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CNN Helps Democratic Congressman Slam NRA, Tout Stricter Gun Regulations

CNN's Carol Costello on Monday morning helped a Democratic Congressman tout his new bill that allows victims of gun violence to sue the gun industry. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is aiming to repeal a 2005 bill passed by a Republican Congress that protected gun makers and dealers from such lawsuits.

Instead of asking hard questions of Schiff's proposal, Costello spoonfed him this liberal talking point: "Ted Kennedy said this law was bought and paid for by the NRA. In your mind, what was the intent behind this law?"

[Video below. Audio here.]

The original 2005 bill held exceptions for lawsuits over defective firearms or "criminal behavior" by the gun dealer or gun maker, as the Times reported. That didn't stop Costello from using this ridiculous analogy: "If this law applied to car manufacturers, let's say, it would mean if my brakes failed due to a design flaw, I could not sue the manufacturer. Am I getting this right?"

"That's exactly right," the Democratic congressman agreed with her.

Costello finished off by lamenting the gun lobby's influence in opposing an assault weapons ban: "And just to be more clear about this, no other industry enjoys such protection," she insisted. "As long as lawmakers need money to get re-elected, how can any lawmaker really take a stand and make it stick?"

A transcript of the segment, which aired on CNN Newsroom on January 14 at 9:02 a.m. EST, is as follows:

CAROL COSTELLO: At this very moment, a California lawmaker is unveiling legislation that could chip away at the power of the nation's gun industry. He'll explain in just a moment. But first, here's a look at what's in the cross-hairs. It's a 2005 law that grants wide legal immunity to gun makers and dealers. Critics say no other industry in the country enjoys this kind of special protection. It shields the industry from lawsuits filed by shooting victims, everything from faulty designs to negligent sales practices that put guns in the wrong hands.

The NRA says it merely guards against frivolous lawsuits intended to bankrupt gun makers. Congressman Adam Schiff is introducing the effort to roll back that immunity. He joins us now live in this exclusive interview. Welcome.

Rep. ADAM SCHIFF (D-Calif.): Thank you. Good to be with you.

COSTELLO: Nice to have you here. Ted Kennedy said this law was bought and paid for by the NRA. In your mind, what was the intent behind this law?

SCHIFF: Well, at the time it was passed, there were a number of suits, predominantly by municipalities against the gun industry to attack the sale of Saturday night specials. And at least the proponents of the law claimed it was just designed to protect them from liability simply for making an inherently dangerous product. But of course it was written much more broadly than that. And the effect has been that when gun sellers or gun manufacturers act negligently, they're immune from any kind of liability.

So you can have gun dealers turning a blind eye to the sale of hundreds of weapons to straw purchasers, and when those guns are re-sold or they're conveyed to people, criminals that use them to kill people, then they can't be held liable. And that makes no sense. It's a protection not needed by the good actors and not deserved by the bad actors.

COSTELLO: And just to be more clear about this, no other industry enjoys such protection. If this law applied to car manufacturers, let's say, it would mean if my brakes failed due to a design flaw, I could not sue the manufacturer. Am I getting this right?

SCHIFF: That's exactly right. And to look at the analogy for the sellers of automobiles, they could be selling automobiles to 12 year-olds, to 13 year-olds, and they would have no responsibility to make sure they're selling them to actually people who are legally eligible to drive them.

It doesn't make any sense. And one of the most important things that we're going to be working on is universal background checks. Well, those background checks are only going to be as good as the people -- as our ability to make sure that the people buying the guns are, in fact, the people who are going to own and use the guns.

If we allow dealers to sell to these straw purchasers hundreds and hundreds, thousands of weapons that will be turned over and conveyed to others that will never get background checks, it will completely eviscerate that important safeguard.

COSTELLO: The president of the NRA, I mean, quite frankly, he's not afraid of you or any other lawmaker. He told Candy Crowley over the weekend Congress won't back down a bit to ban – on the proposed ban on assault weapons. Let's listen.

(Video Clip)

DAVID KEENE, president, NRA: When a president takes all the power of his office, if he's willing to expend political capital, you don't want to make predictions – you don't want to bet your house on the outcome, but I would say that the likelihood is that they are -- they are not going to be able to get an assault weapons ban through this Congress.

(End Video Clip)

COSTELLO: As long as lawmakers need money to get re-elected, how can any lawmaker really take a stand and make it stick?

SCHIFF: Well, we simply have to take a stand, and I – and the NRA leadership has never shown any shortage of arrogance, and they're not displaying any humility now, but this is a real tipping point. The country has reached an awful fatigue with these repeated gun tragedies. And I think that that will be reflected in what Congress does. I think it will develop the spine and the backbone necessary to pass an assault weapons ban, a ban on ammunition clips, to pass universal background checks. And I hope to remove this immunity that only one industry in America enjoys and that, in fact, protects a lot of unscrupulous gun sellers and dealers.

-- Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center