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9/22/2017 12:11:25 AM
Posted: 9/28/2002 1:05:06 PM EDT
http://www.sacbee.com/state_wire/story/4541079p-5560571c.html Gov. Davis signs laws removing protections for gun industry BY ANGELA WATERCUTTER Associated Press Writer Published 5:05 p.m. PDT Wednesday, September 25, 2002 SAN FRANCISCO - Gov. Gray Davis cleared the way Wednesday for people to sue gun manufacturers if they believe the company has been negligent in its advertising or production of firearms. The package of bills Davis signed removes the shield granted to gun makers regarding negligence lawsuits. Previously, gun manufacturers could not be sued if their products were used in the commission of a crime. The legislation, the first to repeal the industry's immunity, was spawned by last year's state Supreme Court ruling that a state civil code statute protected the gun industry from certain lawsuits. "No industry should be allowed to hide from its own harmful conduct," Davis said in a telephone press conference. "And except for gun manufacturers, no industry is. Current laws shield a gun manufacturer from its own negligence. These new laws strip away that shield." Davis, who voted against the legal shield for gun companies when he was in the state Assembly in 1983, also voiced opposition to a bill currently before Congress that would forbid imposing commerce restrictions on gun manufacturers and distributors following harm caused through unlawful use of their products The measure would ultimately overturn California's new laws. "This bill is bad policy, it's an infringement upon state's rights," Davis said. California's new laws have already gained the praise of gun control advocates. "These bills were our top priority this year, we're thrilled that the governor has stuck by his position on this," said Eric Gorovitz, Western policy director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, a national grassroots organization. Gorovitz said he hopes the measure will make the gun industry more responsible because of the threat of lawsuits. He also hopes the legislation in California will lead to greater accountability in gun manufacturing across the country. "They won't design them differently for California, they'll design them better for everybody," Gorovitz said. Critics of the bills, however, argue that they could open the door to frivolous lawsuits. And, Chuck Michel, a spokesman for the California Rifle and Pistol Association, Inc., says the legislation is an attempt by gun-ban advocates to swamp gun manufacturers with lawsuits to bankrupt them. "They will use this to file multiple lawsuits based on their mistaken belief that firearms have no social utility," Michel said. "They want a legitimate industry to pay for the inability of law enforcement and local authorities to control violent crimes." Sen. Don Perata, D-Oakland, who put the measure before the Assembly, said that he doesn't think the law will lead to a flood of lawsuits. California's Senate and Assembly passed the measures last month. The new law removes a lawsuit shield enacted in 1983 to protect manufacturers of cheaply made handguns known as Saturday Night Specials. The shield was cited by the state Supreme Court last year when it ruled that a gun company couldn't be sued by survivors of a 1993 rampage for damages done when criminals use their products illegally. In 1993, Gian Luigi Ferri entered a San Francisco skyscraper and opened fire in a law office with two TEC-DC9s and a revolver, killing eight people and wounding six before killing himself. Survivors claimed Navegar Inc., the maker of the gun used in the shooting, was liable for damages because it marketed the TEC-DC9, the semiautomatic weapons later used at the Columbine High slayings, to appeal to criminals. Survivors also claimed that Navegar should have foreseen it would be used in a massacre. The ruling was considered a victory for Florida-based Navegar. But when the company's lawyer, Ernest Getto, tried to notify the company of the ruling he could not contact them. Navegar, and sister corporation Armak, had voluntarily dissolved in April 2001.
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