As you know, the U.S. Senate recently passed S. 397--the "Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act"--by a strong bipartisan vote of 65-31! This action represents a great victory and a vitally important first step toward ending the anti-gun lobby's shameless attempts to bankrupt the firearm industry through reckless, predatory lawsuits. It also represents a crucial step forward for law-abiding firearm manufacturers, retailers and owners in this country.
As we reported last week, there has been some discussion of late concerning two amendments to S. 397. The first, by Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.), requires federally licensed dealers to provide a "secure gun storage or safety device" with the sale/transfer of every handgun (it does not apply to long guns). The measure, which passed by a vote of 70-30, does not require gun owners to use the device, does not apply to private transfers, and does not create any new civil liability for gun owners who choose not to use these storage devices. Virtually all new handguns today are sold with some type of secure storage or safety device. The amendment has no significant impact on current law.
The second measure--an amendment by Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho)--was passed by an overwhelming margin of 87-11, and was offered this year (as it was in 2004) in a successful attempt to defeat Senator Edward Kennedy's "armor piercing" ammunition amendment that would have banned all centerfire rifle ammunition. By providing an alternative to Senator Kennedy's amendment, pro-gun senators were able to marshal the votes to defeat the Kennedy amendment.
The amendment only restates the existing prohibition on manufacture, or on sale by manufacturers, of "armor piercing ammunition," except for government use, for export, or for use in testing or experimentation authorized by the Attorney General. This law has been in effect for nearly two decades. It increases the mandatory minimum sentence for the use of "armor piercing ammunition" in a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime. Use of armor piercing ammunition in a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime is already a federal offense punishable by 5 years in prison; the amendment increases the penalty to 15 years, and authorizes the death penalty if the ammunition is used in a murder. It also directs the Attorney General to conduct a study "to determine whether a uniform standard for the testing of projectiles against Body Armor is feasible." In fact, we know such a standard is "feasible" because the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has been testing projectiles against body armor since the early 1970s, and has regularly written and updated the standards for testing projectiles against armor. NIJ's research has saved lives by improving the design and manufacture of body armor.
The amendment does not give the Attorney General (or anyone else) any new authority to ban ammunition, nor does it change the definition of "armor piercing ammunition." Under current law, ammunition is only "armor piercing" if it has a bullet that "may be used in a handgun" and that is made entirely from certain hard metals such as tungsten, steel, bronze or depleted uranium; or if the bullet is "designed and intended for use in a handgun" and has a jacket that weighs more than 25% of the weight of the projectile. The current definition has been in place for more than 12 years. And finally, the amendment does not create any kind of new ammunition ban. The only ammunition that is banned as "armor piercing" is ammunition that fits the current definition, and neither the amendment nor the study would change the definition.
As the battle now moves to the U.S. House of Representatives, it is critical that you once again contact your U.S. Representative and urge him/her to pass S. 397, as passed by the Senate!
With Congress out for its "Summer District Work Period" (through September 5), your Senators and Representative will be back home in their respective states and districts. Many lawmakers use this time to hold town hall meetings, where they can report on what they've been doing in Washington, and take questions from their constituents. Now is the time for you to personally voice your strong support for S. 397 (in addition to S. 1082 and H.R. 1288--the Senate and House versions of the "District of Columbia Personal Protection Act"). Please contact your lawmakers' district offices and ask when they plan to hold their town hall meetings during the break. If you do not know the number for your lawmakers' district offices, you can use the "Write Your Representatives" tool at www.NRAILA.org, or call the NRA-ILA Grassroots Division at (800) 392-8683.
If you get a chance to meet with your lawmakers, be sure to: Urge Your U.S. Representative To Support S. 397; And Urge Your U.S. Senators And Representative To Cosponsor And Support S. 1082/H.R. 1288.
In addition to attending meetings and speaking out in support of our Right to Keep and Bear Arms, please forward the dates, times, and locations of any town hall meetings to your family, friends, and fellow firearm owners, and to the NRA-ILA Grassroots Division, so we may compile this information and share it with the pro-gun community. Please forward this information to the Grassroots Division by calling (800) 392-8683, by faxing to (703) 267-3918, or by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We can and will achieve our mutual goal of finally enacting this common sense law, but only with your continued assistance. Please help us finish the job once and for all by contacting your U.S. Representative and urging him/her to support the "Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act," and send the bill to President Bush.