On the same day when a Connecticut judge held a hearing on whether the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) requires dismissal of a suit brought by Sandy Hook victims families against gun manufacturers; when an Uber driver was being arraigned in a Kalamazoo, Michigan court for massacring six people with a semi-automatic assault weapon he bought legally but was not licensed to carry; while in the Senate, Democrats Kristin Gillibrand and Blumenthal were pushing for a law that would keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, the Hillary Clinton campaign organized a call to highlight rival Bernie Sanders’ weak record on gun safety.
South Carolina State Sen. Marlon Kimpson, the Charleston legislator leading the charge on enacting gun safety measures following last year’s tragic shooting there, joined Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey to emphasize Sanders’ role in enacting PLCAA, which protects gun manufacturers and dealers from being held liable for gun crimes, as well as his vote to create the Charleston Loophole, which enabled the Charleston shooter to purchase a gun, which a completed background check would have barred him from buying.
Sanders voted against the Brady Bill five times, voted to create Charleston loophole which allows someone to buy a gun before a background check has been completed, made it harder to close down gun shops, voted to allow guns on trains. And he voted to shield gun dealers and manufacturers for any culpability, a law that is being used to dismiss the suit of nine Sandy Hook families.
“When the NRA called the bill [giving gun dealers and manufacturers immunity] that Sanders voted for the most important gun legislation in last 20 years, what they were saying was that it was the most important legislation that failed to make any of us safer, in fact, made us all in much greater danger,” said Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy.
“You can’t underestimate how much damage was done by the 2005 law – the reason that NRA touted it as greatest legislative victory,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. “It gave sweeping legal immunity to gun dealers and manufacturers, the kind of immunity that nearly no other industry has, but thanks to that law, and NRA work and those who supported, gun dealers, manufacturers are shielded from liability.”
The law granting immunity provides a disincentive for gun manufacturers to build smart guns, so that a child could not pick a gun out of his mother’s purse and shoot her dead, as happened, or a teenager could not accidentally kill a friend, or purposefully go to his middle school and murder other students, or a criminal who burgled a house could not use a stolen gun to shoot kill a homeowner who interrupted a burglary. Or an alienated teenager could not come upon a parent’s gun and in a fit of depression, commit suicide. The list goes on and on.
“That’s exactly right,” said Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy. “There is no incentive to make sure guns aren’t sold that get onto the street, no incentive for screening…. We have seen in this country retailers who offer smart gun tech boycotted. Historic companies that started talking about manufacturing smart guns, making guns safer, were boycotted. This is activist group – they want no regulation. they know who their friends are in senate and who their enemies.”
And in Connecticut, it is being used to shield gun manufacturers from a lawsuit from families of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre.
“The NRA that sponsored that legislation, they don’t want guns to be safer,” said Governor Malloy. “They think that’s no one’s obligation. “We have a pharmaceuticals industry that does billions of dollars of research, we don’t grant to them the same protections we grant to the gun industry. Sanders was wrong on this, and he should admit it now. He likes for everyone else to admit their mistake. The death and destruction [immunity] has caused. he should be held accountable for that,” Governor Malloy said.
Sanders also voted to limit the time the federal government has to complete a background check to three days; if for some reason (like budget shortfall and overworked staff) the check cannot be completed in three days’ time, the sale can go through. It’s how the man responsible for murdering nine at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, SC obtained his gun, even though he would otherwise have failed the background check.
“This issue is extremely important – taken to Senate floor every week since January to discuss, particularly important in African-American community – gun violence is leading cause of death for young black men, more than next nine leading causes combined,” said South Carolina State Senator Marlon Kimpson, the Charleston legislator leading the charge on enacting gun safety measures following last year’s tragic shooting there.
“It’s personal to me- I represent Charleston, where there was the shooting of 9 churchgoers and attempted murder of 5 others in the Mother Emanuel massacre. That killer had rage in his heart no law could have healed, but it shouldn’t have been so easy to buy a gun – because of the loophole the NRA lobbied its allies in Congress to get – the FBI only has three days to complete a background check; after that, if the check is delayed or needs more time, too bad, the gun sale proceeds no matter what about background history. It is now known as ‘Charleston loophole.’
“Before South Carolina goes to the polls on Saturday, I hope to ask Sanders why voted for the loophole I don’t expect Sanders to answer. In July he said, ‘Guns in Vermont are not the same as guns in Chicago, Los Angeles. In our state, they are used for hunting, in Chicago, used for kids and gangs killing other kids or police officers shooting innocent people.’ The language is troubling – a gun from Vermont can kill an innocent churchgoer the same as in South Carolina. The loophole passed at the federal level makes all our communities less safe.
“South Carolinians need a president to close the Charleston Loophole. That’s why I found it so troubling that Sanders said Clinton is standing with Obama just to pander to black voters. I will be a very vocal voice in discussing Clinton’s consistent track record on this issue – my voters take her track record seriously.
Democratic Senators have introduced the “The Background Check Completion Act, which would require a completed background check for every gun buyer who purchases a gun from a federally-licensed gun dealer, closing the loophole that has allowed thousands of gun sales to prohibited buyers, including the sale of the firearm used by Dylann Roof in his deadly attack at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., in June.”
Sanders has failed to cosponsor Sen. Blumenthal’s Background Check Completion Act to close the Charleston loophole, which has 14 Democratic cosponsors, even though he has sponsored or cosponsored more than 20 pieces of legislation in recent months. And when asked directly in January, Sanders “would not fully commit his support to closing the so-called ‘Charleston loophole.’”
“Compare the Sanders record with Clinton’s record on guns,” Governor Malloy said. “If guns and gun safety is at all important to you and your community you have no choice but to vote for Clinton. Sanders still hasn’t said that vote was wrong. He talks about small shops in Vermont. This is not about small shops in Vermont, not about hunting guns. It’s about protection protecting industry from having to do anything to make these weapons safer.
“The argument about who was on the right of President Obama in the debate eight years ago [is specious]. The question is, ‘Did you support Brady or not, exempting the gun industry in a way no other is, or not? He voted with the NRA and the gun industry. That’s the reality.”
“As a state attorney general, we see this as federal issue, a national issue,” said Healey. “It doesn’t work that guns are treated differently in Vermont. Guns are bought and sold all over and are easily trafficked, transported between and amongst states with too much ease because of inadequate federal law. That’s why it is so important no matter what state you are living in.”
I see another issue implicit in Sanders’ gun legislation record: Sanders has assaulted Clinton charging that she is beholden to Wall Street and special interests because she has accepted money for speeches and donations. I see in his support for the NRA his own interest in keeping the NRA away from spending money to defeat his reelection, having learned in his 1988 defeat for Congress what the NRA could do.
But that changed in 1990, when the NRA decided that Sanders, challenging the same guy he lost to in 1988, Peter Smith, was the lesser of two evils. ” But that year, he was the enemy of the NRA’s enemy,” wrote David A. Fahrenthold (“How the National Rifle Association helped get Bernie Sanders elected” Washington Post, July 19, 2015).
Today, he uses that defeat to show that he stands up to the NRA, but the opposite would seem to be true: he learned to take positions so as not to antagonize the NRA.
“We have a public health crisis when it comes to gun violence – since Sandy Hook, nearly 100,000 lives have been lost to gun violence,” AG Healey said. “It is more important than ever we have president who understands the importance of issue, with a demonstrated track record, who will walk into Oval Office on Day 1 with concrete plans, real plans to address, and has a proven record of standing up to NRA, not standing with them.”
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