The issue of nuisance lawsuits against gun manufacturers has moved well beyond the courtroom drama playing out with the Sandy Hook families. Bernie Sanders has managed to drive Hillary Clinton further to the left as she seeks lines of attack against the Vermont Senator, coaxing her into calling for the repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) in recent campaign stops. That may serve her purposes in the primary, but how well does such a position play nationally as we look forward to the general election in November?
A new survey conducted by Harper Polling indicates that Clinton isn’t just in the minority on this issue… it’s not even close. Nearly three quarters of the country would prefer to see criminals who use guns illegally held accountable for their crimes rather than shifting the blame to the manufacturers and retailers who produce and distribute properly operating firearms.
Seven of 10 American voters do not support allowing crime victims to sue firearm manufacturers and retailers when firearms they made or sold lawfully after background checks are used illegally in crime. Instead, voters from across political parties and geographic regions back the defense that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) provides the firearms industry.
More than 70 percent of voters disagree with a position one presidential candidate has made a centerpiece of her campaign. Like that candidate, others running for federal office have chosen to run against and misrepresent this decade-old law that prevents crime victims from suing firearm manufacturers and retailers who have not broken any laws…
Some 72 percent of those surveyed agree that the PLCAA “should be kept and we should punish the criminals who commit these acts not the law-abiding manufacturers and retailers of lawful products which get misused” instead of “this law should be repealed because the current protection enables manufacturers and retailers to sell guns to people who shouldn’t have them, because they know they cannot be sued and don’t face any consequences” (26 percent). Only 4 percent were not sure.
It’s not just the 72% number here which is remarkable, but the fact that only 4% were either unsure or had no opinion on the subject. These aren’t figures which indicate a nation which is somehow mulling over the question. People are aware of this issue and have largely made up their minds. None of this should be terribly shocking to anyone who doesn’t live inside the bubble of electoral politics. A gun is a tool like any other. It is neither inherently good nor evil. What people do with their tools is the real question which is up for debate and voters clearly recognize where the responsibility for violence is to be found.
This ties in with broader trends among voters on the subject of guns. Pew Research has been tracking this question for decades and found that the tipping point was reached in August of last year. In the question of protecting gun rights vs gun control. a majority of Americans side with the Second Amendment.
For most of the 1990s and the subsequent decade, a substantial majority of Americans believed it was more important to control gun ownership than to protect gun owners’ rights. But in December 2014, the balance of opinion flipped: For the first time, more Americans say that protecting gun rights is more important than controlling gun ownership, 52% to 46%.
In parallel to that question, an even larger majority of Americans say that gun ownership does more to keep you safe than put you at risk. The idea of allowing victims of criminal activity to bankrupt gun manufacturers flies directly in the face of this majority. No matter who the eventual GOP candidate winds up being this year, they would do well to remind voters that Hillary Clinton has finally articulated a clear agenda for the next four years and it includes opening the floodgates to nuisance lawsuits which could put American gun manufacturers out of business.