The two Democratic candidates for president have been said to have “taken the gloves off” recently, disputing each other’s qualifications and quarreling over who better represents average Americans.

Since the choice is between a wacky socialist and a master of crony capitalism, the correct answer is “neither one.”

If their little water balloon fight is taking the gloves off, the Republican race is a cage death match fought with bazookas.

But one of Hillary Clinton’s charges hit Sen. Bernie Sanders where he lives — literally. On April 11, she said, “Most of the guns that are used in crimes and violence and killings in New York come from out of state.”

And, she said, Sanders’ home state of Vermont is “the state that has the highest per capita number of those guns that end up committing crimes in New York….”

Leaving aside the fact that guns don’t commit crimes, that claim is one of those perfect examples of how something can be simultaneously factual and false.

The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” column, which last Oct. 5 gave President Barack Obama’s claim that “the states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths” a rating of “Two Pinocchios” (out of a possible four), reported on April 12 that Clinton’s claim was worth three Pinocchios.

As the Post explained, using a per capita measure is “misleading,” because only “1 percent of (New York) crime guns whose sources were identified in 2014 originated from Vermont: 55 of 4,585.”

So again she weasel-worded the truth to make a political point and got caught. As a Sanders spokesman noted, “No wonder people don’t trust her.”

But let’s consider the gun-grabbers’ claims that the availability of firearms makes their use in crimes more probable.

If Obama had been right, permissive places such as Maine and Vermont would have firefights on every corner.

Instead, as the Post reported, Maine ranks 45th in the nation in the number of gun-related crimes (without counting suicides, which have no relationship to illegal sales) and Vermont is 49th.

It seems it’s not guns, but the numbers of people willing to acquire them illegally and commit crimes with them, that makes New York so dangerous.

And that leads us to the Maine referendum this November on requiring background checks for non-dealer sales.

A 2015 study by researchers from Duke and the University of Chicago found that most criminals who acquired guns illegally got them from trusted friends or family members, because they feared buying them from strangers exposed them to police stings or informants.

“It is rare for offenders to buy from licensed dealers, and also rare for them to steal their guns,” the study says. “Rather, the predominant sources of guns to offenders are family, acquaintances (and) fellow gang members….”

That means that requiring ordinary citizens to perform background checks wouldn’t affect the vast majority of illegal firearms transfers.

But that isn’t stopping former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg from putting $50 million into campaigns to pass such laws in several states, including Maine.

Mainers are usually pretty fussy about “outsider” plutocrats trying to buy their votes. Perhaps they will consider telling Mike and his minions to go purchase another state, because this one’s not for sale.

UPDATE: Last week I noted that Hillary Clinton had committed a “Kinsley gaffe,” which commentator Michael Kinsley noted was a politician inadvertently telling the truth.

In her case, it was about “human persons” being aborted. This week, it was her husband’s turn, and the topic was crime.

As Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, said in an April 12 column, “When demonstrators (at a Philadelphia rally) inveighed against the 1994 crime bill signed by Bill Clinton, the former president gave much better than he got. He rebutted them in finger-wagging detail, repeatedly returning to the point that the crime bill sought to diminish the rampant criminality that was destroying black lives. Clinton thought he was winning the argument, and by any reasonable standard he was — but, politically, he committed a multitude of sins.”

That’s because activists now blame the law for greatly increasing the number of young black men in jail.

But, as Lowry noted, “It is easy to forget now, but between 1960 and 1990, the United States experienced perhaps the worst crime wave in its history. Violent crime increased more than 350 percent. Across the 1960s, robbery rose 500 percent in cities with a population of a million (or more). It would be impossible for the political system not to respond vigorously to such a tide of disorder, especially when the criminal-justice system was initially so inadequate to the task.”

Nevertheless, Bill apologized — sort of — and the fuss died down. Perhaps, once the election passes, telling the truth will become popular again.

Or not.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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