Debates and town halls during a presidential primary are supposed to expose the candidates’ positions and beliefs so the voters can make an informed decision when they go to the polls. Unfortunately, they also tend to bring out the worst in the office seekers in tight races as they tend to toss out increasing levels of bombast in an effort to one up their opponents. On the Democrat side of the 2016 election we’ve seen a lot of that from Hillary Clinton as she seeks to find some sliver of daylight where she can push to the left of Bernie Sanders. One of the best examples of this phenomenon can be found on the issue of guns.
Hillary has been battered by Bernie on a variety of issues including her cozy ties to Wall Street and her numerous flip flops on trade deals, but the one area where she clearly feels she has the upper hand is on gun control. Sanders, hailing from the gun friendly state of Vermont, has a “spotty” record on the subject in the eyes of their liberal base and Clinton has sought to exploit that perceived weakness at every turn. Unfortunately for her, this has led the former First Lady to make increasingly specious claims about gun rights in the United States. Recently she has taken to repeating abject falsehoods about the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) and the protections it affords to gun manufacturers.
During their debate in Michigan recently, Clinton made several variations of the following claim. (Forbes)
“It was pretty straightforward to me that [Sanders} was going to give immunity to the only industry in America. Everybody else has to be accountable, but not the gun manufacturers.”
This is, of course, nonsense, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation issued a statement this week to correct the record.
The PLCAA expressly allows legitimate lawsuits based on knowing violations of federal or state law related to gun sales, or on traditional grounds including negligent entrustment or breach of contract. The law also allows product liability cases involving injuries caused by a defective firearm. Hillary Clinton’s repeated claim of total immunity is a knowingly false statement. In a Feb. 26 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, legal scholar Victor E. Schwartz wrote, “The notion that Congress gave gun manufacturers inappropriate immunity from lawsuits is a fiction. Instead the 2005 law stands for the unremarkable premise that when a business makes or sells a lawful product, but the product is used in an unlawful way, it is not the fault of the maker or seller. It is the fault of the criminal.”
Without the protection against junk lawsuits, such as the PLCAA provides to our industry members, many of America’s most critical industries would go out of business from the time and costs of frivolous lawsuits. Industries cannot and should not be held legally responsible for the wrong-doings of individuals who purchase their products legally and then proceed to use them illegally.
The idea that the PLCAA is somehow shielding criminal activity is absurd on its face and the media is being negligent in their coverage of Clinton’s obvious mendacity. The law in question most certainly does allow for lawsuits and other appropriate legal action against both manufacturers and retailers who knowingly sell firearms to those not lawfully entitled to own them. In the case of retail gun shops the burden is obviously higher because they deal directly with the public. Anyone not following instant background check protocols or failing to sufficiently vet the purchaser can wind up facing stiff penalties. Manufacturers don’t often get into the same situation because they so rarely sell to individuals and there are strict requirements for someone to qualify as a retail seller. But if they did happen to sell to an unqualified dealer they would be open to legal action just like anyone else.
In the end, Clinton is simply trying to win over her base by appearing to be tougher on guns than Sanders. She’s also stirring up the sentiments of liberals who would like to see all gun manufacturers sued out of existence since they have failed to banish guns legislatively. These are both dishonest tactics and more needs to be done to call out Hillary Clinton on these blatant lies.