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Grassroots Alert: Vol. 10, No. 10 3/7/2003


U.S. Representative Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) teamed with Representatives Rick Boucher (D-Va.), Melissa Hart (R-Penn.), and Chris John (D-La.) to introduce reckless lawsuit preemption legislation, H.R. 1036, in the House last week. The bill was submitted on February 27 with 243 original cosponsors—an impressive debut that easily exceeds a simple majority of U.S. Representatives. The bill’s strong, bipartisan support (45 Democrats signed on as cosponsors) has sent a chilling message to the gun-ban lobby: Congress is poised to put an end to the Brady Campaign’s (a.k.a., HCI’s) shameless efforts to bankrupt the firearms industry through the tactic of filing, funding, or otherwise promoting dozens of predatory lawsuits—suits embraced and supported by anti-gun big-city mayors that seek to advance the absurd notion that the law-abiding firearms industry should be held responsible for the actions of violent criminals.

As expected, the Brady Campaign/HCI responded to the introduction of H.R. 1036 with its usual baseless vitriol. In a release issued on March 3, the gun-ban lobby’s Chair, Sarah Brady, "denounce[d]" and "condemned" the legislation, which would put an end to the organization’s exploitation and abuse of our judicial process. HCI President Michael Barnes made the outrageous claim that the legislation would "deny justice to America’s gun violence victims," implying that the only form of "justice" offered in America to victims of crime is the ability to sue a third party that bears no responsibility for the crime. Brady parroted Barnes’s sentiment, stating, "Any member of Congress who supports [H.R. 1036] ... should have to explain to victims of gun violence why their rights are being taken away."

Both Barnes and Brady appear to be promoting the ludicrous concept that only monetary awards paid by lawful manufacturers can bring crime victims justice. The implication seems to be that catching, convicting, and punishing those who commit violent crimes is not justice enough.

The true motivation behind the gun-ban lobby’s opposition to H.R. 1036, however, is less a matter of seeking its version of "justice" than it is masking its own legislative failures. Unable to move its gun-ban agenda forward in most state legislatures and Congress, HCI has spent the last several years relying on a scheme to drive the firearms industry into bankruptcy under the crushing financial burden of having to defend itself in court against countless frivolous suits. It is even possible the reckless lawsuit agenda was never intended to actually win any final judgements against the firearms industry.

HCI and its trial attorneys must have realized, long ago, the futility of trying to change decades of established jurisprudence. Courts have consistently rejected the outlandish concept of holding the law-abiding manufacturer of a legal product responsible for criminals who obtain that product through illegal channels, then use it for purposes never intended or condoned by the manufacturer. In fact, numerous courts, including state Supreme Courts, have already dismissed HCI-backed cases. Even today, a California judge rejected the suits of 12 California municipalities. (See following story for more details.) And 31 states have enacted legislation prohibiting these reckless suits, with West Virginia poised to join that list. But as long as HCI, its attorneys, and anti-gun big-city mayors are able to collude to saddle law-abiding gun makers with the cost of defending their lawful practices in court, the entire gun industry is at risk of being eradicated.

H.R. 1036 would put an end to the gun-ban lobby’s campaign of predatory lawsuits, closing the door to HCI’s agenda of circumventing the legislative process by hijacking our nation’s courts with these oppressive lawsuits. Those lawmakers who have already signed on to this legislation deserve our thanks, so please call them to express your support. Those who have not should be encouraged to sign on as cosponsors, and U.S. Senators need to be encouraged to support a companion bill in the Senate.

You can reach your U.S. Representative by calling (202) 225-3121, and your U.S. Senators by calling (202) 224-3121. For additional contact information, use our "Write Your Representatives" tool.




Today, California Superior Court Judge Vincent P. DiFiglia dealt a stinging blow to the gun-ban lobby’s reckless lawsuit agenda when he granted summary judgment to the firearms industry, rejecting the suits of 12 California municipalities. "This is a definitive victory for us in a string of vindications that began a year ago when the City of Boston dropped its suit against the industry for lack of proof of wrongdoing," noted Lawrence G. Keane, Vice President and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc. (NSSF), the firearms industry’s major trade association and a defendant in the case. (See the NSSF press release here) "Once again, this victory supports the long-held principle that responsible and law-abiding manufacturers of highly regulated, non-defective firearms cannot be held accountable when criminals misuse their legally sold products."

The rejection of these suits is an embarrassment for anti-gun extremists at many levels. The California Supreme Court rejected an HCI-backed reckless lawsuit in 2001, Merrill v. Navegar, which led to anti-gun extremists in the legislature repealing the law that prohibited such suits. These rejected suits were also "supported" by an affidavit submitted by Robert Ricker, HCI’s star "whistle-blower." But in the end, neither rewriting product liability laws nor testimony from an alleged "insider" could convince the court of the merits of the reckless lawsuit agenda. Judge DiFiglia still ruled in favor of common sense and law-abiding gun makers.

"The best path forward is to abandon this obviously faulty lawsuit strategy and work cooperatively to promote safety programs and communication, rather than pursuing a discredited theory for litigation that wastes the taxpayers’ money," Keane suggested. "Unfortunately, this is not the last of these cases remaining and the money wasted in this futile and unjust process points to the need for Congressional action to stop such wasteful lawsuits."



The NRA-ILA Grassroots Division will host a FREE Grassroots Workshop in conjunction with NRA’s Annual Meetings in Orlando. This Workshop has been a regular part of NRA’s Annual Meetings for nearly a decade. At this event, you will hear from NRA leaders, staff, and your fellow NRA members on what you can do in your own community to further strengthen and defend our Second Amendment rights.

We will also discuss how you can work with your local Election Volunteer Coordinator (EVC). Your EVC is a local NRA member who works with area gun owners to ensure support for ILA’s legislative activities, and also works to provide pro-gun campaigns with a steady stream of committed, pro-freedom volunteers to help with their activities leading up to Election Day. With a heavy legislative schedule in the U.S. Congress and state legislatures across the country, working with fellow pro-gun activists in your community will help ensure our mutual success. Similarly, with a number of states hosting elections this year, and with candidates for the 2004 elections already gearing up their campaigns, it is critical that we start laying our grassroots groundwork to ensure we are ready to meet these electoral challenges head on. Rest assured the anti-gunners are already re-doubling their efforts to ensure the defeat of pro-Second Amendment candidates in critical elections across the country so we must ensure we are prepared to defeat their efforts at every turn.

Workshop details are:

NRA-ILA Grassroots Workshop-FREE!
Friday, April 25, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 Noon
(Registration & free continental breakfast
from 8:00 - 9:00 a.m.)
Florida Ballrooms 2 & 3
Peabody Orlando Hotel
9801 International Drive
Orlando, FL 32819

To reserve your seat at the Grassroots Workshop, please call the Grassroots Division at (800) 392-8683, or click here.



The2003 NRA Annual Members Meetings and Exhibits will be held in Orlando, Fla., April 24 - 27, and your NRA is looking for dedicated members to volunteer and assist with various projects necessary to stage another successful Annual Meeting. The NRA Annual Meeting is the most exciting and satisfying NRA event of the year, and by joining our team of volunteers, you will play an integral role in putting the NRA’s best foot forward, while we are in the national spotlight.

There are several areas where you can volunteer: Membership Services, Fraternal Sales, Exhibitor Registration, Firearms Safety Inspection, and Airgun Range. NRA staff, Annual Meeting Exhibitors, and the tens of thousands of your fellow NRA members attending the Annual Meeting, will greatly appreciate any time or assistance you can lend. If you would like to volunteer your time, or would like more information, please contact: Brian Hyder, Eastern Region Director, NRA Field Operations Division, 571 Howard Branch Road, Otto, NC 28763, Office: (828) 524-9480, e-mail: bhyder@nrahq.org.


Gunston Hall Plantation—the Northern Virginia home of George Mason, author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights—is hosting two Liberty Lectures on "The Right to Keep and Bear Arms: Protection or Threat?" The first, titled "The Second Amendment: Rights and Regulation," will be held Tuesday, March 11, from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m., and will feature a debate between Dr. Robert Levy of the Cato Institute and Mathew Nosanchuk of the Violence Policy Center. The second, titled "The Second Amendment: Founding Principles," will be held on Tuesday, March 25, from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m., and will feature a debate between Dr. Stephen Halbrook, Attorney-at-Law, and Dr. Saul Cornell of Ohio State University. These lectures will be held at Gunston Hall’s Visitors’ Center. Registration is recommended but not required, and admission is FREE. Call (703) 550-9220 for more information or to register.




Senate Bill 25 will be debated by the House on Monday, March 10. Sponsored by Senator Jim Dyer (R-26), SB 25 assigns firearm regulation authority solely to the Legislature. This will bring to an end the confusing system Colorado currently has in place, under which every city and county can make its own restrictive rules. The House will also vote on Senate Bill 24 next week. Sponsored by Senator Ken Chlouber (R-04), SB 24 will establish a

"shall issue" Right to Carry system that will allow all law-abiding citizens access to permits for personal protection. It is vital that you contact your State Representative and urge him to support SB 24 and SB 25. You can call him at (303) 866-2904, or use the "Write Your Representative" tool for additional contact information.



Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has taken his anti-gun agenda on the road, attempting to pass Chicago-style gun restrictions in the State Legislature. At 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 11, the Senate Judiciary Committee will convene to hear testimony regarding Mayor Daley`s anti-gun agenda. The House Judiciary Committee will also hear testimony on Wednesday, March 12, at 8:00 a.m. It is critical that you contact the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the members House Judiciary Committee, urging them to oppose Mayor Daley`s anti-gun agenda. You can find contact information by using the "Write Your Representative" tool.




Hearings were held last week in theMaryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, where the Ehrlich administration firmly stated its opposition to expanding ballistic ôfingerprintingö in Maryland. The House Judiciary Committee will soon consider several bills of vital importance to gun owners, including HB 696, which seeks to expand ballistic "fingerprinting"; HB 844, the "assault weapons" ban bill; and HB 836, a bill that would establish criminal penalties if a law-abiding gun owner fails to report the loss or theft of a firearm. The House hearings will be held Thursday, March 13, at 1:00 p.m. in the House Judiciary Committee. Please call the House Judiciary Committee at (301) 858-3488 and urge them to vote "NO" on HB 696, HB 844, and HB 836.


A hearing has been set in the House Judiciary Committee for Friday, March 14, to address HB 811. Sponsored by Pierre Bruno (R-Hillsborough 45), this NRA-backed legislation seeks to safeguard New Hampshire’s law-abiding gun owners by preventing a patchwork of local anti-gun ordinances in municipalities throughout the state. The bill would also protect firearm manufacturers from reckless lawsuits aimed at bankrupting the industry. We urge you to contact members of the Judiciary Committee and ask that they vote "YES" on HB 811. For a list of members, please contact the Grassroots Division at (800) 392-8683, or use our "Write Your Representatives" tool. We also encourage NRA members to attend the hearing on Friday, March 14, at 9:30 a.m. in Room 208 at the Legislative Office Building.



On Monday, March 10, the House Law Enforcement Committee will consider HB 498, sponsored by Representative Carl Isett (R-84). This NRA-backed bill seeks to reduce fees paid by senior citizens to renew Concealed Handgun Licenses (CHLs). Seniors would be granted a 50% reduction on original and renewal licenses. Please call members of the House Law Enforcement Committee at (512) 463-0133, and urge them to support HB 498. Also, the full House could consider HB 878 by Representative Suzanna Hupp (R-54) as early as next week. HB 878 is an NRA-backed bill that clarifies that cities and counties cannot use the stateÆs criminal trespass law to post signs prohibiting CHLs from entering public buildings. Please contact your State Representatives and urge them to support HB 878, which establishes uniformity and consistency in Texas`s Right to Carry law. You can find contact information by using our "Write Your Representatives" tool.


This week, the Senate passed House Bill 2110, which protects the rights of law-abiding firearm owners in West Virginia by blocking reckless lawsuits against the firearms and ammunition industry, declaring this to be the sole discretion of the state. Recognizing that the real intent of anti-gun municipalities and their lawyers is to bankrupt a lawful industry with costly legal expenses, HB 2110 has now been sent to Governor Bob Wise for his expected signature. To learn more about HB 2110, visit www.legis.state.wv.us.Thank you to everyone who contributed to this achievement!



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.