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Reckless Lawsuit Preemption Takes Critical Step Forward

Saturday, September 28, 2002

On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee reported favorably (passed) H.R. 2037—legislation to block politically-motivated lawsuits that attempt to hold law-abiding gun makers liable for the criminal misuse of their lawful products. The debate over this legislation was very heated at times, as anti-gun lawmakers sought to gut the legislation with unrelated or unnecessary amendments. In the end, the bill was reported favorably on a bipartisan 30 - 16 vote.

U.S. Representative Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), one of the more active gun-ban advocates in Congress, shamelessly raised the specter of terrorism in order to further his personal anti-gun agenda, but his amendment was voted down on a bipartisan 37 - 15 vote. During debate over Waxman’s amendment, it was pointed out that existing law already provides for severe penalties should anyone be found knowingly to supply terrorists with arms. And the legislation itself, supporters stated, excludes entities from lawsuit protection under the bill’s negligent entrustment provision. Even after pro-gun Representatives John Dingell (D-Mich.), Chris John (D-La.), Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), and Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) pointed out the Waxman amendment was unnecessary, Waxman and Representative Tom Barrett (D-Wisc.) tried to argue for its passage, claiming it wouldn’t hurt. The anti-gun community clearly is not interested in passing laws that work, it is simply interested in passing firearm-related laws, even if they are ineffective, superfluous, or unnecessary.

Representative Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) offered an amendment that would have stricken the entire bill, and replaced it with a trigger-lock sale mandate. His effort, though, was ruled out of order, as it had nothing to do with the subject matter of H.R. 2037.

Representative Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), another shrill anti-gun voice in Congress, offered her own amendment that would have allowed the gun-ban organizations with which she often works to continue with their campaign of trying to drive law-abiding gun makers into bankruptcy under the financially crushing burden of frivolous litigation. Her amendment failed on a voice vote, but she may try to bring it up again at a later date.

The progress of H.R. 2037 is promising, and our thanks go out to all those lawmakers who have given their support to this reform effort. Energy and Commerce Committee Chair W.J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-La.) certainly deserves thanks, as do those Representatives who have been outspoken advocates of this bill. The House bill’s co-sponsor list—now at 231—continues to grow, as does the Senate’s version—S. 2268—which now has 42. Time, however, continues to be a factor for the passage of these critical reforms, as Congress will certainly operate beyond its targeted adjournment date of October 4, but for how long is not clear. Please call both your U.S. Senators and your U.S. Representative and urge them to promote the passage of reckless lawsuit preemption legislation.

To contact your U.S. Representative, call (202) 225-3121, and to reach your U.S. Senators, call (202) 224-3121. Just ask to speak with your particular lawmaker. Or you can also use our "Write Your Representatives" tool.

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