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Unsafe Handgun Act: Target For Trial Attorneys

Tuesday, May 22, 2001

LOS ANGELES - Mr. Chuck Michel, Civil Rights Attorney and Spokesperson for the California Rifle & Pistol Association (CRPA), plans a statewide talk show tour to discuss the disastrous impact to law enforcement of the “Unsafe Handgun Act” signed into law by Governor Davis in 1999 as Senate Bill 15 (Polanco) (now Penal Code Section 12125-12133). SB15 declares every handgun “unsafe” unless it passes a series of state mandated performance tests. Because the Act only allows manufacturers to submit guns for testing, and because only current production handgun models have been submitted by those manufacturers, all untested models carried by police departments across the state are branded “unsafe” by the law, regardless of their quality and safety features. Recently obtained documentation from police departments across the state demonstrates that the vast majority of police handguns are untested, and indicates that many police firearms used for back up and off duty use would not pass even if tested. Although law enforcement agencies are exempt from restrictions on buying the guns under the new law, there is no provision immunizing them from the increased liability for using those guns. “This creates real liability problems for law enforcement officers and agencies,” stated Mr. Michel, a former prosecutor. “These firearms have been deemed ‘unsafe’ for law-abiding citizens to own, yet we have thousands of law enforcement officers in this state carrying them while on the job, off the job, and under cover. The exposure to increased liability for damages in the event of an accident is tremendous. Any time there is a shooting trial lawyers will point to the gun as the cause. In fact, not having these guns safety tested is in itself negligent. It’s like half of a plaintiff’s lawyer’s work has already been done for them by the State Legislature!” In response to a Public Records Act request done at the behest of the California Rifle & Pistol Association and the National Rifle Association and coordinated by Mr. Michel, police departments across the state provided documentation that they have approved the "unsafe" handguns for on duty, off duty, and “backup” use by their officers, and that accidental discharges are not uncommon. Mr. Michel has attended seminars that the American Bar Association has been hosting where plaintiffs` lawyers are taught how to use these “unsafe” gun laws to sue successfully and increase liability of gun users. “This is a trial attorney’s dream,” said attorney Michel. “All it will take to reek financial havoc on to a city or a county is to have one of these guns discharge and hurt someone, if it hasn’t happened already.”

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.