by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
George Leef devotes his latest Forbes column to one chunk of this week’s Democratic presidential candidates’ debate.
The Democratic candidates just had something vaguely resembling a debate in Las Vegas. There was hardly any clash of arguments and philosophies, except when Hillary Clinton played the gun card against Bernie Sanders.
The Vermonter is pure as driven snow on almost every belief dear to America’s collectivists and nanny-staters, but has been pronounced guilty of deviationism on gun control laws. Hillary Clinton blasted her main rival by pointing out that he voted against the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act as a member of the House and in favor of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) as a member of the Senate, joined by 50 Republicans and 14 Democrats.
Every now and then, a leftist politician gets something right. President Obama has helpfully identified occupational licensure as damaging to job aspirations of many poor people, for example – and Bernie Sanders appears to understand that gun control laws are no panacea. (That probably has something to do with the fact that Vermont has very lax gun laws and yet a very low rate of gun violence.)
I would like to focus on PLCAA, which Hillary attacked, saying, “It was pretty straightforward to me that [Sanders} was going to give immunity to the only industry in America. Everybody else has to be accountable, but not the gun manufacturers.”
Typically, that’s misleading.
The 2005 PLCAA was enacted to stop the plethora of nuisance suits that anti-gun activists were bringing against gun manufacturers, suits meant to bleed them to death with litigation costs if they didn’t cave in to the demands of the activists. Using litigation as a weapon against perceived enemies is an abuse of our legal system, but it appeals to win-at-any-cost crusaders. Former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, back when he was the state’s attorney general, reportedly told Glock, “If you do not sign, bankruptcy lawyers will be knocking at your door.”