Email from Senator Durbin


Dear Mr. ???,

Thank you for contacting me about lawsuits against the gun industry.  I appreciate knowing your views on this important issue.

I am not against the possession of guns.  I believe Americans are entitled to own and use guns in a responsible fashion.  At the same time, I believe it is important to hold gun owners and manufacturers responsible when their conduct is negligent or clearly violates the law.

Courts across the country have ruled that lawsuits against gun manufacturers are not frivolous.  Among the courts reaching this conclusion are the Supreme Court of Ohio; the Courts of Appeals in Illinois, New Jersey, and New Mexico; and trial courts in West Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, and Massachusetts.

I am hopeful that gun manufacturers will reduce the likelihood of being sued by taking common-sense steps toward eliminating the threat of gun violence.

On November 20, 2003, a federal appeals court in California reinstated a wrongful death lawsuit against gun manufacturers and distributors whose weapons were used by a white supremacist who shot and killed a postal worker and wounded five people -- including three children at a Jewish day care center -- in a 1999 Los Angeles-area rampage.  In reinstating the case, the judge wrote that the gun company continues to supply weapons to distributors "who are responsible for the sales of guns that end up in the hands of criminals."

In 2004, the Senate rejected, by a vote of 90-8, the passage of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.  This legislation, which has been reintroduced this year, prohibits lawsuits, except in specified circumstances, against a manufacturer or seller of a firearm or ammunition, or a trade association, for damages resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a firearm or ammunition.

This legislation seeks to provide unprecedented immunity from civil lawsuits – not just for gun manufacturers and dealers, but also for the gun lobby.  It does not just dismiss cases that are "frivolous."  It clearly dismisses cases that have merit and have survived motions to dismiss.  I cannot support this legislation, which is clearly unfair to victims of gun-related crimes who can make a case that the gun manufacturer played a role in their injuries.

Thank you once again for sharing your views.


Richard J. Durbin

United States Senator



P.S. If you are ever visiting Washington, please feel free to join Senator Obama and me at our weekly constituent coffee.  When the Senate is in session, we provide coffee and donuts every Thursday at 8:30 a.m. as we hear what is on the minds of Illinoisans and respond to your questions. We would welcome your participation.  Please call my D.C. office for more details.