House-Passed Class Action
Bill (S.5) Protects Gun Industry, Leaves Gun Consumers And Victims of
Gun Violence in Legal Limbo
Bill is Priority
for National Rifle Association, Legislation to Protect Gun Industry from
Other Types of Civil Suits Will Soon Follow
Violence Policy Center (VPC), a national gun violence prevention organization,
today harshly criticized passage by the U.S. House of Representatives
of S. 5, legislation that will undermine the rights of gun consumers and
victims of gun violence in class action lawsuits. The VPC and state-based
gun violence prevention activists join a broad coalition of consumer,
civil rights, labor, and other organizations opposed to S. 5.
are exempt from federal safety regulation, class action litigation is
often the only practical remedy for gun consumers seeking compensation
for defective firearms," states Kristen Rand, VPC legislative director.
The bill will force
most class action lawsuits into federal court, placing victims of firearms
violence as well as consumers who buy defective guns at a stark legal
disadvantage. Federal courts are hesitant to certify nationwide classes
of plaintiffs, and are also reluctant to apply some emerging legal theories
such as negligent marketing and public nuisance to gunmakers.
The bill is a priority
for the National Rifle Association, notwithstanding the negative impact
it will have on gun owners who purchase defective guns. NRA board member
Grover Norquist was quoted recently in the Washington Post touting the
bill's provisions that would protect gun manufacturers, stating that they
"will strengthen the Second Amendment community, especially the NRA."
Moreover, the February issue of the NRA's America's 1st Freedom
magazine warns that "class action lawsuits could become the weapon of
choice for the triumvirate of predatory trial lawyers, leftist gun-ban
groups and anti-gun municipalities...."
The NRA supports class
action `reform' despite the fact that gun owners are commonly plaintiffs
in class action suits against the gun industry. Examples include a class
action against Remington Arms over shotguns with barrels that were prone
to explode and a nationwide class of gun owners who sued Glock alleging
that their pistols were prone to jamming and unintentional firing.
"This class action
legislation is the first volley in an all-out assault on the rights of
gun consumers and others harmed by the negligence of the gun industry,"
Legislation to protect
the gun industry from certain other types of civil liability has been
introduced in Congress. Similar legislation passed the House last Congress,
but was defeated in the Senate after several gun violence prevention measures
were added as amendments.
The Violence Policy Center is a
national non-profit educational foundation that conducts research on violence
in America and works to develop violence-reduction policies and proposals.
The Center examines the role of firearms in America, conducts research
on firearms violence, and explores new ways to decrease firearm-related
death and injury.