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Supreme Court Sends Chicago Case Back To Lower Court

Saturday, March 1, 2003

On Wednesday, February 26, the Supreme Court of the United States vacated a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit that would have allowed the city of Chicago access to information regarding gun manufacturers, dealers, and purchasers as part of the city’s reckless lawsuit against the firearms industry. City attorneys, as part of Chicago’s nuisance lawsuit, had demanded the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) turn over information through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. BATFE complied by supplying some data, but withheld certain information to protect the privacy of some individuals (as authorized by FOIA Exemption 6, 18 US Code Sec. 552(b)(6)) and to protect against interference in ongoing investigations and preserve the safety of federal, state, and local agents—as well as witnesses and informants—involved in such investigations (as authorized by FOIA Exemption 7, 18 US Code Sec. 552(b)(7)).

When the 7th Circuit sided with the city of Chicago, BATFE appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court—a move that was supported by both NRA and law enforcement. But before the Supreme Court could hear arguments, Congress acted on the issue. U.S. Representative George Nethercutt (R-Wash.) offered an amendment to the 2003 Treasury-Postal appropriations bill prohibiting the BATFE from expending funds to compile and disclose information on firearm manufacturers, dealers, and purchasers. In light of this, the Supreme Court vacated the 7th Circuit’s ruling, and instructed the court to "consider what effect, if any" the actions of Congress have on the case.

It is because of the relentless attempts by anti-gun extremists and big-city mayors to promote their gun-ban agenda through the reckless abuse of our judicial process that one of NRA’s top priorities during this congress remains the passage of federal legislation that will prohibit these predatory lawsuits. We had tremendous success last year gaining support for bills in the House and the Senate, but time ran out before either could be given full consideration. The House bill (H.R. 2037) ended up with 231 cosponsors, more than a majority of Representatives, while the Senate’s version (S. 2268) ended up with 46 cosponsors, which is almost a majority. Thirty-one states have enacted similar legislation. Please contact your U.S. Representative and both of your U.S. Senators and urge them to support and cosponsor federal reckless lawsuit preemption legislation that will bring an end to this unwarranted harassment of law-abiding gun manufacturers. You can reach your U.S. Representative by calling (202) 225-3121, and your U.S. Senators by calling (202) 224-3121. For additional contact information, use our "Write Your Representatives" 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.