December 2005

Short Shots: 12/05

Bush Signs ‘Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act’

In late October, President George W. Bush signed into law the “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act” (S. 397), ending politically motivated lawsuits designed to bankrupt law-abiding American firearm manufacturers and retailers. S. 397 passed both chambers in Congress with broad bipartisan support.

“Our industry offers its sincere thanks to the president and Congress for recognizing the importance of this much-needed legislation. This law will not only help protect law-abiding businesses and the jobs of thousands nationwide, but it will also help ensure a positive future for our nation’s hunting and shooting traditions and our firearms freedoms,” said Doug Painter, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association representing firearms and ammunition manufacturers.

“This is an historic day for freedom. I would like to thank President Bush for signing the most significant piece of pro-gun legislation in twenty years into law. History will show that this law helped save the American firearms industry from collapse under the burden of these ruinous and politically motivated lawsuits,” said Wayne LaPierre, NRA’s executive vice president.

Before signing the bill, President Bush praised Congress for the bill’s passage, saying, “I commend the House for passing the ‘Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.’ Our laws should punish criminals who use guns to commit crimes, not law-abiding manufacturers of lawful products. This legislation will further our efforts to stem frivolous lawsuits, which cause a logjam in America’s courts, harm America’s small businesses, and benefit a handful of lawyers at the expense of victims and consumers.”

The U.S. Senate passed the bill (S. 397) in July with a 65-31 bi-partisan vote. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill Oct. 20 by a bi-partisan vote of 283-144.

“What we witness today is the culmination of a seven-year effort that included a comprehensive legislative and election strategy,” stated Chris W. Cox, NRA’s chief lobbyist. “We worked hard to change the political landscape to pass this landmark legislation. As always, our members were up for the task. Key electoral victories in 2000, 2002 and 2004 helped pave passage of this law.

“The firearms industry thanks Senators Larry Craig and Max Baucus, Congressmen Rick Boucher and Cliff Stearns, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell for their considerable efforts in getting this bill passed,” said Larry Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for NSSF.

Since 1998 more than 30 municipal lawsuits have been filed against the makers and sellers of firearms by anti-gun organizations and anti-gun politicians. These illegitimate suits have cost the firearms industry hundreds of millions of dollars in legal defense fees and threatened to bankrupt companies.

In recent years, 33 states passed similar legislation outlawing frivolous lawsuits intended to bankrupt the gun industry. However, this new law creates judicial uniformity in all courts across the United States.

“This law will help preserve the American firearms industry and also help preserve American manufacturing jobs. American companies will cease to make products if they continue to be sued every time a violent criminal they do not know, have never met and cannot control, misuses a legal non-defective product. This is a significant step toward saving millions of manufacturing jobs,” concluded LaPierre.

Among those attending the bill’s signing were Michael Golden, president and CEO of Smith & Wesson; Jeff Reh, vice president and general counsel of Beretta USA; Doug Painter, president and CEO of NSSF; Tom Fruechtel, president and CEO of Leopold and Stevens; Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox of the NRA.

Our Take: With the bill becoming law, a motion to dismiss a case against firearm industry companies in New York City was expected to be filed immediately.