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Lawmaker Plans Bill To Lift Immunity For Gun Manufacturers And Dealers

Posted: January 14, 2013

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"Good gun companies don't need special protection from the law," says Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. The National Rifle Association, though, calls the law that gives companies immunity from most negligence and product liability lawsuits "vitally important" to the gun industry.

Handgun barrels on the assembly line of Hi-Point Firearms in Mansfield, Ohio.

Handgun barrels on the assembly line of Hi-Point Firearms in Mansfield, Ohio. Gus Chan

Add this to the list of proposals to overhaul the gun industry: Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., says he will introduce legislation this week to roll back legal immunity for gun manufacturers and dealers.

Schiff tells NPR there's no need for the 2005 law called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act to remain on the books. That law gave gun makers, gun dealers and trade groups immunity from most negligence and product liability lawsuits. "Good gun companies don't need special protection from the law," Schiff says, "Bad companies don't deserve it."

Schiff says his proposal would allow lawsuits to move through federal and state courts if plaintiffs could show that gun dealers or makers were negligent, for example, by failing to protect their stores of weapons and failing to keep customers who have felony convictions from getting their hands on guns. Schiff is working with the Brady Center, an organization that has pushed for greater accountability for the gun industry, on his legislation. Schiff and the Brady Center say courts have interpreted the 2005 law too broadly and have dismissed lawsuits by victims and their relatives.

"When someone makes a dangerous product or acts negligently, they ought to be held liable otherwise it encourages irresponsibility," Schiff says.

Any such move is expected to be hotly contested by the National Rifle Association, which has called the 2005 PLCAA law "vitally important" to end efforts by gun control groups to "bankrupt the American firearms industry through reckless lawsuits."

Related:

-- "Lack Of Up-To-Date Research Complicates Gun Debate."

-- "Biden Seeks To Rally All Sides Of Gun Debate."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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