Sunday, August 14, 2022

Sunday Reading

A Warning Shot — Mark Karlin in Buzzfeed on how the Alex Jones verdict could bankrupt the gun industry.

Although Alex Jones is attempting to protect himself from a recent civil court verdict (for compensatory and punitive damages) of nearly $50 million by declaring bankruptcy for his main propaganda business, more civil suits are in the pipeline. Furthermore, if the civil suit he lost last week for defamation is successful after appeals, along with others filed against him, he may indeed become bankrupt, even if he is raising money through other vehicles than his parent company right now.

Jones was sued for propagating the cruel lie that the Sandy Hook school massacre of 2012 was actually a false flag operation perpetrated to try to pass more gun control. The result has been a merciless and ceaseless series of verbal attacks, doxxing and harassment against the parents of children who died in the school. Jones’s statements were heinously harmful to those who were already living with the grief of a child being shot and killed in a classroom.

Civil suits are about attacking the pocket books of defendants, and they can be filed when a criminal suit doesn’t apply.

The gun industry learned of the danger of such suits based on the charge that gun manufacturers were and are knowingly excessively manufacturing guns for potential killers, and that they are specifically designing and marketing guns to appeal to the young, deranged, non-sports shooter based on firepower and style, as if they were selling the latest season’s cars.

As a result, the gun industry was successful in getting Congress to pass the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) in 2005. This bill made the gun industry the only type of business protected from a broad array of liability, with some narrow exceptions. In short, it put an end to a large civil liability threat to the gun industry for its design, marketing and chain of distribution. (As one successful suit showed, Sandy Hook parents settled with Remington Arms for $73 million in a pre-trial settlement.)

The Trace, a website that reports on gun violence and the gun industry, recently posted an article on how a few states are attempting to find legal loopholes in PLCAA. However, although not currently passable with the current Congress, what Jones’s failed suit portends is that the repeal of PLCAA would offer the possibility of a successful “supply side” approach to shrinking the gun market by putting many manufacturers out of business through widespread civil suits, such as the ones that were gaining steam in the ‘90s and early 2000s.

This could put less pressure on laws aimed at individuals who shouldn’t own guns or violence intervention programs, since it is not really effective, as we have seen, to develop a large-scale approach that is based on a “good guys” vs. “bad guys” gun violence reduction strategy. There aren’t enough jail cells nor enough community-based resources.

The major cause of gun violence is too many guns, period.

The Trace’s Champe Barton wrote:

While PLCAA provides broad legal immunity, it does come with exceptions. Lawsuits against gunmakers may proceed if the company in question violated a state statute “applicable to” the sale or marketing of firearms. Nearly all lawsuits since PLCAA’s passage have hinged on differing interpretations of the words “applicable to”: Does a commerce law that regulates commerce of all goods including firearms apply? How about a marketing statute prohibiting advertisements that promote violence?

These questions were at the center of a recent lawsuit brought by the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre against the gunmaker Remington Arms. The plaintiffs argued that Remington had violated a state marketing law by intentionally marketing its Bushmaster XM-15 rifle to young, unstable men. The families reached a $73 million settlement with Remington [in 2o21].

This reinforces the vast possibilities of starting to reverse America being the most heavily-armed nation on earth among civilians, with a seemingly intractable death and injury toll. If it is going to be some time before PLCAA is repealed, start with passing appropriate state laws, such as the one in Connecticut.

The bloodshed will not be reversed until the gun industry becomes unprofitable and is brought to its knees.

Imagine That! — Alexandra Petri in the Washington Post on the tyranny of the Fourth Amendment.

This is the kind of thing that could only happen in countries run by “tin-pot dictators” conservatives fumed on Twitter upon seeing that the FBI had searched former president Donald Trump’s Florida home. “If this is what they’re able to do to the former president of the United States, think about what they could do to you,” Lara Trump warned on Fox News.

It’s true! If this is what investigators will do to the former president of the United States — follow all the steps to obtain a warrant from a judge to search his home for documents that they (and the judge) believed probable cause suggested were there, then leave without arresting anybody — imagine what they will do to you! You might also have to deal with a search warrant from a judge! You, too, might receive due process when suspected of committing a crime!

Imagine! The next time it appears that you have run afoul of the Presidential Records Act by taking classified documents home, the FBI will obtain a warrant from a judge to come to your combined residence and country club to search your safe — with cooperation from the Secret Service! There are millions of Americans out there right now reasonably saying to themselves, “All this time I have been storing classified materials pertaining to the office of the president, some too classified even to be described (which sounds like a koan), as I thought was my right as an average citizen. And now, I see what kind of hell scape I am living in! One where the former president is subject to laws, just as I, an average citizen, am subject to laws!”

It is a well-known fact that federal law enforcement exists solely to make miserable the lives of civil rights leaders, to bury in a deep hole all allegations against Brett M. Kavanaugh and to investigate Hillary Clinton, root of all evil. What it is not for is this. Next, you are going to tell me that if somebody tries to keep themselves in power by force, they ought to face consequences for it!

Well may the Republican congressional minority rend its garments and wail. Well may House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy threaten retribution. What are we coming to, when law enforcement agencies enforce the law against the president? Against average citizens, sure. Against troublemakers, an ill-defined category that I refer you to Trump speeches to better understand — naturally! But against our god-king? Our cherished former president?

A state governed by laws is no state for me. I wanted a state where some people are above the law and some people are below the law. I wanted one where Trump specifically was above the law and also got to use the apparatus of the state to harass his political opponents. That is apolitical and just. This is — just awful!

“No former president is safe,” tweeted Matt Gaetz, (R-Fla.) Too true! Too true! John Adams sitting there on his trove of documents. Benjamin Harrison, inciting all those insurrections. William Henry Harrison, being there! Any one of us could become a former president, if we play our cards wrong, and we must first ask ourselves: If the most powerful are not above the law, who can be? Is anyone? Shouldn’t someone be?

Doonesbury — Thank you for waiting…

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