Rep. Bruce Braley, the presumptive Democratic nominee for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat, revealed last week that he would vote to the left of every U.S. Senator on gun regulations.
Braley, a trial lawyer by trade, told The Huffington Post at liberal confab in San Jose, Calif. that he would have opposed a key plank of the Senate’s failed gun control bill—the background checks amendment sponsored by Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
But Braley wouldn’t have opposed the bill because of Second Amendment concerns; he blasted the measure from the left for maintaining a law barring lawsuits against firearms manufacturers for gun violence (and expanding the protection to private sellers who use background checks).
“The background check amendment as it currently exists, I probably would have opposed—not for the reason most people think, but because it immunizes gun manufacturers, who get the economic benefit of that protection and use it to fund all of the assaults, legislative assaults on rational measures to reduce gun violence. And I told that to the Newtown families,” he told The Huffington Post Friday at the annual Netroots Nation conference.
The vote on the amendment was 54-46 (it needed 60 to pass). Four Democrats sided with most Republicans to sink the amendment. Those Democrats, though, were concerned about Second Amendment rights (plus Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, for procedural reasons), meaning that Braley has staked out a position to the left of every Democratic Senator, including self-described socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Trial lawyers, the largest block of donors to Braley’s campaign, have long salivated over the prospect of suing gun makers for acts of gun violence. Braley’s Senate campaign has raised more than $400,000 from lawyers and law firm PACs—nearly half his campaign chest. If Braley had his way on gun manufacturer liability, trial lawyers would reap massive legal fees.
After scores of frivolous lawsuits (including blatant forum shopping and novel liability theories), Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which prohibits most frivolous lawsuits against gun makers, in 2005. However, the provision contains an exception allowing manufacturers to be held liable if they know or have reason to know that the guns they sell will be used illegally. Last year, an appeals court ruled that a gunshot victim in New York could proceed with a lawsuit against the manufacturer and distributor of a pistol.
So, the law already contains an exception for legitimate lawsuits. Braley is simply seeking another handout for trial lawyers to wage economic war against businesses that they oppose.
TheIowaRepublican.com sought comment on Braley’s stance from the three announced Republican candidates for U.S. Senate.
Sam Clovis, conservative radio host and professor:
You know Congressman Braley has been in Washington too long when he believes Iowans would support his position that recent assaults on our Second Amendment by the U.S. Senate weren’t liberal enough. Our state deserves a Senator who will stand up for the Second Amendment, not a career politician who is more concerned with advancing a progressive agenda at the sacrifice of Iowa values.
Based on Congressman Braley’s interview with The Huffington Post, it is clear he wants to advance the left’s agenda by raising the specter of liability for gun manufacturers in relation to gun violence. Reducing violence is a goal we all share, but punishing manufacturers, lawful gun dealers and gun owners by infringing on our Second Amendment is not the way to achieve it.
David Young, former chief of staff to Sen. Chuck Grassley:
The contrast in front of the voters could not be more clear. I will stand on principle and support the Second Amendment in the U.S. Senate to allow Iowans to protect themselves and their family and not punish law-abiding citizens.
Congressman Braley illustrates how out of the mainstream he is on this issue in wanting to place blame and liability on manufacturers. While President Obama, House Democrat Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democrat Majority Leader Harry Reid may be happy to hear of his anti-Second Amendment positions, Iowans will not.
Former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker did not reply to a request for comment Tuesday.
Braley, who has an F rating from the National Rifle Association, recently floated another trial lawyer-friendly gun control provision: a recall program for high-capacity magazines.
After a January taping of Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, Braley told reporters that he would co-sponsor a bill to ban the sale of so-called high-capacity magazines. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced a similar bill banning ammunition magazines capable of holding more than 10 bullets.
Braley also said he supports President Obama’s proposals for unilateral executive action, a national gun registry and more thorough background checks.
“It’s always very difficult to eliminate a product that has been lawfully sold once it’s in the marketplace, so one of the things that should be happening is a wide-scale conversation about the impact of all of the factors that influence violence in our society,” he said. “One of them is the availability of high-capacity magazines, but my understanding from the legislation that I’ve seen is that it’s prospective in its application.”
Braley suggested a federal recall program similar to the umbrella program used by six federal agencies to alert the American people to unsafe, hazardous or defective products.
“The challenge isn’t whether it’s effective, it’s whether realistically you can get dangerous products off the marketplace,” Braley said. “We have recall programs right now for products that have been identified as creating a risk to consumers. So, one of the things that you can do is look at ways of trying to get those back in through a program that would give incentives for doing that.”
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