THE BLOG
01/15/2013 12:58 pm ET Updated Mar 17, 2013

Does the NRA Hold a Gun to Congress' Head?

As incredulous as it may seem, thanks to Congress, gun victims and their families cannot sue gun manufacturers, but the shooter could if his gun did not work properly. So if history is any predictor of the future, the talk of new gun control legislation by Congress is likely to go nowhere. Under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act gun manufacturers and dealers were granted immunity from liability. I may be wrong, but I know of no other industry that has been so protected. Drug companies that make products which save people's lives, hospitals, doctors and nurses do not get this protection, but an industry that makes a product that kills and wounds people stands alone in receiving this extraordinary gift from Congress. Is the power of the gun lobby and the fear of not being re-elected so great that this blatant example of self-interest has been memorialized by our elected representatives?

The statute limits the immunity to civil lawsuits for crimes committed, but even with that limitation, the legislation is an outrage and an insult to all those who have suffered as shooting victims either directly or as family or friends of those victims. There may not be any basis for such suits, but victims should not be preempted from asserting and attempting to prove them as in all other instances. The law dismissed all pending and future claims. Although the statute has been upheld, nonetheless it should be an embarrassment to Congress. Congress purported to justify and rationalize it by claiming "lawsuits have been commenced against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and importers of firearms that operate as designed and intended, which seek money damages and other relief for the harm caused by the misuse of firearms by third parties, including criminals" and the industry "should not, be liable for the harm caused by those who criminally or unlawfully misuse firearm products or ammunition products that function as designed and intended." I do not know the statistics, but I would bet that the nation's hospitals and drug manufacturers face more claims without merit in a week than all gun manufacturers have faced in their entire history.

In probably one of the most disingenuous findings ever uttered by Congress it found that "the possible sustaining of these actions by a maverick judicial officer or petit jury would expand civil liability in a manner never contemplated by the framers of the Constitution, by Congress, or by the legislatures of the several States." So in plain English, this law was necessary because some "maverick" judge or jury might find against the industry when there was no legal basis to do so. Funny, I thought that is why we had appellate courts.

Although this new Congress might be different, I have my doubts if this type of legislation could be enacted and left standing. It does not bode well for any change. I do not know whether or not there are any solutions with 300 million guns already out there or whether or not the current proposals will be effective, but so long as we let the NRA and the gun lobby dominate the issue we will never know, and thousands more will die and their families left to mourn.

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