gun lobby seeks lawsuit protection, and my remedial suggestion
I'd been considering posting some thoughts on the always-volatile issue of gun control apropos of nothing, but lo and behold, this morning's Washington Post gives me the perfect springboard.
The gun industry, demonstrating its resurgent influence over Washington politics, is on the cusp of convincing President Bush and Congress to protect it from pending and future lawsuits.
Under pressure from the National Rifle Association and a lesser-known organization funded with $100 million from gun manufacturers, Bush and a majority of lawmakers are on record supporting significant new legal protections for companies that make and sell guns. The legislation would prevent victims of gun crimes from making civil claims against companies that manufactured, imported or sold the weapons.
The NRA calls the legislation a prudent way to prevent companies from going belly up simply because a criminal used their gun illegally. But critics say the measure would allow some gunmakers who misplace caches of weapons -- or dealers who sell guns to felons -- to escape civil penalties.
Victims of the Washington area sniper, for instance, might be prohibited from suing the controversial gun dealer in Tacoma, Wash., who supplied the Bushmaster rifle used in some of last October's shootings if the bill becomes law, according to legal experts.
I don't intend to discuss the merits or demerits of this particular measure, but rather, to muse about some ideas I've been having that could hopefully find some middle ground on this controversial issue.
A major problem with guns, of course, is that they can do -- indeed, are designed to do -- grievous harm to people. Unfortunately, as in the case of the victims of the D.C. area sniper, people are wounded or killed -- and they and their families suffer great financial setback, to boot -- by someone without the ability to make civil restitution. Lawsuits can result out of a genuine need for people to recover actual damages incurred through no fault of their own -- a prospect I'm sure no one objects to in principle, regardless of whether they agree as to the targets of the suits.
(continued in the next post)