Gun Control

Bernie Sanders' Ongoing Argument With Himself About Gun Violence Liability

He has turned against the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act but talks like he still supports it.

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CNN

During last night's Democratic presidential debate, as Brian Doherty noted, Bernie Sanders seemed to express sympathy for a lawsuit that seeks damages from the manufacturer, distributor, and dealer who supplied the rifle used in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. That represents an apparent reversal from the position Sanders took at another debate just last month, when he explicitly and persistently criticized the very same lawsuit.

Last night, after Hillary Clinton faulted Sanders for saying the families of the Sandy Hook victims "didn't deserve their day in court" (her paraphrase), he responded, "They are in court today, and actually they won a preliminary decision today. They have the right to sue, and I support them and anyone else who wants the right to sue."

Last month, by contrast, Sanders said this:

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.

Those comments, along with similar statements Sanders made in interviews with Rolling Stone last December and the New York Daily News on April 1, are consistent with his vote for the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which 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." Sanders has taken a lot of heat from Clinton and other gun controllers for that vote, and he is now cosponsoring a bill that would repeal the law. Yet it seems clear that he still believes in the principle it embodies.

Witness this exchange from the Daily News interview, which is what Clinton was talking about when she criticized Sanders' stance last night:

Daily NewsThere's a case currently waiting to be ruled on in Connecticut. The victims of the Sandy Hook massacre are looking to have the right to sue for damages the manufacturers of the weapons. Do you think that that is something that should be expanded?

Sanders: Do I think the victims of a crime with a gun should be able to sue the manufacturer, is that your question?

Daily NewsCorrect.

Sanders: No, I don't.

That seems plainly inconsistent with what he said last night. Sanders might respond that "they have the right to sue" even under current law, which is true, although the Sandy Hook plaintiffs have resorted to a very broad, highly implausible interpretation of "negligent entrustment," one of the liability theories that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act allows (along with lawsuits based on product defects and illegal actions by gun suppliers). The usual understanding of negligent entrustment would cover a dealer who, say, sold a gun to someone he had reason to know was bent on violence, or to someone who was obviously buying the gun for a third party who was legally disqualified from owning firearms. By contrast, the Sandy Hook plaintiffs, who include the families of nine people murdered at the school, plus a survivor of the massacre, argue that the defendants are guilty of negligent entrustment because they made a gun with no legitimate civilian uses available to the general public.

Not only is that definition of negligent entrustment absurdly broad; it is based on a plainly false premise, since the sort of rifle used in the massacre is very popular among law-abiding people and is rarely used to commit crimes. Maybe Sanders nevertheless agrees with the theory behind the Sandy Hook lawsuit, which is arguably consistent with his support for a federal "assault weapon" ban. But I doubt it. From everything he has said about the issue, it is apparent that he still rebels at the notion that law-abiding, non-negligent manufacturers and dealers should be held responsible for the crimes committed by a tiny percentage of their customers. The same logic, after all, would apply to handguns, which mass murderers use more frequently than so-called assault weapons.

It is hard to see Sanders' decision to support repealing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act as anything other than an insincere, politically convenient conversion. Although the law is questionable on federalist grounds (since it dictates the liability rules applied by state courts), I have never heard him make that argument. It would be surprising if he did, since he (like Clinton) has a very broad view of the federal government's authority and has never, as far as I know, shown much interest in the 10th Amendment.

NEXT: Hillary Clinton Just Turned the Democratic Party Into the Party of the $15 an Hour Minimum Wage

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  1. Does anyone not think Bernie wouldn’t immediately turn into the worst sort of gun grabbing nut if he ever got into office? I find it very difficult to believe that his stance on guns wasn’t one of convenience.

    1. Socialists have no points of consistency besides being consistently wrong on every point.

      1. Exactly. It is one thing to tell the Vermont rednecks they can keep their guns as a way of getting elected. It is quite another thing to not go after everyone’s guns once you have the power to try.

        1. Indeed. Bernie’s views have “evolved” (i.e., he no longer has need to pander to Vermont ‘rednecks’).

        2. It is one thing to tell the Vermont rednecks they can keep their guns as a way of getting elected.

          Waht would be hi – larious would be if he alienated the green mountainers to the point that they kicked his ass to the curb in the next senatorial election.

          1. They will boot him if he doesn’t change his tune.

    2. Does anyone not think Bernie wouldn’t immediately turn into the worst sort of gun grabbing nut if he ever got into office? I find it very difficult to believe that his stance on guns wasn’t one of convenience.

      Of all the guys running for President, Bernie Sanders is actually the most dangerous. By a very long shot.

      1. Bernie is actually a real fascist, with all the bells and whistles including corrupting the youth.

        1. Bernie is actually a real fascist,

          I think he would govern as a fascist, but deep in his heart he’s a fucking commie.

          I think he knows that if he went full commie few would follow him, so he pretends he doesn’t want to seize the methods of production but merely “guide” them, for the benefit of all of course.

        2. John, on your recommendation I downloaded “The Whisperers”. Holy crap that is some horrifying stuff. I just finished the chapter right before the start of WWII when a woman in the Gulag had to see how the prisoners’ children were abused by the nurses at the camp. I was reading it with my 6 month old sleeping in the bed next to me. I had to turn off the Kindle for the night after that. I simply lacked the intestinal fortitude at the end of the day to make it through another section after that.

    3. The minute this evil old fuck starts trying to implement his preferred policies he will realize he absolutely must grab all of the guns and he won’t hesitate to try.

    4. Does anyone not think Bernie wouldn’t immediately turn into the worst sort of gun grabbing nut if he ever got into office?

      There was a half-hearted (and/or racially-oriented) discussion about removing hands for thievery in the candy bar thread.

      It dawned on me that you might actually be able to sell this to useful leftist idiots as ~100% of crimes and 100% of handgun crimes in this country are committed by people with hands.

    5. I don’t, not because I think he has any love of guns or gun culture but rather because I just don’t think it is an issue he really cares all that much about one way or the other.

      If it somehow became politically desirable for him to push for some sort of gun ban I can see him going along with it somewhat half heartedly but I don’t see him going out of his way to push for a ban

  2. If you watch Bernie Sanders with the sound turned off, you can play a fun game of “What’s he doing now?” Conducting an orchestra, counting how many want pepperoni and how many want sausage, trying to get rid of a booger, demonstrating how to crack an egg, having a particularly severe OCD tic episode – the possibilities are endless.

  3. Next up: Suing Ford because you wreck your car.

  4. The bright side of finding every available candidate to be a vile, loathsome boil on humanity’s taint. When the silly season finally rolls it sleeves up and gets nasty forreal-forreal, it will be glorious.

    1. Will it though? I feel like it’s going to be like going to a Yankees-Red Sox game, where the best outcome you can hope for would be a Godzilla attack.

      1. No love for a meteor strike?!

        1. ROCKS FALL. EVERYONE DIES.

      2. Thank you for that image. The image of Godzilla bursting through ivory walls will make me smile every time I see a politician speaking.

        1. Go, go Godzilla!

  5. OT, but I won’t be here for PM lynx.

    Cop guilty of beating motorist gets boot camp…

    So, they put a thug in a workout program instead of jail.

    The former Inkster officer convicted of brutally beating a motorist during a traffic stop can serve part of his sentence in a boot camp program, a state court has ruled.

    1. Is he going in as an inmate or as an instructor?

      1. No doubt paid for the service.

    2. So, they put a thug in a workout program instead of jail.

      That way he’ll be even better at beating proles. Maybe next time he’ll beat the peasant to death.

      While screaming “STOP RESISTING” and then confiscating any witnesses’ cell phones, natch.

    3. Here, have a reverse nut-punch:

      Killer cop lawyer’s dirty tricks won’t keep him out of jail after all.

      DA weighs in to go easy on the poor lad but it’s not looking good.

  6. “I need the support of trial lawyers and gun grabbers just as much as you do, Madame Secretary.”

  7. I keeping say it – Hillary is destroying her chances of winning many swing states. Her hard-core anti-gun stance is going to cost a lot of votes in Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.

    1. And Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, blah blah blah…

      1. Well, not Texas. Hilary has already lost there. If she carried the Lone Star State she would be the only Democrat elected statewide.

    2. Iowa too I’d think not that its a lot of electoral votes.

  8. Double-think is a major rung on the Proggy ladder.

  9. Well, they do have the right to sue. They also have the right to pay all the legal expenses of the other party for filing a merit less lawsuit.

  10. Bernie Sanders seemed to express sympathy for a lawsuit that seeks damages from the manufacturer, distributor, and dealer who supplied the rifle used in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. That represents an apparent reversal from the position Sanders took at another debate just last month, when he explicitly and persistently criticized the very same lawsuit.

    He probably couldn’t remember what he said last month. Or last week. Or 5 minutes ago. Senile old fuck…

    1. Old Man Yells at Cloud Self.

    2. “Can I live another 4 years? Let’s find out together!”

  11. You have to take the guns before the revolution, Bernie. Didn’t the 1960’s teach its kids how to do socialism the right way?

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

    By George, I think he’s got it!

  13. those guns that end up committing crimes in NY come from Vermont

  14. It looks like the judge in the above mentioned lawsuit has ruled the suit against Bushmaster can go forward. If this is allowed to stand, goodbye gun industry. For anyone who knows the ins and outs, will it stand or can this ruling be overruled?

    1. You file a lawsuit like this where you know the judge hearing the case will be sympathetic and let it proceed regardless of the law. Hopefully in a state where the state appeals court is also anti-gun. The idea is that legal fees and lawyer time will bankrupt the company you are suing before they can push the case high enough to prevail.

      When the courts finally rule against you, and tell your plaintiff they have to pay the defendant’s bills, your client declares bankruptcy, which means the manufacturer can’t collect the judgment.

      The idea is indeed to run all the civilian gun manufacturers out of business.

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