Brief

Bill to protect firearm makers and sellers from lawsuits passes Assembly

By: - February 24, 2022 5:30 am
A customer at ABQ Guns in Albuquerque. Recent mass shootings have reignited the debate over gun legislation, including red flag laws and expanded background checks. (Photo by Sergio Flores/Bloomberg, Getty Images)

A customer at ABQ Guns in Albuquerque. Recent mass shootings have reignited the debate over gun legislation, including red flag laws and expanded background checks. (Photo by Sergio Flores/Bloomberg, Getty Images)

A bill that would limit liability for firearms dealers, manufacturers and trade associations was passed by a 61-35 vote in the Assembly Wednesday. The bill, SB-570, which already passed the Senate, protects gun-related entities from lawsuits and liability for how their firearms are used. Democrats objected that it was bad policy as gun violence continues to be a prevalent problem across the country.

Rep. Deb Andraca (D-Whitefish Bay) highlighted that gun manufacturers are already protected through federal law. “And the gun industry already enjoys more protection from litigation than the manufacturers of cars or tobacco products,” said Andraca. “The largely unregulated gun industry produces and sells deadly weapons to civilian consumers with minimal oversight, and pretty much zero accountability. On the other hand, gun regulation has not kept up with technology. And the U.S. has rates of gun violence that no other high income country even comes close to. More than 100 Americans die every day from gun violence, with thousands more injured or traumatized.”

Andraca blasted the Legislature for rejecting efforts to pass gun regulations in past sessions, including gun safes, universal background checks on every gun sale, extreme risk protection orders, and other policies that “citizens deserve.” Rep. Robyn Vining (D-Wauwatosa) emphasized that while the National Rifle Association registered in favor of the bill, the Wisconsin Council of Churches registered against.

Rep. Gae Magnafici (R-Dresser), the Assembly author of the bill, said it is about protecting Second Amendment rights from “the left.” Magnafici named Attorney General Josh Kaul, Gov. Tony Evers, and President Joe Biden as advocates for gun regulations she says infringe on citizens’ Second Amendment rights, particularly when it comes to sales between private citizens. Lawsuits against firearms manufacturers are one way “the left is trying to restrict our rights,” said Magnafici. “They believe that they should be able to sue American manufacturers out of business if someone commits a crime with a firearm.”

She added, “when a crime is committed we blame the criminal, not the gun.”

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Isiah Holmes
Isiah Holmes

Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, the Progressive Magazine, Al Jazeera, and other outlets. He was also featured in the 2018 documentary The Chase Key, and was the recipient of the Sierra Club Great Waters Group 2021 Environmental Hero of the Year award. The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council also awarded Holmes its 2021-2022 Media Openness Award for using the open records laws for investigative journalism. Holmes was also a finalist in the 2021 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards alongside the rest of the Wisconsin Examiner's staff. The Silver, or second place, award for Best Online Coverage of News was awarded to Holmes and his colleague Henry Redman for an investigative series into how police responded to the civil unrest and protests in Kenosha during 2020. Holmes was also awarded the Press Club's Silver (second-place) award for Public Service Journalism for articles focusing on police surveillance in Wisconsin.

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