The gun industry, demonstrating its resurgent influence over Washington politics, is on the cusp of convincing President Bush and Congress to protect it from pending and future lawsuits.
Under pressure from the National Rifle Association, Bush and a majority of lawmakers are on record supporting significant new legal protections for companies that make and sell guns. The legislation would prevent victims of gun crimes from making civil claims against companies that manufactured, imported or sold the weapons.
Victims of the Washington area sniper, for instance, might be prohibited from suing the controversial gun dealer in Tacoma, Wash., who supplied the Bushmaster rifle used in some of last October’s shootings if the bill becomes law, according to legal experts.
Some gunmakers and distributors, facing numerous lawsuits nationally from victims and gun control groups and the possibility of losing hundreds of millions of dollars through jury verdicts and legal costs, worry they could be driven out of business if the cases persist.
In a bipartisan political retreat from gun control, more than two-thirds of House members recently voted for the gun bill; 52 senators have sponsored it, and, if it passes the Senate, Bush plans to sign it into law. Opponents are scrambling to persuade at least 41 senators to filibuster the bill, but odds are stacked against them.