2005-10-27 / This Week's Attitude

NRA Gets A Treat, Public Is Tricked This Halloween

This Week
By Neil S. Friedman

Without donning costumes or masks, or without resorting to tricks, Congress managed to give one of its favorite allies, as well as gun enthusiasts, a special treat just in time for Halloween.

Some have wanted it to happen for years, while others dreaded it. But, because of the deep-pocketed, influential National Rifle Association, it was inevitable.

The Republican-dominated House of Representatives made it obvious that it cares more for the rights of gun manufacturers — and campaign donors — than it does for the safety and well being of American citizens. Last week, the House voted overwhelmingly to approved legislation that exclusively grants extensive immunity to gun manufacturers, gun dealers and gun distributors, which will exempt them from being sued by victims of crime, therefore creating one standard of negligence for the gun industry that does not apply to any other business or individual.

Three months ago the Senate passed the bill in another lopsided vote, 65-31, so the bill now only requires President Bush’s signature, which is as certain as the sun coming up tomorrow morning, to become law.

What makes this legislation especially unique is that this kind of blanket protection has never before been granted to any other industry by the nation’s legislators. This is an outrage that deserved to be protested by every safety-minded citizen as legislators obviously decided to place the interests of one industry and its supporters over the rights of gun crime victims, most of whom lack the means to effectively oppose a heavily-financed challenge.

Some supporters of the legislation argued that allowing victims to sue gun manufacturers could gradually financially devastate the gun industry’s estimable profits, which could result in them going out of business. While that may perhaps be a temporary blow to the economy and, unfortunately, leave thousands unemployed, it would certainly add to the life span of Americans.

Other factions believed the lawsuits were politically motivated and designed to undermine the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms.

In addition to this legislation, rivals deem it as just another move by conservatives limiting lawsuits and tort reform that is opposed by big business since the considerable claims against tobacco industry in the 1990s.

A leading gun control organization, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said it planned to challenge the “constitutionality of this special extravaganza in every court where the rights of gun violence victims are threatened. One advocate for gun control said this bill will make “the unregulated gun industry the most pampered industry in America.”

Several Congressional Democrats said the bill empowers “bad apple” gun dealers and reckless “shuts the courthouse door” on gun-related crime victims.

Look, I’ve nothing against gun manufacturers, but as long as they’re going to produce weapons of human destruction, they should be held accountable for putting profits ahead of safety concerns. After all, individuals who host parties where alcohol is served and places that serve liquor can be held accountable when guests or customers leave and end up in motor vehicle accidents.

This sweeping novel protection is another victory for the NRA and comes one year after its many allies in Congress virtually stood by as it allowed a 10-year ban on assault weapons elapse. It also gives the NRA enhanced confidence to maintain their efforts to prevent any chance of gun control legislation being passed for years to come.

For decades, the Second Amendment has been the source of debate when it comes to weapons legislation in America. Accordingly, for the umpteenth time, “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” no matter how one chooses to interpret those words, it does not grant every individual American the right to own a gun.

The unprecedented legislation only further complicates matters as the federal government will now be allowed to deny people injured by gun violence of their rights under state laws without any alternative.

More than six years after the Columbine High School shootings and similar incidents that preceded and followed, the collective conscience of America seems to remain indifferent to the majority’s obsession with guns.

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