Mark and Jackie Barden, whose 7-year-old son Daniel was murdered in the Sandy Hook massacre in December 2012, have voiced their opposition to comments Sen. Bernie Sanders made during a Democratic presidential debate on March 6 that gun manufacturers should not be liable if a crime is committed with their product.
In a Washington Post op-ed published online on Friday, the Bardens argued that the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, which was used to kill their son, 19 other children and six adults in the elementary school shooting, is a highly lethal military weapon that should not be sold to the public. The parents, along with nine other families, filed a lawsuit in December 2014 against Remington Arms, which manufactured the weapon Adam Lanza used to carry out the attack in Newtown, Connecticut.
“This case is about a particular weapon, Remington’s Bushmaster AR-15, and its sale to a particular market: civilians. It is not about handguns or hunting rifles, and the success of our lawsuit would not mean the end of firearm manufacturing in this country, as Sanders warned,” the Bardens wrote.
They added, “This case is about the AR-15 because the AR-15 is not an ordinary weapon; it was designed and manufactured for the military to increase casualties in combat. The AR-15 is to guns what a tank is to cars: uniquely deadly and suitable for specialized use only.”
During the debate in Flint, Michigan, host Anderson Cooper asked Sanders and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton if they would support the Sandy Hook lawsuit. Cooper said it might not go anywhere because of a federal law Sanders backed in 2005 that shields gun manufacturers from certain lawsuits when someone legally buys a firearm and then intentionally misuses it.
Clinton, who voted against a similar bill when she was a senator from New York, said she supports such liability. Sanders defended his vote, saying that the gun industry would not survive if it’s being held liable for the crimes of others.
“If you go to a store and you legally purchase a gun, and three days later you go out and start killing people, is the point to hold the gun shop owner or the manufacturer of that gun liable? If that’s the point, I disagree,” Sanders said. “If they are selling a product to a person who buys it legally, what you’re talking about is ending gun manufacturing in America.”
The Sanders campaign did not immediately respond to MSNBC’s request for comment.
In the op-ed, the Bardens said the Vermont senator “has spent decades tirelessly advocating for greater corporate responsibility, which is why we cannot fathom his support of companies that recklessly market and profit from the sale of combat weapons to civilians and then shrug their shoulders when the next tragedy occurs, leaving ordinary families and communities to pick up the pieces.”