Feeling Hunted, the Gun Industry Asks for Help From Congress

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You can usually tell when an industry feels it's in trouble: It comes courting Congress. This week the gun industry, fearful of a potential deadly barrage of litigation, came to get help from one of its most reliable friends, Representative Bob Barr of Georgia. The congressman introduced a bill aimed at blocking the growing number of cities and states that have filed or plan to file lawsuits against manufacturers and distributors of guns to recover costs allegedly incurred by gun-connected violence. "It's ironic." says TIME writer Adam Cohen. "Conservative gun advocates are usually the strongest proponents of keeping the feds out."

But gun lobbyists will accept cover from any friends these days. "The gun industry is deeply worried that it could become the next tobacco industry," says Cohen. Gun advocates were shocked when a New York federal jury found several gun manufacturers liable for illegal gun violence last month. "The National Rifle Association became so nervous," says Cohen, "that it reportedly tried to push out the head of the gun industry's major trade group" after he tried to explore some sort of compromise with litigating New Orleans officials. The gun lobby now hopes to stage a counteroffensive in Congress. But the initial shots may have ricocheted: California Senator Barbara Boxer said she would introduce legislation guaranteeing localities the right to sue the gun industry.