NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Legislation Would Prevent Victims from Making Civil Claims Against Gun Manufacturers

May 5, 2003

The gun industry is on the cusp of convincing President Bush and Congress to protect it from pending and future lawsuits.

Under pressure from the National Rifle Association and a lesser-known organization funded with $100 million from gun manufacturers, Bush and a majority of lawmakers are on record supporting significant new legal protections for companies that make and sell guns.

The legislation would prevent victims of gun crimes from making civil claims against companies that manufactured, imported or sold the weapons.

  • The NRA calls the legislation a prudent way to prevent companies from going belly up simply because a criminal used their gun illegally.
  • Critics say the measure would allow some gunmakers who misplace caches of weapons -- or dealers who sell guns to felons -- to escape civil penalties.
  • Victims of the Washington area sniper, for instance, might be prohibited from suing the controversial gun dealer in Tacoma, Wash., who supplied the Bushmaster rifle used in some of last October's shootings if the bill becomes law, according to legal experts.
  • Some gunmakers and distributors, facing numerous lawsuits nationally from victims and gun control groups and the possibility of losing hundreds of millions of dollars through jury verdicts and legal costs, worry they could be driven out of business if the cases persist.

In a bipartisan political retreat from gun control, more than two-thirds of House members recently voted for the gun bill; 52 senators have sponsored it, and, if it passes the Senate, Bush plans to sign it into law.

Source: Jim VandeHei, "Gun Firms On Verge Of Winning New Shield: Liability Bill Reflects Industry, NRA Clout," Washington Post, May 5, 2003.


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