The Centrist Independent Voter policy position on gun control supports the Heller decision by the Supreme Court. That decision made it clear that there is a constitutionally protected, individual, right to bear arms. It also clearly states, as President Biden noted last night, that that right is not unlimited.
Now that Congress is considering passing legislation to codify some of the limits on gun rights, I think that CIVPAC should take sides on what those limits should be. Here is my list:
1) Banning the sale of high powered, semi-automatic rifles (i.e. assault weapons), or at a minimum raising the age to purchase these guns to 21, with waiting periods for anyone else wishing to purchase an assault weapon;
2) Banning the sale of high capacity magazines and bump stocks;
3) Raising the age to purchase any gun to 21;
4) Universal background checks with no loopholes for gun shows or online sales;
5) Red Flag laws that can prevent those who are under court orders from getting guns;
6) Regulation of “ghost guns,” (unregulated firearms that anyone-including minors and prohibited purchasers-can buy and build without a background check);
7) Making those who, through negligence or intentionally, allow their firearms to be used by others, legally liable for crimes committed with those firearms. This would, also, apply to those who illegally sell firearms.
Why Not Remove Liability Protection for Gun Manufacturers?
Much of this list overlaps with President Biden’s proposals. One thing that is missing is removing liability protection for gun manufacturers, for the use of guns in the commission of crimes. I view that part of the Biden package as a reward to the plaintiffs’ bar. The plaintiffs’ bar is to the Democratic Party what the NRA is to the Republican Party.
The reason why the liability protection for gun manufacturers exists in the first place is because many believe, with some justification, that without it law suits would effectively make the sale of firearms prohibitively expensive. Many view removing this protection as a slow form of banning the purchase of guns altogether. We do not hold automobile manufacturers liable if one of their cars is used to rob a bank or kills someone in an accident caused by the driver. It is not necessary to provide this kind of protection for automobile manufacturers because no one believes a jury would hold automakers liable under these circumstances. The same cannot be said for juries trying to find someone to punish after a mass shooting in which the perpetrator is dead.
At the same time, it would not be unreasonable to hold manufacturers accountable if they intentionally marketed legal guns that could easily be converted into illegal guns, when there was a way of manufacturing the gun that could easily prevent this from happening. The key here is to find a good faith method of regulating the industry that is not a gift to the plaintiffs’ bar and provides clear guidelines to the industry about what is legal and what is not.
For a thoughtful history of the Second Amendment and battles over gun control, see Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America, by Adam Winkler. Winkler is a professor at the UCLA School of Law and has been ranked as one of the twenty most cited legal scholars in judicial opinions, including landmark Supreme Court cases on the First and Second Amendments.