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On February 5, Adam Schiff, (D-Burbank), a former federal prosecutor and a member of the House Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, wrote “Liability, guns and the law; No industry deserves the right to act with reckless disregard for the public safety” in reference to the 2003 murder of a rookie Burbank police officer. In the piece, Schiff’s says “Unlike any other industry, the gun industry can commit negligence with impunity.” Schiff believes we need to ensure that the victims of gun violence are allowed to have their day in court. Representative Schiff’s new bill, the Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act, would provide victims of gun violence access to the same civil remedies as are available to those injured through other means.

While I agree with Mr. Schiff that no industry deserves the right to act with reckless disregard for public safety; Schiff is totally misinformed to think that the gun industry is the only industry being granted immunity. You see, corporate protection is not, and hasn’t been for a long while, limited to the gun industry. Look at the drug industry in Michigan. A 1995 ruling granted immunity to drug makers for any drug that has been approved by the FDA. (What drug reaches an American pharmacy shelf without FDA approval?) Even if the drug is later found to be harmful or deadly, the drug manufacturer cannot be held liable. That means Michigan residents have no legal recourse after being victimized by the negligence of the multi-billion dollar drug industry. Like the victims of gun violence, Mr. Schiff, these victims do not get their day in court. What about wronged patients in Texas, the safe haven state for dangerous doctors. Governor Perry and his supporters have made it clear that protecting health care providers is more important than protecting patients; that “making more money" has replaced "do no harm” for these corporations. Doctors, like Dr. Stefan Konasiewicz, are attracted to places like Texas because they are allowed to erase previous harm done in another state then avoid accountability for harm caused in the future. And, corporate immunity doesn’t stop there. Doctors all over the country escape liability for medical negligence; manufacturers, too, evade product defect accountability.

Liability reform proponents portray negligent corporations as “victims.” Because corporate influence (money) has found its way into politics and politicians pockets, immunities and protections are provided for the negligent perpetrators along with inadequate compensation for seriously injured, disabled, and innocent victims. Citizens’ rights to redress from corporate negligence is either eliminated or drastically reduced. But, corporations are often grossly negligent and punishing them is the only way to protect the public safety.

Gun manufacturers are NOT the only ones granted immunity; they are NOT the only ones to have a lesser obligation to act with reasonable care for public safety. No industry should be allowed to kill, maim, or injure innocent citizens without citizens able to exercise their rights under the 7th Amendment. The 7th Amendment allows unrestricted citizen access to the civil justice system. Is the 7th Amendment less important than the 2nd? Our court system is about justice; it should be about independence and fairness to both plaintiffs and defendants. Instead, it has become an increasingly stacked deck in favor of those causing harm and against those being harmed. Citizens become twice the victim in this unjust scenario. I challenge Adam Schiff, other legislators, state and federal, and anyone else reading this to become an advocate of citizens' rights in all of situations, not just those that respond to an immediate tragedy, like gun liability in the wake of Newtown, Burbank, and other similar tragedies. Without strong laws that protect the public from harm and an unrestricted justice system to protect citizens and punish those that cause harm, all of us are less safe. Is that the country that you want?

Mark Bello has thirty-six years experience as a trial lawyer and fourteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Member of Public Justice and Public Citizen, Business Associate of the Florida, Mississippi, Connecticut, Texas, and Tennessee Associations for Justice, and Consumers Attorneys of California, member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

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