Washington – The Newtown Alliance, a group created after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings to promote gun control, said it is “outraged” that  Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders doesn’t think gun manufacturers should be liable for all the harm caused by their firearms.

During a debate in Flint, Mich., Saturday evening, Sanders said making gun makers  liable for the damage caused by guns that are purchased legally would amount to a ban on the manufacture of guns.

Sanders said the issue is, “If somebody who is crazy or a criminal or a horrible person goes around shooting people, the manufacturer of that gun should be held liable…. What you’re really talking about is people saying , ‘let’s end gun manufacturing in America.’ That’s the implications of that, and I don’t agree with that.”

On Monday, the National Rifle Association praised Sanders for his stance in a tweet that said, “Sen. Sanders was spot-on in his comments about gun manufacturer liability…”

The gun liability issue has dogged Sanders’ campaign for the White House.

When he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Sanders voted for the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCCA), which shields gun manufacturers from liability when crimes are committed with their products.

Sanders’ Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, backs the repeal of the PLCAA. So do Connecticut’s Democratic senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, who introduced a bill that would do that.

Sanders is a co-sponsor of the bill. But he seems to support allowing gun manufacturers some protection from liability.

“Senator Sanders’ change in position due to pressure from Secretary Hillary Clinton and gun violence prevention groups motivated him to be a co-sponsor on the PLCAA repeal bill,” said David Stowe, vice chairman of the Newtown Action Alliance. “It is extremely puzzling that a senator who recently signed on to co-sponsor a bill would have absolutely no idea what was in it.”

Po Murray, chairman of the alliance, said repealing the PLCAA would not end gun  manufacturing in America.

“The gun industry had a vibrant manufacturing history before the PLCAA law was passed in 2005,” she said. “It’s understandable why the NRA would take on such a position, as it spent $12 million to secure the passage of the PLCAA law to protect gun industry profits, but it’s insulting that Senator Sanders would subscribe to the same extremist views of the NRA.”

The parents of some of the first graders killed in the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and family members of other victims are suing the maker of the Bushmaster AR-15 used in the massacre. The case is considered a test of the PLCAA.  

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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