On October 26, 2005, President Bush signed S. 397, the "Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act." Introduced by Sens. Larry Craig (R-ID) and Max Baucus (D-MT), this legislation is a vitally important first step toward ending the anti-gun lobby`s shameless attempts to bankrupt the American firearms industry through reckless lawsuits. Reps. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and Rick Boucher (D-VA) introduced similar legislation, H.R. 800 in the House of Representatives.
- These suits are intended to drive gunmakers out of business by holding manufacturers and dealers liable for the criminal acts of third parties who are totally beyond their control. Suing the firearms industry for street crime is like suing General Motors for criminal acts involving Buicks.
- These lawsuits seek a broad range of remedies relating to product design and marketing. Their demands, if granted, would create major restrictions on interstate commerce in firearms and ammunition, including unwanted design changes, burdensome sales policies, and higher costs for consumers. While the suits are unwarranted, the firearms industry has had to spend over $200 million in defense.
- Congress has the power-and the duty-to prevent activists from abusing the courts to destroy interstate commerce.
- The bill provides that lawsuits may not be brought against manufacturers and sellers of firearms or ammunition if the suits are based on criminal or unlawful use of the product by a third party. Existing lawsuits must be dismissed.
S. 397 provides carefully tailored protections for legitimate suits:
- The bills expressly allow suits based on knowing violations of federal or state law related to gun sales, or on traditional grounds including negligent entrustment (such as sales to a child or an obviously intoxicated person) or breach of contract. The bill also allows product liability cases involving actual injuries caused by an improperly functioning firearm (as opposed to cases of intentional misuse).
- The Congress has often passed limitations on liability for specific groups, including light aircraft manufacturers, food donors, corporations affected by "Y2K" computer problems, charitable volunteers, health officials, medical implant manufacturers, and makers of anti-terrorism technology.
These lawsuits usurp the authority of the Congress and of state legislators, in a desperate attempt to enact restrictions that have been widely rejected. Thirty-four states have also enacted statutes blocking this type of litigation.