I'm afraid the shit's about to hit the fan for Sen. Bernie Sanders. All along the campaign trail, his right-of-Hillary gun stance has been his liberal Achilles' heel. And his defense of gun manufacturers at Sunday night's Democratic debate is threatening to be the poison arrow.
Hillary Clinton 0n Monday morning tweeted the following in an attempt to hammer home the idea that Sanders is ideologically in synch with the NRA on the issue of making gun manufacturers answerable to victims of mass shootings:
There are some inconsistencies in Clinton's big-business policies that should have been the takeaway from Sunday night. Yes, she supported the $80 billion Chrysler and GM bailout in 2008, but she also touted NAFTA as first lady in the '90s — then backed away when it became politically inexpedient. Despite her leftward migration (some might call it flip-flopping), Clinton maintains a unanimous double-digit lead in Michigan polls ahead of Tuesday's primary.
To make matters worse for Sanders, the NRA (which most recently gave the Vermont senator a D- rating) Monday morning tweeted the following:
Beyond ensuring Sanders loses Tuesday (he's predicted to anyway), this seemingly minor semi-endorsement of a subset of his otherwise progressive gun control policies will no doubt make more headlines than any of Clinton's past, present, or future stances on trade agreements that probably didn't consciously affect very many voters outside the manufacturing sector.
I'm not sure if it's a miscalculation on Sanders' part or a calculation on Clinton's part to invoke gun control in a state that saw six dead and two injured in a mass shooting in Kalamazoo in February. Either way, the NRA's choosing of sides on the issue in the Democratic field can't make matters any better for Sanders.
The NRA account then tweeted out this PolitiFact article that disproves Clinton's claim that gun manufacturing is the only industry "wholly protected" from tort laws:
PolitiFact mainly concludes that Clinton's use of "wholly" is hyperbolic because the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act —which Sanders supported and Clinton did not — does feature some restrictions (e.g. gun traders are not protected if they sell a firearm knowing it will be used to commit a crime), but in all fairness to Hillary, the restrictions are few.
Sanders Sunday night attempted to reframe his uncharacteristic vote against corporate liability as a jobs issue, arguing that without the Act, gun manufacturing in America would cease to exist. It's a valid (if right-of-center) point, but it will not resonate within the Democratic party for as long as mass shootings take place every day and the NRA continues to successfully lobby for its own impunity.
Unlike his Democratic rival, Sanders is not one to read the room and adjust the severity of his stances accordingly; it's what Bernie Bros love about him. But, by and large, voters are shallow and more likely to respond to sweeping rhetoric than the dissection of a decade-old bill.