Friday, February 21, 2020

Giving Guns A Shot

The town hall events held separately for Democratic candidates by CNN are largely one hour unpaid political advertisements. Whatever they're intended to be, they provide little or no news nor additional information about the candidates. The best response to having watched any one of them is "an hour of my life I'll never get back."

Most of the questions are of the softball variety and the presidential hopefuls are rarely pressed. Nonetheless (or maybe "because") Anderson Cooper's friendly chat with Joe Biden Thursday evening provided at least one moment of drama while revealing a missed opportunity for Michael Bloomberg the night before.

During Wednesday evening's debate, the former Delaware senator and vice-president was asked "what would you do about these companies that are responsible for the destruction of our planet?"

Biden began

What would I do with them? I would make sure they, number one, stop. Number two, if you demonstrate that they, in fact, have done things already that are bad and they've been lying, they should be able to be sued, they should be able to be held personally accountable, and they should -- and not only the company, not the stockholders, but the CEOs of those companies. They should be engaged.

But then he added

And it's a little bit like -- look, this is the industries we should be able to sue. We should go after -- just like we did the drug companies, just like we did with the tobacco companies. The only company we can't go after are gun manufacturers, because of my buddy here. But that's a different story...

Actually, there is at least one, as a contemporary news report in 2011 noted that the Supreme Court had ruled "that a federal law prohibits lawsuits against drug makers over serious side effects from childhood vaccines." However, there is a National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program which gives at least some financial relief to injured children. And of course, used properly, childhood vaccines save lives while used properly, firearms end them.

Still, it was a stinging- or should have been- rebuke to Vermont senator Bernard Sanders, whose mixed record on gun safety has reflected his conflict between leftist ideology and representing a rural state.

Then on Thursday, Biden told  the audience and Anderson Cooper (beginning at 5:20 of the video below)

I'm not suggesting you have to vote for me, but what I'm saying is, how about if I said to you, you know what, drug companies should be immune from being able to be sued. They put out 9 billion opioid pills in a matter of years, but they shouldn't be able to be sued. They misled advertising on television saying that you in fact can get -- they don't point out you can get hooked in five days on everything from -- that they advertised. And I said, but we can't sue them.

How about if I said that about the tobacco companies? I said, we shouldn't be able to sue the tobacco companies when they're misleading about how it caused cancer and the like. Or the oil companies that are out there polluting the ground? But guess what? The only industry in America that is not able to be sued are the gun manufacturers.

Now Bernie talks about my record. It's appropriate. It's not -- I'm not being mean. He voted to exempt gun manufacturers from any liability, zero. They can't be sued. And I tell you what, I'm not joking. I've sat there and looked in the eyes of those parents, as recently as today, talking about their kids and how they died, and they died at the hands of -- why can't we sue these manufacturers for advertising, for misleading, for glorifying, for promoting this godawful -- you know how many people have died since 2007 of murder with guns? Three times as many people have died in the Vietnam War and every war since. Three times as many, 150,000 murders, 150,000 murders. Those lives have crushed families. I was on the phone on the second anniversary with Fred Guttenberg down in Florida. He is the guy who lost his daughter, to just call him because I know what it's like to lose a daughter, lose a son.

And guess what? You know, he has devoted his whole life to try to make sure. And all they want, let me sue these guys who have done this stuff, this carnage on the street. Look at the people here in the greatest mass shooting in American history, the worst mass shooting at Mandalay Bay.

A guy has 12 assault weapons with bump stocks, which means you can fire it faster. You can pull the trigger faster. And 100 rounds. Why in God's name should anyone, anyone, anyone, anyone be able to own that? It's just wrong. And we've got to -- and I promise you as president...

And upon being applauded

... I am going to get these guys. I want to let them know, promise you. I'm the only guy that has beaten the gun manufacturers. I'm the only guy that has beaten the NRA nationally, and I did it twice, nationally. And gun manufacturers, I'm coming for you, period.

Maybe he would and maybe he wouldn't. Only time will tell and even time probably won't because his election is a long-shot at present. Yet, it arguably was the best moment of his campaign.

Former mayor Bloomberg has spent tens of millions of dollars of his own money supporting pro-gun control groups, and helped bankroll  Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety, which recently merged  His gun safety credentials are solid and on Thursday in consecutive tweets had condemned Sanders for being "corrupt" for having helped protect firearms manufacturers from legal immunity. Still, he missed a golden opportunity in the debate because, though no question pertained to gun control, he could have pivoted to making a point about firearms- as did Biden.

Perhaps Michael Bloomberg is such an inexperienced debater that he failed to exploit the one issue on which he is superior to all of his opponents.  More generously, he may have found that one issue he needs to exploit.  Or it's possible that Joe Biden has regained his mojo with a strong line one evening, and a rally and eloquent statement the following day, all on the same topic.

The best possible scenario: both Michael Bloomberg and Joseph Biden zero in on the one issue on which Bernard Sanders falls to the right of most Democrats.It might not do either of their candidacies any good but would at least focus the attention on an issue which in the past few months had received inadequate attention in the campaign. 

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