Hillary Clinton deployed a new attack against Bernie Sanders on Monday that appeared not to be rooted in fact, claiming that the 74-year-old senator’s home state of Vermont is the source of many of the guns used in New York crime.
“She said that it’s going to be coming out in the very near future that many of the catastrophes that have taken human lives in the State of New York have been the product of guns coming over the border from Vermont,” New York State Sen. Tim Kennedy told Capital New York.
Clinton spoke to Democratic lawmakers, lobbyists and other important people during a closed-door meeting in Albany.
“That’s the first I heard it,” Kennedy said of Clinton’s connection. “I think it caught everybody’s attention and we’re looking forward to learning more about it.”
It was an obvious ploy: tie Sanders to his home state’s relatively loose gun control laws. It’s a continuation of Clinton’s strategy of painting Sanders as soft on gun control — the one issue on which she can claim to be more progressive than her competitor.
But data compiled by the federal government shows that less than one percent of the guns recovered in New York were initially purchased in Vermont, which borders the Empire State on the northeast.
In 2014, out of 7,686 firearms recovered and traced in New York, only 55 were first purchased in Vermont, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
That’s compared to 371 that came from Pennsylvania, 395 that were sourced to Virginia, and 386 from Georgia, government data shows.
In 2013, 61 of the 8,539 guns recovered and traced in New York came from Vermont. That’s compared to 423 that came from Virginia.
A New York Times investigation published last year also found that most of the guns recovered in New York were purchased in southern states. They’re brought to New York via I-95, which has been dubbed “The Iron Pipeline.”
ATF data does show that more guns from Vermont are recovered in other states than are other states’ guns recovered in Vermont. But the numbers are small.
In 2014, 133 guns purchased in Vermont were recovered in other states. Only 42 guns sourced from other states were recovered in Vermont that same year.
Those numbers would not explain the sizable level of gun crime in New York, and it is unclear what data Clinton was relying on to support her claim to the contrary.
Assemblyman Kevin Cahill had the same interpretation of Clinton’s remarks as did Kennedy, the state senator.
“She said that many of the guns that are found to be involved in crimes in this state are found to have their origins in Vermont,” Cahill told Capital New York. “The implication was just that many of the guns that are involved in crimes in this state come from Vermont. That was the implication I got.”
In attacking Sanders on the gun issue, the former New York Senator has cited his support — as a congressman — of a 2005 bill that shielded gun manufacturers and retailers from lawsuits. She has also pointed to his support of bills allowing gun owners to carry firearms in national parks and in carry-on luggage on Amtrak trains. President Obama signed both bills into law.
Sanders has since reversed his stance on the lawsuit measure. He also touts a D- rating with the National Rifle Association as evidence that he is tough on gun control.
Clinton’s new claims about Vermont’s place in the illegal gun trade comes as Sanders sneaks within striking distance in New York. A 20-plus point lead that Clinton enjoyed just weeks ago has been halved, according to recent polls.
The two candidates will debate in Brooklyn on April 14. The primary follows on April 19.
Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook repeated this new line of attack during an interview on CNN early Tuesday.
“I don’t think Senator Sanders is being sincere here in New York, which is facing serious problems with guns being trafficked from Vermont and other states,” he said.