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Van Hollen, Democrats seek repeal of gun industry shield law

WASHINGTON — Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington joined a group of Democrats Wednesday to announce legislation to ensure the gun industry and gun sellers would be held accountable in violent crimes.

“This legislation is about getting rid of a green light for negligence, it’s about having the gun industry play by the same rules as everybody else,” Van Hollen, a Democrat who is running for the Senate, said in a press conference at the U.S. Capitol.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen has more than 3,400 Facebook fans.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington

Van Hollen, along with U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., seek to repeal a 10-year-old law which protects firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable when crimes have been committed with their firearms. The law doesn’t shield manufacturers for damages resulting from defective products.

This law is commonly referred to as the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA, and was enacted in October 2005 after a series of lawsuits against the gun industry by a number of cities and counties.

“Where we require and expect of every other industry, whether car makers or drug companies, to act with reasonable care for the safety of the public, (current law) means the gun industry can act with near total impunity,” Schiff said. The law gives the manufacturers, sellers and their trade groups unprecedented immunity from liability in the state and federal court system, he said.

Van Hollen and the senators have the support of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun safety group.

“Instead of justice, victims of gun violence are treated like second-class citizens just because their loved one happened to be killed by a gun instead of any other object. Think about how absurd that is.” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Center.

The National Rifle Association and a LWRC International, a Cambridge-based gun manufacturer, did not return calls requesting comment on the bill.

Last week, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md. and a group of fellow Democratic senators called for immediate funding of a gun violence research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“When you have an epidemic, you look for ways to treat and cure the disease,” Cardin said. “Gun violence is an epidemic affecting too many of our communities and inaction by Congress is not an option.”

Hector Adames, the uncle of a 13-year-old boy, Josh, who was shot and killed in Chicago in 2001, was also in attendance at the press conference.

Josh Adames’ friend pointed what he thought was an unloaded gun at Josh and fired.

“Because the gun manufacturer hadn’t installed an inexpensive and effective safety mechanism, the boy had no way of knowing the gun still had a bullet in the chamber,” Hector Adames said.

Adames’ family sued the gun manufacturer, but their case was dismissed on appeal.

“For too long Congress has shielded the gun industry… for too long Congress has enabled Congress to put profits ahead of people,” Hector Adames said.