Fla. House Sends Bill Banning Lawsuits Against Gunmakers to Gov. Bush

Local governments would not be able to sue gunmakers, as Miami-Dade County tried to do, under a bill the Legislature passed Wednesday and sent to Gov. Jeb Bush.

The House passed the bill (SB 412) banning lawsuits by cities, counties or the state against gunmakers to try to hold them responsible for gun violence, 78-35.

The Senate had earlier passed the measure 27-12, so it now goes to the governor for his signature or veto.

Opponents of the measure said it wasn't needed, because the courts have rejected several such lawsuits.

"The courts, the juries they get to make decisions on these cases all the time," said Rep. Ken Gottlieb, D-Miramar.

He said the measure was an overreaction to the Miami-Dade case, which has been rejected by two courts but is on appeal.

"For one lawsuit, I don't think it's appropriate that we should be filing legislation," Gottlieb said. "It's already being taken care of."

But Marion Hammer, a Tallahassee lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, said the bill was important because of the cost of lawsuits.

"The need is to stop the financial bleeding that cities are inflicting on manufacturers of lawful products," Hammer said.

In 1999, a judge threw out Miami-Dade's lawsuit, saying the county could not sue because it had not suffered any direct injuries from guns.

The lawsuit alleged manufacturers negligently design their guns, failing to employ safety devices that could alert users to a round in the chamber or prevent firing by children.

Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas said he was not surprised by the legislation.

"This is typical of the gun industry to stop local communities from filing actions against them," he said. "It seems the NRA still has control over the legislature."

Bush has not said whether he will sign the bill, said spokeswoman Elizabeth Hirst.

Earlier this month, Louisiana's Supreme Court threw out a lawsuit by New Orleans aimed at forcing gun manufacturers to pay the costs of gun violence.

Democratic opponents of the bill had tried to put provisions in it to encourage the use of gun trigger locks and background checks on gun buyers, but both of them failed earlier in the week.

Those measures would have given the protection from lawsuits only to gunmakers that provide trigger locks and to companies that, if they sell to gunshow dealers, sell only to shows where background checks are conducted.