Bernie Sanders’ Defense Of Gun Manufacturers Draws Praise From NRA

CREDIT: AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., makes a point during a Democratic presidential primary debate at the University of Michigan-Flint, Sunday, March 6, 2016, in Flint, Mich.

Though the National Rifle Association isn’t known for supporting Democrats, on Monday the organization tweeted praise for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) after he backed gunmakers’ immunity from certain types of lawsuits during Sunday’s Democratic presidential debate.

During the debate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton disagreed over the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), a 2005 federal law that gives gun manufacturers broad immunity from lawsuits.

Sanders said he supports gunmakers being shielded from lawsuits in cases where guns are purchased legally. He voted in favor of the law; Clinton voted against 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,” Sanders said. “If that is the case, your position is that there should not be any guns in America, period… I don’t agree with that.”

Clinton countered that her opposition to PLCAA is about making guns safer, not eliminating them.

“I want people in this audience to think about what it must feel like to send off your first-grader, a little backpack maybe on his or her back, and then the next thing you hear is that somebody has come to that school using an automatic weapon, an AR-15, and murdered those children,” she said. “Now they are trying to prevent that from happening to any other family, and the best way to do that is to go after the people… you know, we talk about corporate greed, the gun manufacturers sell guns to make as much money as they can make.”


In addition to the tweet praising Sanders, the NRA posted others criticizing Clinton:

Unsurprisingly, an analysis of Open Secrets data shows that the NRA primarily spends money supporting Republican candidates for federal office. During the 2014 election cycle, 14 candidates received $9,900 from the NRA, and only one of the them was a Democrat — Georgia Rep. John Barrow, who was endorsed by the NRA but lost to Republican Rick W. Allen.

In the most recent NRA ratings, Sanders received a D- grade on gun rights, while Clinton got an F.

Last night wasn’t the first time PLCAA has become an issue between Sanders and Clinton. In January, Sanders promised that if elected, he’ll work to help repeal though bill, though he added that “there are parts of it that made sense to me.”

“If you have a small gun shop owner in Northern Vermont who sells a gun legally to somebody and then, you know, something happens to that guy, he goes nuts or something, and he kills somebody, should the gun shop owner be held liable? I think not,” he added.

Last fall, Clinton characterized PLCAA as “one of the most egregious, wrong, pieces of legislation that ever passed the Congress when it comes to this issue is to protect gun sellers and gun makers from liability.”

“They are the only business in America that is wholly protected from any kind of liability,” she added. “They can sell a gun to someone they know they shouldn’t, and they won’t be sued. There will be no consequences.”

But a possibly precedent setting case indicates the immunity gun manufacturers enjoy is limited. Last fall, a jury ordered gun store Badger Guns to pay $6 million for its role in an illegal gun sale, which ultimately led to two police officers getting shot in the face. Badger Guns was found to have been negligent in making that sale, and therefore liable for the shooting that left one officer with shattered teeth and another without an eye and part of his brain.

in December, Badger Guns agreed to pay $1 million to settle the case, thereby avoiding what was expected to be a lengthy appeal of the jury’s decision.