By Robert M. Hausman
PROTECTION OF LAWFUL COMMERCE IN ARMS ACT NOW LAW! On October 26th, less than a week after passage by the U.S. House of Representatives, President Bush signed the “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act” (S.397) into law, effectively ending politically motivated lawsuits designed to bankrupt firearm manufacturers and retailers.
“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.
In late July, the Senate approved the measure 65-31. The House passed the bill 283-144. The “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act” was NRA’s number one legislative priority and a monumental victory for the Association and its members.
“What we witnessed was the culmination of a seven-year effort that included a comprehensive legislative and election strategy,” stated Chris W. Cox, NRA’s chief lobbyist upon the bill’s passage into law with President Bush’s signature. “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,” Cox said. “The Bush administration was a vital ally during debate on Capitol Hill. I would also like to thank Senators Larry Craig and Max Baucus and Congressmen Rick Boucher and Cliff Stearns for doing a yeoman’s job as lead co-sponsors of this legislation. In addition, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell ought to be commended for their steadfast leadership during Senate deliberations,” added Cox.
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.
During Senate debate earlier this year, the Pentagon stated its concern over the consequences if the American firearms industry was litigated into extinction. The Department of Defense stated it “strongly supports” S. 397 citing, “that passage of S. 397 would help safeguard our national security by limiting unnecessary lawsuits against an industry that plays a critical role in meeting the procurement needs of our men and women in uniform.”
Brady Group’s Reaction
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence worked up until nearly the last minute to continue to file suits against the industry before the bill was ultimately signed into law. Brady Center lawyers now say they intend to attack the constitutionality of the legislation.
Dennis Henigan, Director of the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project, said: “The Congress can pass it. The President can sign it. But this shameful law will not stand. We will challenge the constitutionality of this special interest extravaganza in every court where the rights of gun violence victims are being threatened. This bill is an unprecedented attack on the due process rights of victims injured by the misconduct of an industry that seeks to escape the legal rules that govern the rest of us. We believe state and federal courts across this nation are prepared to strike it down.”
Brady Center lawyers have nine pending lawsuits against gun sellers and manufacturers, in which they represent individual victims of gun violence, and urban municipalities. The cases are pending in the states of Indiana, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, North Carolina and in the District of Columbia.
The Brady Campaign has also been trying to keep tourists from visiting Florida by disseminating misleading information about Florida’s new law not requiring individuals to retreat (even if possible) from a deadly criminal act. Calling it a “shoot first, ask questions never” law, the Brady Campaign has been misinforming tourists about the law by handing out fliers and running advertisements in newspapers in Europe (where gun ownership is no longer common) and the U.S. with the obvious object of attempting to stem tourism and thus force the state to rescind the law.
The City of New Orleans filed the first municipal lawsuit against the American firearms industry almost exactly seven years ago, and over thirty cities and counties subsequently instituted similar litigation. The law of the land now prohibits filing, and would require dismissal of, lawsuits against manufacturers of non-defective, lawfully sold firearms based upon their subsequent criminal acquisition and misuse. Most of these cases have been dismissed by trial or appellate courts, but only after great expense by both taxpayers and the firearms industry. Motions to dismiss the few remaining cases will be filed shortly, based upon this new law. The same day President Bush signed S.397 into law, a motion to dismiss the New York City case was filed.
“While absolutely vital and a resounding declaration of the bipartisan will of Congress,” said Sturm, Ruger President Stephen L. Sanetti, “this law will not immediately end wasteful litigation. It is certain that motions to dismiss the remaining cases will be opposed and their results appealed. Tests of the law’s validity by disgruntled special interests, who oppose the clear will of the people and their legislators, will doubtless follow. We are confident of ultimate victory, but the battle goes on,” Sanetti said.
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.”
While the industry celebrated its victory, a new threat was brewing across America’s northern border. Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin says Americans “have an obligation” to help stop the smuggling of guns into Canada and said he was looking into suing American gun companies which he implied were responsible for the guns being smuggled into Canada. “Americans ask us to do things in terms of the border; I think there’s an obligation on their side to work with us to prevent gun-smuggling into Canada,” Martin told a news conference adding that up to half of all gun crimes in Canada are committed with firearms that have been smuggled into the country.
Guilty Verdict in Street Sweeper Case
In what could be one of the first prosecutions for possession of an unregistered “Street Sweeper” shotgun, United States Attorney Chuck Rosenberg has announced the return of a federal jury’s guilty verdicts.
Pete Joe Villegas, 36, of Kingwood, Texas, was convicted recently of being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession of an unregistered destructive device – a Street Sweeper.
A Street Sweeper is a 12-gauge shotgun with a round magazine holding 12 shotgun shells. It is a copy of a South African military weapon. If the trigger is pulled fast enough, the street sweeper can fire all 12 rounds in approximately 3 seconds. Under federal law, a Street Sweeper is considered a destructive device. Villegas, a convicted felon, is prohibited under federal law from possessing a firearm.
The jury’s verdicts came after a three day trial during which they heard testimony and received evidence that while serving a warrant for the arrest of Villegas at his residence in Kingwood during the early morning hours of April 29, 2003, officers from the Houston Police Dept. and the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice, Office of Inspector General, found numerous weapons, including the Street Sweeper in a bedroom occupied by Villegas.
Industry News Briefs
FN Herstal unveiled two new military weapons systems at the Association of United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. in early October. On display was the new SCAR S.O.F Combat Assault Rifle and the M3M GAU 21 .50 Cal. weapon system.
American Ammunition, Inc. (OTCBB:AAMI) announced that it has received an additional 1,000,000 round order for its line of ECO-AMMO. The order is for 9mm caliber ammunition. AAMI started manufacturing and distributing ECO-AMMO in 2004. It contains a lead free projectile with reduced lead pollutants sometimes referred to as “green” ammo. ECO-AMMO is said to be ideal for indoor ranges since it disintegrates upon impact and therefore does not ricochet.
Lamperd Less Lethal Inc. (OTCBB:LLLI) has cut an exclusive distributor agreement with Laser Shot, Inc. The deal means Lamperd will sell Laser Shot’s products and provide after-purchase support in Canada. Laser Shot’s Dynamic Simulator System is used for law enforcement and military training.
Old Western Scrounger, the firm specializing in the acquisition and sale of obsolete ammunition, has been acquired by Gibbs Rifle Co./Navy Arms Co. The California-based Old Western Scrounger, Inc. was run by “Dangerous Dave”, a distinctive figure who appeared at trade and consumer shows wearing a black top hat with a gold-colored spike affixed to its top (appearing somewhat reminiscent of the 19th century German pickelhaube helmet). Though there was no announcement of the acquisition on the Gibbs Rifle Co. web site, Old Western Scrounger’s site contained mention of the move. Some inventory is still being offered on the site (www.ows-ammunition.com)
First Samco Merges with TDI Arms
First Samco Inc. & TDI Arms USA Inc., both arms accessory marketers, have merged into a new company, to be known as Command Arms Accessories. Products include Picatinny rail systems, advanced light and laser devices, hand grips, stocks, bipods, and adaptors. Most products are available in black, tan, and OD green and come with a lifetime warranty. This change does not affect the Fobus line of holsters and accessories.
Hodgdon Introduces US869 Powder
Hodgdon Powder Company has announced a .50 Browning machine gun propellant designed to offer significant advantages in many magnum rifle applications. Called US869, it is said to be a true magnum spherical rifle powder that is superb with heavy bullets in big, overbore rifle cartridges. US869 is a dense propellant that allows the shooter to use enough powder to create maximum velocities in cartridges such as the 7mm Remington Magnum, .300 Remington Ultra Magnum, .30-378 Weatherby Magnum and others. US869 is superior in the .50 Caliber BMG as it yields high velocity and great accuracy with 750 to 800-grain projectiles and is said to be a fine 1000 yard match propellant. In addition, US869 is affected minimally by varying temperatures, a key feature for top competition and hunting accuracy. Testing has found that a .50 caliber 750-grain bullet is driven at 2,719 fps at 70 degrees Fahrenheit, at 2,709 fps at 125 degrees F., and 2,722 fps at -40 degrees F. Hodgdon’s new US869 will be at retailers by the spring. Complete loading data is presented in the 2006 Hodgdon Annual Manual.
S&W Gains U.S. Army Order
Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation (Amex: SWB), parent company of Smith & Wesson Corp., has announced that it has secured an order from the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Armament Command (“TACOM”) to provide 12,000 pistols for shipment to the Afghanistan Border Patrol. The order is valued at approximately $3.4 million.
This order is the second shipment of Smith & Wesson pistols to be provided to the U.S. Army for ultimate delivery to Afghanistan security forces. The first shipment, completed in May 2005, was shipped through the U.S. Army Security Command to supply the Afghanistan National Army.
For both orders, the U.S. Army selected the Model SW9VE, a double-action-only pistol constructed with a durable polymer frame and a through-hardened stainless steel slide and barrel. Unique features of the 9mm pistol include simple operation procedures, tool-less disassembly and state-of-the-art ergonomic design.
The author publishes two of the small arms industry’s most widely read trade newsletters, The International Firearms Trade which covers the world firearms scene, and The New Firearms Business which covers the domestic market. He also offers FFL-mailing lists to firms interested in direct marketing efforts to the industry. He may be reached at: FirearmsB@aol.com.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V9N5 (February 2006)|