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Bernie Sanders Reverses Course on Gun Immunity Vote

CHARLESTON, South Carolina — On the eve of the final Democratic presidential debate here, Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign announced he would support a bill to strip legal immunity from gun manufacturers, a status they gained from a 2005 bill for which Sanders voted.

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has made a major issue of Sanders' vote, arguing that he did the bidding of the National Rifle Association and the gun lobby.

Sanders has said he was open to reconsidering the law, but said last week his vote was "not a mistake."

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But in a statement Saturday night, Sanders said he would support legislation recently introduced by Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal and California Rep. Adam Schiff to repeal key parts of the 2005 law, which shielded gun manufacturers and sellers from lawsuits relating to damage caused by guns they make or sell.

"I'm pleased that this legislation is being introduced," Sanders said in a statement. "As I have said for many months now, we need to look at the underlying law and tighten it up."

Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta said on Twitter that the rival team was pleased with the change, and suggested it was a flip-flop.

"The Clinton campaign welcomes Senator Sanders' debate-eve conversion, reversing his vote to immunize gun manufacturers," he said.

Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver rejected the idea that Sanders had changed his position on the legislation.

"This is not a flip flop, this is consistent with the position he held earlier in the campaign," he told MSNBC.

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The Sanders campaign said it would also introduce an amendment to Blumenthal and Schiff legislation aimed at protecting small gun sellers.

The amendment would instruct the Department of Commerce to monitor the impact of the repeal on rural stories.

"As I have said, I do want to make sure that this legislation does not negatively impact small gun stores in rural America that serve the hunting community," Sanders said.