Firearms & Health: Gun Industry not Immune

March 2nd was a landmark date for gun control advocates. The Senate voted 90-8 to reject S. 1805, which would have provided legal immunity to gun manufacturers and dealers from most lawsuits filed against the industry. Despite immunity as a top legislative priority, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the sponsor of the bill, Senator Larry Craig (R-ID), abruptly withdrew support for S.1805 after several amendments were approved by only hours before the final vote. Senators triumphantly demonstrated, despite the political power of the NRA, the growing support for gun control legislation by voting favorably for amendments addressing the public health epidemic of gun death and injury.

Two gun violence prevention amendments, the renewal of the assault weapons ban and the closing of the gun show loophole, gained Senate support by votes of 52-47 and 53-46, respectively. These measures proved to be a poison pill. After a week on the Senate floor trying to pass S. 1805, Senator Craig then urged his colleagues to vote against it, dooming S. 1805.

Although the bill’s failure also prohibits violence prevention amendments from passing, the Senate clearly demonstrated support for legislation that ensures extension of the assault weapons ban and requiring background checks at gun shows. Moreover, this is the first gun legislation since the 1999 Columbine High School shootings.

With the November election in sight as well as the expiration of the assault weapons ban nearing, gun control will be a prominent issue in the 2004 presidential campaign. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts suspended his campaigning on Super Tuesday in order to return to Washington to vote in favor of the amendment renewing the assault weapons ban.

Despite President Bush’s promise to renew the assault weapons ban, the White House recently stated that it did not want any amendments to the immunity bill. Without President Bush urging congressional action, the assault weapons ban will expire in September 2004.

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