|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
FEBRUARY 16, 2005
|CONTACT: Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence / Million Mom March
Peter Hamm, 202-898-0792
Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence: Extreme Gun Lobby Trying Again to Protect Reckless Gun Dealers
WASHINGTON -- February 16 -- It's back. Legislation that would shield gun sellers from being held accountable for negligence in court was introduced in the House of Representatives.
Last year the gun lobby's extremist allies in Congress tried to secure passage of the misleadingly named "Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act." that would have granted broad and unprecedented immunity from civil lawsuits to gun manufacturers and gun dealers. It was defeated in the U.S. Senate after a lengthy battle.
The legislation is back, with the introduction of a House bill (H.R. 800). The National Rifle Association is making an all-out effort to push the outrageous legislation through Congress. It's still a horrible public policy idea - editorial writers have written that proponents are "attempting to create a special class of citizens, exempt from the law" (Cleveland Plain Dealer) and that the legislation is "private charity masquerading as public protection" (Indianapolis Star).
"This legislation is a shameful giveaway to the worst actors in the gun business," said Michael Barnes, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence united with the Million Mom March. "It must be defeated, in order to ensure that people who become gun violence victims because of reckless behavior by gun sellers can still seek justice in the courts."
Again, the proponents of the bill are misleading the nation about the legislation's consequences. "Our legislation is very narrowly tailored to allow suits against any bad actor to proceed," said Rep. Cliff Stearns of Florida. Rep. Stearns is wrong, and he knows it. It would have let off the hook the gun dealer that "lost" not only the sniper rifle used by the DC area snipers but 238 other guns, along with other dealers that recklessly put guns into the hands of gun traffickers and have since agreed to pay damages. Since the legislation was defeated last year, a gun manufacturer and three gun dealers have settled three high-profile cases for substantial damages:
"The gun lobby is trying to radically change the rules, to make irresponsible gun dealers and the makers of defective guns the only businesses in America exempt from longstanding principles of negligence, nuisance and product liability," said Dennis Henigan, Director of the Brady Legal Action Project. "If the extremists had won, none of these cases would have seen the light of day, and justice would have been denied."
The families of the sniper victims would have recovered nothing, while Bull's Eye would have escaped justice and the two injured police officers would not have received justice. It would have been business as usual in those West Virginia shops where guns were sold without limit to gun trafficking teams, Tennille Jefferson would have been tossed out of court and Sauers Trading would have escaped accountability for supplying a gun trafficker.
Congress must reject this special interest scheme again. The gun industry should be subject to the same legal rules as all other American businesses. And the courthouse doors must remain open to legitimate victims harmed by the dangerous and irresponsible actions of firearm manufacturers and sellers.