Hillary Clinton and her team are definitely hearing the shuffling footsteps of Bernie Sanders creeping up behind them. The former Secretary of State and her surrogates have been firing back at the Vermont Senator in a serious fashion this week, seeking a way to blunt his recent gains in the polls. The problem for Bernie seems to be that he’s not used to being attacked and has little experience in how to respond. The gut level impulses of either Sanders or somebody on his staff are showing now that the pressure is on because he’s backing off on some of his longest held beliefs in an effort to get further to the left of Clinton. The latest subject on the Flip Flop Watch is immunity for weapons manufacturers from frivolous lawsuits. (Yahoo News)

On the eve of the next Democratic debate, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders announced his support for legislation that would reverse a 2005 law granting gun manufacturers legal immunity that he once supported.

Sanders’ changed position came in a statement issued after days of attacks from rival Hillary Clinton, who had attempted to use his previous vote to undercut his liberal image…

Campaign aides said the decision was not a flip-flop, arguing that Sanders backed the 2005 law in part because of provisions that require child safety locks on guns and ban armor-piercing ammunition.

“Those were important provisions that I did support,” Sanders said in a statement.

That, of course, is blatant horse hockey in its most basic form. It may be, at least in part, a response to the fact that Clinton recently locked up the endorsements of several anti-gun rights groups. NRA-ILA reports that the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Americans for Responsible Solutions, and former Attorney General Eric Holder all jumped in on Clinton’s side in recent days and he will doubtless be tagged over this during their next debate tonight.

Bernie Sanders should have at least some idea of what to expect since he was peppered with the same questions the last time the two faced off. During that debate, Bernie was already edging away from his long held position on gun manufacturer immunity, but wasn’t quite ready for the full scale pander.

Q: For a decade, you said that holding gun manufacturers legally responsible for mass shootings is a bad idea. Do you want to shield gun companies from lawsuits?

SANDERS: Of course not. This was a large and complicated bill. There were provisions in it that I think made sense. For example, do I think that a gun shop in the state of Vermont that sells legally a gun to somebody, and that somebody goes out and does something crazy, that that gun shop owner should be held responsible? I don’t. On the other hand, where you have manufacturers and where you have gun shops knowingly giving guns to criminals or aiding and abetting that, of course we should take action.

Sanders’ inexperience is showing through here because he clearly should have been ready for this. Clinton’s allies and apologists have been stirring the pot on this one from the moment he got in the race. When Slate was making their big pitch to support Hillary Clinton and undermine Sanders last year they published a piece titled “Bernie Sanders, Gun Nut.” In it, they covered a variety of pro-gun votes that Bernie took, but they really zoomed in on his 2005 vote passing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA).

We’ll have to wait until tonight to see if Sanders’ answer on the lawsuit immunity question gets any better than the nonsensical one he gave last time. Let’s look at that response which I quoted above for a moment. Bernie thinks that the gun shop which sells a properly manufactured and functional weapon to a consumer shouldn’t be sued. (That part is correct.) But now he thinks that the manufacturer who produced the weapon should be sued?

There’s a devilish part of my brain which almost wants to see such a law put in place leading to a subsequent case making it to the Supreme Court. If you purchase a toaster which is supposed to toast bread for your breakfast and it catches fire or shocks you when you push the lever down, the manufacturer is clearly liable if it was defective. But if the toaster works just fine and is safe to operate but your wife throws it in the bathtub with you and it kills you, your wife is liable, not the manufacturer. The same applies to virtually any other product. We don’t sue Top Chef if somebody goes nuts and shoves a carving knife into their mother-in-law. Nor do we drag the Louisville Slugger company into court when a crazy person takes a bat to the mailman.

The idea of allowing people to sue gun manufacturers for the evil that criminals do with their products is equally insane, but now Bernie has signed on to the madness and will have to find a way to articulate that position in the debate. It should be a fascinating dance to watch. The biggest hurdle he faces is how he will explain his “evolution” on the question. When Bernie took that vote on the PLCAA he was 64 years old. Was he “young and foolish” then, only later coming to understand the nuances of the question? Somehow I think Sanders would have commanded more respect if he’d simply stuck to his guns… pun intended.

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