Gun Rights

Bernie Sanders Criticizes Lawsuits That Blame Gun Makers for Murder

Hillary Clinton falsely claims a law Sanders supported gave the industry "absolute immunity."



During last night's Democratic presidential debate in Flint, Michigan, Hillary Clinton once again criticized Bernie Sanders for supporting the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a 2005 law that she falsely claimed gave gun manufacturers and dealers "absolute immunity" against lawsuits. Clinton, who as a senator voted against that law, has brought up Sanders' vote for it during six out of seven debates so far, misrepresenting what the law says almost every time. Sanders has responded defensively, saying he would take another look at the law to see if it can be improved. But last night he made it clear that he supports the basic principle embodied in the law, which is that manufacturers and dealers generally should not be held responsible for criminal misuse of the guns they supply.

Moderator Anderson Cooper asked Sanders about a lawsuit against the manufacturer, distributor, and retailer of the rifle used in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Here is Sanders' reply:

If you go to a gun store and you legally purchase a gun, and then, three days later, if you go out and start killing people, is the point of this lawsuit to hold the gun shop owner or the manufacturer of that gun liable?

If that is the point, I have to tell you I disagree. I disagree because you hold people—in terms of this liability thing, where you hold manufacturers' [liable] is if they understand that they're selling guns into an area that—it's getting into the hands of criminals, of course they should be held liable.

But if they are selling a product to a person who buys it legally, what you're really talking about is ending gun manufacturing in America. I don't agree with that….

As I understand it…what people are saying is that if somebody who is crazy or a criminal or a horrible person goes around shooting people, the manufacturer of that gun should be held liable….

If that is the case, then essentially your position is there should not be any guns in America, period.

That is basically what the plaintiffs in the Newtown massacre lawsuit are saying, but they dress up their argument in terms designed to get around the limits imposed by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. That law bans lawsuits based on "the harm solely caused by the criminal or unlawful misuse of firearm products or ammunition products by others when the product functioned as designed and intended." But it allows tort claims based on "negligent entrustment"—i.e., "the supplying of [firearms] by a seller for use by another person when the seller knows, or reasonably should know, the person to whom the product is supplied is likely to, and does, use the product in a manner involving unreasonable risk of physical injury to the person or others." The Newtown plaintiffs, who include the families of nine people murdered at Sandy Hook, plus a survivor of the massacre, maintain that the defendants are guilty of negligent entrustment because they made a gun with no legitimate civilian uses available to the general public.

That argument is implausible, to say the least, since AR-15-style guns like the one used in Newtown are very popular and plainly do have legitimate civilian uses. Yet Sanders, who favors a federal ban on so-called assault weapons, seems to believe otherwise. Last night he said, "I don't think it's a great idea in this country to be selling military-style assault weapons which are designed to kill people." That does not necessarily mean Sanders would support this lawsuit, since the gun at the center of it was legal at the time even in Connecticut. The plaintiffs are trying to stretch negligent entrustment to cover entirely lawful actions by a large segment of the gun industry. Even Dennis Henigan, former director of the Legal Action Project at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, concedes they are unlikely to succeed. 

That does not mean the lawsuits allowed by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which can be based on product defects or illegal actions as well as negligent entrustment, are doomed to fail. Last fall a Wisconsin jury awarded $5.1 million in damages to two police officers who were gravely injured by a handgun that Badger Arms, a store near Milwaukee, sold to a straw buyer. The jurors concluded that the store clerk who sold the gun ignored obvious clues that the ostensible buyer was not the real buyer, who was 18 and therefore not legally permitted to purchase a pistol from a federally licensed dealer. The jurors faulted the store's owners for failing to properly train their employees. 

As that example shows, it is still possible to hold gun makers and dealers liable for negligence. Clinton wants to do more than that, arguing that litigation can "force gun makers to do more to make guns safer." She is referring to "smart guns" that are more expensive, harder to use, and less reliable than standard firearms. The only way litigation would encourage the sale of such guns is by making manufacturers liable for producing the firearms their customers actually want. When such lawsuits were filed "in the late '90s and in the early 2000s," Clinton said last night, "the NRA saw this happening, and they said, 'We've got to stop it. Last thing in the world we want is to have guns that you can only shoot with your fingerprint, or to have guns with such strong safety locks on them that they may not be sellable.'" But as far as Clinton is concerned, unsellable guns would be a victory.

I remain unconvinced that the law Clinton faults Sanders for supporting was necessary or appropriate. There is a credible argument that Congress acted to protect Second Amendment rights against litigation that ultimately could have made them difficult or impossible to exercise. That is the argument to which Sanders alluded when he said lawsuits blaming gun makers for gun crimes, if successful, could mean "ending gun manufacturing in America." In 2005, however, that threat remained distant and theoretical, since the lawsuits had been almost uniformly unsuccessful and had prompted legislative responses at the state level. Furthermore, there were legitimate constitutional concerns about interfering with state tort law. But no matter which side you took in that debate, Clinton is clearly wrong to suggest that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act gave the gun industry complete immunity against lawsuits, and Sanders is clearly right that manufacturers, distributors, and dealers should not be held liable for crimes committed with their products unless they deliberately or negligently foster those crimes.

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  1. First Michael, ‘the hut’ Moore makes sense and now Bernie ‘the red’ Sanders. I’m thinking Bernie wants to keep these jobs and companies for the big tax increases he want . Plans,within plans.

    1. Sanders, obviously, is playing 3D Monopoly.

      1. With a hammer and sickle play piece.

    2. What did moore say that made sense?

      1. The people of Flint have voted for the dems for 89 years and it’s done nothing for them.

      2. The people of Flint have voted for the dems for 89 years and it’s done nothing for them.

        1. The squirrels really want me to know the answer I guess.

        2. Even the squirrels can’t believe it.

      3. Look under the ‘Most Commented’ links on this page. He tweeted out that voting D for 84 years didn’t exactly help Flint residents.

        1. For one the side bar loaded and I was able to see that section.

    3. I went to Moore’s twitter page, it was one tweet in a sea of derp. I wouldn’t get too excited.

  2. Love how this article treats Hillary’s absolute determination to sue the gun industry out of existance if she’s elected president with kid gloves.

    Another nice “soft” libertarian piece Reason.

    Perhaps H’s dressing like the Korean dictator is a hint about how she might rule…

    1. Because she’s not you know who.

      1. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna?

        1. I’m sorry ,the answer was Hitler, Hitler.’

          1. But you must admit, she is no Santa Anna either.

            1. True,he dressed better.

              1. And had a wooden nose, or leg or bowel or somesuch.

        2. Truthfully I was trying to keep this thread free from you know who’s name for a change.

            1. Now your just fucking with me.

    2. Perhaps H’s dressing like the Korean dictator is a hint about how she might rule?

      Like Captain Kangaroo?!

      1. Wasnlt he deposed in a mutiny by the Cane Toad deckhands?

    3. So what are you saying? Every post here has the be a fire-breathing polemic against every shitty policy of everyone mentioned in the post?

      The post is about an exchange about a particular piece of legislation. I think it’s fine if they stick to that. Eveyone already knows tha tHillary is terrible on gun rights.

      1. I’m saying that in a libertarian sense, Bernie is much more correct than Hillary on this issue. Hilllary is transparent in her desire to sue gun manufacturers out of business. And I am very much against her being able to try and execute that end run on our rights.

  3. Good for Sanders. Going after manufacturers is one ugly, retarded slipper slope. Heck, the slope wouldn’t need to be slippery the chilling effect would be immediate.

    “…maintain that the defendants are guilty of negligent entrustment because they made a gun with no legitimate civilian uses available to the general public.”

    They should define ‘legitimate use’.

    1. They should define ‘legitimate use’.

      They did – they see no use as ‘legitimate’.

      1. Except for the people that guard her.

    2. Going out on a limb here, but how about lawful defense of self and others? Crazy, I know.

      1. That’s why all the candidates want to strengthen the Department of *Defense*, DUH!

      2. Those are examples, but only a small subset of legitimate uses. Any use that harms no one (outside of self defense situations) and doesn’t create a dangerous situation is legitimate. Tons of people use AR15s to shoot targets. That’s perfectly legitimate.

  4. Is Clinton’s claiming the law gave absolute immunity to gun manufacturers any different than the gun grabbers insistence that the NRA and the gun nuts oppose even the slightest of gun safety regulation as if the Brady Bill never happened? We’ve got waiting periods and background checks and they still insist it’s 1882 out there where any child can buy a Gatling gun for just a few bucks at Walmart.

    1. Since the gatling gun is hand cranked and doesn’t have a trigger, is it technically an automatic weapon by the legal definition of more than one shot per trigger pull?

      1. Hillary Clinton said during the debate that the guns they sell now (the AR-15s that fire one shot per trigger pull) are automatic weapons, so I’m guessing she doesn’t make any distinction.

        1. One might suppose correcting such slips of the tongue is something a conscientious moderator might dHAHAHAHAHAHAAA!! Damn, couldn’t quite get it out!

          1. Well done

        2. They look like machine guns. That’s what matters.

      2. As far as I know, the ATF doesn’t consider a gatling gun an automatic gun.

        You can buy a kit at Cabelas to convert a pair of 10/22s into a pseudo gatling gun.

        1. Funny thing is, the 10/22 is an ‘assault weapon’ under the “SAFE” act. (Before this year, I knew that law was doomed in the courts… now I can’t be so certain)

          1. It is? Is that because it can take large magazines?

      3. A “Gatling Gun” does not fall under the provisions of NFA-34 as long as it is hand-cranked. If it is motor-driven, it is considered an “automatic weapon” under NFA-34.

    2. She said the gun makers have protection that no other company has.Then again,no one’s tying to sue G.M for damage cause by reckless drivers.The day will come when food companies and say,McDonald’s will need the same protection.

  5. *Nothing* about Hillary promising to BAN LEAD?

    1. Here’s the thing – we know Hillary is a liar and a charlatan who will say anything to gain power. A ban on lead sounds like the empty promice of the week rather than an actual policy position.

      Bernie, on the other hand, is a true believer.

      1. Vote Hillary–You can trust her untrustworthiness!

      2. I think it would be cool as hell if there were a habitable colony on another planet, so I should support the candidate who promises to put a colony on mars next year, right?

        1. Yes, and a you can catch the rocket if you make it to the launch pad on time. Remember to pack light, but don’t forget your towel.

          1. And don’t panic.

      3. A ban on lead sounds like the empty promice of the week

        Bans on lead ammo are already in effect in some places for bird hunting. And its been proposed for rifle rounds for other hunting.

        Don’t bet against it, IOW.

        1. All hunters in the range of the California Condor, are prohibited from using lead-based ammo, within CA, no matter the game they are hunting.

  6. The jurors concluded that the store clerk who sold the gun ignored obvious clues that the ostensible buyer was not the real buyer, who was 18 and therefore not legally permitted to purchase a pistol from a federally licensed dealer.

    So at 18 you can’t buy a gun from a federally licensed seller, but the government can force you to use one if your name comes up in the draft?

    1. Pistol.

      They tend to force you to use Rifles, which 18 year olds can buy.

      1. Pistol.

        They tend to force you to use Rifles, which 18 year olds can buy.

        Well, gee…that really makes one wonder what they’ve been doing with the millions of sidearms that have been standard infantry issue for well over a century.

        1. Pistols aren’t standard infantry issue; never have been, AFAIK. They’re usually issued to officers, and sometimes to people who are doing things other than fighting but may require a personal defense weapon, though usually they issue carbines for that.

    2. Also, if you pivot to artillery and heavy ordinance, you get the same question. Given the amount of privately owned cannon at the time of the adoption of the constitution, I don’t see how artillery can be banned from civilian hands.

      1. Muzzle loaders only, though!

      2. Are cannons properly considered “arms”? I thought arms meant weapons that you can carry.

    3. Or drink beer,or,in some places use tobacco.At 18 I learned the joys of a good cigar and a stout. Although,I did drink some cheap stuff most times.Mickey’s Big Mouths and Little Kings.

      1. There used to be a little bait shop near me (Damnearalabama, Georgia) that carried Little Kings – I have no idea why or how since I don’t think they have a Georgia distributor. I’d pick up an eight-pack once in a while just for the nostalgia. Drank a lot of those little green bottles around the campfire in my younger days. (Just checked a beer-finder site, says the nearest place to buy is 265 miles away, in Kentucky. I go up that way about once every 20 years or so, maybe I’ll get some next time.)

        1. I found them tasty at the time.More of a Sam Adams guy.The lager and stout.There are other beer I like ,but,I like to support the company. The stout is creamy and the porter is good too.

  7. So tell me. What system in the body scavenges cancer cells? Because we are constantly bombarded with radiation. Which is known to cause cancer.

    1. That’s usually a process of the immune system. But most of the time radiation will cause cell death instead of cancer, those get cleaned out like any other dead cells. It’s the cells that survive but with damage that turn cancerous.

      1. So how does the immune system do that? And could you narrow down “immune system” it has a number of parts.

        1. I’m afraid that is the limits of my ignorance.

          1. Try this:

            The endocannabinoid system and cancer: therapeutic implication


            1. Oh, shut up already, you ignoramus. There are numerous immune mechanisms for killing mutated cells, including cytotoxic T cells, natural killer cells, complement activation, and countless ways that apoptosis is induced. You’re like one of those natural foods morons claiming that turmeric can replace 500 medications, because there have been some successful in vitro studies using curcumin.

      2. I thought it was just a question of radiation (like smoking) kills cells, so then you make new ones, and the more times this happens the more possibility for copying errors.

    2. Follow up question – what system in the body kills cancer cells and what is the mechanism?


      Elephant cancer suppressing gene^^

  8. “But if they are selling a product to a person who buys it legally, what you’re really talking about is ending gun manufacturing in America. I don’t agree with that….”

    “Tell us, Madame Secretary, do *you* agree with that?”

    1. She is not currently holding any office. Her correct form of address is “Mrs. Clinton”. Though it should be “Prisoner Number…”

  9. ‘I remain unconvinced that the law Clinton faults Sanders for supporting was necessary or appropriate.’

    From the article JS refers to is this comment:
    ‘3. But of course, like sharky plaintiffs lawyers, these suits were not meant to win — they were in large part meant to bleed the product manufacturers so dry in lawyers’ costs that they would “settle,” as tobacco manufacturers have done. Bogus suits filed to induce settlements are the best argument in the world for a “loser pays rule” — wanna talk about that in future installments of this conversation?’

    I think that sums up the problem.

    1. There by comes 3D printers and table top milling machines.

      1. Whose makers will be sued under the same legal theory once people made weapons with them.

          1. Still not seeing how that evades the “process as punishment” lawsuits that bleed cash suppliers.

            1. Under current theory a “kit” is only a “thing” after it is assembled and working. Otherwise it is just a collection of parts.

              1. Under current theory, a firearm is a perfectly legal and legitimate product whose manufacture does not carry strict liability for it’s usage.

        1. Black market tools.

          IIRC Mattel is coming out with a 3D printer for kids this fall.

          1. Make your kids the old fashioned way it is more fun.

    2. And gun makers do not have deep pockets.It wouldn’t take to many judgments to run the out of business.

      1. The black market will supply what ever you want.

        The profits will be yuge.

        1. As yuge as Nancy’s cankles?

  10. I guess the positive thing about Ted Cruz running against Hillary is the fact that he would eviscerate her on this subject when it came up in a debate.

  11. Clinton is clearly wrong … [blah,blah,blah]… and Sanders is clearly right…
    I notice on the book-o-face that the bern-ers are starting to warm to the idea of Hillary being charged with security violations. From rightwing nuttery and conspiracy theorists to leftwing nuttery – let the orgy of cannibalism begin.

    1. Interesting. Would you *kindly* provide a snippet or two?

      1. Not much. Just your reliable pro-Bern proggies linking to news reports of the latest email problems that Hillary is having and coy statements like “Interesting.”
        Then the Hilla-bots rage back that it’s all a republican witch hunt and the Hillary has triumphed over them numerous time.
        Then the bern victims shift to “How electable is she if she and her aides are under federal investigation.”
        Then the accusations of misogyny start up.
        [Good times.]

        1. Then the accusations of misogyny start up.

          “If she were a *man* — like, say, *Petraeus* ?.!”

  12. The problem comes when they start going after knives. What about baseball bats? What about sticks and bricks?

      1. Is number 10 an electric eel?

        1. Not electrical, anaphalactic.

          1. I told you there are peanuts in peanut butter.

            1. I really feel sorry for people who are allergic to that common legume.

                1. You son of a bitch. You Rick rolled me!

          2. I had an anaphalactic break on me over the weekend. It was with a natural redhead.

            1. Did she have a shock of red hair?

            2. Ken is now Ginger! Kill him before he infects the rest of the Commentariat!

    1. Have a look at the UK where you can be charged with having a dangerous weapon if you have anything at all in your possession ( a screwdriver, a stick, a rolled up newspaper ) and no immediate justification for having that item. They have turned their nation into a prison.

      1. Virtually the same state of affairs exists in Canada at present. If a po-po stops you for any reason and finds anything on your person that’s “out of place” (essentially at his/her discretion), the po-po can conclude you’re carrying it for purposes of its potential as a weapon.

        See, for example, this.

    2. Britain is already well down that path. Eventually, they’ll try to ban the jawbone of an ass (at least for the peasantry).

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  14. He probably has plans to nationalize gun manufacturers if he doesn’t already believe they’re somehow a government entity. Gun manufacturers supply arms to the government, therefore, they’re a government entity. You can’t sue the government.

    I have no evidence of this, just wouldn’t surprise me if he thinks this way.

    1. Well, he *is* a socialist.

  15. Hillary Clinton falsely claims a law Sanders supported gave the industry “absolute immunity.”

    They’ll use any excuse they can dream up to go after whichever of our rights they don’t like that run afoul of their crises of convenience–and this just proves it.

    How can companies that make something for self-defense be liable for the intentional misuse of their product?

    Given a performance like this, why should we trust Hillary to make appointments to the Supreme Court? Has there ever been a candidate more diametrically opposed to libertarianism? She thinks the legitimate purpose of government is to violate our rights.

    1. She thinks the legitimate purpose of government is to violate our rights.

      That’s only one word away from the libertarian opinion of government.

      1. You mean “shitheads”?

        “She thinks the legitimate purpose of government [shitheads] is to violate our rights”?

        1. Actually, I was just going to scratch out the word ‘legitimate’.

          1. I know!

            But “shithead” is a funny word.

          2. Or you could change the word “violate” to “protect”.

            “The legitimate purpose of government is to violate [protect] our rights”.

            1. I went the positive route myself. This could be a personality test.

  16. Today is a tough day –

    (1) Downton Abbey is done;

    (2) Peyton Manning retires today; and

    (3) Cankles likely will become POTUS.

    1. #3 is the not.

      Where’s Derpetologist when you need him.

    2. I’m actually glad about the first two.

      I’m not so sure she’ll be President.

      1. Why are you glad that Downton Abbey is finished?

        Don’t you enjoy an exceptional script?


    Wut? Where does that leave me. How is this possible?

  18. All Clinton is doing is loosing votes. Any liberal weeny who wants guns banned is voting for her anyway. But democrats who live in rural areas that are outside San Francisco and New York probably think guns are a good idea.

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