UPDATE: On January 16, 2016, the Sanders campaign issued a statement indicating that the Senator would support a bill introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) to repeal the Gun Industry Immunity law. Senator Sanders is now a co-sponsor of that legislation, S. 2469, the “Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act.”

Bernie in VAIn 2004, a group of families destroyed by the D.C. sniper shootings brought a lawsuit against the gun company and dealer that armed the gunmen, Bull’s Eye Shooter Supply. Bull’s Eye’s sales practices were so grossly negligent they had “lost” 238 guns during the previous three-year period , including the Bushmaster rifle used in the shootings. The families won a settlement of $2.5 million when the trial court determined the gun industry could be held liable.

The gun lobby got the message and decided to clamp down on litigation that was exposing their industry’s bad practices. Just one year later, Congress passed the “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act” (PLCAA), slamming the courthouse doors on victims and survivors of gun violence like the ones described. The law gave gun manufacturers, distributors and dealers broad immunity from civil litigation—legal protections that were unprecedented and unjustified.1

Included in the ‘Yes’ votes for PLCAA was Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who has continued to reiterate his support for the law during his current campaign.

In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union”on July 5, 2015, Sanders defended his 2005 vote for PLCAA, stating, “If somebody has a gun and it falls into the hands of a murderer and the murderer kills somebody with a gun, do you hold the gun manufacturer responsible?”2 This was an obvious misrepresentation of the law, which protects gun industry actors engaged in negligent (as opposed to responsible) behavior. Then, at a Virginia public forum four days later, Senator Sanders declared, “I don’t apologize for that vote” [for PLCAA].3

These responses prompted the Washington Post Fact Checker to give Senator Sanders 2 Pinocchios for his claims about Gun Industry Immunity.4 Senator Sanders needs to listen to Democratic primary voters who agree with many of his other positions but believe he is wrong on Gun Industry Immunity.

Tell Senator Sanders: Please reconsider your support for the Gun Industry Immunity Law. ___________________________________________________________

  1. Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, Report, “Justice Denied: The Case Against Gun Industry Immunity,” 2013
  2. Eric Bradner, CNN, “Bernie Sanders Wants to ‘Bring Us to the Middle’ on Guns” July 5, 2015
  3. Blue Virginia, “Video: Tough Questions to Sen. Sanders on His Gun Votes & Statements,” July 9, 2015
  4. Michelle Ye Hee Lee, “Bernie Sanders’s Misleading Characterization of a Controversial Gun Law,” Washington Post Fact Checker, July 10, 2015

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