SOURCE: National Shooting Sports Foundation

October 20, 2005 13:20 ET

U.S. House of Representatives Passes Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act

President Bush Expected to Sign Common-Sense Legal Reform to Stop "Junk" Lawsuits Against Firearms Industry

NEWTOWN, CT -- (MARKET WIRE) -- October 20, 2005 -- Congress took a historic step today toward ending "junk" lawsuits.

With a 283-144 bi-partisan vote, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a landmark bill to block lawsuits that seek to hold firearms manufacturers liable for the criminal misuse of their lawfully sold products. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (S. 397) will prevent wrongful civil liability lawsuits against law-abiding companies and end years of abuse of America's legal system by industry opponents.

The bill will now head to President Bush, who has said he would sign it if it reached his desk. The U.S. Senate passed the bill in July with a 65-31 bi-partisan vote.

"The overwhelming bi-partisan support of this bill in both the Senate and House demonstrates Congress's ability to work together when it comes to protecting America's law-abiding businesses, in turn protecting thousands of jobs nationwide. Our industry sincerely thanks Sen. Larry Craig and Rep. Cliff Sterns for introducing this much-needed legislation and President Bush, who has continuously promoted legal reform in order to protect our nation's businesses and economy," said Doug Painter, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association representing firearms and ammunition manufacturers.

Painter praised the National Rifle Association for its tireless efforts in helping to secure passage of the legislation. "The NRA made this bill its number one priority over the past two years. For that dedication, the firearms industry is very grateful to the NRA and its many members who voiced support for the bill. The results are far-reaching, protecting law-abiding companies from financial ruin and, by extension, ensuring a positive future for our hunting and shooting traditions and our firearms freedoms."

The bill provides protection for manufacturers, distributors, retailers and importers of all legally sold firearms and ammunition.

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. The misguided efforts attempted to blame firearm companies for the illegal actions of criminals -- the equivalent of attempting to hold a car manufacturer liable when a criminal uses an automobile in a crime. These illegitimate suits have cost the firearms industry hundreds of millions of dollars in legal defense fees and threatened to bankrupt companies.

"No industry should be threatened by 'junk' lawsuits based not on established legal principles but driven by extreme political agendas. This legislation restores and reaffirms the common-sense notion that no manufacturer should be held liable for the criminal misuse of its products. We are pleased that the House of Representatives has passed this important reform measure," Painter said.

Even though 30 states have passed similar legislation preventing such lawsuits, the federal legislation will provide the full protection sought by the firearms industry and nullify pending lawsuits and prevent future illegitimate lawsuits from being filed. Among those cases nullified are suits from New York City and Washington, D.C., the latter filed under the onerous District of Columbia's Assault Weapon Manufacturing Strict Liability Act that, incredibly, assigns automatic and absolute liability to a manufacturer whose firearm is used in a crime in the District.

"These lawsuits put thousands of jobs at risk and attempted to drive an entire industry out of business. Such abuse of our judicial system invited this historic legal reform," said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF's senior vice president and general counsel.

Opponents of the bill attempted to scare the public into thinking it would no longer have the right to file civil liability actions, but the bill's language is very clear on the subject, allowing legitimate lawsuits to be filed against companies that sell defective products or against firearms dealers who break the law.

As pointed out by many elected officials, the lawsuits represented a serious threat to the industry that provides America's military with small arms and ammunition.

"While many of these suits have been rejected in court, just one verdict for the plaintiffs could bankrupt our small industry and destroy those companies that arm our law enforcement and our military for defense against terrorism at home and overseas," said Keane.

Realizing that any industry, not just the firearms industry, could be the target of such harassing lawsuits, America's business community weighed in strongly for the bill, with letters of support coming from the National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Businesses, National Association of Wholesalers-Distributors, National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers, United Mine Workers of America and other business groups and unions. The Department of Defense also encouraged passage of the bill because of national security concerns.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry, representing manufacturers, distributors and retailers among its 2,500 members.

Contact Information

  • For more information contact:
    Lawrence G. Keane
    (203) 426-1320