US & Canada

Hillary Clinton attacks rival Bernie Sanders on gun laws

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Media captionHillary Clinton says that Bernie Sanders is not tough enough on guns

Hillary Clinton has attacked her main rival Bernie Sanders over US gun laws at the Democratic presidential debate.

When asked if the Vermont senator was strong on gun control, she said, "No, not at all," before vowing to go after the makers of guns used in shootings.

Mr Sanders also attacked Mrs Clinton, saying her support for a no-fly zone in Syria would create "serious problems".

His rallies have drawn big crowds and he has challenged Mrs Clinton's frontrunner status in some key states.

Ghattas: Sanders is a star but Clinton's the winner

Five key moments of the debate

Mrs Clinton names her enemies

Full transcript of debate

Mrs Clinton and Mr Sanders dominated the debate. The three other candidates on stage in Las Vegas - former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb and former Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee - struggled to make headway.

Highlights:

  • Biggest applause of the night to Mr Sanders when he said the country was "sick" of hearing about Mrs Clinton's email controversy
  • The self-described democratic socialist railed against the wealth going to the "top 1%" and lauded Denmark as an example
  • Former first lady said she would stand up to "bully" Russian President Vladimir Putin
  • But she was on the defensive for supporting the Iraq War and backing a no-fly zone in Syria

The two main candidates were sharply divided over gun laws, in the wake of a mass shooting at a college campus in Oregon.

When Mrs Clinton said her rival was not tough enough, she was referring to him voting in 2005 for a measure to give gun manufacturers immunity from lawsuits by shooting victims.

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Media captionBernie Sanders: "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your... emails"

The two also argued over the merits of capitalism.

Mr Sanders called for a "political revolution", arguing that "Congress does not regulate Wall Street. Wall Street regulates Congress".

But when he suggested that the US should look to Nordic countries because of "what they have accomplished for their working people", Mrs Clinton responded: "We are not Denmark. I love Denmark. We are the United States of America.

"I'm a progressive, but I'm a progressive who likes to get things done," she said.


Commentators see good debate for Clinton:

"Whereas much of the pre-debate punditry had focused on Clinton's apparent vulnerabilities, she was on offense for the bulk of the two-hour encounter, especially in the crucial opening minutes." Niall Strange, The Hill

"The Democratic front-runner showed renewed energy and comfort on a presidential debate stage where she, but none of the others, had been before." Shane Goldmacher, Politico

Mrs Clinton's "experience and self-assurance... put her in command as she and her four lesser-known rivals for the Democratic nomination stood side by side for the first time". Karen Tumulty, Washington Post


Vice-President Joe Biden is still considering a run for the White House and did not make a last-minute entry on to the stage, as his supporters hoped.

Mrs Clinton has seen her support wane amid questions about her use of a private email account when she served as US secretary of state, a move she now calls a mistake.

However, she was unfazed during the debate when Mr Chafee questioned her credibility, refusing to respond when invited.


Analysis: Kim Ghattas, BBC News, Las Vegas

There were five candidates on stage, but it was the Hillary and Bernie show. And if he emerged a star, she was the definite winner.

This was a key moment for Mrs Clinton, an opportunity to silence critics of her campaign, reassure Democrats worried about her viability, a time to show her passion and connect with voters on a national stage.

She started off with a somewhat stilted, fact-filled introduction, which was a reminder she is usually better at the prose of governing than the poetry of running. But she warmed up steadily during the debate and delivered a series of good repartees.

And her overall performance appeared even stronger because of the odd assortment of rivals she faced: less experienced candidates who also understood that gratuitous shots against a member of the Democratic family would do little to advance their own campaign and nothing to serve their common cause of keeping the White House in the hands of a Democrat.

Read more from Kim Ghattas

Who are the men challenging Mrs Clinton?


The candidates tried to distinguish their debate from those of the Republicans, where candidates took a tougher stance on immigration and spent more time discussing social issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

  • Mr Chafee noted twice that he had never had a political scandal.
  • Mr O'Malley defended his record as mayor in Baltimore, where there were riots this year.
  • Vietnam veteran Mr Webb said his military service gave him leadership skills.

Mr O'Malley used his 90-second closing speech to say the Republican debates were lessons in intolerance.

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Media captionSelf-described socialist Mr Sanders sparred with Mrs Clinton over capitalism

Republican candidates took to Twitter to offer reactions. Jeb Bush said Mrs Clinton had "just told you she has no interest in changing direction. I sure will." Frontrunner Donald Trump said he found the debate "a little sad!", and that candidates appeared "very scripted".

Fifteen Republicans are vying to be the party's White House nominee in 2016.

Iowa will be the first state to hold primaries in February. By next summer, each party will have a presidential nominee.

Votes will finally be cast in November 2016.