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ALBANY - Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo blasted Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders Thursday after the Vermont senator said the families of victims in the Sandy Hook massacre shouldn’t be allowed to sue gun manufacturers.
Cuomo, a surrogate for Sanders’ foe Hillary Clinton and former member of the Clinton White House, tried to link Sanders’ view to former Republican Gov. George W. Bush. Cuomo said Bush, after his election in 2000, granted firearms manufacturers immunity from lawsuits in cases of mass shootings. Cuomo said the decree came months after he, as President Bill Clinton’s housing secretary, had begun signing up gunmakers in an agreement that would reform the design and distribution of firearms.
Cuomo said gun manufacturers were ready to sign the “safe guns” agreement because of pressure from lawsuits by victims of shootings. But Bush’s immunity ended that effort, Cuomo said Thursday on WNYC’s “Brian Lehrer Show.”
“It’s much deeper than, ‘Does the Sandy Hook family have a right to sue,’” Cuomo said. The Clinton bill “would have fundamentally changed the gun industry — the design, the distribution . . . it would have happened but for the that [Bush)] immunity law.”
“What other manufacturer, a private company, has federal immunity from law suits?” Cuomo asked. “That stopped our effort in its tracks.”
Hillary Clinton has sharply criticized Sanders for the statement that has been one of the defining differences between the two candidates for the New York primary on April 19, where gun control is a major issue.
There was no immediate comment from the Sanders campaign.
Sanders was asked the question this week by the New York Daily News editorial board.
“Do I think the victims of a crime with a gun should be able to sue the manufacturer, is that your question?” Sanders told the editorial board. “No, I don’t.”
“Do I think that that gun dealer should be sued for selling me a legal product that he misused?” Sanders said, shaking his head “no.” “But I do believe that gun manufacturers and gun dealers should be able to be sued when they should know that guns are going into the hands of wrong people. So if somebody walks in and says, ‘I’d like 10,000 rounds of ammunition,’ you know, well, you might be suspicious about that. So I think there are grounds for those suits, but not if you sell me a legal product.”
Lehrer then suggested Sanders might be more progressive from the White House than he had to be to represent rural Vermont, where there is a tradition of hunting and support of gun rights. Sanders has said he has sought a balance in gun control that includes input from law-abiding gun owners.
Cuomo also jumped on that and Sanders’ platform in which he attacks what he calls a corrupt political funding system and Clinton’s reliance on substantial funding from Wall Street and corporate America.
“If you are in office, you are elected, you have to take an issue on the tough issues,” Cuomo said. “If you are saying I am going to make the politically advantageous choice and I am going to be purely representative and do what my people want, fine. That is what a lot of politicians do. But then don’t say you are different.”