Modeled after a federal law — the Protection of ?Lawful Commerce in Arms Act — Indiana Senate Bill 98 would provide a number of legal protections for gun manufacturers, namely protecting them from lawsuits when their products are used in violent crimes.
The bill also applies retroactively to any lawsuits that have been filed in the past and are still pending.
Many are alleging that SB 98 is directly targeting one lawsuit in particular, one filed by Gary city officials in 1999 to recover damages caused by a number of gun manufacturers’ weapons. One of the bill’s authors, Sen. James Tomes, R-Wadesville, claims the bill is more about allowing the expansion of the gun industry in Indiana, as lawsuits like the one in Gary are deterring gun manufacturers that are looking to grow their businesses.
“It’s been laying here like a beached whale, and it’s starting to stink,” Tomes said during his testimony in the committee hearing in February. “Anytime this industry is moving from one state to another, they will not consider Indiana at all because of that lawsuit. We’re talking about a jobs bill here.”
Two years after the Gary lawsuit was filed, Indiana lawmakers wrote legislation effectively prohibiting that kind of lawsuit, but in 2006, an Indiana judge ruled that the federal law was ?unconstitutional.
Then, a year later, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled the federal law didn’t apply to the pending lawsuit in Gary. In 2009, following an appeal to that decision, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled the lawsuit in Gary could proceed to trial. The lawsuit is still pending.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson spoke at a committee hearing Tuesday ?saying the bill put the rights of the gun industry ahead of those of Hoosiers.
“It is directed against the manufacturers and dealers who have essentially turned a blind eye to straw purchases and other illegal acts that ultimately result in gun violence, many times leading to death in the streets,” Freeman-Wilson said in her statement. “Our administration has every intent of actively pursuing this lawsuit.”
The bill passed through the Indiana Senate in February with a vote of 37-11 and just last week passed out of the House Judiciary ?Committee.