“We disagree on a number of the issues, but I don’t think we want to make this campaign personal, and I have tried my best not to do that,” Sanders said. “A serious election is a debate on the issues. That’s called democracy, not attacking people on a personal level.”
Sanders has been fending off suggestions of sexism from Clinton boosters since late last week, when Clinton took issue with one of Sanders’s comments on gun control from the first Democratic debate in Las Vegas. Sanders said that he favors sensible solutions to reduce violence but told Clinton that “all the shouting in the world is not going to do what I hope all of us want.”
At a women’s leadership forum hosted Friday by the Democratic National Committee in Washington, Clinton pledged to push for more gun control, and then added: “I’ve been told to stop shouting about guns. Actually I haven’t been shouting, but sometimes when a woman talks, some people think it’s shouting.”
Sanders told reporters that his call to move beyond shouting on gun control by advocates on both sides began long before the Democratic debate.
“What I have said for months has nothing to do with Secretary Clinton,” Sanders said. “What I have said on the issue of guns for months and months and months is that everybody here is appalled by the kind of massacres we have seen in churches, we have seen on college campuses, and all of us want to put an end to that.”
Sanders said he thinks he can help forge a consensus in several areas, including improving mental health services, closing the “gun-show loophole” and banning the sale of military-style weapons “designed just to kill people.”
Critics of Sanders also seized on a report this week that Sanders's campaign manager had joked that the campaign is willing to vet Clinton as a vice presidential nominee. The president of Emily's List, a group that promotes female candidates, criticized the remarks as demeaning, and Sanders later said they were inappropriate.
Over the past week, Sanders has significantly stepped up his efforts to draw contrasts with Clinton on issues, including Social Security, the death penalty and marijuana legalization.
The senator is in the midst of a two-day swing through the first presidential primary state, where polls show a close race with Clinton.