Congress has voted in favor of a bill that prohibits civilliability actions from being brought or continued againstmanufacturers, distributors, dealers, or importers of firearms orammunition for damages resulting from the misuse of their productsby others. “Our laws should punish criminals who use guns to commitcrimes, not law-abiding manufacturers of lawful products,” saidPresident George W. Bush, in a statement before he signed thebill.

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Since 1998, more than 30 city, county, and state governmentshave filed lawsuits against the firearm industry to demandcompensation for the public costs associated with gun violence,such as police investigation, emergency personnel, public healthresources, courts, and prisons. The House voted 283-144 in favor ofthe bill, following its 65-31 approval by the Senate in July.

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Gun manufacturers are one of only two industries, the otherbeing the tobacco industry, that are exempt from federal health andsafety regulation, according to the Violence Policy Center. “Nowthe unregulated gun industry also will enjoy protection fromlegitimate lawsuits by individuals, such as victims of theWashington, D.C.-area snipers, injured by the reckless andnegligent actions of gun manufacturers and dealers,” said thecenter's legislative director, Kristen Rand. “This legislation willmake the unregulated gun industry the most pampered industry inAmerica.”

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Supporters of the legislation, led by the National RifleAssociation, argued that it was necessary to protect the industryfrom being forced into bankruptcy by huge jury awards. Under themeasure, as many as 20 pending lawsuits by local governmentsagainst the industry would be dismissed.

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