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Summary of Congressional Testimony from NSSF

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc. (“NSSF”) and its members strongly support H.R. 2037, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act which will shield the firearms industry from the imposition of restrictions resulting from harm caused by the criminal or unlawful misuse of firearm or ammunition products of others.

As the major trade association for the firearms and recreational shooting sports industry, the NSSF is committed to promoting a better understanding of, and a more active participation in, the shooting sports; as well as fostering a better awareness of the firearms industry’s responsible role in firearm safety and education. The NSSF’s approximately 1,900 members include major firearms manufacturers, distributors, importers, retailers, shooting ranges and sportsmen’s clubs all of which are engaged in the interstate and foreign commerce of firearm and ammunition products, a lawful and highly regulated activity.

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act is an important piece of common sense legislation. Federally licensed firearms companies have been forced to defend themselves against ill-conceived, politically motivated lawsuits filed on behalf of approximately forty municipalities. These suits seek to hold the companies legally responsible for the criminal and accidental misuse of firearms by others and to recover municipal costs expended in addressing the complex social problem of gun violence. However, the courts have recognized that these suits are an effort by local politicians to further regulate and micro-manage the firearms industry through litigation, thereby circumventing state legislatures and Congress. As recently as March 28, 2002, the City of Jersey City, New Jersey filed suit against members of the firearms industry. Additional suits are threatened by other municipalities as well as private (non-municipal) plaintiffs.

Of the twenty-four municipal suits that have been filed to date, ten have been dismissed by the courts, with six of these cases being fully and finally adjudicated. Every appellate court that has decided a municipal firearms case has ruled in favor of the industry including three state supreme courts and the United States Supreme Court which denied certiorari of New Orleans’ appeal. There are seven cases currently on appeal.

As the number of frivolous firearm lawsuits increases, so will the costs incurred by the firearms industry, state and municipal entities, and taxpayers to pay for and litigate “radical” legal theories. Time, tax dollars and attention would be better-spent supplying law enforcement and our armed forces with the equipment they need to protect America and combat global terrorism. Moreover, remarkable improvements in the safety and design of firearm products would result if the firearms industry could focus on research and development. According to the City of Boston, which voluntarily dismissed its case against the firearms industry recently, the best way to address the complex social problem of gun violence and achieve the shared goals of municipalities and the industry is through cooperation and communication, rather than through expensive, time-consuming and distracting litigation.

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