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Debate On Lawsuit Preemption Underway — Amendments To Follow With Final Vote Next Week

Friday, February 27, 2004

On Wednesday morning, the U.S. Senate began debating S. 1805—the "Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act" (formerly referenced in the Grassroots Alert as S. 659/S. 1806.) On a bi-partisan vote of 75-22, the Senate voted to allow debate on S. 1805 to proceed, lifting the threat of a filibuster.

The debate continued late into the evening with no substantive movement on the bill and no additional votes taken. Senators did, however, reach a "Unanimous Consent Agreement" spelling out specific amendments that would be permitted to be offered during the debate in anticipation of a final vote on the underlying measure on Tuesday, March 2.

On Thursday, the Senate reconvened and first considered an amendment by anti-gun Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Cal.) that would require all handguns be sold with a mechanical safety device approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). This amendment was then replaced by a "second degree" amendment by Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.). The Kohl amendment is much less restrictive and also provides liability protection for gun owners. The revised amendment passed 70-27.

The Senate next debated an amendment by Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) to permit current and retired law enforcement officers to carry concealed firearms off duty in other states. Arguing hysterically against the amendment, anti-gun Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) revealed his deep distrust of gun carrying even by sworn police officers. A vote on the Campbell amendment was deferred until Tuesday.

Sen. Kennedy then introduced an amendment to ban the manufacture and sale of "armor-piercing" ammunition. Kennedy, who actually condemned the .30-30 Winchester cartridge during debate, wants to institute a "performance-based" standard that would grant any future Attorney General sweeping authority to ban any center-fire rifle ammunition, including most common-place hunting ammunition. The standard proposed by Sen. Kennedy was rejected in the 1980s as overly broad and unnecessary to meet any threat posed to law enforcement officers` safety. A vote on this NRA-opposed amendment will take place Tuesday. There is also an amendment by Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) which restates current law and increases penalties for killing a police officer.

The Senate then debated and voted upon two amendments seeking to gut S. 1805. The first related to the D.C. sniper case, but the proposal by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) was defeated, 56-40. A so-called "law enforcement" exemption offered by Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) was soundly defeated, 56 to 38.

NRA strongly opposed both amendments. One of the strengths of S. 1805 is that it adopts the same rules for all plaintiffs, no matter how sympathetic or unsympathetic, and no matter how notorious or mundane their victimization. Plaintiffs` rights should depend on settled principles of law, not on emotion or sympathy.

Debate will resume on Monday, with the vote on final passage expected Tuesday. We strongly encourage you to watch the proceedings if you are able to do so. Debate will begin at noon on Monday and will air on C-SPAN2.

Using the bully pulpit of the White House, President Bush offered the following statement highlighting his support for the lawsuit bill without any anti-gun amendments: "The Administration strongly supports Senate passage of S. 1805. The Administration urges the Senate to pass a clean bill, in order to ensure enactment of the legislation this year. Any amendment that would delay enactment of the bill beyond this year is unacceptable. The manufacturer or seller of a legal, non-defective product should not be held liable for the criminal or unlawful misuse of that product by others. The possibility of imposing liability on an entire industry for harm that is solely caused by others is an abuse of the legal system, erodes public confidence in our Nation`s laws, threatens the diminution of a basic constitutional right and civil liberty, sets a poor precedent for other lawful industries, will cause a loss of jobs, and burdens interstate and foreign commerce. S. 1805 would help curb frivolous litigation against a lawful American industry and the thousands of workers it employs and would help prevent abuse of the legal system. At the same time, the legislation would carefully preserve the right of individuals to have their day in court with civil liability actions. These civil actions are enumerated in the bill and respect the traditional role of the States in our Federal system with regard to such actions."

NRA-ILA stands committed to enacting into law, a "clean" (without any anti-gun amendments) S. 1805. And, as we have from Day One, we will continue to vigorously oppose any anti-gun amendments to S. 1805, specifically, reauthorization of the 1994 Clinton gun ban in any way, shape, or form, and imposing restrictions on gun shows. We will also continue to vigorously support Sen. Orrin Hatch`s (R-Utah), amendment to restore the constitutionally-guaranteed Second Amendment rights of the residents of the District of Columbia. It is anticipated that these amendments will be debated and voted on beginning Monday.

Until this issue is resolved, we will continue to call upon our members and supporters to contact their U.S. Senators in support of S. 1805 without any "poison pill" amendments. As readers of the Grassroots Alert are aware, in recent days and months, we have contacted our supporters nationwide to engage them in this battle. These efforts include: articles in our magazines; contacts by phone, e-mail, fax, and letter; special sections of our website (www.NRAILA.org) dedicated to lawsuit preemption and the Clinton gun ban (www.ClintonGunBan.com); and, in person, at various Grassroots Workshops.

We will continue our efforts until we succeed on these fronts, and will continue to pursue the most effective legislative and grassroots strategies to accomplish our mutual goals.

Please continue to contact your U.S. Senators at (202) 224-3121 and urge them to support S. 1805 without any anti-gun "poison pill" amendments. ILA`s Grassroots staff is ready to assist you, so please call them at (800) 392-8683. Or visit ILA`s website at www.NRAILA.org for additional information on these issues and to utilize the "Write Your Representatives" feature that will allow you to identify and contact your U.S. Senators.

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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.