Here’s Martin O’Malley’s Plan to End the ‘Epidemic and Sickness’ of Gun Violence in America

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The former governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley attempted to kick-start his flagging presidential campaign on Monday by announcing a comprehensive plan to end what he called the “epidemic and sickness of gun violence in the United States”. 

As part of his ambition to slash the annual death toll from guns by half within a decade, O’Malley pledged that as president he would repeal a 2005 federal law that immunized firearms manufacturers from being sued when their products were used in crimes. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, heavily touted at the time by the main pro-gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, in effect wiped out liability for gun makers across all 50 states.

The act has been used to protect manufacturers and retailers in several lawsuits. This year, for instance, it was invoked when a judge dismissed a lawsuit in Colorado brought by the parents of one of the 12 victims of the 2012 Aurora cinema shooting who wanted to hold accountable the online sellers of the ammunition used in the massacre.

By promising to repeal the act, O’Malley sought to put clear blue water between his campaign and those of his Democratic presidential rivals. In particular, O’Malley has in his sights Bernie Sanders, the independent US senator from Vermont who has come under criticism for his more relaxed approach to gun control.

Sanders has risen in the past few weeks to hold first place in the Democratic nomination race in recent polls from the early caucus and primary states and is widely seen as Hillary Clinton’s main challenger from the left. Yet his stance on guns, honed in the hunting haven of Vermont, has seen Sanders draw some flak.

In one of his most contentions decisions, he voted in favor of shielding gun makers from lawsuits when the law was passed by Congress 10 years ago.

O’Malley clearly sees this issue as one where he can claim the liberal mantle. Launching his new drive against gun violence in an East Harlem school in New York City, he said of gun manufacturers: “If you have ways to make your guns safer, you have a duty to do that.”

The 2005 law, he said, was an example of the “NRA flexing their political muscle to protect special interests”.

Asked by the Guardian to comment on Sanders’ vote for the legislation, O’Malley declined, saying only: “You can draw your own conclusions.”

With the Democratic nomination battle dominated by the surge of Bernie Sanders and the travails of Hillary Clinton, O’Malley has struggled to make his voice heard. The latest tracking poll from Real Clear Politics puts him nationally on a miniscule 2%, way behind Clinton (44%), Sanders (22%) and even the undeclared vice-president Joe Biden (20%).

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Source: The Guardian | Ed Pilkington in New York

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