April 2004

Short Shots: 04/04

Gun-Suit Reform Law Progresses
Since October 1998, 33 cities and the state of New York have brought lawsuits against gun makers and retailers seeking to hold the companies responsible for the misuse of their products. More than 35 major private suits have also been filed since 1998. Funded with millions of dollars from George Soros, the Brady Campaign (and its predecessor Handgun Control) has paid for much of the legal costs behind these suits.

The goal has not been to win these legally weak cases but rather, with so many simultaneous suits, to bankrupt these companies through massive legal costs. Unfortunately, despite most of the city suits having been knocked out on pretrial motions, this strategy has had some success. Litigation fears helped discourage venerable companies such as Colt’s from continuing to produce handguns, and Kmart, along with other retailers, have stopped selling handgun ammunition.

In late February, the Senate was poised to pass legislation, S. 1805/S. 659, that will rein in many of those lawsuits against gun makers and retailers, such as those that claim that gun makers should “know and foresee” that crimes will be committed with the guns they sell. The proposed legislation, named the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, will not end lawsuits against defective products that cause harm or injury. Similarly, a company will still face civil liability in addition to criminal penalties if it has violated state or federal law or sold a gun knowing that it would be used to commit a crime. Even prominent Democrats such as Sen. Diane Feinstein forecasted that the bill would pass.

Yet, other legislation included in the bill, such as amendments to extend the ban on some semiautomatic guns and to further regulate gun shows, face close votes. If passed, these amendments threaten to kill the “Protection” bill in conference committee.

Still, some senators, including Tom Daschle, are simultaneously promising to vote for the bill but also promising gun-control groups that they are “solid” for the gun-show and assault-weapons amendments.

On February 27, an agreement was reached on amendments to be offered to the S. 1805/ S. 659 bills. After a successful procedural vote (75-22), the Senate began to debate and vote on amendments. The White House had issued a “Statement of Administration Position” (SAP) that encouraged the Senate to pass a “clean” bill free of extraneous amendments. However, anti-gun senators used parliamentary leverage to extract concessions to vote on amendments that held the potential for derailing the bill. Pro-gun senators countered with their own amendments. Throughout the day, votes took place on amendments detailed in the accompanying box.

Also, there were showdowns expected on two of the most contentious amendments: a straight 10-year extension of the assault-weapons ban and background checks at gun shows (see related editorials).

A recent poll conducted by the Roper Center asked Americans whether “companies that make guns should be held financially liable if judges or juries find that their products were used to commit a crime.” Seventy-eight percent disagreed. With such grassroots support, 10 Democratic senators from Southern and Western states have joined 45 Republican senators in sponsoring the current legislation.

Our Take: But can such Democratic senators as Tom Daschle and Harry Reid—who face reelection this year—really convince voters that they want to stop these lawsuits while, at the same time, they vote for additional gun-control amendments that jeopardize the final passage of the bill? They probably can, but in our view, they aren’t sincere about their support of the legislation to protect gun companies against frivolous lawsuits. Thus, they may derail the gun-industry protection bills.

Click here to view "Amendments To Senate Gun Bill"

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SHOT Show Final Tally
Reconciled figures from the just-ended 2004 SHOT Show reveal the strongest attendance in five years, a total of 33,264 buyer-attendees, exhibitors, press and guests-of-show. That’s an increase of about ten percent from the first-reported 30,701 who were reported to have taken part.

Our Take: Gun Tests staffers who worked the show noted that floor traffic seemed to be lighter than in previous years. Also, we didn’t notice a “.500 S&W Magnum”-class offering that blew our socks off. The biggest growth segment continues to be in 1911- and AR-15–related parts and guns, according to our sources.

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The Ruger Studio of Art and Decoration
Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc., is building The Ruger Studio of Art and Decoration, a custom gun-engraving facility specifically dedicated to the creation of individualized firearms artistry.

“From the beginning, a very small number of Ruger firearms have been embellished for memorable occasions or for presentation. We will now be able to create unique, individual works of art by fulfilling the wishes of firearms owners who appreciate artistry and craftsmanship,” said Sturm, Ruger & Company President, Stephen L. Sanetti.

Our Take: For centuries, artistically embellished firearms have been a hallmark of the powerful and privileged. Ruger is now able to offer firearms collectors unique expressions of their personal tastes, for a price, of course.

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Guns That Only The Owner Can Shoot?
Taurus International Manufacturing is working to develop firearms that electronically recognize pre-authorized individual users.

With two other partners, the company is seeking to build a new handgun using Dynamic Grip Recognition biometry, a technology owned by the New Jersey Institute of Technology. This, combined with the Electronic Firing System owned by Metal Storm, Ltd., will be developed into a total handgun package by Taurus.

The Dynamic Grip Recognition biometry recognizes the specific grip exerted by various individuals. The NJIT system will allow each firearm to be programmed so that pre-authorized users will be able to instantly operate the firearm.

For more information on the Metal Storm company, visit www.metalstorm.com. For more information on NJIT, visit www.njit.edu. For more information on Taurus, visit www.taurususa.com.

Our Take: Many have tried and failed at user-ID gun technologies. Our suspicion is that this arrangement will also go on the junk heap of history.

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A Sweeter Twenty-Five?
Winchester has created a cartridge that, on paper, delivers the knock-down performance of the .25-06 in a cartridge that’s two action sizes smaller than the .25-06. The new .25 WSSM is based on a short, fat cartridge geometry. Despite having less propellant than the .25-06, the .25 WSSM produces comparable ballistics to its longer stablemate. Winchester is marketing the .25 WSSM for varmint to deer-sized game.

Being .25-06 fans, we eagerly shot the cartridge extensively at the 2004 SHOT Show, in 120-grain Super-X Positive Expanding Point and 115-grain Supreme Ballistic Silvertip loadings. A condensed ballistics summary appears in the table. But in sum, the rounds perform the same with the same bullets.

Our Take: In the limited shooting we did, we liked this round, mainly because it doesn’t require the long back-and-forth action cycling an ’06-length round requires. If its ballistic numbers run true in a matchup, we could see switching to the .25 WSSM cartridge for deer hunting.