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Reckless Lawsuit Preemption Continues To Build Momentum

Friday, May 17, 2002

S. 2268, the Senate version of reckless lawsuit preemption, is rapidly gaining support. This bill, along with the House companion (H.R. 2037), seeks to block politically-motivated lawsuits that attempt to hold law-abiding gun makers liable for the criminal misuse of their products. Last week, five Senators had signed their names to S. 2268—introduced by U.S. Senators Larry Craig (R-Id.) and Zell Miller (D-Ga.)—but thanks to the encouragement of NRA members and the pro-gun community, a total of 13 Senators have now signed on. This is excellent progress, but the bill still needs more support. The House companion already has more than half of that chamber’s members signed on as co-sponsors (227), and has progressed through subcommittee, so our focus has shifted to recruiting more support for the Senate bill. Please contact your U.S. Senators at (202) 224-3121 to urge them to co-sponsor this critical legislation. To find additional contact information, use our "Write Your Reps" tool.

As for the House bill, H.R. 2037, we reported last week that the U.S. House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade & Consumer Protection approved it by voice vote. During last week’s subcommittee meeting—the process that follows hearings and which is referred to as the "markup" session—U.S. Representative Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) introduced substitute language to H.R. 2037. Stearns, who originally introduced the bill with Representative Chris John (D-La.), offered his substitute to address the "negligent entrustment" issue. Stearns’ language makes it clear that no protection is provided for a person if he supplies a firearm or ammunition to a person who the seller "knows or should know the person to whom the product is supplied is likely to use the product, and in fact does use the product, in a manner involving unreasonable risk of physical injury to himself and others."

During his opening statement, Rep. John pointed out that these reckless lawsuits threaten billions of dollars in commerce. He went further and explained that those who depend on gun manufacturers for jobs could be seriously harmed by these lawsuits, pointing out that lifestyles and livelihoods in Louisiana and across the nation are threatened by the suits. Rep. John also cautioned that if these baseless suits are allowed to continue, every industry in America could be attacked in a similarly baseless way.

U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) gave strong support for the legislation, and remarked that if these lawsuits are not stopped, similar reckless suits against automobile manufacturers may be next. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) supported Dingell’s concerns with an accurate analogy, pointing out that opponents of this legislation seem to be saying that if a person drives his car into a crowd of people on a street corner, the city where the accident occurred should be able to sue the car manufacturer.

Rep. Dianne DeGette (D-Colo.)—one of Congress’s more extreme anti-gun voices—made the expected objections to any relief from baseless lawsuits being extended to gun manufacturers. She even went so far as to claim that NRA—which is clearly not a member of the firearms industry—would be protected from lawsuits. Clearly, DeGette is also opposed to pro-Second Amendment advocacy groups exercising their right to free speech as protected under the First Amendment, most recently exemplified by her support of the recently-enacted campaign finance "reform" law.

Be sure to contact the following pro-gun Representatives to thank them for their support of this critical reform: Nathan Deal (R-Ga.), Charlie Bass (R-N.H.), Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), John Dingell (D-Mich.), Earnest Fletcher (R-Ky.), John Shimkus (R-Ill.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Lee Terry (R-Neb.), Greg Walden (R-Ore.), and George Radanovich (R-Calif.). And a special thanks should be extended to Chris John (D-La.) and Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), who have spearheaded the efforts to date to ultimately guide this legislation through the House. You can reach these lawmakers by calling the House switchboard at (202) 225-3121, but to find additional contact information, use our "Write Your Reps" tool.

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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.