A 2005 law that shields gun makers from lawsuits when one of their products is used to commit a crime has been tied to an unlikely ally.
Presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders, a democrat from Vermont with a D rating from the National Rifle Association, defended his vote of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act in an interview with CNN.
“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.”
His words come on the heels of a federal judge citing the law in an order that says the parents of a victim killed in the 2012 shooting at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater pay more than $200,000 in legal fees for the retailers that sold items used in the massacre.
However, in the final ruling the judge opined that the bases for the lawsuit was to expand the political agenda of a gun control group at the expense of lawful businesses.
While Sanders may express the fundamental nature of the law, his words may also give it credit it does not merit, according to The Washington Post’s fact checker’s findings.
The law provides a unique federal legal shield that most consumer goods manufacturers do not have, but it does not guarantee blanket immunity for licensed gun makers and sellers.
According to the a 2012 report by the Congressional Research Service, there are six exceptions:
- If the licensee transfers a prohibited person a gun
- If a dealer sells a prohibited person a gun or is negligent during the screening process
- If a gun maker violates state or federal law in selling or marketing the product, and violation leads to harm toward another person
- A breach of contract or warranty in connection with the purchase of a product
- If there’s an injury or death due to a defective product
- If there is a violation of federal gun laws like the Gun Control Act or National Firearms Act.
As the Post points out, most of these types of lawsuits are not necessarily “slam dunk” cases in any industry, but the law ensures that liability type lawsuits can’t be brought against gun manufacturers.
Script by Daniel Terrill