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Senate legislates against suing weapon makers



Published: Sat, July 30, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The NRA victory demonstrates its political clout with the Senate.

LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- The Senate easily passed legislation Friday long desired by the National Rifle Association that would block most civil lawsuits against gun makers and dealers whose weapons are used to commit crimes. Despite strong opposition from gun control advocates, 14 Democrats -- most from rural or heavily Republican states -- joined all but two Republicans in the 65-31 vote.

The bi-partisan vote underscored the changing politics of gun control, an issue Democrats championed in the 1980s and early 1990s, but have since backed away from as politically damaging. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada was among those voting for passage.

Stocks for some gun makers rose Friday as it became clear supporters of the legislation would defeat amendments by gun control advocates to allow lawsuits on behalf of children and law enforcement officers harmed by firearms. Handgun maker Smith & amp; Wesson's shares rose by 25 percent, while those of Strum, Ruger & amp; Co, which makes a variety of firearms, were up by 11 percent.

Predatory lawsuits

Proponents said the bill was carefully written to protect law-abiding manufacturers and dealers. Some advocates linked the legislation to national security, saying lawsuits brought my municipalities and individuals threatened to bankrupt the firearms industry at a time when the nation is fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"What we have crafted is a very narrow kind of exemption from predatory lawsuits," said Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, the bill's author. "It is intended to stop these kinds of abusive lawsuits."

But opponents said gun makers do not face a liability lawsuit crisis, and decried the legislation as offering unprecedented protection to a single industry. The bill also requires pending lawsuits to be dismissed.

"It's a blatant special interest bill to protect gun makers and dealers, even if they make firearms recklessly available to criminals and terrorists," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass. He called it a demonstration of the "raw, special interest power" of the gun lobby.




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