An editorial in the Denver Post offers a straightforward analysis today of an odd proposal. The state Senate President, John Morse, is demanding passage of a law establishing “strict liability” for the manufacturers of guns the he considers “assault weapons.”
Calling the proposal “wishful thinking” because of its clear conflict with federal law – the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) of 2005 – the paper wonders whether the proposal is an artful dodge around the tricky politics of an upfront ban on semiautomatic rifles and shotguns. Morse, however, claims that if the voting public knew the PLCAA existed, there would be a “hue and cry” to get rid of it.
Actually, Sen. Morse, PLCAA exists because there was a hue and cry from America’s gun owners the last time that politicians tried to hold the industry liable for the criminal acts of third parties. When big cities started filing ruinous lawsuits against the industry in an effort to bankrupt it and force capitulation to a sweeping gun control agenda, gun owners knew that the baseless lawsuits were an end-run around the political process. Because of the threat posed to their Second Amendment rights, they demanded a response from their representatives.
Elected state lawmakers dragged the issue out of the courts and back into the policy arena, where politicians are accountable to the voting public. States began passing laws to pre-empt the lawsuits. Once the Clinton era finally came to its end (and Al Gore was denied the opportunity to continue the assault on our rights and industry — in part because of it) the Congress also took action. As a result of this lengthy process, PLCAA is now the law of the land.
Sen. Morse might just be trying to make his other proposals seem moderate by comparison. It won’t work. You can try to avoid banning the gun by blaming the gun, but you end up in the same place. Both are blame-shifting strategies that blame inanimate objects for their misuse. And there’s a certain portion of the electorate that will respond the same no matter which direction you pursue.
Now, make no mistake — there’s a very real and pressing risk that some or all of Morse’s proposals could pass the legislature and be signed into law. Gun owners in Colorado need to know that their lawmakers are embracing extremist, counterproductive restrictions — and they need to let them know what they think about it, today.