Bill targets lawsuits aimed at gun makers


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sm
June 12, 2003, 02:14 PM
http://www.thehill.com/news/061103/ss_craig.aspx


JUNE 11, 2003

SPECIAL SECTION
TORT REFORM

Bill targets lawsuits aimed at gun makers
By Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho)

Imagine yourself driving to work one morning. The sun is shining bright, and, for once, traffic is bearable. You come to a stop at an intersection and wait for the light to turn green. After it does, you pull forward to cross when a speeding car crashes into your passenger side.

The accident report to follow states that all of the safety gear in both vehicles functioned properly and that the other driver was under the influence of alcohol. He was completely at fault for the damage, but you instead decide to sue the vehicle manufacturer to recoup your losses.

Craig

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Sound ridiculous? Well, for the firearms industry, a similar situation has become a reality, as frivolous and predatory lawsuits have sought to blame manufacturers for the misdeeds of others.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and I introduced the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act to address such lawsuits. Its 52 cosponsors, the majority of the Senate, recognize the threat posed by those who seek to abuse our courts by filing lawsuits aimed at forcing law-abiding businesses to pay for criminal acts by individuals beyond their control.

What gun-control advocates have failed to do at a legislative level across this country — bring down the U.S. firearms industry — they now look to the judicial system to accomplish. It is a politically inspired initiative trying to force social goals through an end-run around the Congress and state legislatures, and it is muddying the waters for citizens who have legitimate claims.

Opponents of this bill have argued falsely that no one will have the right to seek compensatory damages against gun manufacturers if it is passed. The truth is that if a manufacturer’s defect leads to personal injury, this bill still allows an individual to seek legal recourse. If unlicensed dealers or manufacturers illegally sell guns used in crime, our bill would not shield them from suit. Nor would it provide immunity if a dealer knowingly sells guns to terrorists or criminals who fail background checks.

What our bill seeks to do is to protect the gun industry from a narrow range of actions: predatory lawsuits that try to pin the responsibility for a criminal act on an innocent party who wasn’t there and had nothing to do with it.

Millions of Americans legally own guns for many reasons, including recreation and self-defense, but never use them to commit criminal acts. Clearly, guns are not inherently evil; their capacity for good or harm depends on the intentions and actions of the people using them.

The trend of abusive litigation targeting the firearms industry not only defies common sense and concepts of fundamental fairness but also would do nothing to curb criminal gun violence.

Manufacturers are not law enforcement professionals, nor can they divine the hidden motives of purchasers at the end of the retail chain. As long as they comply with federal and state law when providing a legal product to the American public, they cannot fairly or reasonably be punished for the criminal misuse or abuse of that product by someone out of their control.

Some have suggested a different motive for these junk lawsuits: that the legal strategists behind them were inspired by the big tobacco payoff to try this industrywide attack. I don’t know if that is true, but if they’re aiming for a pot of gold in the hundreds of billions of dollars, they’re way off the mark. This is not an industry with that kind of financial resources, and it cannot simply absorb the staggering costs of predatory litigation.

If junk lawsuits are allowed to progress, they will instead force gun businesses to lay off employees who are making lawful products protected by our Constitution.
Driving the U.S. firearms industry out of business would mean closing the doors of a lot of companies, both small and large, that provide good paying, highly skilled jobs and serve as the economic foundation for their communities.

Some 30 states already have enacted legislation to prevent junk lawsuits against the firearms industry based on the criminal behavior of others. The House of Representatives followed that lead by passing its own version of the legislation last month. It is now up to the Senate to complete the task. The courts of our nation are supposed to be forums for resolving controversies between citizens and providing relief where warranted, not a mechanism for achieving political ends that are rejected by the people’s representatives in Congress and state legislatures.

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act does not seek to implement a blanket prohibition on all lawsuits against the gun industry. Its purpose is to target a specific class of predatory lawsuits that will cost jobs and law-abiding Americans’ access to a constitutionally guaranteed freedom.

We have the right to bear arms in this country, and as long those arms are
sold and purchased legally, manufacturers should not be punished for the irresponsibility and the criminality of others.

Craig is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and serves on the board of directors of the National Rifle Association.

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sm
June 12, 2003, 02:36 PM
Millions of Americans legally own guns for many reasons, including recreation and self-defense, but never use them to commit criminal acts. Clearly, guns are not inherently evil; their capacity for good or harm depends on the intentions and actions of the people using them.
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Such a simple concept-it's really not hard to follow if one tried.;)

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