updated 7/28/2005 4:29:25 PM ET 2005-07-28T20:29:25

Mulling legislation to shield the gun industry from some lawsuits, the Senate on Thursday approved a provision requiring a separate child safety lock with each handgun purchase.

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Added to the bill 70-30, the language proposed by Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., is the first that majority Republicans have allowed to come to the floor. Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said he might allow others.

The Kohl amendment would require any licensed manufacturer, importer or dealer to include a separate child safety or locking device with each handgun purchase, except those purchased by government officials and police officers. Any violation could be punished by the suspension of a dealer’s license, a $10,000 fine or both.

Provision to protect gun industry from lawsuits
The overall bill, sponsored by Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, would protect the gun industry from lawsuits filed for criminal or unlawful use of firearms or ammunition.

Senate leaders opened debate earlier this week with a tough stance against amendments that might offend the National Rifle Association and kill the bill. Last year, a similar bill died after Democrats succeeded in attaching an amendment that would have extended the expiring assault weapons ban. The NRA withdrew its support, and Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., canceled the vote.

Though the Bush administration and the NRA have insisted on an up-or-down vote on the Craig bill without amendments, they did not oppose debate on the Kohl amendment.

Kennedy shouts criticisms
Still, Democrats complained that Frist was acting for the NRA when he cleared the floor of spending and other bills to force through the gun bill under threat of delaying Congress’ prized August vacation.

“We’re being blocked by the power interests on the other side,” shouted Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. “That’s the lockhold that the NRA has.”

Frist said early Thursday that he might allow other amendments if they are related to the subject of the gun bill.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said it was Democrats who were holding up Senate business because they withheld support for bringing the massive Defense Department spending bill to a vote, forcing Frist to take it down.

“It’s mind boggling that they can make an argument that we’re preventing going ahead with the DOD bill when they are the ones that stopped it,” Hatch said.

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