ALBANY - Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo yesterday again criticized Democrats in Congress and those running for president for failing to make stricter gun control a top priority, while he backed away from his own call a week ago to threaten a shut down of the federal government over the issue.
"Put a real gun control bill on the table," Cuomo said on "The Brian Lehrer Show" on WNYC-FM. "I would make this presidential [race] about gun control, I'd make the Congressional races about gun control. I would lean into it . . . I don't think the Democrats should run from it."
He underscored his long-standing push for more restrictive gun control after last week's shooting at an Oregon community college. On Friday he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that presidential candidates and other Democrats must show "political courage" and enact federal gun control.
Soon after, Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton renewed her call for a tougher gun control law.
Cuomo, who has endorsed Clinton, has for a fourth time in a week pushed the issue that may put her Democratic rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, in a tough spot in upcoming primaries dominated by liberal voters. Sanders has represented Vermont, where there is a strong hunting tradition and few gun control laws.
This week, Sanders on MSNBC promised "sensible gun control legislation." His proposal is expected soon.
Gun control isn't among the 18 priorities on Sanders' website, but "gun violence" is among Clinton's 23 highlighted issues on her website.
Like Cuomo, Clinton said "extremists" have taken over the issue. She wants universal background checks, a ban on assault-type weapons, and better enforcement of gun sales online and in gun shows.
A Sept. 22 PBS NewsHour-Marist poll showed how dicey the issue can be in a presidential campaign. It found that while 80 percent of Democrats favor a federal gun control law, 53 percent of Republicans oppose it.
In yesterday's interview, Cuomo denied that he'd called for Democrats to threaten to shut down Washington if a strong gun control measure wasn't on the table.
"Just to clarify, I didn't call for a government shutdown," Cuomo told Lehrer on WNYC. Republicans "are basically saying that, 'If we don't get a tax cut for the rich, they will shut down government.' The Democrats should say our top priority is gun control and . . . threaten the Republicans right back."
Cuomo didn't clarify the threat when pressed by Lehrer.
A week ago Cuomo said in another broadcast interview that Democrats "should have the same resolve [as Republicans] and threaten to shut down the government if they don't get a real gun control law."
"I'd love to see the Democrats stand up and say, 'We're going to shut down the government or threaten to shut down the government,'" Cuomo said last week.