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Clinton piles on Sanders for stance on Sandy Hook gun maker lawsuit

With just over a week until New York's Democratic primary, one of the state's largest tabloids is taking aim at Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, attacking him as a defender of gun manufacturers in the wake of a lawsuit brought by the victims of 2012's deadly Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

On Wednesday's front page, the New York Daily News ripped into the Democratic candidate, with the glaring headline "Bernie's Sandy Hook Shame":

The cover story heavily criticized Sanders for taking the side of gun manufacturers when asked about his stance on a new lawsuit levied against the makers of the Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle, the weapon used to kill 20 elementary school children and six teachers in Newtown, Connecticut.

The families of Sandy Hook shooting victims say they can sue the firearm company because it knew the AR-15 rifle was unsuitable for civilian use when it was marketed. Freedom Group, the parent company of AR-15 makers Bushmaster Firearms, in turn says that the decade-old Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act prevents the manufacturers from being held liable for crimes committed with its guns.

Bernie Sanders: "I think my record is very strong" on guns

Sanders voted in favor of that 2005 legislation -- a stance for which his campaign trail opponent, Hillary Clinton, has harshly condemned him. Since running for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sanders has pledged his support for new measures that would amend that liability law.

The Daily News' cover page attack comes just days after Sanders took heat for an interview conducted with the paper's editorial board earlier this month.

During that interview, which was published Monday, Sanders told the paper that "No, I don't" believe that the victims of gun violence should have the ability to sue the gun manufacturer.

He explained: "In the same sense that if you're a gun dealer and you sell me a gun and I go out and I kill him.... Do I think that that gun dealer should be sued for selling me a legal product that he misused?"

According to the interview transcript, Sanders shook his head and continued: "But I do believe that gun manufacturers and gun dealers should be able to be sued when they should know that guns are going into the hands of wrong people."

Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy and Sen. Chris Murphy, both Clinton backers, slammed Sanders after his statements to the Daily News.

In a series of tweets, Murphy criticized Sanders, saying that his Senate colleague's position was "really bad."

Malloy also told the Daily News that Sanders was "just wrong" on firearms.

"He is dead wrong on guns," the Connecticut governor said. "He had an opportunity to educate the people of Vermont about guns. Vermont is small enough that he could have gone house to house to educate people about guns."

And politicians aren't the only ones who have slammed Sanders over his remarks.

Erica Smegielski, the daughter of the Sandy Hook elementary school principle killed in 2012, sent a tweet to Sanders linking to the New York Daily News story and saying "Shame on you."

Smegielski told CNN in an interview that Sanders "owes families like mine and families involved in the lawsuit an apology because he really has had a callous dismissal of our concerns and our fight for justice. He is picking the gun lobby over our families."

Clinton added on to Smegielski's comments in her own tweet, commenting that she was "with you in the fight to stop gun violence."

In another message on Twitter, Clinton added that her rival "prioritized gun manufacturers' rights over the parents of the children killed at Sandy Hook."

When Sanders was asked by the Daily News if he believed the Sandy Hook families' lawsuit was "baseless," the Democratic presidential candidate responded: "It's not baseless. I wouldn't use that word. But it's a backdoor way."

"If you're questioning me," he added, "will I vote to ban assault weapons in the United States, yeah, I will."

Asked by CBS News' Nancy Cordes on Wednesday whether he would respond to calls for him to apologize to Sandy Hook victims, Sanders suggested instead that Clinton should apologize for the victims of the Iraq War, which Clinton voted for in 2002.

While on the campaign trail, Clinton has repeatedly acknowledged that her Senate vote for the war was a mistake.