A California Democrat wants to hold the gun industry to the same standards as other industries, making them responsible and liable “for bad practices and negligence.” Representative Adam Schiff, D-Calif., has introduced the Straw Purchaser Penalty Enhancement Act, in an effort to punish straw pushers who circumvent the background checks in place to keep criminals from buying guns and are a key part of the process of trafficking guns. But Schiff is also proposing the Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act, which would break the immunity shield of the gun industry in cases of negligence and products liability cases. Schiff, a member of the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force formed in the immediate aftermath of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, wrote that since 2005 the gun industry has enjoyed a Congress-approved immunity from being held accountable for its negligent actions.
“In 2005, when Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, granting the gun industry immunity in state and federal court from civil liability in most negligence and products liability actions, the National Rifle Assn. called passage ‘vitally important’ and fought hard for it,” Schiff explained in his LA Times op-ed. Despite some exceptions, the 2005 Act is interpreted to preclude most negligence lawsuits, thus getting the gun industry off the legal hook in situations where a gun, purchased and then distributed by a straw pusher, was used in a crime. In an interview with Tamron Hall on Tuesday, Schiff said that this new bill would repeal the immunity so long enjoyed by the gun industry.
Veronique Pozner is one of the mothers who lost a child in the Newtown shootings. She feels these steps against gun trafficking are an integral piece to the comprehensive gun control effort. “The problem is multi-faceted,” Pozner told Hall, “but I agree that the immunity issue is definitely of concern because it’s come to signify impunity…It’s evolved to impunity at the peril of public safety.”
It’s still unclear whether Schiff’s bills will pass. The same is true for Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Assault Weapons Ban, which is facing negative blow back from not just the NRA but some within the Democratic Party as well. With so many parts of gun control on the table–Schiff mentioned not only stripping the gun industry of its legal immunity, but an assault weapons ban, universal background checks, and a ban of extended ammunition clips–it’s hard to gauge if Congress should be looking at one piece at a time or bundling the many options together.
But Mrs. Pozner believes that change will come–even if it’s slow and requires patience. “I think we’ve reached critical mass. I’m hoping that this incident in Sandy Hook, this horrible tragedy, is going to be the tipping point. And it’s time to close the loopholes.”