WASHINGTON – Billionaire Mike Bloomberg tore into Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday for his record on gun control, accusing him of being "beholden to the gun lobby."
"The NRA paved the road to Washington for Bernie Sanders," Bloomberg tweeted. "He spent the next three decades making sure they got a return on their investment. We deserve a president who is not beholden to the gun lobby."
The tweet included a 90-second video that says the gun rights lobby helped Sanders win a seat in Congress in 1990 because his Republican opponent, former Rep. Peter Smith, backed an assault weapons ban. The ad points to Sanders' votes against the Brady Bill, which established background checks and waiting periods for handgun purchases, and other votes against gun control measures.
The NRA paved the road to Washington for Bernie Sanders.— Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) February 24, 2020
He spent the next three decades making sure they got a return on their investment.
We deserve a president who is not beholden to the gun lobby.#NotMeNRA pic.twitter.com/HLYZe4J5PM
Sanders' adviser Jeff Weaver contested the ad's assertions and said the NRA never endorsed Sanders.
"In fact, he lost his 1988 congressional race because he backed an assault weapons ban," Weaver told Politico. "But even after that, Sanders maintained his opposition to these weapons of war."
Sanders and Smith both backed assault weapons bans, but Wayne LaPierre, then the executive director of the NRA, sent a letter to Vermont members urging them to cast a "protest vote" for Sanders in the 1990 election.
"Bernie Sanders is a more honorable choice for Vermont sportsmen than Peter Smith," LaPierre wrote.
Smith accused the NRA of "trying to steal this election from Vermonters with about $25,000. I think that is disgusting."
In another tweet, Bloomberg wrote, "We already have a president who caves to the NRA. We don't need another one."
Bernie Sanders: A look at the senator from Vermont's gun control record
We already have a president who caves to the NRA.— Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) February 24, 2020
We don't need another one. pic.twitter.com/gepPwWpTg6
Bloomberg touted his own record on gun control in contrast to Sanders'.
"In 2005, I signed a local law allowing New Yorkers to sue gun manufacturers for criminal negligence. That same year, Bernie voted to give gun manufacturers IMMUNITY – overriding my efforts to make NYers safer. Care to explain, Bernie?" he tweeted.
"I’ve been the NRA’s #1 enemy for decades. Bernie’s been the NRA’s buddy for decades. Who do we want to represent the Democratic Party?" Bloomberg said in another tweet, along with a 60-second video of clips of him calling for gun control measures.
Gun control has been a signature issue for Bloomberg. He helped start Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which became Everytown for Gun Safety in 2013. A spokesman told The New York Times Bloomberg, whose personal worth is about $60 billion, has spent $270 million backing those movements since 2007.
Sanders has long backed an assault weapons ban, but on background checks, he argued the decision should be left to the states. He has defended his opposition to federal restrictions, such as the Brady Bill, on the grounds that his votes reflected the views of his constituents in Vermont, a rural state with many hunting enthusiasts.
Sanders said his views on the issue have evolved, and his platform calls for a range of strict gun control measures, including background checks on all gun purchases, banning high-capacity magazines and banning all assault weapons.
The self-described democratic socialist has taken the delegate lead in the Democratic primary race and surged to the top of most national polls. Tuesday, Sanders won a resounding victory in the Nevada caucuses with 47% of the vote.
Bloomberg jumped into the race in November. His late entry was spurred by his concern that the leading Democrats, including Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden, would not be able to defeat President Donald Trump in the general election.
In his first Democratic debate last week in Las Vegas, Bloomberg accused Sanders of wanting to throw out capitalism in favor of communism and said he could not "think of a way that would make it easier for Donald Trump to get reelected" than listening to Sanders' critiques of the U.S. economic system.
Sanders called the reference to communism a "cheap shot" and explained he was advocating a system with greater social spending like Denmark's.
Monday, Bloomberg's campaign announced it planned to keep up the attacks on Sanders' gun control record, including a California bus tour beginning Tuesday that will highlight the issue.
Contributing: Nicholas Wu, USA TODAY; April McCullum, Burlington Free Press
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mike Bloomberg attacks Sanders on gun control, says NRA paved his way