A federal bill to give firearms manufacturers immunity from lawsuits is on a fast track again, but a Louisiana man whose wife is believed to be the first victim of snipers John Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo is trying to stop it, reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Sponsors of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act said the goal is to protect law-abiding gun dealers and manufacturers from litigation blaming them for criminal misuse of their products.
Opponents, including James Ballenger of Baton Rouge, call the legislation a lucrative gift to the gun industry. Hong Im Ballenger, 45, was shot in the head Sept. 23, 2002, with a bullet that prosecutors say came from the same gun used in 13 sniper attacks that killed 10 people and terrorized the Washington area one month later. The gun bill, which almost passed last year, is expected to move quickly through the House and Senate. Last year, the bill died when the Senate added an extension of the ban on assault weapons and two other provisions opposed by gun-control opponents. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, said the gun industry won’t survive if it is subject to what he called politically motivated lawsuits. Thirty-four states, including Louisiana, have passed some form of gun immunity legislation.