I'm not in the habit of throwiing bouquets to network television news, but Thursday night's edition of ABC's Nightline deserves a large one. The August 18 Nightline broadcast was devoted entirely to a report from John Cochran about how the National Rifle Association -- the puissant gun lobby -- pushed through the Senate a heinous bill called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which gives full immunity to gun manufacturers and gun sellers against lawsuits from victims of crimes in which guns were used. Nightline made a large point about how the media went to sleep when this bill sneaked through the Senate on July 29 -- and, indeed, a Google search reveals almost no print coverage of the passage of this NRA-sponsored legislation. I follow Washington politics closely, but this one whizzed right by me, so little did the news media cover this NRA coup until last night's Nightline broadcast.
This new law not only ends any legal liability in the future on the part of the gun industry for crimes committed with the guns it makes and sells, it also puts an end to a host of lawsuits currently makiing their way through the courts which seek to hold the gun industry accountable for the deaths and maimings its products occasion. Don't just blame the Republicans -- the bill passed with 65 votes, thanks to the support of a raft of Democrats, like Wisconsin's Herb Kohl, North Dakota's Kent Conrad, and West Virginia's Jay Rockefeller and Bobby Byrd. But Teddy Kennedy, one of the few Democrats to denounce the bill, said, "The real effect of this bill would be to prevent victims of gun violence from pursuing even obviously valid claims in state or federal courts."
One thing Nightline didn't tell us was that this horrendous, gun-industry-sponsored law was supported by President Bush, who's raked in millions from the NRA in campaign cash as well using its membership as footsoldiers -- and who issued a statement on the eve of the vote calling the lawsuits filed against the gun industry "frivolous." Well, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (named after President Reagan's Press Secretary Jim Brady, wounded and paralyzed in the shooting that wounded Reagan) -- which spearheaded opposition to the legislation -- put together a list of the kind of lawsuits Bush deemed "frivolous":
"Last year, the families of DC area sniper victims won a settlement of over $2 million from the Washington State gun dealer who could not account for the 'missing" assault rifle used by the snipers and who 'lost' over 200 other guns.
- "New Jersey police officers David Lemongello and Ken McGuire won a $1 million settlement against a West Virginia pawnshop that negligently sold 12 semiautomatic handguns for cash to a gun trafficking team, enabling a criminal to obtain the pistol used against them/
- "The family of Massachusetts slaying victim Danny Guzman, an innocent bystander shot on Christmas Eve 1999, is pursuing justice against a Massachusetts gun manufacturer that not only negligently hired criminals to work in its plant, but had such irresponsible security practices that it allowed them to walk out of the plant with guns that carried no serial numbers, one of which was used to shoot Guzman.
"And the parents of 14-year-old Anthony Oliver recently filed suit against a Philadelphia gun dealer that supplied a gun trafficker with the gun used to shoot Anthony, along with several other guns."
One of the big lies told by GOP Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Utah's Orin Hatch, and the other Republican sponsors of this law was that lawsuits holding the gun industry accountable for domestic crimes would threaten "national security" by bankrupting them, and denying the U.S. military and law enforcement domestically-produced weapons. But, as the San Francisco Chronicle -- one of the few papers to cover the passage of this bill -- discovered, "Until now, three foreign companies have, strangely enough, dominated sales of high-end firearms to U.S. law enforcement officers and the military: Glock of Austria, Beretta of Italy and Sigarms of Switzerland....Some of the manufacturing comes through U.S.-based subsidiaries."
The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act has yet to pass the House, which will take it up this fall, although -- since the Republicans have an arm-lock on the lower chamber and the GOP leadership is making this bill's passage a priority to insure the NRA's full-throated support for Republican Congressional candidates in November -- its passage is hardly in doubt,. But it's still worthwhiile to register your opposition to this dreadful bill, H.R. 800, and doing so is as easy as a couple of mouse clicks: the Stop the NRA website has an easy form for you to e-mail your Member of Congress with a message of opposition to the bill, which you can access by clicking here.
"HOW THE WAR ON TERROR DESTROYS OUR CIVIL LIBERTIES": That's the title of a sharp column in the new issue of The New York Observer by my old friend Nicholas von Hoffman (right). I've had some disagreements with Nick on a few questions, but he nails it with this acid commentary. These days Nick is also an occasional contributor to the Huffington Post. By the way, you should pick up Nick's latest book, entitled (with a nod to the great Ambrose Bierce) "A Devil's Dictionary of Business," just out from NationBooks -- it's a rollicking good read, and an edifying one. You can order it by clicking here.
Posted by Doug Ireland at 01:01 AM | Permalink