Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Rights of terrorists to bear arms

The Washington Post headline says it all: "Gift to the Gun Industry." The House Judiciary Committee last week approved "THE PROTECTION of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act," neither subtle in title or substance:
Its purpose is to blast out of court current and future lawsuits against firearms manufacturers and dealers for the carnage wrought with their products. This bill is no tort reform measure. Rather, it's a gimme for the gun industry, almost a blanket shield against even justified lawsuits.
WaPo has its own qualms about the motives behind some gun litigation (misguided qualms, but that's nothing new for WaPo), but even they can imagine suits with real merit:
What about a gun dealer who recklessly sells 100 handguns to an obvious straw buyer who then sells them to criminals who kill people? Should the courts not even entertain a negligence claim? What about a lawsuit against a manufacturer of firearms that are not useful for any legal purpose? The bill has certain exemptions from its liability protection, but they are so narrow as to be almost useless in ensuring that reasonable claims can proceed.
But here's the topper. When Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D.-MD) offered a clarifying amendment to exempt from protection the case where
"the seller knows that the name of the [gun buyer] appears" on the government's gang and terrorist watch list "and the person subsequently used the [gun] in the commission of a crime[,"] Judiciary Committee Republicans voted the amendment down, alternately suggesting that it was duplicative of language already in the bill and that -- as Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah) put it -- it would "create a vague standard that could be used again to destroy gun manufacturers with lawsuits that don't have clarity but cost a great deal of money."
I guess the rights of terrorists and gangsters to bear arms must be protected at all costs. All costs.