GUN MANUFACTURERS Senate set to pass liability shield

The House has previously passed gun liability legislation, and is expected to do so again.
WASHINGTON -- The Senate is poised to give the National Rifle Association a big victory by granting gun manufacturers and dealers immunity from lawsuits arising from criminals' use of their weapons.
The legislation has long been a top priority of the NRA and other gun-rights groups, but has never passed the Senate. The time now seems ripe, however, since the 2004 elections produced a Republican majority of 55 seats, which along with some Democrats in support means the bill has 61 co-sponsors in the 100-member body.
That number of co-sponsors would allow proponents to cut off a potential filibuster by opponents.
The House has passed gun liability legislation in previous Congresses and is expected to do so again if the Senate acts.
A vote on the measure, which has the strong support of President Bush, may not come until today or Saturday because Senate rules call for up to 30 hours of debate and opponents plan to offer a host of amendments, if they are ruled in order. Those include a ban on .50-caliber sniper rifles, a crackdown on sales of weapons at gun shows and perhaps a renewal of the assault weapons ban that expired after 10 years in September 2004.
Similar amendments passed the last time the Senate considered the measure in March 2004, leading the NRA to take the highly unusual step of pulling its own bill. But this time the Senate makeup is sharply different.
Proponents say the measure, which would dismiss suits already filed, is needed to protect legal gun and ammunition makers and importers, dealers and gun trade associations from what they call frivolous lawsuits being filed by cities and individuals trying to collect damages because of harm and costs suffered in shootings.

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