Abercrombie votes No on bill to shield gun makers
Washington, DC -- Congressman Neil Abercrombie voted today against legislation to shield gun manufacturers from lawsuits.
The so-called Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (S.397) passed the House of Representatives 283-144.
The measure erects a civil liability shield for manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and importers of firearms or ammunition for harm caused by third parties who use their products to commit crimes. It also prohibits such suits from being brought against trade associations. Pending lawsuits will be immediately dismissed upon enactment of the law.
"There's a problem with inconsistency here," said Abercrombie. "We came down like a ton of bricks on software companies that made file sharing programs. We told them, "You're responsible for what other people do with your product.' But Congress is doing exactly the opposite when it comes to firearms. Do they think Napster files are a bigger threat than handguns?"
Another problem with the bill is a provision prohibiting victims' families and civil authorities from suing criminally irresponsible gun dealers. The provision states that a civil action may be filed against a person convicted of knowingly transferring a firearm used to commit a violent or drug trafficking crime only if the suit is brought by an individual directly harmed by the resulting violence or drug trafficking.
Abercrombie acknowledged some positive features of S397. It requires all handguns to be sold with a secure gun-storage or safety device (child safety lock). It also prohibits the manufacture or sale of armor-piercing ammunition except for government use, export or government-approved testing and experimentation.
S397 passed the Senate on July 29th by a vote of 65 to 31. It goes now to the White House, where President Bush is expected to sign the measure into law.