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Bill Would Shield Gun Dealers, Makers

Senate debate rekindling flames of gun control debate

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Update: The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act became Public Law 109-92 after being signed by President Bush on October 26, 2005.

Just when you thought the gun control issue had fizzled out, along comes the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (S. 1805), a bill that would, under most circumstances, prevent victims of gun-related crimes from suing gun makers and dealers.

Sponsored by Senators Larry Craig (R-Idaho) and Paul Sarbanes (D-Maryland), and currently being debated in the Senate, the Lawful Commerce in Arms Act prohibits any civil liability action from being brought against gun makers and dealers in any State or Federal court and requires any pending actions against them to be dismissed.

Under the Act, manufacturers or sellers of firearms, ammunition or firearm components would be protected from being sued for damages resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a firearm.

UNLESS

Firearm makers or sellers would NOT be shielded from civil suites in cases where:

1. The person or persons who sold or transferred the firearm did so knowing that it would be used to commit a crime of violence or a drug trafficking crime, or

2. the manufacturer or seller of the firearm had willfully violated a State or Federal statute applicable to the sale or marketing of the firearm and the violation was a proximate cause of the harm for which relief is sought, or

3. the case involves breach of contract or warranty in connection with the purchase of the firearm, or

4. the case involves physical injuries or property damage resulting directly from a defect in design or manufacture of the firearm when used as intended or in a manner that is reasonably foreseeable.

Opponents of the Act, like Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-California), say "Why should firearms get special treatment? In our society, we hold manufacturers liable for the damage their products cause. This is the case with automobiles. This is the case with cribs. It is the case with children's toys, and it should be the case with guns as well."

Proponents, like Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Montana), say "Over the last few years, our gun manufacturing industry has been under attack by legal activists attempting to hold them responsible for the criminal conduct and neglect of others. It's time for this to stop. We must remember that the criminal users of guns are responsible for the harm they cause, not the dealers and manufacturers of a completely legal product."

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