Friday, May 13, 2005


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, recalling how her father took up arms to defend fellow blacks from racist whites in the segregated South, said Wednesday the constitutional right of Americans to own guns is as important as their rights to free speech and religion. In an interview on CNN's "Larry King Live," Rice said she came to that view from personal experience. She said her father, a black minister, and his friends armed themselves to defended the black community in Birmingham, Ala., against the White Knight Riders in 1962 and 1963. She said if local authorities had had lists of registered weapons, she did not think her father and other blacks would have been able to defend themselves. Birmingham, where Rice was born in 1954, was a focal point of racial tension. Four black girls were killed when a bomb exploded at a Birmingham church in 1963, a galvanizing moment in the fight for civil rights.

Rice said she favored background checks and controls at gun shows. However, she added, "we have to be very careful when we start abridging rights that the Founding Fathers thought very important." Rice said the Founding Fathers understood "there might be circumstances that people like my father experienced in Birmingham, Ala., when, in fact, the police weren't going to protect you." "I also don't think we get to pick and choose from the Constitution," she said in the interview, which was taped for airing Wednesday night. "The Second Amendment is as important as the First Amendment."


Oregon gets real: "Gun makers or sellers could not be sued for damages as a result of illegal use of firearms under a bill easily approved Tuesday by the House. The measure went to the Senate on a 39-17 vote despite opponents' claims that it is constitutionally flawed. Backers of the bill said the gun industry is prone to harassment by opponents who have brought lawsuits without merit around the country in hopes of making a legitimate business liable for criminals' acts. Lawmakers need to protect the industry "from frivolous lawsuits that intend to run it out of business," said Rep. Chuck Burley, R-Bend. The bill, which also covers ammunition, is sought by Nosler Inc., a longtime Bend-based ammunition maker. The measure still would permit damage lawsuits to be brought under allegations that weapons were defective or that laws governing firearms sales were violated. Gun sellers also could be sued for damages when there was evidence they knew or should have known that a buyer "was likely to use the firearm in a manner that would cause unreasonable risk of physical injury." Rep. Robert Ackerman, D-Eugene, argued that the bill probably would be struck down in court. He said the measure would take away the state constitutional right to a legal remedy for an injury, the right to sue for damages, without providing an alternative. But Rep. Wayne Krieger, D-Gold Beach, said the remedy is that "you can sue the person using the gun."

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