For Release: Thursday, February 17, 2005
Bill is Priority for National Rifle Association, Legislation to Protect Gun Industry from Other Types of Civil Suits Will Soon Follow
WASHINGTON, D.C.–The Violence Policy Center (VPC), a national gun violence prevention organization, today harshly criticized passage by the U.S. House of Representatives of S. 5, legislation that will undermine the rights of gun consumers and victims of gun violence in class action lawsuits. The VPC and state-based gun violence prevention activists join a broad coalition of consumer, civil rights, labor, and other organizations opposed to S. 5.
“Because firearms are exempt from federal safety regulation, class action litigation is often the only practical remedy for gun consumers seeking compensation for defective firearms,” states Kristen Rand, VPC legislative director.
The bill will force most class action lawsuits into federal court, placing victims of firearms violence as well as consumers who buy defective guns at a stark legal disadvantage. Federal courts are hesitant to certify nationwide classes of plaintiffs, and are also reluctant to apply some emerging legal theories such as negligent marketing and public nuisance to gunmakers.
The bill is a priority for the National Rifle Association, notwithstanding the negative impact it will have on gun owners who purchase defective guns. NRA board member Grover Norquist was quoted recently in the Washington Post touting the bill’s provisions that would protect gun manufacturers, stating that they “will strengthen the Second Amendment community, especially the NRA.” Moreover, the February issue of the NRA’s America’s 1st Freedom magazine warns that “class action lawsuits could become the weapon of choice for the triumvirate of predatory trial lawyers, leftist gun-ban groups and anti-gun municipalities….”
The NRA supports class action `reform’ despite the fact that gun owners are commonly plaintiffs in class action suits against the gun industry. Examples include a class action against Remington Arms over shotguns with barrels that were prone to explode and a nationwide class of gun owners who sued Glock alleging that their pistols were prone to jamming and unintentional firing.
“This class action legislation is the first volley in an all-out assault on the rights of gun consumers and others harmed by the negligence of the gun industry,” adds Rand
Legislation to protect the gun industry from certain other types of civil liability has been introduced in Congress. Similar legislation passed the House last Congress, but was defeated in the Senate after several gun violence prevention measures were added as amendments.