We’ve all heard about liberal voters who have been feeling the Bern concerning Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) presidential run. Yet, for some, enthusiasm has hit the skids concerning his voting record on the Second Amendment. Yes, for a self-avowed socialist, Sanders actually has a decent track record on gun rights … for a progressive. He hails from a constitutional carry state, where there is no permit process for concealed or open carrying of a handgun. Moreover, nearly 70-75 percent of Vermont residents are gun owners. For anti-gun liberals, this is hell on earth.
Last week, Sanders was confronted by Honora Laszlo, the local chairwoman of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, in Arlington over his past gun votes. Specifically his vote to pass the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) in 2005, which virtually bars gun manufactures from being sued if their products are unwillingly used in a criminal act. It’s a good law–and apparently Sanders thinks so as well since he had no apologies over his vote (via NY Daily News):
“If somebody has a gun and somebody steals that gun and shoots somebody, do you really think it makes sense to blame the manufacturer of that weapon?” Sanders said, before he and Laszlo began talking over one another.
“If somebody assaults you with a baseball bat, you hit somebody over the head, you’re not going to sue the baseball bat manufacturer,” Sanders continued. “There’s going to have to be some compromises on both sides. So I don’t apologize for that vote."
At the same time, he did mention that he voted for an assault weapons ban, expanded background checks, and closing the mythical gun show loophole. All of which failed when the Senate was debating new gun regulations after Sandy Hook–and everyone knew this was going to be the ending before the first procedural votes were cast. This could possibly explain why voted in the affirmative for all three; they’re just “showcasing” votes.
The senator touted his votes to ban assault weapons, create instant background checks and close the gun show loophole, arguing that Democrats need to end the culture wars over guns to get “common-sense solutions” through.
Laszlo said she’d been a longtime Sanders fan and told the Daily News afterward that she arrived hoping he would walk away from his past positions because she’s not crazy about Clinton.
“He was dishonest in the way he talked about it. He is using this language that the NRA and their supporters use to polarize people,” she said. “I really hoped that if I gave him the chance to walk those statements back that he would, and instead he just really threw a bunch of smoke out.”
Well, that’s an issue for Laszlo to figure out. The so-called assault weapons ban was dead on arrival; convicted felons–and those that have pending charges awaiting trial–cannot own firearms; domestic abusers can’t own firearms; and the gun show loophole is grossly overstated. The Blaze’s Dana Loesch noted the legal consequences for those who do not follow the law.
Nevertheless, Sanders did discuss that for any movement on this issue, there needs to be a give and take on both sides–and we need to get over the rural/urban divide on this issue that’s become another front in the culture wars. In a sense, Sanders is trying to say we need to stop these “end of discussion” tactics when it comes to guns. I think we should all be for that since we have the facts on our side. We shouldn’t be afraid to debate anti-gun liberals.
Now, the Washington Post did a fact-check post on Sanders’ logic for voting “yes” on PLCAA, giving him two Pinocchios over the hammer example he used in his exchange with CNN”s Jake Tapper over his PLCAA vote.
…there is a difference between using a gun and using a hammer as a weapon. Our goal is not to nitpick or play gotcha, but rather explore the types of protection a gun manufacturer has under this law that would not apply to other consumer-goods manufacturers — hammer or otherwise. How accurate is Sanders’s characterization?
Victims accused manufacturers of creating “public nuisance” and not doing enough to ensure safe distribution of guns or prevent the flow of guns into illegal markets. They alleged that manufacturers were oversupplying the industry (and therefore knew that some of the guns would end up on the black market) and that they marketed the guns by promoting attributes that could be associated with criminal activities.
Advocates for gunmakers argued that these lawsuits threatened Second Amendment rights and that law-abiding manufacturers should not be held liable for criminal actions of individuals. They pushed for the 2005 law, which generally shielded manufacturers and sellers of firearms and ammunition from civil lawsuits “resulting from criminal or unlawful misuse” of their product by a third party.
The 2005 law does not guarantee blanket immunity, and it has some exceptions. Manufacturers or dealers can be sued if they knowingly sold a product that would be used to commit a crime. They can be sued if they were negligent in selling the product to someone they knew was unfit (i.e., a child or someone who was drunk). They can be sued for another technical negligence claim (“negligence per se”) that relates to the violation of a safety statute. The law bars any other type of negligence claims against a gun manufacturer.
While the law allows victims to sue if there was a design defect or a malfunction with the gun, there have been exceptions. For example, the Illinois Supreme Court in 2009 cited the law in dismissing a case where a young boy playing with his father’s gun accidentally shot and killed his friend. The victim’s family sued the gun manufacturer, saying the gun did not have proper safety features or proper warnings. The court found the plaintiffs did not fit the technical definition in the exception.
Sanders’s comparison makes it seem as if this lawsuit came about solely because people were suing gun manufacturers for making guns that somehow fell in the hands of criminals. But that is not exactly the case. Advocates and cities were suing manufacturers alleging their actions were increasing the risk that guns would fall into criminal hands. The gun industry then responded with legislation to shut down those lawsuits.
So, the beef the Washington Post has with Sanders is that he didn’t explain that the PLCAA is somewhat different regarding legal protections. The piece did detail that vaccine manufacturers have a legal shield as well, though not as strong as the PLCAA. Moreover, it cites a Harvard Law Professor who said that courts have been hesitant to place blame on companies for “third-party misuse.” This is starting to read like a “gotcha” post.
Second, if a young child is able to come into possession of a firearm, which leads to an accidental death, someone is negligent; but it isn't the firearm or the manufacturer. In Virginia, it’s a crime to keep firearms in place where it could become within the reach of young children. Lastly, the mass shootings we’ve seen recently certainly do not fall within the negligent statutes in the PLCAA.
Lastly, it seems that liberals would certainly use lawsuits to punish gun manufacturers, and curtail our Second Amendment rights in the process. As the video shows, Laszlo thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to sue a gun manufacturer if their products are stolen by criminals from law-abiding gun owners and are later used in shootings. We cannot hear her reasoning as the crosstalk made things incoherent. Yet, the way liberals operate now, every Second Amendment supporter should be grateful that such an important piece of legislation was passed under George W. Bush.
So, while Sanders may not have been as specific on the inner-dynamics of the PLCAA–or its origins–it certainly looks as if the anti-gun left would file lawsuits in the very manner that justifies his vote. Maybe he can do a deep dive during his next townhall event that draws thousands of attendees in the coming weeks.