In this column, A1F Daily trains its watchdog eye on The Trace, Michael Bloomberg’s new anti-“gun news” site.
On Oct. 12, The Trace piled on Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders for his vote for the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). Heading into 2016, the Democratic party is engaged in a contact sport of musical chairs, rushing to find the one seat that is to the left of everyone else.
Attacks from his fellow contenders for the nomination had Sanders on his heels in last week’s Democratic presidential debate. The tag team of Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley took turns pummeling him for his 2005 vote to protect lawful firearm sellers and manufacturers from frivolous lawsuits. Sanders retreated in defense, reminding us that he represents a rural state, Vermont, where gun rights are valued. Backed into a corner, he admitted that he’d be “willing to see changes in the provision.”
This is the sound of Sanders giving up his lunch money.
It’s a shame to single out Sanders for a principled—and correct—stance in which he was joined by 59 fellow Democrats. But that was 2005: Heading into 2016, the Democratic party is engaged in a contact sport of musical chairs, rushing to find the one seat that is to the left of everyone else.
The Trace first accused Sanders of hypocrisy. The author led by citing Sanders’ earlier opposition to the so-called “cheeseburger bill,” which was meant to block lawsuits blaming fast food restaurants for obesity. “Ten years ago, Bernie Sanders raged against a bill in Congress that would provide liability immunity to a large industry whose products were killing Americans,” The Trace intoned. They meant McDonald’s … and Smith & Wesson, Ruger, et al.
Anti-gun advocates would have us believe that guns cause homicides in the same manner that cheeseburgers cause arteriosclerosis. Such a belief requires a suspension of logic, in the absence of evidence, that one can only reach when promised billions of dollars in legal booty.
Next, The Trace went on to minimize the threat to the gun industry that necessitated the PLCAA. The piece quotes law professor Wendy Wagner, author of Suing the Gun Industry (which is either a paper or a book, depending on the whims of The Trace’s proofreader): “… gun litigation has been an utter failure. Plaintiffs claim no significant victories and appear pleasantly surprised when their case survives a motion to dismiss.”
This is the bully asking you, “Aww, does it hurt? Are you gonna cry?”The PLCAA is not unique: Such protections are also provided by law to light aircraft manufacturers, food donors, corporations affected by Y2K computer issues, charitable volunteers, health officials, makers of medical implants and creators of anti-terror technologies.
Let’s take a refresher course in 20th-century history. In the late 1990s, cities like Chicago, Cincinnati and New Orleans filed suit against gun makers to recoup the “costs of gun violence.” Drunk on the billions extracted from lawsuits against Big Tobacco (led by disgraced former New York Attorney General Elliott Spitzer), they were attempting a similar end run around the legislative branch. The Clinton administration was even threatening to have the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) join such a suit, using a federal agency to create a judicial steamroller that would flatten the firearm industry. Furthermore, families of the victims of the D.C. snipers extracted a $2.5 million settlement from Bushmaster; Dennis Henigan of the Brady Center (formerly Handgun Control Inc.) called it “a breakthrough of lasting significance.”
This combination of avarice and anti-gun animus was the stimulus for the PLCAA. While protecting the gun industry from decimation by litigation, it is carefully worded to allow suits based on knowing violations of federal or state law, or in cases of “negligent entrustment” (such as sales to children or drunks). It also expressly allows product liability cases. While certain to be appealed, last week’s finding against Badger Guns is proof that lawsuits based on negligence are still viable under the PLCAA.
Despite claims to the contrary, the PLCAA is not unique: Such protections are also provided by law to light aircraft manufacturers, food donors, corporations affected by Y2K computer issues, charitable volunteers, health officials, makers of medical implants and creators of anti-terror technologies. In addition, the federal law was preceded by similar laws enacted in 34 states.
Yet The Trace finds Bernie’s vote as mysterious as the Hindenburg disaster: “Little is known why Sanders voted in favor of a federal law that made it almost impossible for cities and other plaintiffs to use the courts to dig into on [sic] how legally-manufactured guns end up in criminals’ hands.” The Trace is joined in its annoyance at the PLCAA by the likes of the Los Angeles Times, who described the PLCAA as a “dangerous idea” and said it shields “the entire firearms industry from most liability lawsuits.” (The Times editorial board needs a fact checker as badly as The Trace needs a proofreader.)
Slate.com also joined in pummeling the PLCAA through Sanders, referring to it as “cruel” when recounting the sad tale of the family of one of the victims of the Aurora, Colo., cinema murders. The Brady Center convinced the grieving family to sue LuckyGunner.com and others for lawfully selling the murderer ammunition and gear. A Denver judge not only threw out the case under the PLCAA, but ordered the family to pay the defendants’ legal fees, a total in excess of $200,000. The Brady Center knew that this was likely, but has not yet offered to pay those fees (although the family says they’re sure Brady will help them fundraise).
The Trace claims its legal experts find a conspiratorial “less noble” agenda behind the PLCCA. But is there anything less noble than hanging a grieving family out to dry in pursuit of your own agenda?