04.28.16

Repealing the Gun Industry’s Inexcusable Immunity Shield (Los Feliz Ledger)

In 2002, fear gripped the nation’s capital as two snipers took the lives of ten victims in and around Washington, DC. When the culprits were found and arrested, investigators learned that the gun they used?—?a Bushmaster semi-automatic assault rifle?—?had been stolen from a gun dealer in Tacoma, Washington, with a long history of having guns simply go missing from its inventory.
 
Families of the victims brought lawsuits against both the dealer, for failing to oversee the sale of its weapons, and Bushmaster, for continuing to provide the guns to a negligent dealer. After a judge allowed the case to move forward, both defendants settled out of court for $2.5 million.
 
The specter of the gun industry being held accountable for this type of negligence spurred immediate action by the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA mobilized its staunchest supporters in Congress with a breathtaking request, which the organization dubbed its number one priority: a sweeping exemption from liability for gun makers, gun dealers, and even the NRA itself.
 
It was an audacious move. After all, civil liability is how we hold companies and individuals responsible for acting with reasonable care towards others in our society. No other consumer goods industry had such sweeping immunity. But after an intensive lobbying campaign, the NRA got exactly what it wanted: the so-called Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), passed in 2005.
 
At the time of its passage, supporters of the law attempted to downplay its scope and unprecedented nature. They argued that the law was merely intended to prevent rogue judges and juries from attributing independent criminal acts to the gun industry.
 
But in its practical impact, PLCAA has gone well beyond that point. It has shut the door to nearly all lawsuits by victims of gun violence against gun makers, distributors or sellers?—?even in cases where plaintiffs would have had a strong case if their injury involved a car, a knife, or a prescription drug.
 
Right now, the families of those first graders murdered in Newtown, Connecticut are suing Bushmaster, the company that made the assault weapon which the shooter used to kill 26 at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  There is a very real fear that even thought their case has been allowed to proceed in the near term, that they will be barred from proceeding in the long-term because of PLCAA.
 
That’s why I’ve introduced legislation to repeal this law.
 
There is no single policy that can stop gun violence or mass shootings, but that is no excuse for inaction on repealing PLCAA, addressing mental illness and closing the loophole that allows people to buy weapons without a background check. The question is whether we can adopt policies and laws that substantially decrease the 30,000 Americans killed each year by guns, while respecting the rights of law abiding gun owners.
 
I believe we can.


Source: Los Feliz Ledger