WASHINGTON – For the third time in recent years, the Senate voted Thursday to require gun dealers to include trigger locks with every handgun they sell.

The child-safety-lock mandate is a politically popular measure that Wisconsin Democrat Herb Kohl has been pushing for eight years. It has come close to becoming law but failed after getting entangled in other legislative fights.

This time, its fate is tied to a hotly debated bill giving gun makers liability from certain lawsuits. Votes in the House and Senate on that measure could come today or Saturday before Congress begins its August recess.

“We are inviting disaster every time an unlocked gun is easily accessible to children,” Kohl said on the Senate floor Thursday.

The only senator speaking against it was Idaho Republican Larry Craig, who offered very mild criticism, suggesting it would have limited impact and wasn’t needed at a time when accidental firearms deaths are dropping.

Craig cited statistics showing that most accidental gun deaths do not involve children but adults, and he said requiring the purchase of trigger locks did not ensure they would be used by their owners.

“Sometimes we stand here on the floor of the Senate and think we can fix the world by writing a law,” said Craig. “You cannot create a perfect world.”

Asked about that, Kohl told reporters, “I understand where he’s coming from.”

But Kohl added, “If we can’t legislate a better world, why are we here?”

The Senate voted 70-30 to add the provision to the gun liability bill, which has long been a priority of pro-gun groups such as the National Rifle Association. Supporters say the liability bill would protect against frivolous lawsuits to hold gun makers responsible for the illegal use of the products they sell. They say it would not relieve companies from illegal behavior themselves or from responsibility for specific negligence.

Critics say the immunity in the bill is too broad.

Kohl said he was undecided about how he would vote on the liability bill, which will now contain his trigger-lock amendment.

The Kohl provision requires the inclusion of a child safety or locking device with each handgun sale. It applies only to dealers and manufacturers. Police and the military are exempted.

“Nobody has ever claimed this would be a total panacea,” Kohl said of the measure, but he said it would prevent some of the hundreds of accidental deaths and thousands of gun injuries each year.

The measure was first introduced in 1997 and has been adopted at different times by both the House and Senate.

The White House and the NRA have signaled they would not oppose the amendment.



(c) 2005, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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AP-NY-07-28-05 2128EDT


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