President Joe Biden made sure he was seen to be tough on guns in his 2022 State of the Union address on Tuesday night, even though he was wrong. 

Biden, moving into his second year as president with the traditional annual speech to a joint session of Congress, covered a lot of territory ranging from his new Supreme Court justice nomination to the environment, refunding the police, and international relations. He also made sure to toss some red meat to the anti-gun crowd that helped back his 2020 election campaign. 

"And I will keep doing everything in my power to crack down on gun trafficking and ghost guns you can buy online and make at home—they have no serial numbers and can’t be traced," he said, addressing self-manufactured guns that were legal to make in the Americas even before the Constitution was written. 

"And I ask Congress to pass proven measures to reduce gun violence. Pass universal background checks. Why should anyone on a terrorist list be able to purchase a weapon?" said Biden 

"Ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines," he continued, then said Congress should, "Repeal the liability shield that makes gun manufacturers the only industry in America that can’t be sued."

While the claim that bans on popular modern semi-auto firearms are effective has been discredited over the years by even such left-leaning publications as the New York Times, Biden's assertions that the country's firearms industry has a special "liability shield" brought quick fact checks from a range of media outlets almost as soon as he uttered them on Tuesday. 

Poynter's PolitiFact said plainly, "This is False," as did CNN, and the Associated Press. CBS News pulled its punch a bit, just calling the claim "Misleading," and the Washington Post guardedly said, "Biden’s language is too sweeping. Gun manufacturers can certainly be sued — and some other industries have some liability protections."

 

A variety of mainstream news sources quickly fact-checked Biden's statement on the gun industry's "liability shield," pointing out that it didn't hold water. 

 

The outlets all explained that the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which passed with wide bipartisan support, still allows legitimate legal claims against the firearms industry. 

Jonathan Turley, the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, in a 2020 op-ed for The Hill after Biden made similar claims, said "Product liability and tort actions against manufacturers have uniformly and correctly been rejected by the courts. Guns are lawful products, and holding companies liable for later misuse of such products is absurd. You might as well sue an axe manufacturer for the Lizzy Borden murders."

Nonetheless, national anti-gun groups on Tuesday applauded Biden's statements.

"During his first year in office, President Biden has led the strongest gun safety administration we’ve seen, and this speech is further proof that he remains fully committed to keeping Americans safe from gun violence,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown, a group formed and supported by billionaire Michael Bloomberg. "Going forward, there are more critical steps the administration and Congress can take to save lives — including revitalizing ATF, using executive powers to crack down on unlicensed gun sellers, and strengthening background checks — and we look forward to working with them every step of the way."

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