Many law enforcement officials are working with gun control advocates to defeat a Senate bill that would grant gun makers and dealers immunity from lawsuits, reports the New York Times. The bill, backed by the National Rifle Association, is scheduled for a Senate vote in early March but could come up sooner. As many as 59 senators have signed on as sponsors, one vote shy of the number needed to defeat an attempt at a filibuster. A similar bill passed the House last fall.
Los Angeles Chief William Bratton held a news conference last week to criticize the bill. Bratton and 80 other police officials signed a letter to the Senate expressing their opposition. A full-page ad with a photo of Bratton and paid for by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence appeared in The Washington Post. The ad is expected to appear in other major newspapers and on television. Bratton said he would go to Washington to lobby senators. The campaign is supported by the Major Cities Chiefs Association, which represents chiefs in the 50 largest cities. “This is not about doing away with guns, but about trying to ensure the safety of police officers and the American public,” Bratton
An NRA spokesman, Andrew Arulanandam, said most rank-and-file police officers supported the bill, and that Bratton’s criticism as ill informed.
“My response is, Chief Bratton ought to hire better lawyers,” Arulanandam said. He said the bill “would not grant blanket immunity to every dealer and manufacturer,” because when a dealer or gun maker violated a state or federal law, a person could still sue. The Times says that Bratton and lawyers familiar with the bill challenged the NRA interpretation, saying it does give immunity to the gun industry.
The NRA wants the bill to thwart lawsuits against the gun industry brought by cities and counties. Of the 23 original lawsuits, 14 have been dismissed by courts, but 9 are pending, including suits in Cleveland; Chicago; Gary, Ind.; St. Louis; New York; Los Angeles; and San Francisco.