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MARCH 25, 2003 -- Congress is following the lead of over 30 states and now is poised to enact legislation to stop lawsuits that seek to blame companies in the firearms industry for the criminal misuse of their legally old, highly regulated, non-defective products.The recently introduced "Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2003" is being sponsored by a majority of both the House of Representatives (H.R. 1036) and the Senate (S. 659) and enjoys broad, bi-partisan support. In the Senate, there are 52 co-sponsors of the bill introduced last week by Idaho Senator Larry Craig and Montana Senator Max Baucus, including nine Democrats with Minority Whip Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, among them. While in the House, forty-six Democrats are among 247 House members who are sponsoring the bill introduced February 27, 2003 by Florida Republican Congressman Cliff Stearns."This is common-sense legal reform will restore integrity to our nation's judicial system by preventing frivolous, politically motivated lawsuits from being filed by municipalities and anti-gun interest groups in an attempt to bankrupt responsible companies by blaming them for the actions of criminals," said Lawrence Keane, VP and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms industry. "These politically motivated suits are a tremendous waste of taxpayer money and will not stop a single crime from occurring, nor prevent a single accident. Our economy certainly cannot afford to lose precious manufacturing jobs, which is what will happen if our industry is sued out of business. The suits also threaten the very manufacturers that are our 'Arsenal of Democracy,' producers of the firearms that our military and law enforcement use to safeguard our freedoms here at home and around the world.?This common sense legal reform does not grant any special protection or immunity for firearms manufacturers. This legislation does not 'close the courthouse door,' as some have falsely suggested. A plaintiff truly injured by a defective product or an illegally sold firearm would still be able to bring a lawsuit against a firearm manufacturer, as they should be permitted to do." As recently as March 7, 2003 , after three years of exhaustive litigation, a judge threw out a lawsuit filed against the industry by 12 California cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, because those cities could not show any wrongdoing by the industry. A year ago, the City of Boston voluntarily dropped its lawsuit because it too could not prove any wrongdoing and instead acknowledged firearm industry members "are genuinely concerned with and are committed to, the safe, legal and responsible sale and use of their products." And, the highest courts in New York, Connecticut and Florida and the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals have all ruled in favor of the industry and have dismissed lawsuits filed against the industry.Despite this track record of dismissals, attempts to financially ruin firearm companies continue. The NAACP's lawsuit in Brooklyn federal court to blame manufacturers for the actions of criminals begins today. "The ongoing NAACP trial that attempts to blame manufacturers and sellers of legal, highly regulated non-defective firearms for the criminal misuse of their products demonstrates the urgent need for Congress to pass this important common-sense legal reform," said Keane.Doug Painter, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation added, "Our members strongly support enforcing the existing laws to put away criminals who misuse firearms, and we applaud recently announced efforts by the United States Department of Justice to step up prosecutions of those who violate our nation's firearms laws. We are proud of our partnership with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, and we are anxious to continue and further our cooperative relationship with law enforcement by expanding our joint BATF/NSSF 'Don?t Lie for the Other Guy' illegal straw purchase prevention program to include television public service announcements." Mike RossThe Cartridge GuysLife Member, North American Hunting ClubMember, National Rifle AssociationMember, Meeker Co. Historical Society
 

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U.S. Senators Larry Craig (R-Id.)-also an NRA Director-and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) introduced the Senate's version of reckless lawsuit preemption, S. 659, on Wednesday, March 19. Fifty-two Senators have signed on to this bill-which seeks to end the gun-ban lobby's efforts to drive law-abiding firearm manufacturers into bankruptcy under the crushing weight of their predatory, illegitimate lawsuits-representing a majority of the Senate's 100 members. With nine Democrats already signed on as cosponsors, including Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid (D-Nev.), as well as every Senate Republican who holds a leadership position, S. 659 has solid bipartisan and leadership support. Coupled with the February 27 introduction of the House version of reckless lawsuit preemption, H. R. 1036, the anti-gun extremists at the Brady Campaign/HCI must be gravely concerned Congress is prepared to remove one of the principal weapons from the gun-ban lobby's arsenal.But until reckless lawsuit preemption becomes law, the firearm and ammunition industry will continue to be subject to the threat of predatory litigation. HCI and anti-gun big city mayors will continue to shop for judicial venues where they can find judges and juries that are sympathetic to their gun-ban agenda.In fact, as we reported last week, a ruling by a judge in New Jersey will allow three cases promoted by anti-gun mayors and HCI to proceed, and this week a judge in West Virginia made a similar decision to allow another HCI-backed case to continue. These rulings, while at the earliest stages of the cases, represent the need for reckless lawsuit preemption legislation. While firearm manufacturers remain confident they will prevail, as long as these baseless, meritless cases are allowed to proceed, they will be a draining financial burden for all gun makers-a cost that will inevitably be passed on to future gun purchasers. In a response to the ruling in New Jersey, National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) Vice President and General Counsel Lawrence G. Keane said, "[These cases] are ultimately doomed to failure because their allegations have been proven to be without basis in fact." He went on to state, "Today's decision demonstrates the urgent need for Congress to pass common sense legal reform in order to restore integrity and fairness to our judicial system." Keane voiced his support for reckless lawsuit preemption, saying, "This abuse of the legal system could be stopped with the passage of [H.R.] 1036, written to protect law-abiding manufacturers from such groundless suits. More than 30 states have already passed similar legislation. Those with an interest in manufacturing or selling manufactured goods of any kind should consider asking their Representatives and Senators to quickly pass HR 1036 and [S. 659]." Mike RossThe Cartridge GuysLife Member, North American Hunting ClubMember, National Rifle AssociationMember, Meeker Co. Historical Society
 
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