cuomogunsFrom the Morning Memo:

Praising Hillary Clinton’s record on gun control, Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a gala event for the Brady Campaign on Thursday night invoked his late father and took a veiled swipe at her Democratic rival for the nomination in the presidential race, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Cuomo spoke before an audience that included Clinton, the former New York senator and secretary of state, as well as U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, sister Maria Cuomo Cole and her husband, the father designer Kenneth Cole, as well as actor Paul Rudd.

Cuomo, in his remarks, expanded on his push to make the gun control issue an litmus test in next year’s election as he pushes for federal legislation to stem the flow of illegal weapons into the state.

“The gun issue is the best proxy of our time to judge the essence of a political official,” Cuomo said.

Praising Clinton’s record on gun control, he knocked her rivals without naming them specifically. Sanders has defended his gun control votes, pointing to the large number of gun owners in his state.

“We don’t have the political will because our government is intimidated by the political backlash,” Cuomo said. “When Hillary Clinton’s opponents say they don’t support gun control because they have rural communities in their state, they’re saying they’re afraid of the opposition.”

At the same time, Cuomo invoked his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, who died nearly a year ago, and the praise he had for the passage of the January 2013 law known as the SAFE Act.

Cuomo called the law a “groundbreaking piece of legislation.”

“It’s a piece of legislation I believe has already saved lives and served as a model for other states as to what could be done,” he said. “My father was very pleased when we passed the SAFE Act. We talked about the issue for many, many years. When we finally got it passed, he was happy.”

His father, in part, praised the measure because of the political hit his son took in having to marshal its passage through the Legislature (Cuomo has often cited his poll numbers dropping, especially upstate, following the passage of the law, which angered gun owners).

“In many ways my father loved the difficulties, because in many ways that was the true test of the political official,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo defended the passage of the SAFE Act moving so quickly through the Legislature, which he had negotiated and introduced soon after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut the month before.

“They really wanted time to organize their opposition,” Cuomo said of the NRA. “They were upset we passed it so fast. It’s funny, because I think this state and nation have been so slow in passing gun control and so many people have died unnecessarily.”

Cuomo refocused on the gun control issue earlier this year after the shooting death of an attorney in his administration, Carey Gaby, as well as the shooting at an Oregon community college.

“This is a man-made crisis that costs 33,000 lives per year,” he said. “It’s something we can solve. The answer is going to be federal legislation and that is the only way we’re actually going to make a difference.”