- June 30 - The first major bill scheduled for a vote when the Senate returns
from its July 4th recess next week would let dozens of gun manufacturers off the hook in
lawsuits against themparticularly companies that make Saturday Night Specials and
assault weapons, according to a new Violence Policy Center report released today.
The overall bill, which places wide-ranging limits on product liability lawsuits, is the
result of a compromise between its Senate sponsors and the White House. If the Senate
passes the legislation, it is expected to be approved by the House and signed by the
President this year.
The VPC's report, "Small" Favors, reveals how the bill's protection for
"small businesses" would apply to many notorious gun manufacturers that each
produce thousands of firearms every year. The report provides background on a sampling of
these companies, including their production figures and pictures of their weapons.
"Most Americans think of a small business as Mom and Pop's candy store, not Davis
Industries, which churns out anywhere from 50,000 to 175,000 Saturday Night Specials in
one year," said Kristen Rand, the VPC's director of federal policy.
Davis Industries is one of many companies specializing in Saturday Night Specials which
would be protected as a "small business." Other beneficiaries of the "small
favor" include the manufacturers of guns with documented safety defects and the
makers of such infamous guns as the AK-47, the TEC-9, and the Street Sweeper.
An amendment sponsored by Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
would maintain the gun industry's legal responsibility by excluding guns from the bill's
reach. The legislation already includes a similar exemption for tobacco. Early whip counts
on the amendment project a very close vote.
"Because the gun lobby has a stranglehold on Congress, the laws on health, safety,
and consumer protection that apply to every other product don't apply to guns," Rand
said. "The courtroom is the only place left to get compensation for victims of gun
violence and make the gun industry accountable for its conduct. The Torricelli-Feinstein
Amendment preserves this last chance for justice."
In its current form, the bill limits punitive damages against any "small
business" to a paltry $250,000. Other provisions of the proposed legislation protect
gun sellers as well as manufacturers, even in cases when they market guns to criminals, or
undermine causes of action important to litigation by gun victims.
These restrictions would obliterate the new wave of lawsuits against the gun industry,
which are modeled on the successful litigation against tobacco companies. Around the
country, gun victims, gun control advocates, and mayors are pursuing potential cases. For
example, the mayors of Philadelphia and Chicago have announced that they are considering
filing lawsuits against the industry.
"The gun lobby sees how the tobacco industry has been devastated by litigation over
its dangerous products and shady practices," Rand said. "Gun manufacturers want
to slam the courthouse door before they meet the same fate."
The Violence Policy Center is a national non-profit educational foundation that
conducts research on violence in America and works to develop violence-reduction policies
and proposals. The Center examines the role of firearms in America, conducts research on
firearms violence, and explores new ways to decrease firearm-related death and injury.