciding whom to vote for, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll. Voters said they were more concerned with the state of the economy and employment.

“I don’t think the gun issue will have much of an effect on the voters in the Democratic primary,” Schwartz said.

“In order for an issue to have an impact on voters, they have to perceive a difference between the candidate’s positions on the issues and perhaps they don’t see a big enough difference between Sanders’s position on gun policy and Hillary’s policy.”

But Clinton has worked hard to try and make the case that Sanders is out of line with the party on guns.

She has assailed him for voting against the Brady Bill in 1993, which mandated that gun buyers wait five days for a background check, and for supporting liability protections for gun manufacturers.

“I don’t believe it is appropriate that that gun shop owner … be held accountable and sued,” Sanders said during last week’s Democratic debate, adding that “in rural areas all over this country, if a gun shop owner sells a weapon legally to somebody,” the store owner shouldn’t be held responsible for what is later done with the weapon.

The families of Newtown shooting victims have filed a lawsuit against Bushmaster Firearms, the company that made the rifle that Adam Lanza used to kill 27 people, including 20 children and 7 adults, before committing suicide.

Clinton has called Sanders’s stance on the liability issue “unimaginable,” arguing it is one of the “biggest contrasts” between them.

“That he would place gun manufacturers’ rights and immunity from liability against the parents of the children killed at Sandy Hook is just unimaginable to me,” Clinton said in an MSNBC interview.