RSS FeedFacebookSearch
Gary Younge
Bill bans lawsuits against gun firms

Relatives of victims of the Washington sniper, who shot 10 people dead last autumn, are leading a campaign to stop the bill. Denise Johnson's husband, Conrad, was murdered in October. A bus driver, he was standing on the top step of his bus preparing for his morning route when he was shot in the back by the sniper.

Mrs Johnson has filed a lawsuit against the gun shop, Bull's eye Shooter Supply, which supplied a Bushmaster rifle to one of the two men charged in the sniper attacks as well as the gun's manufacturer. Seven other victims or families of victims are likely to join in the suit against the shop which is still selling rifles.

Yet the case may never come to court because of the bill, passed by the House of Representatives last week, which would give the gun industry immunity from almost all lawsuits. It would also make the gun industry the only sector to be protected by such legislation. The Senate is due to take up the bill after the Easter break. With 52 co-sponsors already only a Democratic filibuster can stop it.

"When I heard that Congress is seriously considering giving gun dealers special protection from suits like mine, I figured this had to be some kind of bad dream," Mrs Johnson told the New York Times. "I'm appalled that Congress can take away my rights as an American to have my day in court."

The gun industry is facing suits in almost 30 cities and counties around the country, including one put forward by the oldest civil rights organisation in the US, the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, which accuses it of negligently supplying criminals with guns in a way that has a disproportionate affect on African-Americans.

The gun industry claims it needs the legislation to "prevent frivolous, politically-motivated lawsuits" that could "bankrupt responsible companies by blaming them for the actions of criminals", according to the general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Lawrence Keane.

The second amendment to the American constitution defends the right of all citizens to bear arms. "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed," it says.

Supporters of the gun industry say that gun-control campaigners are trying to subvert the constitution by stealth, by using the courts to undermine their constitutional right to bear arms.

Gun-control campaigners say that with more than 11,000 Americans killed in gun-related incidents every year, they are trying to establish a more water-tight legal framework that will prevent guns getting into the wrong hands.

Mrs Johnson, who was not allowed to testify before the House of Representatives judiciary committee, said: "This is about making these companies do things responsibly."

Others are motivated by similar concerns. "I'm not looking to put the gun industry out of business," said David Lemongello, a police officer and the only person allowed to testify against the bill earlier this month.

Mr Lemongello is suing a pawnshop in West Virginia that sold a semiautomatic pistol which badly wounded him and a colleague when they staked out a petrol station that had been robbed. An investigation proved that the gun had been sold to a gun trafficker, James Gray, who was banned from buying a gun because he was a felon. Gray then sold the guns on the black market to the man who shot at Mr Lemongello in New Jersey.

"I believe in the right to bear arms. I own a gun. I was a police officer and a police firearms instructor. We are going after one bad dealer and one irresponsible manufacturer who didn't monitor what its dealers did," he said.

© Gary Younge. All Rights reserved, site built with tlc
No Place Like Home – A Black Briton’s Journey through the American South
book review
'The idea of retracing the route is a great one, urgent and necessary.'
 follow on twitter
RT @EthnicityUK: Gary Younge is interviewed by @sonikkalogan about his work on racism and gun violence in @the_hindu #DataPoint podcast. h…
RT @thefreedomi: 🚨 NEW: Saudi women’s rights activist & academic Salma al-Shehab was sentenced to 34 years in prison + 34 year travel ban f…
RT @LRB: #DawnFosterForever! On Thursday 15 September at the @LRBbookshop, @BizK1, @piercepenniless, Lynsey Hanley and @garyyounge will d…
RT @ShowunmiV: This is how we support Black women and girls https://t.co/8YmgV21zHo
RT @sonikkalogan: It's #DataPoint Pod Thursday! In this week's episode, I talk to @noraneus, @garyyounge and @Casey_J_Wooten about the U.S.…
RT @bgnoiseuk: Next month, @LRBbookshop will host an event to celebrate the life and work of Dawn Foster with @BizK1, @piercepenniless, Lyn…
Help me Twitter. The quote: ""You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming." is most commonly… https://t.co/Xs7JkiOEd5
RT @the_hindu: #DataPoint | This Thursday, @sonikkalogan takes a look at the #US gun violence epidemic, as mass shootings continue to grow…
City workers get double-digit wage rises while lowest-paid see 1% increase - “Them’s the breaks” https://t.co/XeVyG72iA5
RT @LRBbookshop: On 15 Sept we'll host an evening celebrating the life and work of Dawn Foster, with @BizK1, @piercepenniless, Lynsey Hanle…
© Gary Younge. All Rights reserved, site built with tlc