Senate likely to pass law shielding gun manufacturers

Measure protects against lawsuits over weapons

July 27, 2005|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - In a sign of the changing political calculus of gun control, the Senate appears poised to pass a top priority of the National Rifle Association this week, legislation that would shield the gun industry from lawsuits arising from the misuse of their weapons.

Gun manufacturers have pressed for years for such a law, arguing that it is needed to protect them from lawsuits filed by municipalities or individuals that the industry says could bankrupt it. Dozens of such lawsuits are pending.

Debate began yesterday on the bill after a test vote indicated it had strong support. Twelve Democrats, including Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, joined the Republican majority in the 66-32 vote, and the bill's proponents predicted it could pass before the Senate adjourns later this week.

The House passed a similar measure last year and is expected to pass this bill, if the Senate adopts it.

The White House strongly supported the measure in a statement issued yesterday, saying it would "safeguard our national security by preventing frivolous lawsuits against an industry that plays an important role in fulfilling our military's procurement needs."

The bill's improved chances of passage demonstrated "the power of the gun lobby, pure and simple," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, who opposes the measure. "The gun lobby is the most effective lobby in Washington - they are very able to go after people in small states - you will find most of the votes on this from senators from small states."

The NRA, which has spent millions of dollars over the years to promote the candidacies of opponents of gun control and millions to defeat gun-control advocates, has pushed hard for a shield law.

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