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Law shields gunmakers from suits

Gov. Jeb Bush signs the law preventing cities from suing to recover medical, police costs.

By ALISA ULFERTS

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 2, 2001


Gov. Jeb Bush signs the law preventing cities from suing to recover medical, police costs.

TALLAHASSEE -- Cities no longer can sue gun manufacturers to recoup medical and police costs under a bill Gov. Jeb Bush signed Tuesday.

Surrounded by the lawmakers who sponsored the bill and National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer, Bush said it was inappropriate for cities and counties to use the courts to get their money back.

"I believe that people who commit crimes with guns need to be punished, and our efforts have shown if you have a policy that focuses on people who misuse guns that way, there's less crime," Bush said.

He rejected critics' claims that the GOP only cares about local control in government when it's convenient, but is willing to abandon that principle for the gun lobby.

"This is not a question of local control. This is a question of whether it's appropriate for municipalities to sue for political purposes," Bush said.

Senate Democrats tried and failed last month to tack on amendments that would have encouraged manufacturers to include safety devices on weapons and spelled out that guns with trigger locks also are covered by the bill.

But Senate sponsor Charlie Bronson, R-Indian Harbour Beach, objected to the amendments. Bronson, who is running for state agriculture commissioner in 2002, said Tuesday that the bill doesn't prohibit individuals from suing gunmakers, nor will it affect current lawsuits.

The legislation was primarily aimed at Miami-Dade County, which sued gun manufacturers in 1999 to recover the millions of dollars it spends on police and county hospital services as a result of gun crimes. That lawsuit was rejected by two courts, but is on appeal.

The Florida Legislature intended to take up the bill two years ago, but joined several other states in shelving it after 13 people were shot to death in 1999 by two students at Columbine High School in Colorado.

The law takes effect immediately.

- Times researcher Kitty Bennett contributed to this report.

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