Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - Angry that a bi-partisan group of 55 senators is cosponsoring legislation to prohibit lawsuits against gun makers and sellers for the actions of criminals, anti-gun activists swarmed the hallways of Senate office buildings Thursday offering a "cure" for "Mad NRA Sheep Disease."
Second Amendment supporters responded that opponents of the bill should have read the legislation before criticizing it inaccurately.
The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (S. 659) passed the House in April by a vote of 285-140. Critics of the bill call it "nothing but a gift to the gun industry.
"This special-interest, giveaway legislation flies in the face of freedom," claimed Suzi Robinson, president of the Virginia "Million Mom March" state council. "It is this legislation that re-victimizes the victims of gun violence by denying them their right to hold a negligent gun industry accountable."
Members of the "Million Mom March United with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence" displayed hand-puppet "sheep" with the letters "NRA" stapled to their chests and reduced-size photocopies of $20 and $100 bills stapled to one hoof along with the silhouette of a semi-automatic rifle stapled to the other. The group distributed a list of the 55 senators who support the legislation along with instructions for the senators'/puppets' care. The document described the senators as "very sick puppets suffering from Mad NRA Sheep Disease.
"Symptoms include blindness, lack of judgment and fear of retaliation by the NRA," the instructions continued. "In the most acute cases, the disease renders the victim spineless."
Robinson said the activists were on Capitol Hill to "care for" the "sheep."
"We are here today to herd the flock of NRA sheep into different pastures," Robinson said of the senators who support the bill, which is backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Lillian Pubillones Nolan, president of the Maryland "Million Mom March" state council, also complained that "Washington is full of NRA sheep." She noted the trial of accused sniper John Muhammad, underway in Virginia Beach, Va., and specifically referenced the semi-automatic rifle allegedly used by the snipers after being stolen from a retail firearms outlet in Tacoma, Wash.
"The NRA and its allies in the Senate are pushing a bill that will give immunity to that gun dealer in Tacoma, Wash.," Nolan claimed. "How can these senators do the bidding for the NRA when they know that this bill will leave Bull's Eye off the hook?"
The volunteer anti-gun activists were not the only ones complaining about the so-called "blanket immunity" that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act would allegedly grant gun makers and sellers.
"Congress is ready to side with the gun industry by immunizing negligent gun manufacturers and dealers from liability," claimed Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), "when their behavior results in guns falling into the hands of [the] wrong people."
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) echoed Lautenberg's charge.
"No industry in this country...has such a broad-based exemption from any type of liability for negligence," Reed alleged. "Victims will go without redress."
Toby Hoover, executive director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, argued that anti-gun activists only want the firearms industry "to be responsible and accountable" for its alleged negligence.
"But [the firearms industry] wants no regulations on the products it makes millions of dollars on," Hoover claimed.
Ted Novin, spokesman for the National Rifle Association, wondered how the anti-gun critics could accidentally misrepresent the contents of the proposal.
"Either they have not read the bill or they are being disingenuous," Novin said. "The legislation will not prevent lawsuits in situations where a firearm is defective or a law has been broken [by a gun maker or seller]."
As Novin indicated, the language of the bill only prohibits lawsuits against firearms or ammunition manufacturers, distributors and dealers "for damages or injunctive relief resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of [firearms or ammunition] by the person [bringing the lawsuit] or a third party ."
Contrary to the claim of the anti-gun activists, the proposal specifically authorizes suits for negligence and other factors they said would be exempted, including lawsuits brought against firearms or ammunition manufacturers, distributors or dealers for:
illegally selling or otherwise providing guns or ammunition to a person with the knowledge that they will be used in a violent or drug trafficking crime;
negligence or negligently providing firearms or ammunition when the seller knew or should have known that doing so was not safe;
harm directly caused by intentional violations of state or federal laws concerning the sale or marketing of firearms and ammunition;
breach of contract or warranty in connection with the purchase of the product; or
physical injuries or property damage resulting directly from a defect in design or manufacture of the firearm or ammunition, when used as intended.
In each of the types of lawsuits allowed by the bill, the suit may proceed only if it is brought by a person directly harmed or injured by the allegedly illegal or negligent action, or by that person's estate, if deceased.
Anti-gun mayors and county administrators would no longer be allowed to sue gun makers in an attempt to recover the costs of medical treatment for firearms injuries caused by criminals. They could, however, still sue the criminal who was actually responsible for the injuries.
Novin called the legislation "a common sense measure."
"That is why the bill passed the U.S. House by a better than two-to-one margin and enjoys 55 co-sponsors in the U.S. Senate, including the Senate majority and Senate minority leader," Novin concluded, "and why President Bush has indicated that he would sign this bill."
The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act could be considered by the Senate before the end of the year. Anti-gun liberal Democrats have threatened to filibuster the bill, since they do not have the votes to stop its passage.
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