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Kennedy Loses First Skirmish In Senate Battle For Reckless Lawsuit Preemption

Friday, April 18, 2003

U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), one of Congress’s most strident and long-serving anti-gun voices, fired what could be considered the first legislative salvo in what will undoubtedly be a complex battle to pass reckless lawsuit preemption legislation in the U.S. Senate. His shot was wide of its mark.

On Friday, April 11—just one day after the U.S. House of Representatives passed its own reckless lawsuit preemption bill (H.R. 1036) on an overwhelming, bipartisan 285-140 vote—Kennedy offered an anti-firearm industry amendment to S. 274, which was defeated in the Senate Judiciary Committee. S. 274 seeks to establish several reforms for class action lawsuits, and is not designed to specifically protect law-abiding firearm manufacturers from the unique threat they face from predatory lawsuits that are designed to drive them into bankruptcy. Nonetheless, some of the reforms in the legislation could help diminish the threat of certain aspects of the reckless suit campaign being waged against gun makers. Sen. Kennedy’s amendment, which failed on a vote of 11-7, sought to carve out the firearm industry from any of the modest protections S. 274 sought to establish.

Currently, law-abiding gun makers are the only industry facing the serious risk of being driven out of business through a coordinated attack of endless and meritless litigation. This attempt to advance the gun-ban agenda through the courts—thus circumventing the legislative process—has been spearheaded by the gun-ban lobby, anti-gun big city mayors, and greedy trial attorneys. In order to put an end to this shameless abuse of our judicial process, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1036 last week, as reported. This critical reform would only allow civil suits in circumstances where a truly defective product has caused its lawful user harm, or if a gun manufacturer, distributor, or dealer has been found guilty of actually violating one of the thousands of laws that regulate firearms. The Senate’s version, S. 659, was introduced with 52 cosponsors—a majority of Senators—and enjoys bipartisan support, with nine Democrats signed on.

The real Senate battle over reckless lawsuit preemption, however, has yet to begin. Congress is currently on its Spring District Work Period, and is not scheduled to reconvene until April 28.

It is crucial that you call both your U.S. Senators and urge them to help bring an end to predatory, meritless lawsuits designed to wipe out the firearm industry. Let your Senators know that it is crucial that they support S. 659, and halt the abuse of our courts by anti-gun extremists who are trying to usurp congressional authority with the aid of greedy trial lawyers and activist judges and juries. Also urge them to support the will of the majority by working to derail the filibuster anti-gun Senators have threatened to launch to defeat S. 659. Anti-gun extremists opposed to this reform are clearly in the minority, and will use whatever means are available to them to support the efforts of their cohorts in the gun-ban lobby.

Your Senators should be in their home state, so you should contact them at the district office closest to you and voice your support of S. 659, and ask them if you are able to schedule a personal meeting. If you do not know your Senators’ district office numbers, you can use our "Write Your Representatives" tool . And for a list of Senate cosponsors of S. 659, you can go to the Library of Congress website.

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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.