Democrats Vow to Block

Bill Aiding Gun Dealers

Armed with a new report on gun industry sales practices, a group of Democratic senators vowed yesterday to block legislation that would give gunmakers and dealers broad protection from lawsuits.

"It is an unconscionable piece of legislation," Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) said of the bill passed by the House Wednesday.

Lautenberg and his allies may have a difficult struggle ahead as at least 52 of the 100 senators, including several Democrats, have co-sponsored the legislation that would throw many lawsuits out of court and block new ones.

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence report, which is based on documents from litigation, shows how the gun industry does business. It describes corrupt dealers that sell to criminals and to straw purchasers who pass the guns to convicted criminals. It also describes dealers who sell large volumes of guns and avoid background checks of buyers.

"This report reveals the sordid story of how the gun industry aids and abets the illegal market in guns and profits handsomely from it," said Dennis Henigan, a center official who has been involved in gun lawsuits, some of which have been filed by injured police officers and relatives of people killed in the Washington-area sniper attacks last fall.

National Rifle Association chief lobbyist Chris Cox said in a statement the bill sends a clear message that anti-gun groups cannot use the courts to try to carry out their agenda.

U.S. Fights Tax Ploy

On Slavery Reparations

The Justice Department asked a federal court to block a Georgia man from selling a slavery reparations tax scam.

The government, in papers filed in Macon, Ga., alleges that Morris James Sr. of Montezuma and his company, National Resource Information Center, went to churches nationwide promoting a bogus tax refund related to slavery reparations. The court papers say more than 6,300 customers bought the tax preparation services.

"Claiming tax benefits for slavery reparations, segregation, treatment as a second-class citizen or on other similar grounds is illegal," said Eileen J. O'Connor, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Tax Division. "The Justice Department is taking vigorous action to stop schemes that undermine the federal tax system and leave honest taxpayers footing the bill."

In a typical slavery reparations scheme, a tax preparer charges the customer for a refund claim based on the nonexistent credit. Taxpayers can face a $500 penalty for filing such claims.

Poultry Virus Outbreak

Spreads to Texas

Animal health officials confirmed that a highly contagious poultry virus has spread to Texas, the fourth state affected by the six-month outbreak.

The Texas Animal Health Commission said a flock of back-yard chickens near El Paso tested positive for the Exotic Newcastle Disease. The virus is harmless to humans.

-- Compiled from reports by the Associated Press and Reuters