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Reckless Lawsuit Preemption Bills Introduced In U.S. House And Senate

Saturday, February 19, 2005

On February 16, Senators Larry Craig (R-Idaho) and Max Baucus (D-Mt.) introduced S. 397, "The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act", in the U.S. Senate, joining Representatives Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and Rick Boucher (D-Va.), who introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House--H.R. 800--on February 15. This critical legislation protects law-abiding firearm manufacturers from reckless, predatory lawsuits.

In 2003, the "Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act" passed the U.S. House of Representatives on an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 285-140, enjoyed more than 54 Senate cosponsors, and had the full support of President Bush. Sadly, the legislation was torpedoed in the Senate in 2004 by anti-gun zealots, including former Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), who helped his fellow anti-gun Senators attach a number of anti-gun amendments to the underlying measure.

Introducing the bill, Senator Craig said, "I am proud to sponsor legislation that will put an end to the politically motivated lawsuits against the firearm industry. These outrageous lawsuits attempting to hold a law-abiding industry responsible for the acts of criminals are a threat to jobs and the economy, jeopardize the exercise of constitutionally protected freedoms, undermine national security, and circumvent Congress and state legislatures. They must be stopped."

Representative Stearns commented, "Several cities, counties, and individuals have sued the firearm and ammunition industries for the damages and injuries resulting from the criminal use of guns by third parties. These lawsuits employ dubious legal theories that have no legal merit; they are merely attempts to impose their gun control agenda using the courts."

Since 1998, dozens of municipalities and cities have filed suit against America`s firearm industry, falsely alleging the absurd notion that law-abiding firearm manufacturers should be held responsible for the unforseen acts of violent criminals. These groups assert the fallacious and self-serving argument that the only way for victims of crime to receive justice is to be awarded large sums of money. The twisted implication seems to be that catching, convicting, and punishing those who commit violent crimes is not justice enough.

Decades of established jurisprudence has shown that courts have consistently rejected the outlandish concept of holding the law-abiding manufacturer of a legal product responsible for the acts of criminals who obtain that product through illegal channels, then use it for purposes never intended or condoned by the manufacturer. Numerous courts, including state Supreme Courts, have already dismissed numerous cases. In fact, as recently as last week, a California Appellate Court unanimously upheld an earlier Superior Court decision dismissing a junk lawsuit filed by Los Angeles, San Francisco and 12 other California cities and counties (please see Grassroots Alert Vol. 12, No. 6). But as long as the gun-banners are able to burden firearm manufacturers with the cost of defending their lawful practices in court, the entire gun industry is at risk of being eradicated.

To date, 33 states have enacted laws to prohibit localities from filing these abusive suits, but that still leaves 17 states and their localities free to bankrupt a lawful, well-regulated industry. As long as gun-ban organizations, big-city mayors, and greedy trial lawyers are allowed to blame the firearm industry for the criminal misuse of its products, the entire industry is at risk of being destroyed. Remember, too, that this is the same industry that provides firearms to our fighting men and women in the U.S. military.

Commenting on the introduction of these bills, NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox said, "After being defeated at the ballot box and in the legislative arena, the gun control lobby is trying to use activist judges to bankrupt a law-abiding American industry. U.S. firearms manufacturers have already spent more than $200 million in legal fees, yet have not been found liable by a single court for the criminal misuse of their legal products."

"If this legislation is not passed, the American firearm industry could be permanently destroyed. It is not in our national security interests to rely on China, Russia or France to equip our military and law enforcement personnel. The NRA looks forward to working with the House, Senate and the Administration to pass this much-needed legislation as soon as possible," concluded Cox.

"The "Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act" enjoys support from a number of organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the National Association of Wholesalers. Dozens of national associations, unions, wildlife conservation groups, and shooting sports organizations--representing literally millions of dedicated members, workers, and sportsmen--have expressed their unqualified support for this critically important legislation.

It is imperative that you contact your U.S. Senators and your U.S. Representative and ask them to cosponsor and support S.397 and H.R. 800--without any anti-gun amendments--and put a halt to these reckless lawsuits once and for all. And be sure to let them know that you consider any votes in support of anti-gun amendments to this legislation as a vote against the underlying bill itself.

To access the most up-to-date information on this issue, please go to the "Stop Reckless Lawsuits Against the Firearm Industry" heading at, www.NRAILA.org, and click the "Take Action" button. This function will allow you to easily send an e-mail or letter to your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators. Please forward this link to your family, friends, and fellow firearm owners.

You can find additional contact information for your elected officials by using the "Write Your Representatives" tool at www.NRAILA.org, or you can call your U.S. Senators at (202) 224-3121 and your U.S. Representative at (202) 225-3121.

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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.