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Florida Legislative Alert 2001-03-14

Tuesday, May 22, 2001

HB-449 is scheduled for a hearing in the Florida House Crime Prevention, Corrections & Safety Committee Thursday, March 15, 2001 at 8:30 AM !!! That`s TOMORROW MORNING! HB-449 by Rep. Allan Bense, Rep. Jerry Paul & others is the HOUSE bill to stop governments from filing frivolous and reckless lawsuits against gun manufacturers. [Full summary below] Emails are immediately needed to members of this committee. IN THE SUBJECT LINE PUT: SUPPORT HB-449 by Reps. Bense & Paul - Stop Gun Manufacturer Lawsuits FLORIDA HOUSE CRIME PREVENTION, CORRECTION & SAFETY COMMITTEE MEMBERS TO CONTACT: Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Chair (R) bilirakis.gus@leg.state.fl.us Rep. Aaron Bean, V-C (R) bean.aaron@leg.state.fl.us Rep. Bev Kilmer (R) kilmer.bev@leg.state.fl.us Rep. Dick Kravitz (R) kravitz.dick@leg.state.fl.us Rep. Mitch Needelman (R) needelman.mitch@leg.state.fl.us Rep. Joseph Spratt (R) spratt.joseph@leg.state.fl.us Rep. Dwight Stansel (D) stansel.dwight@leg.state.fl.us BILL SUMMARY: HB-449 CIVIL ACTIONS/GUN MANUFACTURERS Prohibits any lawsuit by, or on behalf of, the state, county, municipality, town, special purpose district or other political subdivision for damages, abatement, or injunctive relief resulting from the lawful design, marketing, distribution, or sale of firearms or ammunition to the public. Provides that the potential of a firearm or ammunition to cause injury, damage, or death is not a defective condition, whether the firearm or ammunition is discharged legally or illegally. Provides for the award of expenses and attorney`s fees. BACKGROUND INFORMATION FOR THOSE WHO WANT IT: REASONS THESE LAWSUITS MUST BE STOPPED In November 1998, Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas announced that he was filing a lawsuit against over 20 major firearms manufacturers. In December 1999, Circuit Judge Amy Dean threw Penelas`s Miami-Dade lawsuit out of court. In dismissing the lawsuit Judge Dean said the county ``lacks standing`` to sue firearms manufacturers. Dean also ruled that the county can`t collect damages from the nation`s major gun manufacturers. She also said individual victims have rights to sue the industry for negligence or product liability, but not the county. Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas immediately vowed to continue the attack on gun manufacturers and appeal the ruling in the state Third District Court of Appeal. Penelas also said he and Miami-Dade county were considering a class action lawsuit against gun manufacturers and that he planned to have the county join the Clinton Administration if Clinton and HUD decided to bring a lawsuit against the gun industry. On February 14, 2001, the Florida Third District Court of Appeal also threw out Mayor Penelas`s lawsuit calling it an improper "attempt to regulate firearms" through the courts. Mayor Penelas HAS ONCE AGAIN FILED AN APPEAL (this time trying to go to the Florida Supreme Court) to force the firearms industry to expend more money fighting the lawsuit while he uses public funds -- tax dollars -- to engage in malicious lawsuits which promote his own personal gun control agenda to try to impose backdoor gun control. These lawsuits are nothing more than extortion, coercion, and blackmail. They are patterned after the tobacco lawsuits. They are designed to extort settlements from gun manufacturers to avoid protracted litigation and enormous legal fees which threaten to bankrupt them long before they could ever get final resolution in court. They are unbridled attempts at intimidation; attempts to force actions that are detrimental, not only to the defendants, but to the business community, to the Second Amendment and to Freedom. Even anti-gun newspaper editorials have railed against these lawsuits as abusive. The ST. PETERSBURG TIMES called the lawsuits "litigation tyranny" and an "abuse of the court system" and said, "This epidemic of running to the courthouse to address every public ill needs to stop." On April 2, 2000 The Washington Post, the most anti-gun newspaper in the county, said: "The government has nearly unlimited resources...Even a weak case can be used to bully those who lack the resources to fight to the end...So where is the line between legitimate governance and extortion? "Against the gun makers, the government does not even claim to have its own cause of action. Rather it is organizing a suit by local authorities and then stepping into negotiations to push its [political] policies as a basis for settlement... "To [allow these lawsuits] undermines the legislative branch, demeans the judicial and poses threats to the liberty of those who obey the law but fall out of official favor." The transparent goal of taking a large number of weak cases to court simultaneously is not to win verdicts, but to bankrupt small firearms companies by inflicting massive legal costs upon them. That is nothing less than a naked attempt to ban future sales of guns by putting manufacturers out of business. The Legislature needs to pass this legislation. Otherwise the message will be that it is open season on every manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer of any legitimate product ever made or to be made, if there is any potential that the product could in some manner cause injury when misused, abused or neglected by the consumer or a criminal. Posted: 2001-03-14

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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.