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Hillary Clinton's Gun Proposals Expose Democratic Divide

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign stop at Manchester Community College on Monday.

This post was updated at 4:45 p.m.

Hillary Clinton unveiled her gun-control proposals on Monday in New Hampshire, calling for what she sees as "common-sense approaches" to minimize gun violence less than a week after the latest mass shooting.

After nine people were killed at an Oregon community college last Thursday, gun control has re-emerged as a top issue on the campaign trail. A visibly upset President Obama took to the White House podium after the shooting to bemoan perpetual congressional inaction after any incident, saying these incidents should, indeed, be politicized.

Democratic candidates are starting to do just that, but there are marked differences between them. Those differences will likely be highlighted at the candidates' first debate Oct. 14.

Among Clinton's proposals are:

  • pledging to act through executive action to close the gun-show loophole
  • tightening Internet gun sales, if Congress doesn't act
  • repealing a law that shields gun manufacturers from certain lawsuits
  • closing the "Charleston loophole"
  • prohibiting domestic abusers from being able to buy and possess firearms

In 2013, following the Sandy Hook shooting, the Senate tried and failed to pass stricter background screenings, closing the gun-show loophole and restricting Internet sales.

While introducing her plan at a New Hampshire community college Monday, Clinton brought up on stage Nicole Houghley, whose son Dylan was among the 20 children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in December 2012.

"It is time for us to say we're better than this. Our country is better than this," Clinton said, bemoaning that "this epidemic of gun violence knows no boundaries."

Clinton's support for repealing the law protecting gun manufacturers presents a contrast with her top opponent, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders. Sanders, who leads Clinton in New Hampshire, voted in favor of that 2005 bill.

The "Charleston loophole" allows a gun sale to go forward even if a background check hasn't been completed within three days. Such an oversight allowed the alleged shooter in the Charleston church massacre to kill nine African-Americans worshiping at a Wednesday night Bible study in June.

It's the first major proposal from Clinton during this campaign on gun control.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley has already put out a more sweeping plan. Among his proposals are:

  • banning the sale of assault weapons
  • requiring everyone who buys a gun to be fingerprinted and get a license
  • pushing gun-makers to install updated safety technology
  • making gun trafficking a federal crime
  • establishing a national firearms registry
  • requiring better home storage of guns
  • setting a minimum age requirement of 21 to own a handgun

A superPAC backing O'Malley has already criticized Sanders for his mixed background on gun control. Sanders has voted to allow guns on Amtrak and opposed the Brady Bill. The NRA even helped Sanders win his first race for Congress, though he now has a dismal record with the group. He has a D-minus rating from the group, something he has touted on the campaign trail.

Sanders hasn't put out a comprehensive gun control plan yet, and there's no section devoted to exactly where he stands on the "Issues" page on his website. But Monday he did outline some more specifics of what he believes on gun control. While saying he was "appalled" by the shootings, he underscored he believes a consensus can be found for reforms.

Here is some of what he has said so far:

  • strengthen and better enforce instant background checks
  • close gun show loophole
  • make "straw man" purchases — or someone buying a gun for someone who can't buy one — a federal crime
  • ban semiautomatic weapons
  • improve mental health access and ways to treat mental illness
  • reduce violent images in the media
  • previously, his campaign manager has said he would still support 2005 legislation to protect gun companies from legislation

All of the Democrats, however, stand in contrast to GOP presidential contenders — most of whom have urged caution and restraint to act too quickly after such an incident. They are calling for renewed focus on mental illnesses instead of taking aim at restricting Second Amendment rights.

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