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· "Bad Joke Friday" Dan (moderator emeritus)
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House passes gun-suit
immunity bill
'We shouldn't use the judicial process to bankrupt an industry'

Posted: April 11, 2003
1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Jon Dougherty
© 2003

The House has passed a bill that protects gun manufacturers from lawsuits that have left the industry reeling financially, though not a single court has yet to hold a manufacturer liable for criminal misuse of its products.

Lawmakers yesterday easily passed the measure 285-140, with most Republicans backing it. Democrats were split, Reuters reported.

"We shouldn't use the judicial process to bankrupt an industry that makes a legal product," said Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. He went on to accuse gun-control groups of using the court system push a "back door" political agenda.

Gun-control groups have said they wanted to impose financial hardships on gun makers by taking them to court and forcing them to spend tens of thousands of dollars defending their products.

So far, one company – Navegar Inc. – has declared bankruptcy, though lawsuits brought against the company in California failed to find it negligent in a 1993 San Francisco multiple homicide.

The Bush administration said it strongly supports the bill, adding it would "prevent abuse of the legal system and help curb the growing problem of frivolous lawsuits." The bill now moves on to the Senate, where nearly half of senators have signed on to cosponsor it.

Gun-control groups say they oppose the bill because it would allow shoddy gun manufacturers off the hook financially and leave victims and their families without redress in the courts.

In a series of lawsuits filed by a number of cities and municipalities near the end of the Clinton administration, gun-control supporters say gun makers should be held liable for criminal misuse of their products and should be made to compensate cities financially for funds spent on treating victims of armed criminal action.

Courts so far haven't bought that argument, but groups such as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence have persisted. Officials of the group say they will unveil internal industry documents showing that some gun makers and dealers knowingly supply guns to criminals.

If the bill clears the Senate and is signed by President Bush, it will negate some 300 pending state and federal lawsuits, and prevent such suits in the future.

As WND reported, Gun Owners of America, a Virginia-based gun-rights group, warned that the lawsuits would ultimately harm national security if they successfully shut down a number of key gun manufacturers.

Erich Pratt, spokesman for GOA, said groups like the Brady Campaign and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People – which has a gun industry suit pending in New York – are "helping to cripple the very industry that supplies our men with their weapons."

In a statement, GOA said, "The National Shooting Sports Foundation has documented the patriotic service that many of the gun makers, who are named in the NAACP suit, have offered to our country."

Included on that list are Colt, one of the makers of the U.S. military's M-16 series of rifles; Smith & Wesson, one of the largest producers of firearms for the military and law enforcement; Browning, credited with giving the U.S. and its allies firearms superiority throughout the two world wars, as well as the Korean War; Sturm, Ruger & Company, which donated rifles to the New York City Police Department in the days following Sept. 11, 2001, for the protection of the people of the city; Glock, also a major supplier of firearms to law enforcement and military personnel; and Sig Arms, which provides the official sidearm for the U.S. Navy SEALS.

· Beartooth Regular
1,178 Posts
Another article on the Senate angle

Gun Control Groups Pin Hopes on Liberal Senate Dems
By Jeff Johnson Congressional Bureau Chief
April 11, 2003

Capitol Hill ( Opponents of gun rights - reeling from Wednesday's lopsided vote by the U.S. House of Representatives to ban lawsuits seeking to hold gun makers accountable for the actions of criminals who misuse their products - are now counting on a minority of liberal Democrats in the Senate to block the legislation.

The House passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (H.R. 1036) by a vote of 285 to 140. Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) said those suing gun makers and dealers are improperly assigning liability to people and companies who are not responsible for their injuries.

"Manufacturers of legal products should not live under the threat of litigation simply because their product is misused," Foley said. "We don't sue General Motors when a drunk driver kills someone with a car, and we don't sue Ginsu when someone is stabbed to death with their knife."

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) disagrees. He argued Thursday that gun makers and dealers are responsible when guns they legally sell are later misused by criminals.

"Their lives were put at risk by reckless gun dealers," Reed said of two police officers shot by a career criminal. The gun used in the crime was legally purchased by one person and later legally sold to another person. But that second person illegally sold the weapon to the shooter. The officers are suing the manufacturer and gun dealer, despite the fact that neither broke any laws or Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives regulations.

Gun Control Group Releases 'Report' to Derail Legislation

Reed's comments were made during a press conference to promote the release of a document entitled "Smoking Guns: Exposing the Gun Industry's Complicity in the Illegal Gun Market." It was produced by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the group previously known as Handgun Control, Inc.

"Smoking Guns" chronicles a number of cases in which gun makers and dealers are being sued because firearms they lawfully sold were later misused by criminals. The Brady Campaign's "Legal Action Project" is providing attorneys with the resources to pursue the litigation at no cost to the plaintiffs. If it wins any of the lawsuits, the organization would be able to recover attorneys' fees, costs and possibly damages from the gun industry.

Ted Novin of the National Rifle Association (NRA) said such lawsuits are "malicious and predatory" ventures pushed by anti-gun activists such as those at the Brady Campaign. He expanded on Foley's automobile analogy.

"It is tantamount to someone who is recklessly driving a car at 90 miles an hour killing someone and then having the victim's family sue [General Motors]," he said. "It's ridiculous, and it makes no sense."

But Lautenberg believes such lawsuits should go forward because of alleged "corruption" in the gun industry.

"The reality is that the gun industry engages in improper conduct," he charged, complaining of "corrupt dealers that sell to criminals."

"And they want to do it," he charged. "This isn't an accident. It's deliberate," Lautenberg continued. "That's their market, and they don't care what the moral or the physical implications are."

Novin said Lautenberg's accusation is "obviously false."

"That's a completely slanderous statement. That is a completely absurd statement. And that is a very offensive statement," Novin said. "It's absolutely ridiculous that they would make statements to that end."

Reed claimed the Senate version of the bill - sponsored by Idaho Republican Larry Craig - would "immunize the gun industry from any type of liability for negligence."

But the language of the legislation specifically limits the ban to only those lawsuits "against manufacturers, distributors, dealers and importers of firearms or ammunition products for the harm caused by the criminal or unlawful misuse of firearm products or ammunition products by others when the product functioned as designed and intended."

The bill provides five exceptions that would allow lawsuits against manufacturers or dealers to continue if there is negligence or criminal conduct on their part:

When the seller has been convicted of a federal or state felony for selling a gun to someone he or she knew or should have known would use the gun in drug trafficking or a crime of violence;

When the seller knew or should have known that the buyer was likely to use the gun in a manner involving unreasonable risk of physical injury;

When a manufacturer or seller knowingly and willfully violated a State or Federal law applicable to the sale or marketing of guns and that violation caused the harm for which the lawsuit is brought;

When a breach of contract or warranty in connection with the purchase of the product is alleged; or

When the gun is used as intended and physical injuries or property damage result directly from a defect in design or manufacture of the gun.

Gun Industry Winning Suits, But at a Price

Even the courts have realized, Novin argued, that the lawsuits are not designed to redress any real wrong gun makers or dealers are alleged to have committed. Still, the litigation has taken a toll on the industry.

"In the cases that have gone to court, the firearms industry has done exceedingly well," Novin recalled. "The problem is, no matter how many times you win, you still have to spend a tremendous amount of money to put on these cases."

Anti-gun activists are attempting to bankrupt the gun industry, Novin charged, because the American people will not support their legislative efforts to outlaw private gun ownership.

"Because they can't get what they want, which, essentially, is a ban on guns," Novin said, "the only way they can go about this is through the courts"

But Reed accuses the NRA of "playing a shell game" with the legislation.

"They come in through the legislation and say, 'We don't want the court to decide these matters; this should be legislative decisions [sic],'" Reed complained. "Of course, if we try to move legislation, the most fierce, persistent foe of any sensible legislation is the NRA."

Novin believes the NRA's lobbying efforts are effective only because they represent the views of the majority of Americans.

"Congressmen answer to one group of people, and that's it. And it's not the NRA, and it's not any other lobbying group out there," Novin said. "Congressmen answer to their constituents, and they do what their constituents want. Otherwise, they don't remain congressmen for very long."

That principle is being proven, he added, in the case of the lawsuit preemption bill.

"In this particular case, this legislation has the full support of the American people," Novin explained. "If it didn't, believe me, these congressmen would not be supporting it."

The Senate version of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act \-(S. 659) has 52 co-sponsors, including nine Democrats, ensuring passage if it is brought up for consideration. Neither Reed nor Lautenberg threatened to conduct a filibuster, which would force supporters to gain 60 votes in order to cut off debate before passing the bill. Both said, however, that they would do "everything I can" to stop the bill from reaching the president's desk. The White House supports the legislation.

E-mail a news tip to Jeff Johnson.

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I see that a few gun control groups have said that this leaves families without legal recourse which simply isn't true. Families can still sue for a defective weapon manufactured by a shoddy company. THis only protects the industry from frivolous lawsuits that handgun Control Inc. would file, you knoiw they call themselves the ACLU of gun control pure BS.
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