In an interview with CNN, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders defends his vote for a law that shields gun makers and retailers from liability if somebody uses their products to hurt others.
The response comes after a federal court ruled that the parents of a shooting victim pay more than $200,000 in court costs for the gun retailers they sued for their role in supplying the gunman who killed 12 and wounded 58 inside a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012. The parents, represented by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, argued the retailers should have vetted the shooter more extensively before selling him the items. The judge cited the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which Sanders voted for in 2005, in his ruling.
“If somebody has a gun and it falls into the hands of a murderer and that murderer kills somebody with the gun do you hold the gun manufacturer responsible? Not anymore than you would hold a hammer company responsible if somebody beat somebody over the head with a hammer. That is not what a lawsuit should be about,” says Sanders, who like fellow democrats voted to ban assault weapons and expand background checks.
The defendants — Lucky Gunner, The Sportsman Guide, and BTP Arms — along with the National Rifle Association celebrated the ruling despite the controversial ruling. While the judge was critical of the Brady Campaign for using the court system for political advocacy, the victim’s parents are responsible for paying the court costs. And in the initial complaint the plaintiffs asked the court to force a change in the retailers’ policy rather than monetary gain.
Critics of the ruling say PLCAA gives gun makers and retailers permission to act irresponsibly and recklessly.
“The bill has nothing to do with protecting upstanding gun manufacturers and dealers. Instead, it gives NEGLIGENT manufacturers and dealers blanket immunity from civil lawsuits,” the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence writes in response to Sanders’ comment.
“It is an immoral law that denies victims and survivors their day in court — a fundamental democratic right — and Sanders’ position is totally unacceptable,” the group adds.
Rather than advocacy through lawsuits to combat gun violence, Sanders says, “We need a sensible debate about gun control which overcomes the cultural divide that exists in this country.”