Senator Bernie Sanders may be the most gun-friendly Democrat running for president, but his recent flip flop on firearm manufacturer protections should concern any Second Amendment advocate.
Protecting firearms manufacturers from lawsuits defends Second Amendment rights because it stops gun control activists from going around the legislature to enact policy and spares companies from the financial threat of frivolous suits.
In 2005, Republicans and Democrats passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which blocks some lawsuits against firearm manufacturers. Congress granted manufacturers this stability as some firearm companies were being sued for civil damages when a firearm was used for illegal purposes. Companies and dealers are still liable if they transfer a firearm knowing it will be used for criminal activity, or if a manufacturing defect causes physical harm during the intended, lawful use of the firearm.
Recently Remington settled in a class action lawsuit regarding trigger defects, so it’s clearly incorrect to say companies are completely immune from lawsuits. The PLCAA blocks lawsuits like Brady vs Lucky Gunner, in which the gun control activists at the Brady Center sued Lucky Gunner for selling ammunition that was used in theater shooting in Aurora, CO. Though Lucky Gunner complied with every federal law and state law, these activists still sued, costing this business more than $100,000.
As Senator Bernie Sanders explained in the October 2015 debate:
“If somebody has a gun and it falls into the hands of a murderer and that murderer kills somebody with the gun, do you hold the gun manufacturer responsible? Not any more than you would hold a hammer company responsible if somebody beats somebody over the head with a hammer. That is not what a lawsuit should be about.”
These lawsuits are an opportunity to get around Congress. Rather than publicly propose policy, gun control activists want to use the courts to punish an entire industry. Activists use court imposed financial penalties and legal costs to mandate changes they can’t pass democratically.
Not only does this threaten the businesses and employees, but also could affect availability of products for law-abiding citizens. Companies and dealers feeling threatened by non-stop litigation may choose not to produce or carry items that could entice lawsuits. Lawyers would have a field day as activists took advantage of their opportunity to attack legal manufacturers and dealers.
Unfortunately, Senator Sanders changed his tune before Sunday’s presidential debate.
In 2005 he voted for the PLCAA, but now has reversed his position after attacks from Hillary Clinton. If Senator Sanders so easily changes his mind on such a clear cut issue, it’s hard to believe that he’ll protect the right to keep and bear arms from the radical activists in his party.
On firearm liability, the Democrat presidential candidates are all off target.