As Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders continue to trade blows over who is more equipped to supposedly deliver a knockout punch to the firearms industry, the former vice president has zeroed in on the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) — the law preventing frivolous lawsuits that seek to blame members of the firearms industry for the criminal misuse of legal, lawfully sold, non-defective firearms.
Biden is swinging wide to do this, making wild and false claims. Before the debate in South Carolina, he told the state’s gun manufacturers, “I’m coming for you, and I’m taking you down.” He liked the tough talk enough that he reiterated from the debate stage, “And I want to tell you, if I’m elected . . . gun manufacturers, I’m going to take you on and I’m going to beat you.”
Biden’s end goal is ultimately to repeal the 2005 PLCAA. This law, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and signed by President George W. Bush, ended the politically driven lawsuits aimed at bankrupting the firearms industry. Biden and Sanders want to revive the tactic as they pursue the White House, and they’re using disproven and false claims to make their case.
The PLCAA stopped a series of “public nuisance” lawsuits by activist mayors in big cities against firearms manufacturers over the crimes committed by individuals. That law doesn’t grant immunity, but it prevents others from shifting the blame from criminals to a manufacturer. The firearms manufacturer is no more liable for the crime committed by an individual than Home Depot would be if someone committed murder with a hammer. The PLCAA does nothing more than defend an industry that has been targeted by a series of baseless, politically motivated lawsuits.
Yet Biden still falsely claims that this gives firearms manufacturers blanket immunity. Both manufacturers and firearms retailers can be, and are, held responsible for harm caused by defective products, breach of contract, criminal misconduct, or other actions for which they are directly responsible, the same as any other product manufacturer.
Jonathan Turley, the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, underscored this when he wrote, in an op-ed for The Hill, “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.”
Biden claims, as Hillary Clinton falsely tried to claim before him in 2016, that these protections are unique. In fact, manufacturers of medical devices, the airline industries, and even online service and content providers are protected from frivolous lawsuits when defamatory information is posted by others. Biden attacks the PLCAA knowing full well that individuals who commit crimes are responsible for them. His argument is just a façade for gun control that he can’t achieve through legislation.
The sad part is that Biden chose to attack an industry that has grown 171 percent since 2008 and currently employs more than 312,000 Americans from all walks of life in communities across the nation. He’s coming after firearms manufacturers that paid $6.8 billion in total taxes and had a total economic impact of more than $52 billion.
He’s claiming that the men and women who work in the factories, those who produce the firearms not just for law-abiding Americans to exercise their rights but also for our U.S. Armed Forces and law-enforcement officials, are enemies of our society. He argues that he’s the champion of the blue-collar worker, yet he wants to destroy a growing industry that provides over $15.7 billion in worker wages. He insists that he wants to restore America, but he mocks and denigrates the more than 100 million law-abiding Americans who own, carry, and use their guns frequently without incident.
Biden and the Democrats who endorse him all know that the PLCAA doesn’t offer firearms manufacturers unique protections. The law that prevents them from driving politically motivated lawsuits is rock solid. Biden’s anger is reflective of his frustration that the courts won’t allow him to bankrupt an industry to prove his political bias against Second Amendment freedoms.