Despite what you might've read, I still dig Bernie Sanders and my vote in the California primary is still very much up for grabs. As I noted in my open letter to the Vermont senator, I opened up about the personal hell I endured during the Great Recession, and there's a not insignificant part of me who wants the Wall Street culprits -- not to mention the culprits on Capitol Hill -- to pay for what they did. If only in spirit, Bernie represents a fuck you to the spazzy white guys in lower Manhattan who nearly destroyed the world economy.
But after watching Sunday night's CNN debate, my concerns have compounded rather than diminished. Specifically, I have to ask: if Wall Street CEOs don't get a pass for sparking the recession, and if Governor Rick Snyder doesn't get a pass for poisoning Flint, why shouldn't corporate criminals who sell deadly military-style firearms be forced to pay a hefty price for selling retail products used in mass shootings and the like? Bernie continues to stand by his position that victims of gun violence shouldn't be allowed to sue manufacturers and distributors of weapons like the Remington AR-15 assault rifle used by Adam Lanza in the Sandy Hook massacre. And, eight debates into the Democratic nominating process, it still doesn't make any sense.
During Sunday's debate, Hillary Clinton scored perhaps her biggest direct hit against Bernie so far, saliently exclaiming, "You know, we talk about corporate greed -- the gun manufacturers sell guns to make as much money as they can make."
This, of course, is absolutely true. Due to clever marketing, the AR-15 in particular has become the most popular firearm in the United States, chiefly because it looks totally badass. As if torn from Hollywood movies and Call of Duty video games, it's designed to mimic military weapons, which, of course, are produced to kill or maim human beings -- not animals or gun range targets. People.
Regarding the Sandy Hook weapon:
"Remington took a weapon that was made to the specs of the U.S. military for the purpose of killing enemy soldiers in combat -- and that weapon in the military is cared for with tremendous amount of diligence, in terms of training, storage, who gets the weapon, and who can use it," [Joshua] Koskoff, the attorney for the families, said. "They took that same weapon and started peddling it to the civilian market for the purposes of making a lot of money."
There's no practical purpose for selling military-style rifles to civilians other than to turn a profit on the fetishistic lust for a weapon that will intimidate and perhaps kill humans. It stands to reason that, as Koskoff said, the availability of a weapon designed to kill people might be purchased by would-be murderers who'd like to use it that way, just as Adam Lanza and so many others have done. Likewise, short-selling the U.S. housing market was explicitly done to profit off the life-altering misfortune of innocent Americans.
Families of the 20 children and six teachers who were murdered in cold blood -- the corpses containing five to eight bullets each fired from Lanza's AR-15 -- should reserve every every right to seek remuneration for Remington's profit-motivated irresponsibility. The decision as to whether they're successful in attaining compensation for their tragic losses is up to judges and juries. Not Bernie Sanders.
Indeed, the gun industry makes its own immunity via billions in profits. In other words, the ability for victims to sue doesn't guarantee a favorable settlement or a judgment for the victims, and it's safe to assume that the gun industry is sufficiently lawyered up and prepared to outspend all comers, not unlike its counterparts in the tobacco industry. There's really no need for the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCA), which Bernie voted to support in 2005, other than to impose yet another road block for grieving victims seeking justice.
It's an obvious giveaway to the NRA and the for-profit gun industry, and, consequently, it's one of Bernie's most glaring contradictions. The champion of the people against reckless corporate greed has drawn the line here. Somehow, the damage wrought by Wall Street is punishable by any and all means, yet the damage wrought by gun manufacturers deserves federal protection. But one can argue that at least big banks serve a practical purpose (investing, protection for personal assets, etc), whereas for-profit manufacturers of military-style weapons marketed to civilians serve little intrinsic purpose other than death and destruction. What value, then, has the latter earned to deserve immunity per Bernie Sanders?
Does Bernie also think Big Tobacco deserves immunity for manufacturing and marketing cigarettes, which, like military rifles in the hands of civilians, also serve very little if any intrinsic purpose short of death?
The purpose and value argument is an important one. Guns and the AR-15 in particular, are retail products specifically designed and purchased to kill or maim living beings. Or, at their most innocent, they're designed to simulate the inflicting of death upon living beings at a target range. Gun fetishists will suggest that people use cars or, say, hammers to kill people. But automobiles are designed solely as a means of transportation and definitely not death or destruction. As such, if a gun is used for its stated purpose, should the makers of that gun be immune from accountability? No way.
Bernie said during the debate that allowing victims to sue gun makers would signal the end of the industry. It's rather alarmist of him, isn't it, given the obvious existence of frivolous suits or unsuccessful ones. But what if the gun industry is significantly downsized due to being held accountable? Is it really necessary to have such a robust gun manufacturing sector of the economy? If you're the NRA, sure there is, which is why the notorious lobbyist organization tweeted the following today:
It's an utterly baffling position for Bernie to maintain, especially knowing the dozens of mass shootings perpetrated by gunmen wielding AR-15s between 2005 and today. If Bernie were honest about his vote to support the PLCA -- that he represents a gun-owning state and therefore is politically motivated to draw the line here for the sake of winning elections -- I might be more forgiving.