Let’s Look at Jason Kander’s Dishonest, Bad Faith Arguments About the PLCAA

Like a lot of people, Jason Kander felt compelled to issue a statement pontificating on the need for tighter restrictions on gun rights after the Kansas City Super Bowl parade shooting.  Hence the six-minute video, above. But some some background is in order here. The thing to keep in mind about the ironically named Mr. Kander when it comes to this topic is his track record of dishonesty.

When he ran for the Senate in 2016 in the very red state of Missouri, he put out this terrific political ad in which he responded to incumbent Roy Blunt’s criticisms about Kander’s stance on gun rights by assembling an AR-15 rifle while blindfolded. Kander proclaimed that he’s a veteran and wouldn’t take criticism about gun control from someone like Blunt.

It was an effective ad. Kander didn’t win, but he gave (the arguably squishy) Blunt a run for his money in a very red state, losing by just 49 to 46. For context, Trump won Missouri 56-38 that same election, so Kander did quite well, all things considered.

The thing is, like other supposedly “pro-gun” Democrats who run for office, Kander was lying about his gun control stance. After losing, he went on to endorse an “assault weapons” ban and other gun control measures that are deeply unpopular in Missouri. Senator Blunt was right about Kander and his support for gun control the whole time.

Kander’s military service is noble, but he follows the same pattern of other Democrats who served, using his service as a shield to deflect valid and usually accurate gun control criticisms instead of being honest about their beliefs. Conor Lamb did the same exact thing, shooting an AR-15 in a campaign ad and then coming out in support of a ban after being elected.

So, turning to the topic at hand in the video, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) only protects manufacturers and dealers if they break no laws in selling firearms, but their custom who bought one legally goes on to commit a crime with it (or the gun was later transferred to or stolen by someone who did).

The reason for needing this kind of law is obvious. When you have bad faith actors like Michael Bloomberg who’s willing to pump millions of dollars into lawfare litigation, you can burden gun companies with massive legal fees even though the underlying lawsuit won’t succeed.

The PLCAA does not protect gun makers and dealers if they do something illegal. For example, if a gun store knowingly sells to a prohibited person, the PLCAA won’t protect them. Likewise, you can still sue if a gun is defective and injures you, if contracts are breached, etc. This is why we see silly lawsuits against gun companies based on their advertising even when it’s never proven a suspect in a crime ever saw their ads. That isn’t covered by PLCAA.

In the video, Kander opens by saying he doesn’t know anything about the Kansas City shooters — both juveniles — or their motive or what guns they used, and says he’s not here to talk about that. That’s interesting, because that’s very relevant to any discussion of the PLCAA. If a gun store knowingly sold guns to minors, it wouldn’t be protected by the PLCAA. Yet despite the Kansas City suspects being juveniles, Kander conveniently skips right over that.

He next says this isn’t a debate between gun owners and gun control activists, but rather a debate between all Americans and “greedy-ass corporations.” That line is intended to play on the ignorance of most people about how small the gun industry actually is.

According to Everytown, the entire gun industry “rakes in approximately $9 billion” per year. That sounds like a lot. By way of comparison, Everytown’s sugar daddy Michael Bloomberg is personally worth over $95 billion. Google took in revenue of $305 billion in 2023. And Pfizer did $58 billion in revenue last year. Remember that last one, it will be important later. The point is, the gun industry isn’t huge in dollar value compared to most industries.

Michael Bloomberg

Next, Kander argues that the PLCAA violates the 7th Amendment because it denies individuals the right to resolve disputes in front of a jury. This is utter nonsense. Congress and state governments have always been able to set the bounds of civil litigation. That’s why there are only certain things you’re even allowed to sue the government for, and it’s why we have things like anti-SLAPP laws.

Kander dishonestly compares guns to defective products like tire blowouts, but omits the fact that the PLCAA doesn’t protect companies that sell a defective product. He also compares guns to the tobacco litigation of prior decades, another dishonest tactic. Tobacco companies knowingly hid the health detriments of cigarettes for years, whereas literally no one is confused about the lethality of firearms. That’s kind of the point of guns, they’re lethal weapons.

Kander also says that because of the PLCAA, gun companies started selling guns to kids. That’s an outright lie. He then qualifies that by saying it’s about irresponsible advertising, but again, the PLCAA doesn’t protect companies on that front. And even if it did, no lawsuit has ever shown that a shooting suspect acted because of a gun company advertisement, or even so much as saw one. For the most part, no one sees gun advertisements unless they actively seek them out. They don’t run in general media.

While Kander avoids mentioning it, the PLCAA’s protection isn’t unique to the gun industry. In fact, a much stronger version exists for vaccine makers. Under the PREP Act, companies like Pfizer and Moderna have total immunity from liability if something unintentionally goes wrong with their Covid vaccines. So while you can sue a gun maker if a gun is defective and hurts you, you can’t sue Pfizer if you’re harmed by side effects of Covid shots and boosters. To the extent Kander’s 7th Amendment argument has any merit, it would also rip away protections from vaccine makers, anti-SLAPP, state tort claims laws, and more. Kander’s own party would never support that.

Kander says the point of all this is to force gun companies to “reform their practices to cover their liability.” This is code for “use lawfare to force gun companies to stop making anything other than Fudd guns.” He frames all of this as not being about the Second Amendment, but he wants to strangle the supply of guns in America. (Later in the video, he doesn’t even bother to hide this, as he argues damages and costs from civil trials would lead to gun companies embracing “assault weapon” bans.)

Think about it. Many states and the ATF have already attacked Americans’ ability to make their own guns, so if you also can’t buy them from gun makers…what’s left? To make an analogy to something Kander would assuredly understand, this is exactly the same as saying legal harassment of abortion clinics “only affects abortion providers,” not the women who need an abortion. Neither argument holds water.

Kander also contradicts himself. He admits most crime is committed with stolen guns, but then claims repealing the PLCAA would lead to gun companies “begging for” universal background checks. He says these things not even 30 second apart.

In sum, yes, gun companies care about their bottom line. Every company does. But the PLCAA is necessary to protect the industry and, by proxy, our right and ability to acquire firearms, by protecting gun makers from bad faith litigation.

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