Protecting Gun-Sellers

With the nation focused on the Iraq war, the House of Representatives chose this week to pass a special-interest bill that would give gunmakers and gun-sellers near immunity from lawsuits arising from violence their wares cause.

The gun industry claims that it's being clobbered with expensive legal fees from more than a dozen such lawsuits that it calls "frivolous." More than 30 states already provide such legal immunity, but the industry, along with the National Rifle Association, is using its well-monied clout on Capitol Hill to win a federal law. The bill will soon go to the Senate, where a majority of members support it.

Victims of gun violence, along with some cities and states, say they need such lawsuits to define new legal rights against the negligence of the gun industry in not preventing guns from falling into the wrong hands.

A former NRA lawyer, Robert Ricker, supports these pleas. In an affidavit, he wrote: "Until faced with a serious threat of civil liability for past conduct, leaders in the industry have consistently resisted taking constructive voluntary action to prevent firearms from ending up in the illegal gun market and have sought to silence others within the industry who have advocated reform."

Many gunmakers and distributors are careful in selling guns. But they shouldn't try to protect the bad apples in their industry who are neither concerned nor careful enough to keep guns out of the hands of killers.

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