For Release: Wednesday, September 25, 2002
WASHINGTON, DC – The Violence Policy Center (VPC) strongly opposes H.R. 2037, a bill designed to shield the firearms industry from accountability for their products. The bill is scheduled for markup in the House Energy and Commerce Committee today.
The gun industry produces the only consumer product exempt from federal safety oversight aside from tobacco. H.R. 2037 would provide gun manufacturers, sellers, and even their trade associations with a special exemption from civil lawsuits. This would be in addition to their exemption from safety regulation.
“It defies logic to provide the makers and sellers of a product designed to kill with what amounts to blanket immunity from responsibility for their products,” stated Violence Policy Center Legislative Director Kristen Rand. Rand testified in April before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in opposition to the bill.
H.R. 2037 would have a severe adverse impact on citizen lawsuits against the gun industry. The bill would preclude a whole range of cases where firearms containing serious design or manufacturing defects cause death or injury to gun owners or innocent bystanders. The best example of this type of case is Sturm, Ruger & Company’s Old Model single-action revolver. More than 600 people, including children, have been killed or injured by unintentional discharges caused by the defective design of the Old Model. In 1979, the Supreme Court of Alaska in Sturm, Ruger & Co. v. Day, upheld a punitive damage award against Sturm, Ruger in a case involving the unintentional discharge of an Old Model. The court’s opinion stated that the “manufacturer knew that its product was defectively designed and that injuries and deaths had resulted from the design defect, but continued to market the product in reckless disregard of the public’s safety….” Hundreds of thousands of these guns are still in the hands of consumers.
“Currently, citizen lawsuits are the only mechanism available to hold the gun industry accountable for defective products. It simply makes no sense to provide the firearms industry with special protection from liability when it already enjoys an exemption from federal health and safety regulation,” Rand concluded.