Bernie Sanders will co-sponsor a bill to repeal legal protections for the firearm industry that he’d supported a decade ago, taking another step to undo the political damage of that vote and smooth over his relationship with gun control advocates.
Tad Devine, Sanders’ top strategist, confirms that Sanders has agreed to be a co-sponsor of the repeal bill.
According to a release from the Brady Campaign, Sanders will co-sponsor the repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which protects gun manufacturers in lawsuits involving shootings. Sanders had voted in favor of the protections while in the Senate and has up to this point resisted reversing course on the issue.
The Brady Campaign says that Sanders decided to support the legislation “hours after meeting with Brady activists,” and that his staff also met with victims of gun violence.
For Sanders, it’s all an effort to undo the damage of a 2005 vote for a bill that protected gun manufacturers from lawsuits when their firearms are used in crimes. Then-New York Sen. Hillary Clinton opposed that bill, and has repeatedly pointed to Sanders’ vote as evidence he was aligned with the National Rifle Association.
Sanders had already announced a week ago – just one day before a Democratic debate in Charleston, South Carolina – that he would support the bill. His move to co-sponsor it is a step further, allowing Sanders to attempt to claim a leadership role in working to repeal the legislation that has become anathema to Democratic primary voters and a liability for him on the campaign trail.
The move could also diffuse a fight with the Brady Campaign. The group’s head, Dan Gross, has hammered Sanders on the campaign trail, and is endorsing Clinton.
Gross reacted to Sanders’ co-sponsorship, saying, “Co-sponsoring a bill means more than simply signing a piece of paper – Sen. Sanders now has an obligation to take action to force a vote in the Senate and usher this bill to final passage.”
In 2005, the law was hailed at the time by the National Rifle Association as “the most significant piece of pro-gun legislation in twenty years.”
Sanders also repeatedly voted against variations of the Brady Bill, central to the Brady Campaign’s gun control platform, which would require federally mandated background checks on the purchase of guns in the United States.
In the past, Sanders defended his support for the law that he is now joining the fight to repeal, saying in an interview on ABC’s “The Week” earlier this month that “there are parts of it that made sense to me.”
Explaining his outlook on the subject, Sanders explained to host George Stephanopoulos, “Look George, if you have a small gun shop owner in Northern Vermont who sells a gun legally to somebody and then, you know, something happens to that guy, he goes nuts or something, and he kills somebody, should the gun shop owner be held liable? I think not.”
But, he added at the time, “I am absolutely willing, as I’ve said for many, many weeks, if not months, to take another look at that piece of legislation.”
CNN’s Eric Bradner contributed to this report.