Clinton campaign: Sanders is to the right of Obama, Hillary on guns
Clinton's team is disputing Sanders's claim that there’s “zero daylight” between the Vermont senator and President Obama on guns.
In a hastily arranged conference call with reporters, Clinton’s top advisers said that based on the criteria the president laid out in a recent op-ed — in which he said he could not support any Democrat running for office who doesn’t back his gun control initiatives — Sanders is ineligible to win Obama’s support in the Democratic primary.
“It’s not every day that a sitting president is unable to commit to support a potential nominee in his own party,” said Clinton national press secretary Brian Fallon.
Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta hammered Sanders over his voting record on gun control, noting that Sanders voted against the Brady Bill on five occasions. That bill is considered the foundation for the current national background check system.
Podesta also hit Sanders for twice voting in support of a law that prevents gun violence victims from seeking civil damages against gun manufacturers.
“Gun issues are a voting issue for [Obama] and should be for everyone,” Podesta said. “Democrats have a real chance here to stand up to the gun lobby, and that’s the real difference between Sen. Sanders and Hillary Clinton.”
Gun control has moved to the forefront of the Democratic debate in recent days. Obama followed a tearful plea for gun control reform this week with a nationally televised town hall on the subject.
The president followed that media blitz with an op-ed in The New York Times on Friday in which he said he would not “campaign for, vote for or support any candidate, even in my own party, who does not support common-sense gun reform.”
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday the president would have to review Sanders’s record on guns before he could pledge to back him if he is the nominee. 
“If Democratic voters across the country confirm that he 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 said. 
At the same time, Earnest said Obama’s New York Times op-ed was not meant as “any sort of secret or subtle signal to demonstrate a preference in the presidential primary.” 
Earnest said he was pleased to hear that Sanders has reconsidered his support for protecting gun companies from legal liability over criminal uses of firearms they manufacture. 
"That's exactly the goal here. Right? We want people to change their minds," he said. "We want members of Congress to start taking different positions."
In a conference call with reporters Friday, Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver argued that Sanders and Obama are on the same page on the issue. Weaver said that “it never occurred” to him that some might see distance between the two.
“There is zero daylight between the positions of the president and Bernie Sanders,” he said.
“We see us as being on the same page as President Obama on this,” Weaver continued. “The initiatives to expand background checks and keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them is completely in line with where Sen. Sanders is, so we’re walking arm-in-arm with the president.”
But Podesta noted that both Obama and Clinton voted against the bill to protect gun manufacturers from lawsuits, which Sanders supported and has refused to back away from.
Obama raised that law specifically in his Friday op-ed in the Times.
“[The gun industry has] guaranteed that manufacturers enjoy virtual immunity from lawsuits, which means that they can sell lethal products and rarely face consequences,” Obama wrote. “As parents, we wouldn’t put up with this if we were talking about faulty car seats. Why should we tolerate it for products — guns — that kill so many children each year?”
Sanders has argued that his position on guns is influenced by the fact that he hails from a rural state where his constituents are suspicious of new gun control measures. 
For the Clinton campaign, the issue sticks out as one of the few areas where they can come at Sanders from the left.
“The Sanders campaign has understandably tried to eliminate any distinction between their candidate’s record and President Obama,” Fallon said on Friday. “Of course, this just isn’t true, and it’s a significant contrast in this campaign.”