A new national survey of registered voters shows a strong bipartisan majority of Americans support a law that protects gun manufacturers and sellers from lawsuits stemming from the illegal use of a firearm.
According to a poll from the National Shooting Sports Foundation obtained by Grand View Outdoors, 72 percent of those surveyed want to keep the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which shields firearms businesses from legal action if their products are misused. Moreover, 76 percent of respondents agree that “criminals should be prosecuted for breaking the law, not law-abiding makers and sellers of legal, non-defective products that are misused by those criminals,” the survey says.
The survey was conducted in mid-April by the independent Harper Polling company.
Enacted by Congress in 2005 after several city governments tried to use liability lawsuits to tie gunmakers up in expensive court cases, the PLCAA has become a high-profile issue in the Democrat presidential campaign, with Hillary Clinton blasting Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders over his earlier support of the industry protection.
“[Sanders] voted for the most important NRA priority, namely, giving immunity from liability to gun makers and dealers — something that is at the root of a lot of problems we are facing,” Clinton has said. “This is the only industry in America, the only one, that has this kind of special protection.”
While several fact check organizations have largely debunked Clinton’s claim that the PLCAA protects firearms businesses from “all liability” as she has claimed, the debate over the controversial law continues as the presidential race heats up.
But as the new survey on the law shows, Americans are worried that pulling protection from gunmakers over misuse of their products would open up similar lawsuits for other industries. A full 60 percent of those surveyed agree that “suing licensed firearm companies for the acts of criminals is like suing Ford if one of its cars is used to run someone over.”
“Without these protections, many of America’s most critical industries would go out of business from the time and costs of frivolous lawsuits,” said NSSF vice president Larry Keane in a 2015 CNN editorial. “Industries cannot and should not be held culpable for the criminal wrongdoing of others who misuse lawfully sold products.”
The survey was conducted by telephone interview with 1,000 registered voters, many of whom were unaware that the PLCAA had become an issue in the presidential race, the results show. More than half of those surveyed were women, a majority were “moderate” to liberal politically and 51 percent didn’t own a firearm.
“The concept that an entire industry should not be held liable for the criminal or negligent use of products made and sold legally clearly makes sense to the overwhelming majority of the American public,” Keane said in a statement. “It’s time for politicians to demonstrate that they have some respect for the good sense of the people and to stop vilifying the hard-working people of an entire industry and exploiting real tragedy that is the result of criminal conduct.”