When pressed by Jorge Ramos at Monday night's Iowa Brown and Black Forum, Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said his vote to shield gun sellers and manufacturers from lawsuits was not a mistake. But he says that doesn't mean he's a friend of gunmakers.
"Like many pieces of legislation, like many of the 10,000 votes that I've cast, bills are complicated," Sanders said. "Throughout my political career I have ended up with a D- voting record from the NRA. I have voted to improve and extend the instant background check, I voted against the gun show loophole, and I also believe we should make this straw men situation a federal crime. And I believe that we need a revolution in mental health so that the people who need mental treatment can get it now, not two years from now."
The NRA-backed law shields gun manufacturers and sellers from civil lawsuits “resulting from criminal or unlawful misuse” of their firearms or ammunitions. The only exceptions made in the law are for cases of negligence (say a dealer sells a firearm to a child or sells a weapon that violates safety standards) or if dealers knowingly sold a gun to someone who intended to commit a crime.
So it's not exactly a blanket shield, but does offer a form of sweeping federal protection that's not extended to most manufacturers of consumer goods. And as Bloomberg's Jennifer Epstein recently pointed out, Sanders voted in support of The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act the same year he voted against a measure that would have offered fast food companies similar immunity from lawsuits.
That's why Hillary Clinton and Martin O'Malley have been hitting Sanders so hard on the issue. Last week, President Obama explicitly denounced the law in an op-ed for The New York Times, writing that the NRA, by way of the law Sanders supported, "guaranteed that manufacturers enjoy virtual immunity from lawsuits, which means that they can sell lethal products and rarely face consequences."
"But on the issue of guns, let me be very clear: I support the president," Sanders continued. "We have to do everything we can do end these horrific murders and mass murders that we're seeing in this country."