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Grassroots Alert: Vol. 12, No. 10 3/11/2005

SUIT HIGHLIGHTS NEED TO ENACT
RECKLESS LAWSUIT PREEMPTION LEGISLATION

As we`ve lately reported in the Grassroots Alert, "The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act" was recently introduced in Congress as S. 397 in the U.S. Senate, and H.R. 800 in the U.S. House.  This NRA-backed lawsuit preemption legislation protects law-abiding firearm manufacturers from reckless, predatory lawsuits.

Another example of the need for such legislation surfaced recently as a negligence and  negligent entrustment suit was brought against retail giant Wal-Mart by one of its employees.

Marsha Midgette, an employee of Wal-Mart, was tragically injured when her husband shot her in the head during an altercation inside a Wal-Mart store, then turned the gun on himself.  Earlier that evening, Mr. Midgette had purchased ammunition from the same Wal-Mart store.  Marsha Midgette sued her employer, Wal-Mart, for negligence in failing to protect her from her husband, and for negligent entrustment for selling ammunition to him.  Wal-Mart filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that they owed no duty to protect Marsha Midgette from her husband`s criminal acts.

On March 3, in a non-published opinion, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the decision of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, granting summary judgment in favor of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., in the action.

The Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted Wal-Mart`s motion for summary judgment, holding that, "As a general rule under Pennsylvania law, absent a pre-existing duty, a party cannot be held liable for the criminal actions of a third party unless that party assumed a duty, through some act of its own."

The Court held that Wal-Mart had found no duty owed to Marsha Midgette, and that even if there was a duty owed, it was not breached.  The Court further held that Wal-Mart could not be found to be the legal or proximate cause of  Mrs. Midgette`s injuries.  "If the people closest to the situation could not have anticipated it, we cannot expect that Wal-Mart could foresee [Mr. Midgette`s] actions....Certainly, no reasonable jury could find that the shooting would have been foreseen by an ordinary person as the natural and probable outcome of Defendant`s legal sale of ammunition."

Regarding the sale of ammunition to Mr. Midgette, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania also granted Wal-Mart`s motion for summary judgment on the grounds of negligent entrustment.  The Court found that, "Based on the record before us, we find that no reasonable jury could conclude that Wal-Mart knew, or should have known, that [Mr. Midgette] either intended or was likely to use the ammunition Wal-Mart sold to him to risk harm to anyone."

In conclusion, the Court held that, "…Wal-Mart did not breach any duty that it may have owed to Plaintiff, and that any breach of duty perceived by Plaintiff could not constitute the legal cause of Plaintiff`s unfortunate injuries…Thus, there are no issues of material fact for a jury to address."

Though this common sense decision bolsters NRA`s contention that these suits are without merit, the daunting cost to lawful manufacturers and sellers of firearms (currently estimated at well over $200 million) to defend themselves against this litigation seriously threatens the future of lawful firearm commerce in America.  Of course, the anti-gun litigation strategy isn`t necessarily to win any of these suits (as they have failed to do thus far), but rather to bankrupt the industry through overwhelming litigation costs.  Despite yet another court victory for the lawful gun industry, the continuance of these suits being filed demonstrates the pressing need to pass federal legislation to end them once and for all.

Please continue to contact your U.S. Senators and your U.S. Representative and ask them to cosponsor and support S.397 and H.R. 800.  And please let them know, in no uncertain terms, 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.

MARYLAND HOUSE WEIGHS
REPEALING BALLISTIC DATABASE LAW

As we reported in the January 14 issue of the Grassroots Alert, the Maryland State Police Forensic Sciences Division has called for scrapping the state`s ballistic imaging program--the Maryland Integrated Ballistics Identification System (MD-IBIS)--stating it has found the system to be an ineffective tool for law enforcement.

This week, the head of the Maryland State Police testified that the mandate to collect ballistics information hasn`t done anything to help solve crimes.  Colonel Thomas E. "Tim" Hutchins testified that 43,729 casings have been entered into IBIS, and the database has been used 208 times.  However, only six "hits" have resulted from those inquiries, and none resulted in criminal prosecutions.

In its four years of operation, the program has cost taxpayers more than $2.5 million, but has produced no results.  According to the Maryland State Police, "There have been no crime investigations that have been enhanced or expedited through the use of MD-IBIS.  The program simply has not met the expectations and does not aid in the Mission statement of the Department of State Police."

Commenting on the ineffectiveness of the program, NRA-ILA Executive Director, Chris W. Cox said, "Ballistic fingerprinting is not a useful law-enforcement tool and is simply another attempt by those who would take away our Second Amendment rights to interfere with the ownership of firearms by law-abiding people.

"NRA sincerely hopes the Maryland General Assembly will repeal this expensive, ineffective, and intrusive program." Cox said. "It is time that the millions of dollars of taxpayer money be put to better use, and, more importantly, that the Second Amendment rights of the people of Maryland be restored."

NRA`s 2005 ANNUAL
MEETINGS AND EXHIBITS

This year`s Annual Meetings and Exhibits will be held at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas, from April 15-17, 2005.

In conjunction with our showcase event, the NRA-ILA Grassroots Division will host a FREE Grassroots Workshop.  This Workshop has been a regular part of NRA`s Annual Meetings for more than a decade.

With our victories in the 2004 elections, we must now work to ensure that our electoral successes last year are transformed into legislative victories this year.  Among our pro-freedom legislative priorities are:  ending reckless lawsuits against the gun industry, repealing the D.C. gun ban, lifting restrictions on law-abiding gun owners, and much more.  And of course, we must remain eternally vigilant in beating back assaults on our freedom, as the anti-gunners are still pushing legislation to ban guns and ammunition, to shut down gun shows, and to further whittle away our Second Amendment rights.  Your attendance at this year`s NRA-ILA Grassroots Workshop in Houston is an important step toward ensuring the future of our gun rights.

At this FREE Workshop, NRA-ILA staff and NRA Officers will discuss how you can take on an even more active role in your community in our mutual fight to advance and protect our cherished freedoms, and we will provide you with the materials and strategies you will need to educate and empower your fellow gun owners as well.

Workshop details are:

Friday, April 15, 2005, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 Noon
(Registration and free continental breakfast from 8:00 a.m. - 9:00 a.m. in Grand Ballroom Pre-function)
Hilton Americas--Houston, Grand Ballrooms D & G
1600 Lamar St., Houston, TX 77010
(713) 651-3900

Please encourage your family, friends and fellow firearm owners to attend as well.

To register for the Workshop, call the NRA-ILA Grassroots Division at (800) 392-8683, or on-line at:  www.nraila.org/workshops/.

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED IN HOUSTON!

Once again the NRA is seeking volunteers to help at the 2005 NRA Annual Meetings in Houston.  To a large degree, the success of each year`s Annual Meetings is dependent on the support of our volunteers.  And you can be a part of that successful effort this year!

A number of volunteers are needed to help with set-up on Wednesday and Thursday, April 13- 14, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  During the actual exhibit and meetings Friday through Saturday, volunteers are needed to work in the NRA Store, at our Membership Services area, at the Airgun Range, as well as a number of other venues.

To volunteer or for more information, please visit any of NRA`s web sites or the Annual Meetings site (www.nraam.org), or, contact NRA Field Representative Gayle Carter-Cook at (361) 972-2166, or Dennis Eggers, Central Region Director, at 270-522-0909.  Their respective e-mail addresses are Gcook@nrahq.org,  and Deggers@nrahq.org.

A LOOK AT THE STATES

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

CONNECTICUT
The deadline for the Public Safety Committee to act on bills currently under consideration is quickly approaching.  It is essential that members continue to contact members of that committee and urge them to oppose SB 1133, the State Police omnibus anti-gun bill, SB 714, the ban on .50 calibers and ALL other gun bills currently under consideration in that committee.  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.

HAWAII
SB 600, a measure that would raise the age for allowable transfers of rifle or shotguns from 18 years of age to 21, passed the Hawaii House and is headed to the Senate.  It is vital that NRA members, friends, and fellow sporting enthusiasts contact their State Senators and respectfully urge him or her to oppose Senate Bill 600.

KANSAS
HB 2439 will be coming up for a committee vote in the coming week.  HB 2439 seeks to correct the problem of local firearm ordinances, which result in a complex patchwork of restrictions from one jurisdiction to the next.  A majority of states have enacted firearm preemption laws that prevent local jurisdictions from imposing ordinances more restrictive than laws passed by the state legislature.  Please contact your House member and respectfully urge him or her to support this bill to end the unfair patchwork of gun laws in Kansas. 

MAINE
On March 14, a work session is scheduled for two anti-gun bills in the Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee.  Sponsored by Representative Margaret Craven (D-Lewiston), LD 310 would mandate a 10-day waiting period for law-abiding citizens who purchase firearms in Maine.  Sponsored by Senator Margaret Rotundo (D-16), LD 344 would amend the current preemption statute by allowing local governments to regulate the possession of firearms on public property.  If LD 344 becomes law, this could create a "patchwork quilt" of firearm regulations throughout the state, making compliance impossible for law-abiding citizens.  There is a great possibility that these two bills will be put to a vote.  Please try to attend this work session to voice your opposition.  If you are unable to attend, please contact committee members and urge them to oppose LD 310 and LD 344.  We also encourage other active sportsmen`s groups to become involved in this matter.  The work session is scheduled for March 14, at 9:30 a.m. at the State House in room 436.  For a list of committee members and their phone numbers please contact NRA-ILA`s Grassroots Division at (800) 392-8683. 

MARYLAND
Thanks to all NRA members who attended the "Gun Day" hearings in the House of Delegates on Wednesday.  Your time, efforts, and presence did not go unnoticed by the Committee members and all the members of the General Assembly.  Be sure to keep the pressure on the members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee to vote "NO" on SB 732, the Police Protection Act of 2005, which would criminalize victims of firearms theft, and "YES" on SB 424, which would repeal the Maryland Ballistic Imaging requirement which has proven to be a waste of law enforcement time and money.  The phone numbers for the Committee members that need to hear from you can be found at www.nraila.com/CurrentLegislation/Read.aspx?ID=1409-L.  Please make the call today!

MONTANA
HB 712, a bill that would allow voting registration materials to be available where fishing and hunting licenses are sold, is slated to be heard March 15, before the Senate Fish and Game Committee.  Please contact the members of the Committee and ask for their support on HB 712.

NEBRASKA
LB 454, the Concealed Handgun Permit Act, which will allow law-abiding Nebraskans the right to carry concealed firearms for self-defense will be heard by the Judiciary Committee on March 17.  Please contact your Senator and respectfully urge him or her to support this bill. 

NEVADA
The Clark County Sport Shooting Park was recently dealt a blow when a sub group of the Bureau of Land Management denied funding for Phase II of the Park.  The project received $15 million in funding for the first phase of what was slated to be the largest shooting park in the country from the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act of 1998, which mandates that proceeds from land sales to be allocated in Nevada for projects such as education, conservation, and water management.  The sub group of BLM to which the $54 million proposal was submitted determined that the Shooting Park was not a high priority.  In addition, the federal government indicated that they were considering diverting revenue generated from Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act land sales to help pay down the federal deficit.  The NRA has been working closely with Nevada`s Senate and Congressional leaders in communicating with the Department of the Interior and the Bush Administration to restore the funds for the Shooting Park and to keep funds in Nevada.

NEW MEXICO
With just a little over a week left in session, HB 641 by Representative John Heaton (D-Carlsbad) has been stalled in the House Judiciary Committee.  HB 641 is the NRA-backed Right-to-Carry Reform bill which lowers the minimum age for a Concealed Handgun License to 21 and gives DPS the authority to negotiate reciprocal agreements with other states, among other improvements to the law.  HB 641 has been automatically carried over to Friday`s Judiciary Committee agenda, since it was not taken up Wednesday.  The committee is set to meet upon House adjournment this afternoon in Room 309.  Please contact your State Representatives and urge them and their colleagues to pass HB 641.  We`ll keep you posted! 

NEW YORK
On March 15, the Assembly Codes Committee is set to hear A 2345, which would place many new onerous restrictions and requirements on firearms dealers.  Also, A 2466, a bill that would drastically expand the state`s current assault weapons ban by redefining what constitutes an "assault weapon," remains on the calendar of the full Assembly.  In addition to expanding the ban, A 2466 would require those who currently own any firearm deemed an "assault weapon" to register it, render it permanently inoperable or turn it in to the police. Those who choose to register their firearms would be subject to an additional NICS check and would required to have the firearm tested for entry in to the state`s ballistic imaging program.  The bill could be considered on the floor at any time.  Members are encouraged to contact their Assembly member and urge him or her to OPPOSE A 2435 and A 2466!

NORTH CAROLINA
SB 109, a bill introduced by pro-gun Senator Scott Thomas (D-2), passed out of the Senate on March 10.  This legislation provides that a concealed handgun permit held by deployed military personnel remains valid during the term of deployment and for 90 days after the deployment ends.  While some had expressed concern that the bill, as originally introduced, did not cover enough military personnel, Senator Thomas amended his bill to ensure it covers all deployed personnel. 

OREGON
Senator Gary George (R-McMinnville) has introduced SB 793, which allows active duty military personnel to renew their Concealed Handgun Licenses by mail.  As you`ve read in previous Grassroots Alerts, the Senate is awash in anti-gun legislation. This is a good bill for our troops, which deserves consideration separate from the gun control bills filed by Senator Ginny Burdick (D-Portland).  Please contact Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) at (503) 986-1600 and urge him to bring SB 793 up for consideration in the Senate. 

SOUTH CAROLINA
H 3110, the NRA-backed Right-to-Carry reciprocity bill, passed out of the House on March 11.  This bill now moves on to the Senate, so please contact your State Senator and urge him to support this critical reform. 

TEXAS
The House Defense Affairs & State Federal Relations Committee reported out HB 685 by Representative Patrick Rose (D-Dripping Springs), which exempts military personnel with recent handgun training from the range instruction portion of the Concealed Handgun License course.  Please contact your State Representatives and urge them to support HB 685.  On March 16, the Senate Intergovernmental Relations Committee will consider SB 734 by Senator Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands), which protects hunting opportunities on private land annexed by a municipality.  The committee will meet at 9:00 a.m in Room E1.028 of the Capitol Extension. Please contact committee members and urge them to support SB 734 (for a list of committee members, please visit www.senate.state.tx.us/75r/Senate/Commit.htm).

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.