Newton, CT (February 16, 2005) – Legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives would prevent further abuse of our nation’s courts when frivolous lawsuits against law-abiding businesses seek to blame them for the criminal misuse of legally sold firearms.
Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) introduced HR 800 with strong bipartisan backing from 92 co-sponsors. In the Senate, S 397 has a total of 27 co-sponsors backing “The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act,” introduced by Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) and Senator Max Baucus (D-MT). The proposed new law enjoys support from business groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Association of Wholesalers, as well as organized labor.
AKTI supported an earlier version of the bill (S659) that was killed in 2004 because of the number of “riders” attached to it.
“Lawful and responsible members of the business community must be protected from this destructive effort. These lawsuits are meant to eliminate a segment of the manufacturing industry and the jobs of tens of thousands it employs,” observed Doug Painter, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms industry.
The National Association of Manufacturers, representing 14,000 members with 18 million employees making all manner of products in America, sees the issue this way: “Today it’s handguns, but tomorrow it could be power tools, golf clubs or automobiles. Manufacturers of perfectly lawful, properly designed and well-functioning products can’t rationally be held liable for third-party actions that may result in harm to another.”
More than thirty states already have passed similar legislation. Federal legislation would prevent new suits from being filed or existing cases from proceeding when a judge determines the defendants are not connected to the wrongdoing of criminals, and their product was not defective.
“This legislation would not stop legitimate lawsuits by someone who is injured by a defective product or against any business that knowingly breaks the law. This new law is needed to stop predatory lawsuits that are intended to bankrupt an entire industry,” explains Lawrence G. Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of NSSF.
Beginning in 1998, some three-dozen lawsuits were brought by municipalities and firearm prohibitionists to blame federally licensed firearm makers and sellers for the criminal misuse of products lawfully made and sold. “Our industry has been forced to spend more than $200 million dollars defending against these outrageous and patently false allegations, with no end in sight,” said Keane.