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    • CommentTimeMar 8th 2018
    Why is the gun industry so afraid of the long arm of the law?

    In the wake of the mass killing at a school in Parkland, Florida, Americans are again embroiled in a debate about guns, and the consensus (at least outside of Congress) seems to be that it’s beyond time for sensible and effective gun laws.

    Less clear is what those laws might be. Which ones would be the most effective in preventing the kind of killing sprees to which Americans have grown far too accustomed? And which ones would prevent the thousands of deaths that don’t grab headlines, but still make the United States’ gun-slaughtered body count an outlier among peacetime nations?

    Some are obvious: banning the bump stocks that make it possible to turn a legal gun into what amounts to an automatic machine gun; barring convicted violent criminals and those with domestic violence restraining orders against them from owning guns; requiring robust background checks for every single gun purchase; and strengthening licensing requirements so that, like driving a car, anyone who owns a gun has to actually know how to use one. Perhaps less obvious, but just as important: treating gun manufacturers like any other company.

    Shockingly, this is not currently the case. For the past decade, gun manufacturers have enjoyed special legal protections shielding them from lawsuits.
    To hear gun industry defenders explain it, these laws are necessary because it’s unfair to hold gun makers accountable for gun violence. Can you sue a knife manufacturer for a stabbing? Or a rope-maker for someone hanging themselves?

    The answer, actually, is yes – although of course your success in court would depend on the circumstances. If knives or ropes were causing the kind of widespread destruction guns have wrought, and if they were similarly marketed and sold, there might just be a case against them. With guns, plaintiffs don’t even get their day in court. If the case against gun manufacturers is indeed as weak as those same manufacturers and their toadies in Congress claim, what are they so afraid of?

    The crux of the issue is a 2005 law called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which more or less says that gun manufacturers cannot be held liable under just about any circumstances for crimes committed with guns. It was passed partly in response to the 90s-era tobacco lawsuits, which spooked the gun industry: if tobacco companies could be sued for the predictable consequences of using their product, what might the gun industry face?

    At the same time, a few cities and individuals were beginning to sue the gun industry, including dealers and manufacturers. Gunmakers and gun sellers wanted special protections unavailable to nearly any other industry. And because they have the Republican party in their pocket – and some Democrats, along with the independent Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, who voted for the PLCAA – they were able to secure broad legal protections.

    There are some exceptions to the PLCAA, but they are exceedingly narrow – for example, a gun owner whose gun does not function correctly and injures the user can still sue the manufacturer over the defective product. The problem is that guns are often used exactly as intended: to kill.

    The question is what liability gun manufacturers or sellers have in making, marketing a selling a product that kills thousands every year, and whether, for example, they are negligent in selling weapons, like the AR-15, that many argue have no place outside of a combat zone and are predictable weapons of mass death.

    We don’t know the answer to that question, and a case addressing it wouldn’t be a slam dunk, even if the PLCAA were rescinded – that in and of itself would not make gun manufacturers liable for crimes committed with guns. It would simply mean that the courts could hear cases arguing as much, and would have a chance to weigh the evidence, hear from experts, and draw appropriate conclusions. If gun defenders are right and there’s no legal basis for these claims even without the PLCAA, they have nothing to worry about.

    And yet they seem awfully nervous about having to defend themselves in court. Yes, lawsuits are expensive and time-consuming, but gun manufacturers aren’t exactly vulnerable little guys. The American legal system has mechanisms in place for tossing out baseless lawsuits, and surely some brought against gun makers and sellers will be summarily tossed.

    But others might not be. Take, for example, one of the cases some Sandy Hook families tried to bring, which more or less asserted that the manufacturers of combat-style weapons knew or reasonably should have known that those weapons posed an unreasonable risk to the public; that case was dismissed under the PLCAA.

    Maybe the Sandy Hook plaintiffs would have lost anyway; maybe their claim is specious or too far removed from wrongdoing to indicate negligence. It’s hard to argue, though, that they should be barred by statute from the very opportunity to make their case. It’s hard to argue that gun makers should be protected from being treated like any other industry, and, if the claim is good enough, having to open themselves up to discovery and examination of what they know about the risks inherent to their products – and their internal decision-making on advertising and sales.

    We don’t know a whole lot about how the gun industry deals with the violence, death and destruction its products bring about because the whole industry operates under a Congress-approved veil of secrecy. We do know that victims have been unjustly stymied, denied even the chance to have their voices heard in court. No good happens in the shadows, and no industry does the right thing if it’s permitted to operate partly outside of the law. Getting rid of the PLCAA won’t end gun violence. But it would let victims be heard, and it would bring a little transparency to the shadowy, coddled gun industry.
    Posted By: Duracell[span style=color: red;]...along with the independent Vermont senator Bernie Sanders[/span], who voted for the PLCAA...
    This has been one area of disappointment for me about Sanders: not tough enough on guns.

    I think this is partly due to him representing his Vermont constituency, which includes rural areas and plenty of hunters, as well as "mom-and-pop" (no pun intended) gun shops.

    But it should also be pointed out that this was back in 2005 and his position has evolved since then.

    Bernie Sanders Pledges To Repeal Pro-Gun Law He Helped Pass
    A recent series of tweets from Sanders:

    The American people are demanding that we have the courage to stand up to the NRA and finally take some action to move us in the right direction on gun safety. Let me suggest some of the ways in which I believe we should go forward in a bipartisan way.

    1) We must seriously strengthen universal background checks, including ending the gun show loophole. Background checks don't mean anything if somebody can go into a gun show or the internet and buy weapons without undergoing any background check.

    2) We must crack down on "straw men" purchasers, when people legally buy guns and then sell them to people who cannot get them legally.

    3) We should reinstate the ban on assault weapons in this country—weapons which are designed for no other purpose but to kill human beings.

    4) We need to provide more resources for those with mental health issues and make it harder for people with red flags to obtain weapons. People who are suffering from a mental health crisis should be able to get the health care they need.

    5) Finally, we must make it easier for law enforcement to keep guns away from those accused of domestic violence or under a restraining order.

    I hope that in a bipartisan way we can come together and do what the overwhelming majority of American people want us to do: pass commonsense gun safety legislation to keep our children and families safe.

    Personally I'd like to see even stronger actions, but Bernie's "common sense" suggestions are more realistically achievable I'm sure.
    Since 1968, there have been more than 1.5 million gun-related deaths on US territory.

    Since the founding of the United States, there have been about 1.4 million Americans killed in wars.

    What's your position on Kamala Harris?
    She's a corporate democrat who needs to be replaced eventually, unless she turns away from the dark side and comes over to the corporate-free side.
    Maybe I'm too tough on her, she does seem to come down on the correct (IMO) side of issue most of the time. Have to give her credit for supporting Sanders' Medicare For All bill.

    But I'm not fully down with anyone who has corporate donors.
    Here is a pretty extensive article on "The Two Faces of Kamala Harris".

    She's still new as a senator so one has to look back on her career as a prosecutor to get more clues.

    The article confirmed my feeling that she talks a good talk, but doesn't always deliver fully. A lot like Obama, who also served his corporate masters and the military-industrial complex.
    Thanks a lot. This pretty much confirms my impressions.

    Not Good Enough, Kamala Harris

    On Wednesday night, Senator Kamala Harris went on MSNBC to talk about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ attack on California’s laws shielding undocumented immigrants from the untrammeled threat of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

    Harris said most of the “right” things about how bad Sessions is and how immigrants deserve to be protected. But then, as a sharp-eyed Twitter user noticed on Friday, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes asked her a good question: Should ICE even exist?

    Here is part of her response (emphasis mine):

    "Well, certainly. When we’re talking about people who have committed serious and violent crimes—you know, I mean, Chris, you know my background. I’m a prosecutor. I believe that there needs to be serious, severe and swift consequence when people commit serious and violent crimes...and certainly if they are undocumented they should be deported if they commit those serious and violent offenses. So yes, ICE has a purpose, ICE has a role, ICE should exist. But let’s not abuse the power. Let’s not extend it to areas that are not posing a threat to the safety and the public safety of these communities."

    What Harris’ seemingly reasonable response misses—beyond the fact that there is an entire gigantic and ugly criminal justice system already dealing with serious and violent crimes, and that we don’t need to throw in a white nationalist goon squad on top of it—is that there is no way to prevent ICE from “abusing” its power. Abuse of power is baked into its very core. It exists to cause misery and terror, and has successfully carried out that task under both Democratic and Republican presidents. Under Donald Trump, it has shown beyond all possible doubt that it is too morally bankrupt to be reformed.

    Any serious defender of undocumented people in this country would look at ICE and know that it is a cancer that needs to be excised from the U.S. Pretending that the most diseased levers of state power can be molded into something better is a useless fantasy. ICE must be abolished. Anything less is not good enough.

    Kamala Harris is very likely running for president in 2020. It should be a political problem for her that she is not willing to take her criticisms of ICE to their logical conclusion and call for its abolition. She should be asked, over and over again, why exactly she is willing to uphold the legitimacy of such a racist, corrupt, and thuggish organization. Anyone else who decides to run—Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Eric Garcetti, you name it—should be asked the same question.

    It is no longer enough for these people to talk about all of the good immigrants they want to save. We are long past that point, and the time has come for them to really put their money where their mouths are.
    tweet from ICE:
    he dedicated women of ICE are on the front lines protecting the public against transnational criminal threats. Learn more at

    great reply from @AmirAminiMD:
    You deported a mother of four, all of them US citizens, one with special needs, after 15yrs in the US.

    You arrested and later deported a woman at a Texas courthouse seeking domestic abuse protection.

    You detained a 10yo girl w/ cerebral palsy the moment she came out of surgery.
    The scifi series The Colony is doing an allegorical version of this sort of thing.
    • CommentAuthorkorkskrew
    • CommentTime5 days ago
    Here's my first draft for my idea. I think I took too long to get in into the news cycle of the most recent mass shooting, so maybe I'll wait for the next one before I send it to all the major news outlets as a letter to the editor.

    Constructive feedback is welcome. As for nonconstructive feedback, I'll just rely on my mad BIPS skills.
    Gun control is easier than you think. It can be done without violating the 2nd amendment to the US constitution, and without even involving the utterly ineffectual federal legislature. It’s as simple as “License and registration please.”

    The requirement for a license to drive a car is ubiquitous because we understand the need to require a person to prove their ability to safely and effectively use a car. We have special licensing levels required for special types of driver, such as those to drive buses or commercial big rigs, because we collectively understand that those drivers must prove special skills beyond those of the average driver. Anyone who wants one can get a license so long as the can show they can use a car safely and effectively.

    Guns aren’t as deadly as cars, but anyone who has taken a gun safety class understands the importance of it. There are things you just need to learn before you can be trusted to handle a gun safely and effectively. You need to know how to safe and unsafe the gun. How to select the proper ammo, how to load and unload it. How and why to keep it clean. They are mundane skills, but so are driving skills. There would be no violation of the 2nd amendment because anyone can obtain one (if they aren’t already deemed a threat).

    Licensing gun owners gives us, as a society, the assurance that those who have the license have proven their ability to understand the safe and proper use of firearms. Different levels of license can be established for different types of arms. Background checking can be performed uniformly and consistently by the states according to the licensing regulations in those states.

    Let me pause right there for a second, because I think this is an important point. If the states are the ones performing the background checks as a condition of licensure, that solves so many problems. Gun dealers must no longer deal with the whole thing. Just ask to see the license, and if the person has it, the dealer can sell the gun. Gun show sales, and person to person sales become as easy as, “can I see your license first please?”

    Modern licenses have many anti-forgery features that make fake licenses either very easy to spot, or very expensive. Fake licenses are not nearly the problem that they would have been before these modern technologies existed.
    Licenses can be revoked for the same reasons that background checks fail now, but it’s easier for all gun sellers to see it if all they have to do is ask to see a license. The states could even set up a web site where anyone could enter a license number to check the validity of the license shown. It becomes much easier and more visible for a society to judge and control the risk of who should be allowed to have a gun.

    Gun registration is also a critical part of the strategy for controlling gun violence without impinging on 2nd amendment rights. The case here shares some things in common with the idea of car registration, but there are important differences too. The main purpose of gun registration has to do with limiting the black market. Any gun, not properly registered, can be impounded until it is properly registered. Obviously, it won’t get rid of illegal guns, but it will make it much easier to reduce the supply and raise the cost of the black market enormously. Many shootings that are a result of easily obtained and cheap guns would vanish from the news as they vanish from our society.

    This would also make gun classification and matching the right type of gun to the right type of licensee a lot easier. Those who collect guns can have a collector’s license that allows them to obtain guns that a common gun owner wouldn’t need. A special license for military type weapons can be issued to those who want to get military type guns (unless there were other disqualifying circumstances in their background check). Special registrations can be crafted for antique firearms that re unique in ways other than serial numbers.

    I want to be clear here. I’m not anti-gun. I was raised in a gun toting household. We hunted for sport and sustenance. And shot guns for sport. I know how to handle a gun, and much more importantly, how not to handle a gun.

    I have used a gun for defense before. There was a short time in my life, that I felt threatened by a gang-banger type. I slept with a shotgun under my mattress. That sucked, but when the threat diminished, the gun left too.

    I don’t own a gun now. I gave up hunting for several reasons, and sport shooting eventually became boring. As a means of defense, guns just suck. A gun in my house makes it seven times more likely that someone in my house will be killed by that gun! It makes me twice as likely to be killed by that gun. Any gun is twenty times more likely to kill the owner of the gun or a friend or family member than it is to kill someone else. Without the need for the gun for some other reason, there was no need for the gun in the house.

    Licensing gun owners and requiring the registration of all firearms is THE hope of producing effective control of gun violence without impinging on our constitutional rights. There is no need to wait for the impossibility of federal government action, or something like a constitutional convention to clarify the 2nd amendment. It is not a perfect solution to the problem of gun violence, because there IS no perfect solution to the problem of gun violence so long as guns exist. It does, however, provide all the means for individual states to determine how they want to balance the competing rights and risks as each state sees fit.

    As each state experiments with licensing regulations and registration requirements, the courts can be employed to determine where the correct balance lies. This means that there are 50 experiments in gun control running side by side all the time (as opposed to the one we are currently suffering through). Each bringing us all closer to the society that is both safe and free, as the framers of our constitution intended, and 50 times faster than our present [lack of] progress.

    I encourage all who read this to write to their STATE legislative representatives. Please put the phrase “License and registration please.” In the letter. If this idea makes it into the public conversation about gun control, there is a much lower risk of the federal government doing something irresponsible or dangerous, and it keeps our control for our own fate and safety closer to home, in the hands of people who understand us better.
    • CommentTime3 days ago
    Guns will keep your children safe.

    "A teacher who also serves as a reserve police officer accidentally fired a gun inside a Seaside High School classroom Tuesday, police said, and three students were injured."

    "Dennis Alexander was teaching a course about gun safety for his Administration of Justice class when his gun went off at 1:20 p.m."

    I don't know what better illustrates that just having a gun itself brings a risk to the user and anyone close to them. This is someone who is trained and who should know what they are doing. But everyone makes mistakes. When you have guns and people, you will have mistakes and eventually one of those mistakes will be fatal.
    • CommentTime3 days ago
    It happened even sooner than I expected. But it won't make any difference to the gun nuts.
    • CommentTime3 days ago edited
    And that's not even the first time.

    (Although the earlier incident I'm thinking of didn't result in injuries to students, it well could have done.)

    The very premise of the "lesson" is absurd. Teaching high school students to try to "disarm" someone with a handgun.... give me a break. Sure it's possible ... for someone with years of martial arts training, in extremely rare circumstances. In general though -- fergeddaboudit, you should comply with the gunnist's demands, take shelter, run... anything but try some slap-happy Krav Maga trick disarm.
    You want to try teaching handgun disarms in a classroom? Do what we do in real martial arts training.

    Everybody wears white clothes, and use a toy squirt gun filled with colored water (food coloring, red preferred) for the weapon. Anybody who winds up getting squirted is "dead". Now that will be a sobering learning experience, with no chance anyone will really be injured.
    Just make sure it is natural food coloring, that FD&C Red #3 is deadly!
    • CommentTime2 days ago