I was wondering how long it would take the gun lobby to respond to the lawsuit filed against Bushmaster by the families at Sandy Hook. It took less than a week and the response was a video interview with attorney Stephen Halbrook on the NRA-sponsored video show, Cam & Company. I love how shows like this are called ‘interviews’ when the guest is never asked a question that reflects anything other than his own point of view. But I shouldn’t complain because I’ve also done my fair stint of Serius radio gigs and I can’t say that I was ever asked a question that didn’t give me an opportunity to say what I wanted the audience to hear.
And what the NRA wants its audience to hear about the Bushmaster law suit is that it should never have been filed at all. In fact, Halbrook went so far as to call the lawsuit ‘frivolous’ and even considered the possibility that it would not only be immediately dismissed but plaintiffs might have to pay defendant’s legal costs as well. I’m sure that Attorney Halbrook did not mean to give the impression that the horrendous deaths of 20 young kids and 6 adults was in any way a frivolous event. Not even the most ardent 2nd-Amendment supporter would ever sanction that kind of violence just because Americans have the right to own guns, right?
Incidentally, Steve Halbrook makes his living by representing the NRA but also fancies himself as something of a historian when it comes to discussions about guns. He recently published a book, Gun Control in the Third Reich, in which he argued that the Nazi regime consolidated their power by using pre-Nazi gun ownership lists to disarm Communists and Jews, thus giving the 2nd-Amendment supporters an alleged historical context in which they can continue to promote their ‘slippery-slope’ nonsense about how gun control leads to gun confiscation, which leads to totalitarianism and blah, blah, blah. How Halbrook could imagine that Germany’s Jews would have stood up to the organized terror of the SS even if they were riding around in Sherman Tanks is beyond me, but that’s an issue I’ve discussed in another time and place.
The NRA’s response to the suit against Bushmaster is that the gun used by Adam Lanza was sold legally at every step of the way; hence, under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005, the industry is shielded from this kind of a suit. The 2005 law was aimed at preventing lawsuits that held gun makers liable if a gun that had been used in a crime moved from ‘legal’ to ‘illegal’ hands, even though there was nothing preventing a law-abiding gun owner from selling one of his guns to anyone he wished. And why should a gun maker or any manufacturer be responsible for how his product is used downstream if he has met all the requirements for getting his product to the market in a lawful way?
But the complaint against Bushmaster doesn’t take issue with the legality of the sale, and Halbrook’s attempt to characterize this lawsuit as ‘frivolous’ from that perspective is grandstanding at best. The plaintiffs are arguing that this type of weapon, because of the lethality of its design, shouldn’t be made available to civilians at all, and here they actually get support from the 2008 Heller decision, in which the Scalia’s opinion clearly gave the government the right to withhold ‘military’ weapons from civilian sale. But isn’t there a clear difference between the full-auto M-16 carried by our troops in Iraq and the semi-auto AR-15 that Adam Lanza carried into the Sandy Hook Elementary School? Halbrook goes out of his way to make this point except that he and all the other black gun apologists are wrong. Most of the troops in our military carry semi-auto versions of the M-16, a few carry guns set for 3-shot bursts, hardly anyone in the U.S. military is using a full-auto gun. If that’s the basis upon which Bushmaster’s going to defend itself, the gun industry’s hope for a quick dismissal just isn’t going to fly.