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Grassroots Alert: Vol. 12, No. 7 2/18/2005

RECKLESS LAWSUIT PREEMPTION BILLS INTRODUCED
IN U.S. HOUSE AND SENATE

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.

TAKING THE FEDERAL BATTLE
TO THE STATES!

Now that the House and Senate lawsuit bills are moving through Congress, the NRA-ILA Grassroots Division will be hosting FREE Grassroots-Legislative Workshops in states around the country to train and empower our members and supporters to ensure their voices are heard in the legislative process.  These Workshops will help ensure our electoral success last year are transformed into legislative victories this year!

At these Workshops, attendees will hear from NRA-ILA staff and NRA-ILA Election Volunteer Coordinators (EVCs) on effective means to sustain, increase, and motivate our base to take action.  All Workshops and related materials, including food and beverages, are free!

Here is the list of upcoming, scheduled Workshops:
 
 Sat., March 12
Bangor, ME: 9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
Bloomington, MN:   9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. 
Bismarck, ND:  9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
 
 Tues., March 15
Jacksonville, FL: 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
 
 Thurs., March 17
Oldsmar (Tampa), FL:  6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
 
 Sat., March 19
Hollywood Beach (Miami), FL: 9:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.
Morgantown, WV:  9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.

To reserve your seat, or for more information, please call NRA-ILA at  (800) 392-8683.  (You may also register on-line at www.nraila.org/workshops/).  If you are unable to attend for any reason, please forward this invitation to your family, friends, and fellow firearm owners in the area and encourage them to attend!

For those of you in areas where a Workshop isn`t currently scheduled, please be sure to continue to contact your U.S. Senators and your U.S. Representative and ask them to cosponsor and support the "Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act" without any anti-gun amendments.

A LOOK AT THE STATES

(For all of the actions items below, you can find contact information for your legislators by using the "Write Your Representatives" tool at www.NRAILA.org)

ARIZONA
SB 1363 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 5-2.  This legislation will make Arizona one of more than 30 states that allow law-abiding citizens to carry firearms for self-defense in restaurants and other establishments that are licensed to serve alcohol.  It is critical members contact their Senator and respectfully urge him or her to support SB 1363.  HB 2325, a bill that reduces the initial concealed weapons training from 16 to 8 hours and promises to make the permit renewal process much more convenient moves to the full House next week. Please contact your Representative and respectfully urge him or her to support the HB 2325.  SB 1271, a bill establishing a voluntary, semester-long course in firearms safety and proficiency for students in public and charter schools, passed the full Senate by a vote of 30-0.  It now moves to the House for Committee action.  

CONNECTICUT
A public hearing on the State Police Omnibus Anti-Gun Bill could take place before the Public Safety Committee as early as February 24.  The bill, now referred to as SB 1133, includes a ban on the private sale of long guns and mandates strict liability that would apply to any person or manufacturer "transferring" a firearm.  This strict liability provision will only increase legal exposure and encourage more reckless lawsuits against private citizens and the firearms industry.  On February 15, the Public Safety Committee held a public hearing on SB 714, which would ban the sale of .50 caliber rifles.  The committee could vote on that measure at any time.  It is critical that NRA members contact members of the committee, as well as your own lawmakers and urge them to oppose ALL of the bills cited above.  We also encourage you to contact members of Connecticut`s Legislative Sportsmen`s Caucus and ask them to oppose these measures.  For a list of caucus or committee members and their phone numbers, please contact NRA-ILA`s Grassroots Division at (800) 392-8683. 

FLORIDA
On Wednesday, February 23, at 2:00 p.m., a hearing will be held by the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee on the Senate version of SB-436, the "Castle Doctrine" bill.  This bill removes the "duty to retreat" in the face of attack; it creates the presumption that an attacker or intruder intends to do great bodily harm and therefore force, including deadly force, may be used to protect yourself, your family and others in the face of attack; it prohibits prosecution for defending that which you have a right to defend and prohibits civil lawsuits by criminals or relatives of criminals when criminals are injured or killed while attacking law-abiding people.  Please contact the members of the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee and respectfully urge them to restore your personal protection rights.  For a list of  committee members and their phone numbers, please contact our NRA-ILA`s Grassroots Division at (800) 392-8683. 

GEORGIA
Senate President Pro Tempore Eric Johnson`s (R-1) proposed Constitutional Amendment SR 67, which seeks to protect the right to hunt and fish, passed the Senate overwhelmingly this week by a  44-4 vote.  SR 67 now moves to the House.  If it passes the House, it will appear as a referendum on the 2006 ballot for final approval by the voters. 

ILLINOIS
Wednesday, February 23, is the Illinois State Rifle Association (ISRA) "Lobby Day" in Springfield.  This is an annual event where ISRA members, and anyone else interested in advancing our Right to Keep and Bear Arms, directly lobby their representatives in the Illinois House and Senate.  If you can attend, please plan to meet in the cafeteria in the basement of the Stratton Building from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. for registration.  The cafeteria opens for breakfast at 7:00 a.m.  At 9:00 a.m., there will be a legislative briefing, and then all will proceed to the Capitol Building to find their respective representatives.  If you need more information, please call the ISRA office at (815) 635-3198 or visit www.isra.org

INDIANA
Representative Eric Koch (R-65) has introduced HB 1692, an act that prohibits businesses from banning legally stored firearms in employees` vehicles on company property.  An individual`s right to self-defense should not be subjected to arbitrary corporate policy, and HB 1692 ensures that law-abiding firearm owners in the Hoosier State will no longer be defenseless when commuting to or from work.  HB 1692 will likely be considered in the House next week, so it is very important that you contact your State Representative and strongly encourage him or her to support this affirmation of your right to self-defense.  Also, SB 219, sponsored by Senator Johnny Nugent (R-43), was passed out of the Senate on February 17, by a vote of 48-2. Senator Nugent`s bill provides that Right-to-Carry permit applications be processed in a timely manner, and that permit renewals may be conducted on-line.  Please contact Senator Nugent and your State Senator to thank them for their efforts. And please be sure to contact your State Representative and urge him or her to support SB 219 when it is considered in the House. 

IOWA
Please make plans to join NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and NRA President Kayne Robinson next Friday, February 25, for the Iowa Sportsmen`s Federation Annual Banquet.  The event will be held at Val-Air Ballroom, located at 301 Ashworth Road in West Des Moines.  Doors will open at 5:30 p.m., and Dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m.  Tickets are $20 per person or two tickets for $30.  Please RSVP to (515) 554-5210. 

KANSAS
On February 22, please join the Kansas State Rifle Association (KSRA) and other wildlife associations for "Lobby Day".  Please come and help the KSRA support HB 2253, which seeks to help lower the amount of commercial poaching done in Kansas.  KSRA will be set up by 8:15 a.m. in the Capital Rotunda.  If you are able to attend, please contact Ralph Goodwin, KSRA President, at (316) 778-1104, or via e-mail at ralphgoodwin@sbcglobal.net

KENTUCKY
A bill addressing the current backlog of concealed weapons permit renewal applications with the Kentucky State Police passed unanimously out of committee this week.  HB 220 allows a permit holder to continue to carry a concealed weapon after a permit expires as long as receipt of payment for renewal is possessed along with the permit.  Please contact your Representative and respectfully urge him or her to support HB 220 on the House floor. 

MONTANA
HB 712, the Hunter/Voter measure that would allow voter registration materials to be made available where hunting and fishing licenses are sold, passed out of the House Administration Committee and is headed for the House floor. This bill could be heard as early as next week, so please contact your Representatives and respectfully urge them to support this bill.  Also, Montana Secretary of State Brad Johnson (R), the sponsor of HB 712, will be appearing on www.NRANews.com on February 22, at 3:20 p.m. (MST) to discuss this measure.

NEW MEXICO
The House Government & Urban Affairs Committee will consider HB 641, the NRA-backed Right-to-Carry Reform bill, tomorrow, February 19, at 9:00 a.m., in Room 324 of the State Capitol, in Santa Fe.  HB 641, by Representative John Heaton (D-Carlsbad) lowers the minimum age requirement for a Concealed Handgun License to 21, gives the Department of Public Safety (DPS) authority to enter into reciprocal agreements with other states, and makes other improvements to the state`s carry law.

NEW YORK
State Senator Eric Schneiderman (D-31) has introduced legislation seeking to expand the state`s current ban on "assault weapons."  S 2445 would outlaw more guns by name and would add specific features to the definition of what constitutes an illegal "assault weapon."  It`s important to contact your state Senator today and ask him or her to oppose S 2445!  Also, please join NRA-ILA Election Volunteer Coordinator Tracy Schmitt (NY-29) at the Scio Rod and Gun Club for a FREE public viewing of The Great U.N. Gun Debate between Wayne LaPierre and international gun ban activist Rebecca Peters.  Doors open at 6:00 p.m., and the viewing of the debate will begin at 7:00 p.m.  The debate is approximately 90 minutes long, and a discussion will follow its conclusion.  Snacks and beverages will be provided.  To pre-register for this FREE screening, please call Tracy Schmitt at (585) 593-7564.  The Scio Rod and Gun Club is located on Vandermark Road, Scio, N.Y.,  14880.  

OKLAHOMA
A bill providing legal protections to gun owners and their employers cleared its first legislative hurdle last Thursday, receiving unanimous Judiciary Committee approval.  House Bill 1243, by Representative Greg Piatt (R-48), provides employers legal protection if a gun is taken from an employee`s vehicle and used to commit a crime.  The bill also provides legal protections to an employee whose weapon is stolen from his or her vehicle and used to commit a crime.  Oklahoma legislators passed a law last year allowing workers to have guns in their vehicles at work sites, but several Oklahoma companies have objected and are contesting the law in court. HB 1243 should be heard by the full House sometime next week. 

SOUTH CAROLINA
H. 3110, NRA-backed legislation that seeks to expand the list of states that recognize a South Carolina Right-to-Carry permit, and vice versa, is on the House Judiciary Committee agenda for February 22.  Originally introduced as a straight recognition bill, H. 3110 has been amended to allow for reciprocity agreements where other states require them.  Please contact members of the House Judiciary Committee and urge them to support this critical reform.  Politely remind them that the right to self- defense does not end at the South Carolina state line, and that this bill has wide, bipartisan support, with 51 cosponsors.  You can find a listing of committee members, as well as contact information, by going to www.scstatehouse.net/html-pages/housecommlst.html#jud.  Some committee members are already supporting H. 3110 as a cosponsor, so please remember to thank those that are, and urge them to encourage their colleagues to do likewise.  For a complete listing of the cosponsors of H. 3110, you can go to the South Carolina Legislature website at www.scstatehouse.net/index.html, and use the search tool there. 

TEXAS
The House Law Enforcement Committee will consider three NRA-backed bills on February 21:  HB 225, by Representative Joe Driver (R-Garland), which extends the term of a renewed Concealed Handgun License from four to five years; HB 318, by Representative Suzanna Hupp (R-Lampasas), which establishes confidentiality of records and information on applicants and licensees in Texas` Right-to-Carry law; and HB 322, also by Representative Hupp, which reduces CHL fees and lowers the minimum age requirement for a CHL to 18 for military personnel and veterans. Please e-mail and call committee members and urge them to support these bills. Contact information is available at  www.house.state.tx.us

VIRGINIA
With only a few days left in this year`s General Assembly session, three pro-gun measures concerning sportsmen and law-abiding firearm owners will be heard in Senate committees on February 21.  HB 2282, sponsored by Delegate Bill Janis (R-56), will create a statewide standard for range noise measurement that ensures Virginia`s sportsmen have adequate venues in which to practice firearm safety and proficiency.  HB 2931, sponsored by Delegate Bob McDonnell (R-84), streamlines Virginia`s State Police firearm transaction form by removing questions duplicated on the Federal form 4473.  HB 2926, sponsored by Delegate Dick Black (R-32), strengthens protections for firearm and ammunition manufacturers from reckless lawsuits by prohibiting suits filed by individuals, organizations, and other entities for third party criminal acts committed with a firearm.  The clock is winding down on this year`s legislative session, so please take the time today to contact your Senator and urge him or her to support the above referenced bills, and please share this information with your family, friends and fellow sportsmen and have them contact their Senator as well. 

WYOMING
HB 271, sponsored by Representative Becket Hinckley (R-41), the statewide shooting range study bill, has passed out of the Senate policy committee and is slated to be heard before the full Senate as early as next week. Please call your state Senator and respectfully urge him or her to support this bill.

NRA ILA

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.