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Key Talking Points on S. 659/S. 1805

Friday, July 25, 2003

Support for the Bill

  • This reasonable and sensible legislation enjoys overwhelming bipartisan support, with 54 cosponsors, including 10 democrats. It passed the House of Representatives by a better than 2 to 1 margin of 285-140, and is supported by President Bush.

“Unique” or “Unprecedented Special Protection” for the Gun Industry?

  • Congress enacts liability protections every year for specific industries or other organizations.

  • Past liability immunity protections have been enacted for the light aircraft industry, community health centers, aviation industry, medical implant makers, Amtrak, computer industry members affected by “Y2K” problems, and others.

“Blanket” Immunity for the Gun Industry?

  • The bill is narrowly tailored. S. 659/S. 1805 provides protection only against lawsuits based on the criminal or unlawful acts of third parties—not on their own negligent or criminal conduct. Under the bill, manufacturers or sellers must operate entirely within federal and state law.
  • The bill allows suits based on violations of federal or state law, or on traditional grounds such as negligent entrustment, breach of contract or normal product liability cases involving actual injuries caused by an improperly functioning firearm.

Manufacturers and Dealers Act Legally and Responsibly

  • The manufacture and sale of firearms are regulated by hundreds of pages of statutes and regulations. All gun manufacturers, importers and dealers are licensed by the federal government and such licenses can be revoked for violations.

  • The industry has voluntary programs to promote safe gun storage and to help dealers avoid sales to potential illegal traffickers. In voluntarily seeking dismissal of its own lawsuit, the city of Boston stated, “The City acknowledges that the members of the industry and firearms trade associations are genuinely concerned with and are committed to, the safe, legal and responsible sale and use of their products.” The city went on to praise several of the firearms industry’s voluntary programs.

  • All retail gun sales are subject to a federal criminal background check—either directly by the FBI through its National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) or through state systems that also use NICS. All retail gun buyers are screened to the best of the government’s ability.

  • Manufacturers have a time-honored tradition of acting responsibly to issue recalls and make repairs as they become aware of defects.

33 States Have Acted to Prevent These Lawsuits

  • 33 state legislatures have acted to block similar lawsuits—either by limiting the power of localities to file suit, or by amending state product liability laws.

Legislation Protects Vital National Interests

  • The gun industry manufactures firearms for America’s military forces and law enforcement agencies.
  • Unlike many foreign countries, the U.S. doesn’t have a government armory but relies on private industry. Due in part to federal purchasing rules, these guns are made in the U.S. by American workers. Successful lawsuits could leave the U.S. at the mercy of foreign small arms suppliers.

S. 659/S. 1805 is a Legitimate Exercise of Federal Power

  • In many of these lawsuits, cities and individuals are trying to use State courts to restrict the conduct of the firearms industry nationally—often contrary to State policies expressed through their legislatures.

  • Those efforts threaten an unreasonable state burden on interstate commerce. The federal government may act to prevent imposition of that burden.

Lawsuits Hurt Consumers and Workers

  • By restricting the industry’s ability to make and sell guns and ammunition, the lawsuits threaten the ability of Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

  • By threatening the survival of the industry, the lawsuits threaten thousands of jobs. Labor unions representing workers at major firearms plants support S. 659/S. 1805.

For more information see our Fact Sheet

or Reckless Lawsuits in the Research Library

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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.