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SUNDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Suits against gun industry a cry for federal intervention

The gun lobby won a major victory in Congress last week when the House approved legislation to give the industry sweeping protection from liability suits.

President Bush argued for the bill in simplistic terms: You prosecute the criminals who use the guns and not the companies that make them.

That's surely reasonable, but it does nothing to address the issue of the nation being awash in guns and how easy it is to get them.

It really doesn't make sense to punish gun makers when a person uses the company's product illegally. But the legislation President Bush is certain to sign would protect firearms manufacturers, dealers and importers from liability suits brought on behalf of victims of gun crimes.

That goes too far.

Officials in 11 major cities have suits pending against the industry, which if taken before aggressive juries might be prohibitively costly. The pro-gun lobby says the suits threatened to drive companies out of business.

Congress should have recognized the suits as desperate pleas for help from embattled local officials. But it was too busy giving this powerful lobby a major victory that ignores what happens when guns enter the marketplace.

Guns in the right hands are fine. Guns in the wrong hands, and in young hands, are not.

"People kill, guns don't," is the National Rifle Association's favorite slogan, which is true. But the issue goes much deeper.

Now that the firearms industry has the threat of lawsuits whisked away, surely it can be part of a solution that denies ownership or possession of guns to the wrong people.

Surely, Congress cares as much about crime victims as it does about keeping the gun industry healthy and taking its campaign contributions.

The nation must find a solution that doesn't ignore the Second Amendment's guarantee of the right to keep and bear arms.

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