Friday, October 21, 2005

Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act goes to the President

(Updated with a link to the actual text and status of the Act)

Over a year ago I wrote about the attempt in 2004 to pass legislation prohibiting the filing of lawsuits against manufacturers of firearms for crimes committed by third parties using firearms they had made. Last minute additions of "poison pill" amendments doing all manner of things to the bill caused the failure of that measure to pass. Suffice it to say that wasn't the end of the story. Since then, various concerned citizens and groups have worked very, very hard to get that bill passed - without the amendments - in both the House and the Senate.

The Senate passed the bill in late July with a vote of 65-31. Today, the House passed the same bill by a vote of 283-144. From the press release from the NRA:

::::::::Today the United States House of Representatives passed the “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act” (S. 397) by a bipartisan vote of 283-144. The legislation now moves to President Bush’s desk for his expected signature.

Commenting on the passage of this landmark legislation, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said, “This is an historic victory for the NRA. Freedom, truth and justice prevailed, and today S. 397 is one step closer to becoming the law of the land. No other industry is forced to defend themselves when a violent criminal they do not know, have never met and cannot control, misuses a legal non-defective product. American firearms manufacturers will now receive the same fair treatment."

The “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act” seeks to end predatory and baseless lawsuits initiated nationwide by the gun control lobby. These lawsuits sought to bankrupt a lawful, highly regulated industry by holding the manufacturers and retailers responsible for the unforeseeable acts of criminals. S. 397 passed the Senate in late July with a bipartisan vote of 65-31.

Joining LaPierre in commenting on this victory, NRA Chief Lobbyist Chris W. Cox added, “Our judicial system has been exploited for politics and Congress put a stop to that. Passage of the 'Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act' would not have been possible without the support of the 257 House co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle. We appreciate the tireless efforts of Rep. Cliff Stearns and Rep. Rick Boucher and the Republican members of House leadership who worked to move the bill in this chamber.

"We are a safer country today because Congress passed this critical legislation and acted to save American icons like Remington, Ruger, Winchester and Smith & Wesson from politically motivated lawsuits. Our men and women in uniform abroad and at home now will not have to rely on France, China or Germany to supply their firearms,” Cox added.
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This is excellent news. I await eagerly the President's signature on this Act.

Of course, the Associated Press wasted no time in writing their story to paint this as a disaster and to mischaracterize the Act and its effects. The very first person they quote on the matter wasn't the Act's authors nor any of its supporters:

::::::::"This legislation will make the unregulated gun industry the most pampered industry in America," said Kristen Rand, director of the Violence Policy Center.::::::::

A blatant falsehood: the Act has done precisely zero to the regulation of firearms currently in place. Every regulation that was in place yesterday is in place today and will remain in place after the President signs the bill. There are damn few industries subject to a sheer volume of regulation matching that applicable to the manufacture and sale of firearms, let alone any regulated more heavily. You want a pampered industry? Look no further than Washington lobbyists. Continuing from the same story:

::::::::The bill's authors say it still would allow civil suits against individual parties who have been found guilty of criminal wrongdoing by the courts.

Opponents say the strength of the bill's support is testament to the influence of the gun lobby. If the bill had been law when the relatives of six victims of convicted Washington-area snipers John Allen Muhammad (search) and Lee Boyd Malvo (search) sued the gun dealer from which they obtained their rifle, the dealer would not have agreed to pay the families and victims $2.5 million.

"It is shameful that Republicans in Congress are pushing legislation that guarantees their gun-dealing cronies receive special treatment and are above the law," said Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Calif.

Bush has said he supports the bill, which would prohibit lawsuits against the firearms industry for damages resulting from the unlawful use of a firearm or ammunition. Gun makers and dealers still would be subject to product liability, negligence or breach of contract suits, the bill's authors say.
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There's so much wrong with this story that you almost have to do a fisking on it. First, note the particular linguistic construct in the 1st and last statements, here. I'm referring to the comment "the bill's authors say..." It's not that the bill actually says what's being reported. It's that the bill's authors say it. The implication here is very clear: the AP prefers you be very, very skeptical about this whole "would allow civil suits" thing. Would it have been so tough for the AP reporters to have actually read the bill in question and then report what it says?

That part about the DC snipers hits very much close to home for me. My family and I were in the midst of that whole thing while it was going on. But, again, AP's reporters can't tell you the real deal. That doesn't fit in with the narrative they're looking to pass along. The fact of the matter is that the Act keeps lawsuits from being filed against manufacturers, not the gun dealers. A gun dealer who isn't minding his P's and Q's is not protected in the least by this bill and anyone who'd actually read the bill's words would know that quite well. The dealer in the DC snipers case would have done exactly what he did prior to the bill's passage because his liability had nothing whatsoever to do with the manufacture of the firearm used. The AP's reporter, however, tosses that baldface lie out there as a fact, without attribution or proof, as if it's just as obvious as the color of the sky at noon.

Nah, no bias there.

To my fellow students of the 2nd Amendment, congrats to us all. I look forward to reporting that the President has signed the bill.