One of the biggest frustrations for the families of gun violence victims and the population of reasonable folks at large is the legal immunity that the gun industry enjoys, and some Congressional Democrats have had enough of it – and are ready to do something about it. The Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act would strip away those protections, leaving gun manufacturers liable for the pain and suffering that their products inflict on the jaw-dropping 297 Americans that are shot every day.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) told the Hill that “Congress passed a unique form of immunity for only one industry — and that is the gun industry. If you’re a carmaker and your airbags kill someone, you’re potentially liable. If you’re a pharmaceutical company and sell faulty drugs, you can be held liable. If you’re a liquor store and sell alcohol to minors, you can be held liable. Why should it be any different for gun manufacturers?”
Good question. In 2005, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act was passed, which was intended to force gun makers to be more careful about who they sold to. But in reality, it just ended up protecting them from lawsuits – the most heinous example of which was the lawsuit filed by families of the Aurora, Colorado, shooting victims against the Lucky Gunner arms dealership – which was then thrown out by a judge, and the families were forced to pay $203,000 in legal fees to the company that sold the bullets that killed their children.
Rep Schiff and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) feel that enough is enough. The bill is aimed at thwarting straw purchasers, which act as intermediaries between gun stores and the black market. Unfortunately, there is not much hope that such a bill will pass either house of Congress, given the level to which the majority Republican Party is financially beholden to the National Rifle Association and the gun lobby. It is heartbreaking to see such common-sense legislation – and a change that could produce some very tangible effects on the way that gun dealers in our nation do business – inevitably wither on the vine once again, but it is an important symbolic gesture that sends hope to the rest of America that someone, somewhere, is trying to do something about the epidemic of gun violence that kills nearly 90 Americans a day.