Clinton's Attacks on Sanders' Gun Record Fly in Face of Her Own 2008 Campaign

Election '16

One area where Hillary Clinton has been able to present herself as further to the left of her Democratic primary rival is gun control. During the first primary debate, she assailed Bernie Sanders for his moderate pro-gun control record which included a vote against allowing lawsuits against gun manufacturers and gun shops. At one point during the debate, Sanders talked about a rural-urban divide among gun owners, claiming it must be bridged if we are to have sensible reforms. This drew rebukes from his opponents, Clinton and former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley.

But though Clinton may now be a tough advocate of gun control, she wasn't touting the same lines in 2008. That year, she postured as being more of a moderate on gun issues. She highlighted her opponent Barack Obama's past support for handgun bans, and implied he was looking down on gun owners in a direct mail attack sent by her campaign:


At the same time, Clinton touted the same rural-urban divide in gun politics that Sanders talks about today. Here's an excerpt from her debate with Barack Obama where she cites that divide and recommends a state-by-state approach rather than a federal one:

Moderator: Well, with all due respect, I'm not sure I got an answer from Senator Obama, but do you still favor licensing and registration of handguns?

Clinton: What I favor is what works in New York. You know, we have a set of rules in New York City, and we have a totally different set of rules in the rest of the state. What might work in New York City is certainly not going to work in Montana. So for the federal government to be having any kind of, you know, blanket rules that they're going to try to impose I think doesn't make sense.

Moderator: But Senator, you were for that when you ran for Senate in New York.

Clinton: I was for the New York rules; that's right. I was for the New York rules, because they have worked over time. And there isn't a lot of uproar in New York about changing them, because I go to upstate New York, where we have a lot of hunters and people who are collectors and people who are sport shooters. They have every reason to believe that their rights are being respected....You walk down the street with a police officer in Manhattan, he wants to be sure that there is some way of protecting him and protecting the people that are in his charge.

Clinton also described learning how to shoot a gun as a little girl, and said guns are “part of culture. It's part of a way of life. People enjoy hunting and shooting because it's an important part of who they are. Not because they are bitter.”

Today, Clinton's stand on guns seems to have evolved; she recently said we should take a look at Australian-style mandatory gun confiscation.

What does Clinton really believe on gun control? Whether one agrees or disagrees with Sanders' moderate pro-gun control platform, he has been consistent throughout his career. Clinton may leave voters guessing on where she will ultimately come down.

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