RECKLESS LAWSUIT PREEMPTION
<align=center>APPROVED BY JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
On Thursday, April 3, the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee voted 21 - 11 to approve H.R. 1036, the reckless lawsuit preemption bill. This legislation seeks to end the gun-ban lobby’s efforts to drive law-abiding firearm manufacturers, distributors, and dealers into bankruptcy under the crushing weight of predatory, illegitimate lawsuits. House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) commented, "Logic and fairness dictate that manufacturers and merchants should not be held responsible for the unlawful use of their lawful products."
Yesterday’s vote was preceded by testimony on Wednesday in the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law. In prepared testimony, Walter K. Olson, a Senior Fellow with the Manhattan Institute, told the Subcommittee, "I conclude that the gun suits are at best an assault on sound tenets of individual responsibility, and at worst a serious abuse of legal process." He went on to state, "Even more ominously, the suits demonstrate how a pressure group [the gun-ban lobby] can employ litigation to attempt an end run around democracy, in search of victories in court that it has been unable to obtain at the ballot box." Of course, NRA has been saying for years that the suits spearheaded by groups such as the Brady Campaign/HCI are shameless abuses of the judicial process. Failing to achieve their gun-ban agenda legislatively, these anti-gun extremists have used the courts in a two-pronged assault on the Second Amendment.
Promoters of reckless lawsuits have two goals. First, they hope to financially destroy the firearm industry by filing countless meritless lawsuits—suits based on the absurd legal theory that gun makers should be held accountable when violent criminals go through illegal channels to obtain lawful, non-defective firearms, then use them to commit violent crimes. Although the court losses continue to mount for these baseless suits, the firearm industry is still saddled with the cost of defending itself in court. Lawrence G. Keane, Vice President and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), offered testimony on Wednesday, stating, "I believe a conservative estimate for the total, industry-wide cost of defense to date now exceeds $100 million dollars." This is a tremendous amount of money for an industry, Keane states, that would not equal a Fortune 100 company if combined into one corporation. And if anyone doubts one goal of these suits is to simply inflict devastating financial damage, Keane related that the anti-gun mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley (D), bragged his city’s suit would "hit [the firearms industry] where it hurts—in their bank accounts." Olson, meanwhile, told the Subcommittee that John Coale, one of the key lawyers behind the reckless lawsuit campaign, boasted, "The legal fees alone are enough to bankrupt the industry."
The second goal of those who promote these predatory suits is to find an activist judge or jury that is willing to usurp the legislative authority of Congress and impose judicially-mandated regulations that would drown the firearms industry under a deluge of bureaucratic red tape. Olson testified that, after the crushing defeat the gun-ban lobby experienced at the polls on election day 1994, "[S]ome leading gun-control advocates concluded that the democratic process was not ... going to grant them the kinds of restrictions on gun distribution they sought any time soon." Thus, they began placing most of their emphasis on promoting their baseless lawsuits.
And one of these reckless lawsuits, filed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), may have found its ideal venue. It landed in the court of semi-retired Judge Jack Weinstein, who Keane described to Congress as being "well known in legal circles as an activist jurist." In fact, it was in Weinstein’s court in 1999 that one of the first HCI-backed reckless lawsuits, Hamilton v. Accu-Tek, experienced fleeting success, when a jury handed down a verdict that partially endorsed HCI’s judicial agenda. On appeal, however, the verdict and suit were completely rejected, first by the New York Court of Appeals, and then by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Congress should be outraged that certain lawyers and gun-ban advocates feel they can circumvent the legislative process by moving their anti-gun efforts into the courts. Olson told the Subcommittee the reckless lawsuit agenda reveals "an astounding contempt for the democratic process and for the lawmakers of this body." And Keane pointed to the opening statement of Dennis Hayes, the NAACP’s General Counsel, as further proof proponents of the reckless lawsuit agenda are trying to use the courts to impose restrictions on the firearms industry they are unable to pass through Congress. "[Hayes] said the NAACP was asking that the court usher in an equitable code of conduct that changes the way business is done," Keene explained, "and that the case was about asking a federal court to step in and regulate the firearms industry."
Many thanks go out to all of the lawmakers on the Judiciary Committee who voted in favor of H.R. 1036, especially U.S. Representative Rick Boucher (D-Va.), the sole Democrat on the Committee who had the integrity to go against his party’s anti-gun leaders and vote in favor of this critical reform. We should also thank U.S. Representative Chris Cannon (R-Ut.), who Chairs the Subcommittee of Commercial and Administrative Law, and Judiciary Chairman Sensenbrenner.
The next step for H.R. 1036 will be a vote by the full House of Representatives next week, so please be sure to call your U.S. Representative and urge him to support this critical reform. You can reach your U.S. Representative by calling (202) 225-3121. For additional contact information, please use our "Write Your Representatives" tool.
Meanwhile, we still need to add to the list of cosponsors for S. 659, the Senate’s version of reckless lawsuit preemption. Those Senators who have already signed on to S. 659 deserve our thanks, so please contact them to express your support. Those who have not should be encouraged to sign on as cosponsors. To find out if your U.S. Senators have signed on yet, go to the Library of Congress website. You can reach your U.S. Senators by calling (202) 224-3121. For additional contact information, use our "Write Your Representatives" tool.
D.C. RESIDENTS DEMAND
SECOND AMENDMENT FREEDOMS
The NRA today announced its support for the lawsuit filed by five Washington D.C. residents in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (D.C.), to vindicate the rights of D.C. residents to exercise the same rights held by American citizens in every State in the Union to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. The plaintiffs; Sandra Seegars, Gardine Hailes, Absalom Jordan, Jr., Carmela Brown and Robert Hemphill are all residents of D.C.
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said, "Under the majesty of our Constitution, all law-abiding Americans, including the law-abiding residents of our nation’s capital, have the right to protect themselves and their loved ones from criminal harm. These five plaintiffs are lifelong residents of Washington, D.C.’s working class neighborhoods. Their personal safety and the safety of their families have been on the line since this gun ban took effect. Some of them have been victims of violent crime and are lucky to be alive today. Ex-Senator Warren Rudman best distinguishes D.C.’s dangerous state of affairs, ‘Honest people don’t have guns and criminals do.’"
NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox added,
"The core of any substantive policy designed to reduce violent crime ought to be on disarming criminals. The current D.C. strategy is senseless. Law-abiding residents have to contend with a draconian law that leaves them defenseless when confronted by a violent criminal. In our nation’s capital, the criminal has the advantage over the victim. That is both deplorable and unacceptable."
Plaintiff Absalom Jordan Jr., a resident of Southeast D.C., echoed similar sentiments. "Law enforcement is overworked and by definition, arrive after the crime has been committed when it’s too late. Why can’t I have the right to protect my family? The Mayor and all the VIPs on Capitol Hill get abundant protection from their respective security details…and at taxpayer expense! Why are their lives more valuable than those of my children? All I want is a means to protect my family, should the need arise," lamented Mr. Jordan.
In addition to the Second Amendment, the suit also raises additional constitutional issues in regard to this gun ban. The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. It is the position of this legal action that the D.C. Code deprives D.C. residents of liberty and property by authorizing them to possess pistols on the condition that they are registered, but simultaneously prohibiting them from registering the pistols [see D.C. Code
The complaint also cites The Civil Rights Act of 1866 that provides in part: "All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory…the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property as is enjoyed by white citizens…" This was intended to protect the same rights as its counterpart, the Freedmen’s Bureau Act of 1866, which guaranteed "the right…to have full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings concerning personal liberty, personal security, and [estate], including the constitutional right to bear arms."
The plaintiffs filed the suit against John D. Ashcroft, Attorney General of the United States and, Anthony A. Williams, Mayor of D.C., in their official capacities. All plaintiffs are eligible to own a firearm under federal statute.
IMPORTANT TRAVEL REMINDER
While surely few NRA members could forget this, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) wants to remind all travelers that attempting to bring firearms onto a plane in carry-on luggage is a serious federal violation. This is a "strict liability" offense, and TSA says violators can be, and have been, convicted regardless of criminal intent, or even if they simply forgot they possessed a firearm. TSA is obliged to enforce all the existing laws within its jurisdiction and will do so vigorously.
THE LATEST FROM LOTT
John Lott, the author of "More Guns Less Crime," recently released a new book, "The Bias Against Guns: Why Almost Everything You’ve Heard About Gun Control is Wrong." This follow-up to "More Guns, Less Crime" exposes the media’s anti-gun bias when covering firearm-related stories, and offers a great deal of accurate information that can be used to counter anti-gun extremists. To promote his book, Lott is going on a book-signing tour, and the following are scheduled stops of which we are aware:
Monday, April 7
5 Oakway Center
Eugene, OR 97401
Monday, April 14
10225 Research Blvd
Austin, TX 78759
Wednesday, April 16
1601 Preston Road
Plano, TX 75093
Thursday, April 17
Fountains on the Lake
12788 Mt. Lake Cir.
Stafford, TX 77477
Wednesday, April 23
101 Rice Lake Square
Wheaton, IL 60187
Thursday, May 1
4530 Eastgate Blvd.
Cincinnati, OH 45245
<align=center>DEBATE AT HARVARD
The Harvard Law School Target Shooting Club and the Harvard Law School Democrats are cosponsoring a debate on constitutional and policy issues surrounding gun ownership on Tuesday, April 8, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Harvard Law School. The panel will include UCLA Professor Eugene Volokh, Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz, and Dennis Henigan, an attorney for the Brady Center/HCI who has worked on several of the failed reckless lawsuits spearheaded by the gun-ban lobby. The debate will be held in the Austin North classroom, and will be free and open to the public.
A LOOK AT THE STATES
This week, the Arkansas General Assembly gave final approval to HB 1359, allowing concealed carry permit holders to carry in restaurants and public parks. The bill now heads to Governor Mike Huckabee (R) for his signature. Please contact your Senator and thank him for his support of this important piece of legislation. Also, HB 1326, which will protect law-abiding firearms & ammunition manufacturers from illegitimate, reckless lawsuits, was signed into law by Governor Huckabee. Please be sure to contact Governor Huckabee and thank him for his support of our Right to Keep and Bear Arms. You can call Governor Huckabee’s office at (501) 682-2345. For additional contact information, please use our "Write Your Representatives" tool.
The Missouri Senate is expected to consider Right to Carry legislation next week. HB 349, sponsored by Rep. Larry Crawford (R-117) and others, will be heard by the Senate Pensions and General Laws Committee on Wednesday, April 4. Please call your Senator at (573) 751-3824 and ask him to support this important legislation. If you are unsure who your Senator is, you can use our "Write Your Representatives" tool.
NRA members and other gun owners must take action to save a number of pro-gun bills in Tennessee. House Judiciary Committee member Representative Kent Coleman (49-D) is threatening to single-handedly block all pro-gun legislation this year. Coleman has decided to listen to a handful of anti-gun activists in his district and act in opposition to our Right to Keep and Bear Arms. It is now time for him to hear from Tennessee
’s law-abiding gun owners. Call Representative Kent Coleman at (615) 741-6829 and tell him to support the five NRA-backed bills in committee. If he doesn’t hear from gun owners, he will continue to listen to the gun control zealots. Make the call today!