Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg attacked frontrunner Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) as soft on gun control Thursday.
Bloomberg criticized Sanders in a series of tweets over the senator's voting record on gun issues. He pointed to Sanders's votes against a bill establishing a gun-purchase background check system and in favor of a bill protecting gun makers and dealers from frivolous lawsuits. He also painted Sanders as cozy with the National Rifle Association, saying the gun-rights group "put Bernie Sanders in Congress."
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Bloomberg's recent attack targeted a vulnerability for Sanders, who has attempted to reverse his position on guns since his 2016 primary defeat. Though Sanders has changed his rhetoric on guns and cosponsored a number of gun-control proposals, his 2020 primary opponents still view his history on the issue as a liability. His reversal may cut against his image—crafted over decades in Congress—as an independent outsider.
Former vice president Joe Biden similarly criticized Sanders on the issue. At a speech in Las Vegas, Biden described Sanders's vote to protect the gun industry from frivolous lawsuits as "flat out immoral."
Sanders's effort to shift on the issue has included sustained attacks on the NRA and gun makers.
"I’m running for president because we must end the epidemic of gun violence in this country," Sanders said in his campaign launch video. "We need to take on the NRA, expand background checks, end the gun show loophole, and ban the sale and distribution of assault weapons."
Sanders's recent statements have not stopped other 2020 candidates from saying gun-control supporters can't trust the Vermont senator.
"Senator Sanders has said that he’ll stand up to ‘the NRA and its corrupting effect on Washington,'" Bloomberg tweeted. "But the truth is that if the NRA has corrupted Washington, Bernie is among the corrupt."
Bloomberg has been the primary funder for the gun-control movement in America, spending over $270 million on the issue since 2007, according to a recent New York Times report.
The National Rifle Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Bloomberg's claims. The group has said Sanders's shift on gun control is representative of the Democratic Party's movement on the issue. It added that gun-rights supporters can't trust Sanders either.
"Sanders's increased intolerance of the NRA and law-abiding gun owners fits in perfectly with the larger narrative of a Democratic Party that is increasingly hostile toward the Second Amendment," Amy Hunter, an NRA spokeswoman, told the Washington Free Beacon on Tuesday. "Each year, anti-gun Democrats become more extreme and their policies become more dangerous. Now, candidates are openly supporting registration, confiscation, and bans. Law-abiding gun owners must recognize the threat to their rights and turn out in November to elect a pro-gun president."