The House has passed a bill that protects gun manufacturers from lawsuits that have left the industry reeling financially, though not a single court has yet to hold a manufacturer liable for criminal misuse of its products.

Lawmakers yesterday easily passed the measure 285-140, with most Republicans backing it. Democrats were split, Reuters reported.

“We shouldn’t use the judicial process to bankrupt an industry that makes a legal product,” said Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. He went on to accuse gun-control groups of using the court system push a “back door” political agenda.

Gun-control groups have said they wanted to impose financial hardships on gun makers by taking them to court and forcing them to spend tens of thousands of dollars defending their products.

So far, one company – Navegar Inc. – has declared bankruptcy, though lawsuits brought against the company in California failed to find it negligent in a 1993 San Francisco multiple homicide.

The Bush administration said it strongly supports the bill, adding it would “prevent abuse of the legal system and help curb the growing problem of frivolous lawsuits.” The bill now moves on to the Senate, where nearly half of senators have signed on to cosponsor it.

Gun-control groups say they oppose the bill because it would allow shoddy gun manufacturers off the hook financially and leave victims and their families without redress in the courts.

In a series of lawsuits filed by a number of cities and municipalities near the end of the Clinton administration, gun-control supporters say gun makers should be held liable for criminal misuse of their products and should be made to compensate cities financially for funds spent on treating victims of armed criminal action.

Courts so far haven’t bought that argument, but groups such as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence have persisted. Officials of the group say they will unveil internal industry documents showing that some gun makers and dealers knowingly supply guns to criminals.

If the bill clears the Senate and is signed by President Bush, it will negate some 300 pending state and federal lawsuits, and prevent such suits in the future.

As WND reported, Gun Owners of America, a Virginia-based gun-rights group, warned that the lawsuits would ultimately harm national security if they successfully shut down a number of key gun manufacturers.

Erich Pratt, spokesman for GOA, said groups like the Brady Campaign and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People – which has a gun industry suit pending in New York – are “helping to cripple the very industry that supplies our men with their weapons.”

In a statement, GOA said, “The National Shooting Sports Foundation has documented the patriotic service that many of the gun makers, who are named in the NAACP suit, have offered to our country.”

Included on that list are Colt, one of the makers of the U.S. military’s M-16 series of rifles; Smith & Wesson, one of the largest producers of firearms for the military and law enforcement; Browning, credited with giving the U.S. and its allies firearms superiority throughout the two world wars, as well as the Korean War; Sturm, Ruger & Company, which donated rifles to the New York City Police Department in the days following Sept. 11, 2001, for the protection of the people of the city; Glock, also a major supplier of firearms to law enforcement and military personnel; and Sig Arms, which provides the official sidearm for the U.S. Navy SEALS.

Related story:

Gun group denounces industry suits

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.