[Congressional Record Volume 151, Number 132 (Tuesday, October 18, 2005)]
[House]
[Pages H8881-H8885]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]




PROVIDING FOR CONSIDERATION OF S. 397, PROTECTION OF LAWFUL COMMERCE IN 
                                ARMS ACT

  Mr. GINGREY. Madam Speaker, by direction of the Committee on Rules, I 
call up House Resolution 493 and ask for its immediate consideration.
  The Clerk read the resolution, as follows:

                              H. Res. 493

       Resolved, That upon the adoption of this resolution it 
     shall be in order without intervention of any point of order 
     to consider in the House the bill (S. 397) to prohibit civil 
     liability actions from being brought or continued against 
     manufacturers, distributors, dealers, or importers of 
     firearms or ammunition for damages, injunctive or other 
     relief resulting from the misuse of their products by others. 
     The bill shall be considered as read. The previous question 
     shall be considered as ordered on the bill to final passage 
     without intervening motion except: (1) one hour of debate 
     equally divided and controlled by the chairman and ranking 
     minority member of the Committee on the Judiciary; and (2) 
     one motion to recommit.

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Gingrey) is 
recognized for 1 hour.
  Mr. GINGREY. Madam Speaker, for the purpose of debate only, I yield 
30 minutes to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings), pending which 
I yield myself such time as I may consume. During consideration of this 
resolution, all time yielded is for the purpose of debate only.
  Madam Speaker, House Resolution 493 is a closed rule. It provides 1 
hour of general debate equally divided and controlled by the chairman 
and ranking minority member of the Committee on the Judiciary. It 
waives all points of order against consideration of the bill, and it 
provides one motion to recommit.
  Madam Speaker, before we open debate on the rule for S. 397, the 
Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act prohibiting frivolous 
lawsuits against the firearm industry, I would like to say that our 
Nation's judicial system is out of control. If a group or a person does 
not like what someone else does or believes, they try to sue them out 
of existence. This seems to be the case for the firearms industry.
  Our Founding Fathers designed our second amendment rights to be 
absolute rights that shall not be infringed. However, those who find 
the second amendment offensive have made a concerted effort to sue out 
of existence those who lawfully and legally facilitate a 
constitutionally guaranteed right. America's firearm companies are 
directly connected to and span our national history, but they are 
currently threatened by a lawsuit-friendly culture.
  Addressing the burden of frivolous lawsuits has become a necessity 
for free enterprise. It seems that for some individuals lawsuits have 
become the latest get-rich scheme. Frivolous lawsuits drive up the cost 
of goods and services, and they put law-abiding companies out of 
business.
  The passage of this legislation is time-sensitive. Every day without 
this legislation puts more stress on firearm manufacturers, their 
customers, and their employees. Indeed, some lawsuits are motivated by 
ideology and a distaste for the firearm industry and guns in general. 
They will simply keep suing until either the firearm companies are out 
of business or the guns are too expensive to purchase.
  This form of gun control will not only compromise one of our 
constitutional rights but, Madam Speaker, it threatens the jobs of many 
Americans.
  So it is important to note that S. 397, the Protection of Lawful 
Commerce in Arms Act, does allow the following types of lawsuits to be 
filed: number 1, an action against a person who transfers a firearm or 
ammunition, knowing that it will be used to commit a crime of violence, 
or drug trafficking crime or comparable or identical State felony law; 
secondly, an action brought against the seller for negligent 
entrustment; third, actions in which a manufacturer or seller of a 
qualified product violates a State or Federal statute applicable to 
sales or marketing when such violation was a proximate cause of the 
harm for which relief is sought.

                              {time}  1445

  This exception would specifically allow lawsuits against firearms 
dealers such as the dealer whose firearm ended up in the hands of the 
D.C. snipers who failed to maintain a required inventory list necessary 
to ensure that they are alerted to any firearm thefts.
  Fourth, actions for breach of contract or warranty in connection with 
the purchase of a firearm or ammunition; and fifth, actions for damages 
resulting directly from a defect in design or manufacture of a firearm 
or ammunition.
  So, under this legislation, manufacturers and sellers must operate 
entirely within Federal and State law. More than half our States have 
passed similar legislation, and I encourage passage of this rule and 
consideration of the underlying legislation.
  Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman from 
Georgia (Mr. Gingrey) for yielding me this time, and I yield myself 
such time as I may consume.
  Madam Speaker, I rise today in strong opposition to this closed rule 
and the underlying legislation. My friends in the majority are again 
bringing to the floor a rule that blocks debate in the body before it 
begins. Under this rule not one Member of the House, Republican or 
Democrat, is permitted to offer an amendment. Under this rule and under 
this bill, the gun lobby is rewarded while public safety is thwarted.
  A few examples: The gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Van Hollen) and the 
gentleman from California (Mr. Waxman) offered an amendment last night 
that prohibits suspected and known terrorists from purchasing firearms. 
That was not made in order. The gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. 
McCarthy), my good friend who will speak on this issue later, had an 
amendment that expands existing prohibitions on armor-piercing bullets 
to include those bullets capable of piercing body armor. And the 
gentlewoman from California (Ms. Linda Sanchez) offered an amendment 
that permits courts to hear suits based on the sale of weapons to 
persons with domestic convictions.
  Under this rule, however, not one of these amendments, or any of the 
five other commonsense amendments offered by Democrats in the Committee 
on Rules last night, will be given any consideration by the full House.
  Madam Speaker, our government was built on the foundation of an open 
and transparent participatory process. Yet, since 1994, when 
Republicans regained control of the House; I might add, Republicans 
that argued against closed rules, participation has been limited to 
only those who share their beliefs.
  The underlying legislation, which dismisses existing lawsuits against 
gun manufacturers and dealers and prohibits the filing of future suits, 
is not sound public policy. On the contrary, it is outright political 
grandstanding.
  During the last 3 years, more than 34 government entities have filed 
valid lawsuits against gun manufacturers, distributors, and trade 
associations. At the beginning of 2005, 18 of those suits had won 
favorable rulings, while only a handful had been dismissed. The 
remaining cases are still in court, and I gather that this legislation 
contemplates eliminating those citizens' rights to be in court.
  In fact, several State appeals and supreme courts have also ruled 
that gun manufacturers and dealers can be held liable for the 
reasonably foreseeable use of firearms for criminal purposes. 
Settlements from these cases have forced gun manufacturers to make 
necessary safety modifications that the industry had previously refused 
to do. How many times do we have to see a baby with a gun in its hand 
or at its head or killing some member of the family before we get to 
safety modifications?
  The ruling in the D.C. sniper case forced the gun manufacturer 
Bushmaster to inform its dealers of safer sales practices that will 
prevent other criminals from obtaining guns, something that Bushmaster 
had never done before. Other rulings have resulted in major crackdowns 
on ``straw purchases,'' where legally purchased guns are resold to 
individuals unable to lawfully purchase a weapon on their own. In each 
of these instances, it is beyond fair to say that they were not 
frivolous lawsuits. Yet, if the underlying legislation becomes law, 
when the cases are heard then none of them would have even been filed.

[[Page H8882]]

  Perhaps my friends in the majority can help me understand what is so 
unreasonable in requiring an industry that produces a product with the 
sole purpose of killing to take the necessary precautions to protect 
public safety, and is it our belief that the American judicial system 
is incapable of properly dismissing lawsuits that are both unreasonable 
and overzealous? They do it all the time.
  Let us be honest and call this bill and this debate what they really 
are: legislative abuse, with closed rules and a political charade. 
Republicans are using the legislative process in an attempt to penalize 
attorneys and trial lawyers, historically supporters of Democrats, who 
hold the gun lobby, a major campaign contributor to my friends in the 
majority, accountable for its actions.
  The majority's reckless disregard for judicial integrity mocks our 
Constitution's separation of powers doctrine. Dangerously, it does so 
at the expense of American safety.
  I implore my colleagues to reject this rule and the underlying 
legislation, and I would say to my good friend, the gentleman from 
Georgia (Mr. Gingrey), that I know of nothing in my makeup that would 
cause me at any point in time to want to do anything in derogation of 
the rights of American citizens under the United States Constitution. 
The second amendment, the right to own a gun, is everybody's right. But 
manufacturers ought not be manufacturing guns that are not safe and are 
poorly manufactured, and nobody should be protecting them at all.
  Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. GINGREY. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume 
before calling on the gentlewoman from Pennsylvania.
  I want to point out, Madam Speaker, to the gentleman from Florida, my 
good friend, regarding this particular legislation, S. 397, we have in 
this body, not just in the 109th this year, passed very, very similar, 
almost identical legislation, and there were some 11 amendments I think 
offered during the markup in the Committee on the Judiciary. Those were 
defeated. In fact, at least one member of the committee from the other 
party, from the minority party, voted against most of those amendments 
and voted in favor of favorably reporting this bill. This bill also was 
passed in the 108th Congress, H.R. 1036. I think the vote on that 
particular bill was 285 to 140.
  Madam Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentlewoman from Pennsylvania 
(Ms. Hart), a member of the Committee on the Judiciary.
  Ms. HART. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Georgia for 
yielding me this time.
  I rise in support of the rule. This rule gets us to the point of this 
issue. My area of western Pennsylvania has a strong sportsman heritage, 
as does this Nation. Hunting has been a tradition, bringing generations 
of families together. As such, second amendment rights are crucial. I 
am a cosponsor and I strongly support Senate bill 397.
  Since 1998, dozens of municipalities and cities have filed suits 
against America's firearms industry, somehow alleging that the 
manufacturer of a firearm can be responsible for the acts of criminals. 
These suits, following the model of the tobacco litigation, attempt to 
push the gun manufacturers into court to force a settlement, a large 
cash award, or cessation of a business. In Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 
attempted to claim public nuisance violations of firearm manufacturers, 
but a reasonable court dismissed the claim, stating that the city's 
charges were a ``theory in search of a case.''
  Firearm manufacturers have a time-honored tradition of acting 
responsibly. They therefore should not be subjected to these frivolous 
suits. Such suits are anti-freedom, they are anti-employer, not to 
mention that they seek to protect the irresponsible.
  In addition, the gun industry plays a large role in my State of 
Pennsylvania in our economy. Pennsylvania is home to 277 gun 
manufacturers, and the impact of sportsmen-related activity to our 
economy brings more than $900 million to our State. It also brings 
generations of family tradition. That is also good for our economy.
  Senate bill 397 prohibits illegitimate lawsuits against licensed and 
law-abiding manufacturers and dealers. These lawsuits, which attempt to 
blame the firearms industry for crimes committed by criminals who 
misuse their products, have already cost this industry more than $100 
million in attorneys' fees and a suit against the industry has yet to 
win.
  This bill seeks to end the abuse of our judicial system by the 
coordinated strategy of filing endless predatory lawsuits designed to 
drive law-abiding gun manufacturers into bankruptcy.
  Senators Santorum and Specter have both cosponsored the Senate 
version of this bill which passed the Senate in July. President Bush 
has indicated his support for this legislation, and I look forward to 
this bill coming to the floor so that we can pass it in the House and 
its being signed and becoming law, so that our American firearms 
industry will not be subjected to potentially bankrupting lawsuits.
  As we know, there is a way to control gun crime and protect the gun 
industry. We need to enforce the many gun laws that are currently on 
the books. Not only does this law protect lawful gun owners, but 
enforcing gun crime works. A study by the ATF in June of 2000 
documented 1,700 Federal and State gun law prosecutions and 1,000 
verdicts from July 1996 to December of 1999, while there were nearly 
500,000 gun crimes committed annually. The way to combat gun crimes is 
not through ridiculous lawsuits, but through the prosecution of gun 
crimes. Forcing the gun industry into court ignores a city's inability 
to control gun crime.
  Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Madam Speaker, I am pleased and privileged 
at this time to yield 3\1/2\ minutes to the distinguished gentleman 
from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern), my colleague on the Committee on 
Rules.
  Mr. McGOVERN. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Florida for 
yielding me this time.
  Madam Speaker, I oppose this closed rule and the underlying bill. 
This bill demonstrates how much of a stranglehold that the NRA and gun 
industry lobbyists have over the majority party. This bill is not being 
considered today because it is good policy; it is being considered 
because the majority leadership is bowing down to special interests.
  While the proponents of this bill claim that the intent of this 
legislation is to protect jobs at mom-and-pop gun stores from reckless 
lawsuits, the truth is that the bill is all about protecting profits 
for the gun industry. Ensuring its yearly profits, not protecting jobs 
nor safeguarding gun sales, is atop the priorities of the gun industry.
  This bill protects any gun manufacturer, distributor, or seller from 
any claim of negligence. Any lawsuit, current or future, would not be 
considered by the courts if this bill were signed into law.
  Madam Speaker, on Christmas Eve in 1999, in my hometown of Worcester, 
Massachusetts, 26-year-old Danny Guzman was shot and killed. A week 
later, police recovered the 9 millimeter Kahr Arms handgun used to kill 
young Danny. Through ballistics, the police determined that the gun was 
one of several stolen from Kahr Arms by Kahr employees with criminal 
records. According to the police, one of the employees had been hired 
by Kahr to work in its Worcester manufacturing facility, despite the 
fact that he had a long history of drug addiction, theft to support 
that addiction, alcohol abuse and violence, including several assault 
and battery charges.
  Police determined that the guns were stolen from Kahr before the 
weapons had serial numbers stamped on them and were then resold to 
criminals in exchange for money and drugs. In March 2000, police 
arrested a man who pled guilty to the gun thefts. The investigation 
also led to the arrest of a Kahr employee, a man with a criminal 
history who pled guilty to stealing from Kahr a pistol and a slide for 
another weapon.
  Now, Kahr did not conduct any criminal or general background checks 
on its employees. The company did not even have any metal detectors or 
x-ray machines or security cameras or other similar devices to monitor 
the facility or to determine if employees were stealing, nor were there 
guards to check employees at the end of their shifts.

[[Page H8883]]

                              {time}  1500

  Mr. Speaker, anybody with half a brain has to understand that this 
company was negligent. Now, if this bill becomes law, gun manufacturers 
like Kahr Arms would be shielded from negligence. And the Guzman 
family's suit would be dismissed.
  This is just one of the many stories that illustrate the reckless and 
irresponsible nature of many, not all, but many in the gun industry. 
And this bill will only further shield them from accountability.
  Now, do not be fooled. The NRA and the gun industry want this bill 
not because jobs are threatened. They want this bill because they fear 
their precious profits will be affected should they be forced to change 
some of their irresponsible and reckless practices.
  To my colleagues who support this bill, tell the Guzman family that 
they have no right to be angry at the Worcester-based manufacturer. 
Tell them that the death of their beloved Danny Guzman was just bad 
luck and could not have been prevented. The fact of the matter is, it 
could have been prevented by more responsible practices by Kahr Arms.
  I have to believe that gun owners all across this country would not 
object to ensuring that gun manufacturers allow for more responsible 
practices in terms of protecting what they manufacture. This is not 
about taking people's guns away. This is about protecting people. Mr. 
Speaker, I would urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on the rule and the 
underlying legislation.
  Mr. GINGREY. Mr. Speaker, in response to the gentleman from 
Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern) I want to point out that this bill 
prohibits lawsuits against a manufacturer or seller of a firearm or 
ammunition or not-for-profit trade association for damages resulting 
from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a firearm or ammunition.
  But it provides, as I said in my opening remarks, Mr. Speaker, five 
exceptions to this liability protection, including, and I will just 
mention one in response to my good friend from Massachusetts. An 
exception would be for an action against a seller for negligent 
entrustment or negligence, per se, for example supplying a gun or 
ammunition to a person when the seller knows or reasonably should know 
that the buyer possesses an unacceptable risk of physical injury to 
himself or others.
  As an example again, the D.C. snipers were successful in court on 
these grounds.
  Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. GINGREY. I yield to the gentleman from Massachusetts.
  Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, the exception that he just cited would not 
cover the example that I just gave. The bottom line is that it was an 
employee who worked for Kahr Arms that stole these weapons and that 
sold them to criminals for drug money.
  As a result, a young man was killed. And it is our understanding, 
based on my conversations with members of the Judiciary Committee, that 
in fact this would not be covered. So having said that, I would urge my 
colleagues to vote ``no'' on this bill.
  Mr. GINGREY. Reclaiming my time, I would again point out to the 
gentleman that it also would be an exception if a vendor knowingly did 
not keep an inventory so that they would have knowledge that dangerous 
weapons or firearms were actually stolen from their place of business. 
And that also is one of the exceptions.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman from Michigan (Mrs. 
Miller).
  Mrs. MILLER of Michigan. Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the 
debate that we are having today on this issue. I rise in support of the 
rule.
  Mr. Speaker, when drafting the Bill of Rights to our Constitution, 
our Founding Fathers guaranteed the right of the people to keep and to 
bear arms in the second amendment, and for 217 years the second 
amendment has protected our freedom.
  But for years we have seen a nonstop onslaught of individuals and 
groups trying to erode this basic right. Now, unable to accomplish 
their goals at the ballot box, they are targeting arms makers in the 
courts for the illegal use of their product.
  Their attempt to force U.S. arms producers out of business would have 
a serious impact not only on our freedoms but on our national security 
as well. Let us for a moment just look at three of the companies that 
are targeted by lawsuits by the antigun fanatics.
  The Colt Company is a sole provider of the M-16 rifle carried by the 
men and women of our armed services. Beretta USA supplies the standard 
sidearm for all branches of the Armed Forces and law enforcement 
agencies across the country.
  The Sig Arms Company manufactures the sidearm carried by the Secret 
Service and the Navy SEALS. And if these companies are destroyed, where 
will our military and our law enforcement get the arms that they need 
to keep our Nation safe? From France, perhaps. Maybe we can buy them 
from China.
  This is why the Pentagon took the extraordinary step in sending a 
letter to each Member of this House urging the passage of this 
important legislation. The aim of these lawsuits is to deny law-abiding 
Americans from exercising their Constitutional rights to keep and to 
bear arms. This must be stopped.
  Instead, we should severely punish criminals, not law-abiding 
companies or citizens. And if we do not do so, what is next? Are we 
going to sue the Louisville Slugger Company if a criminal hits somebody 
with a baseball bat?
  Enough is enough. It is time for common sense. It is time to protect 
the jobs of the workers of American firms. It is time to protect our 
rights under the second amendment of the Constitution, and it is time 
to ensure that the men and women of the armed services and our law 
enforcement have access to the best possible firearms to protect our 
Nation.
  Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I would urge my colleague that 
just spoke that the many people that I know, and they are numerous in 
my State and elsewhere that were killed by guns and are advocates 
against guns, are not fanatics. They are people who are victims of 
murder.
  Additionally, I thought I made it clear, I wish to make it clear 
again, that insofar as the second amendment is concerned, everyone that 
I know in this body is protective of a person's right to own a gun.
  The fact of the matter is that manufacturers who act irresponsibly 
should be sued by persons if they so choose when that harm comes to 
them.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield 6 minutes to the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. 
McCarthy).
  Mrs. McCARTHY. Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for giving me this 
opportunity to speak out against this rule. I have been here about 8\1/
2\ years now, and I came here without any political experience.
  But history had taught me that we, as Americans, certainly fight for 
our democracy all of the time. Yet over the years, I have seen 
democracy, especially in this great House, deteriorate continuously.
  I have seen where we go up to the Rules Committee continuously, 
because I always thought that when you came down to this great House, 
the whole idea was to have debate. And yet I see debate being 
challenged constantly.
  Important issues that come on to this floor, the minority is not 
allowed to debate them, nor are we allowed to offer any kind of 
amendments to hopefully make a bill better. Our voices are being shut 
constantly. This is not the democracy that I learned about when I was 
in school or the democracy that I believed in as I became an adult.
  Last night in the Rules Committee, the majority voted against 
protecting police officers and voted to make it easier for felons to 
get guns. The committee rejected my amendment that would ban all armor-
piercing ammunition. Let me tell you about armor-piercing ammunition. 
That was used in the shooting back in 1993 that killed my husband and 
wounded my son.
  And it is only by the grace of God that my son survived. I can go 
into how many millions of dollars have been spent to make sure that my 
son could have a productive life. I can talk about his hand that was 
operated on, because once the bullet hit it, it shattered.
  We were lucky that we had anything to work with. And because he 
raised his hand, it only took off a little bit of his head. And these 
are bullets that we want to have on our streets? But that amendment was 
not allowed.
  You cannot even hunt with them. Come on. I am hearing this debate on

[[Page H8884]]

the second amendment. I believe in the second amendment. I will protect 
the second amendment. But that does not mean that we cannot enforce the 
laws that are already on the books.
  You know, I have the bill, that would be the NICS system, that would 
bring the National Instant Checks System up to where it should. You 
know, this is the month that we are supposed to be talking about 
domestic violence.
  And yet because of the way the States do not keep records, we have 
people that are not in the NICS system. So if you want to talk about 
let us enforce the laws on the books, then let us pass a good NICS 
system that would enforce the laws that are already on the books.
  Too many of our felons are slipping through the cracks of the NICS 
system. What I want to do is make sure that every State can come to the 
speed that they should be, when someone is found guilty in court, and 
they are being adjudicated to prison, that their rights of being able 
to buy a gun are taken away.
  You want to talk about that we have terrorists in this country, and 
we have a terrorist list, but they are allowed to buy guns. Now, again, 
we keep hearing the rhetoric that goes back and forth in this Hall all 
of the time that we are trying to take away the right of people to own 
guns. That is nonsense.
  But we can have gun safety issues put out into place so that we can 
bring down the number of 30,000 people killed in this country every 
year, so we can bring down the $100 billion that is spent every year on 
health care, loss of productivity, and using our police. Think about 
what this Hall and what this great House could do with $100 billion.
  Maybe we could protect Social Security. Maybe we could protect our 
health care system. Maybe we can improve our educational system. You 
know, again, I am disappointed because I came here as an average 
citizen, honestly believing that a debate was good, whether people 
agreed or disagreed, made no difference. You had a debate and hopefully 
people would then make up their minds.
  Let us not think that this bill is going to solve the problems that 
they are talking about. In a decade we have had over 15 million 
lawsuits. Fifty-seven of them were against gun manufacturers. Fifty-
seven of them. And for this, and every other issue that we are taking 
away the right of victims to be able to have their day in court.
  Our court system is working. Our court system is set up the way the 
Constitution wanted. And yet this body, with our Republican friends, 
wants to take away the rights of people to have their day in court.
  I ask my colleagues to vote against this rule, to protect the 
integrity of this House, and not to protect the NRA.
  Mr. GINGREY. Mr. Speaker, I want to point out that this bill on the 
House side, H.R. 800, which was passed, as I mentioned earlier by the 
House Judiciary Committee, this bill actually had 257 cosponsors, Mr. 
Speaker. So this is certainly not a Republican bill.
  You can do the math. My colleagues certainly can do the math on the 
other side of the aisle. But clearly, this bill had strong, strong 
bipartisan support.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. 
Stearns), a member of the Energy and Commerce and Veterans' Affairs 
Committees.
  Mr. STEARNS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the rule and in 
support of the underlying bill. It was my bill, H.R. 800. I authored 
the House version. Then the Senate passed S. 397, and I am pleased that 
we are taking action on this important piece of legislation today.
  This is a bill, frankly, my colleagues, that promotes legal 
responsibility. It respects, in my opinion, the legislative process, 
saves taxpayers dollars, protects legitimate law-abiding businesses, 
and strengthens our commitment to the second amendment.

                              {time}  1515

  This is an effort that has taken several years and at least three 
sessions of Congress to get where we are today. It has not been easy, 
but it has been heartening to see how much bipartisan support this bill 
has slowly garnered over the years.
  When I first introduced this bill in 2001, it had 231 co-sponsors, 
but never received a vote. The next session we had 250 co-sponsors and 
an overwhelming 285 to 140 vote on the floor, but then the bill just 
died in the other body. Now we have 257 co-sponsors on my bill. The 
Senate overwhelmingly passed their version, and we are poised to pass 
this historic piece of legislation today.
  But when we started debating this issue, there were only a handful of 
States that had their own laws prohibiting these junk lawsuits. Today 
there are 33 States that have laws prohibiting these frivolous 
lawsuits. So not only is this bill bipartisan in the House and in the 
Senate; it is bipartisan in this Nation with 33 States, both Democrats 
and Republicans in the State legislatures and Governors signing on to 
the bills that ultimately became laws.
  And just a few years ago polls showed anywhere from 61 to 70 percent 
of the American people believed that the gun industry should not be 
held liable for damages caused by violent criminals. Today, that 
already solid majority has risen even more, to an astounding 79 percent 
of the American people, according to a March 2005 survey.
  Mr. Speaker, this is a bill and an issue whose time has obviously 
come. I urge my colleagues to support the rule and, obviously, to 
support the underlying bill.
  Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I 
may consume.
  Mr. Speaker, just in case people think that it is only those of us 
who believe in our legal system that are opposed to this particular 
measure, I have in hand a letter from law enforcement's opposition to 
H.R. 800, and here is what it says:
  ``Dear Representative: As active and retired law enforcement 
officers, we are writing to urge your strong opposition to any 
legislation granting the gun industry special legal immunity. The bill 
would strip away the legal rights of gun violence victims, including 
law enforcement officers and their families, to seek redress against 
irresponsible gun dealers and manufacturers. The impact of this bill on 
the law enforcement community is well illustrated by the lawsuit 
brought by former Orange New Jersey police officers Ken McGuire and 
David Lemongello.''
  I gather that their lawsuit would be dismissed as frivolous.
  ``On January 12, 2001, Officers McGuire and Lemongello were shot in 
the line of duty with a trafficked gun negligently sold by a West 
Virginia dealer. The dealer had sold the gun, along with 11 other guns, 
in a cash sale to a straw buyer for a gun trafficker. In June of 2004, 
the officers obtained a $1 million settlement from the dealer. The 
dealer, as well as two other area pawn shops also, have implemented 
safer practices to prevent sales to traffickers, including a new policy 
of ending large volume sales of handguns. These reforms go beyond the 
requirement of current law and are not imposed by any manufacturers or 
distributors.
  ``If immunity,'' this is what the law enforcement community, some of 
them say, ``if immunity for the gun industry had been enacted, the 
officers' case would have been thrown out of court and justice would 
have been denied. Police officers like Officers McGuire and Lemongello 
put their lives on the line every day to protect the public. Instead of 
honoring them for their service, legislation granting immunity to the 
gun industry would deprive them of their basic rights as American 
citizens to prove their case in a court of law. We stand with Officers 
McGuire and Lemongello in urging you to oppose this legislation.''
  It is signed by the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, the 
Major Cities Chiefs Association, the Hispanic American Police Command 
Officers Association, The Police Foundation, the Michigan Association 
of Chiefs of Police, chiefs of police from New Jersey, Ohio, 
Massachusetts, Nevada, California, New York, North Carolina, Maine, 
Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Rhode Island, and Kansas and Virginia and 
countless others that time will not permit me to add.
  If police officers who are out there protecting us cannot find the 
protection in this House of Representatives from bullets or armor-
piercing bullets, and we are going to protect people who manufacture 
that stuff from having legal suits brought against them, some

[[Page H8885]]

that may be dismissed, some that may be won, some that may be lost but 
it is an American right, just like that second amendment is an American 
right that I will go to my grave believing in, but I will go with these 
police officers in believing that it is wrong to deny people an 
opportunity to take their matter to court and have it decided 
appropriately by a court of law and juries of their peers who are all 
435 of our constituents.
  In addition to what is wrong is this system is wrong. When you close 
out amendments that would allow people to have an opportunity to come 
down here on the floor of the House of Representatives and represent 
their constituents, this is a closed rule; and I urge my colleagues to 
vote against this closed rule.
  Mr. GINGREY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2\1/2\ minutes to the gentleman 
from New Hampshire (Mr. Bass), a member of the Committee on Energy and 
Commerce.
  Mr. BASS. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. 
Gingrey) for yielding me time.
  Mr. Speaker, I would only point out that this bill, with the 
exception of one and maybe two changes, has already been debated by 
this House. I appreciate the fact that my friend from Florida would be 
concerned about it being a closed rule, but this is certainly not the 
first time that we have considered this bill. I think I have voted on 
it a number of times in the past.
  The fact of the matter is all this bill does is the same thing the 
last version did that we voted on before and the one we voted on before 
that: it protects licensed and law abiding firearms and ammunitions 
manufacturers and sellers from lawsuits that seek to hold them 
responsible for the crimes that third-party criminals commit. It does 
not hold harmless unlawful, non-law-abiding arms manufacturers and 
sellers; but it simply allows for some immunity from the frivolous 
lawsuits that gun manufacturers have faced now for many years. Thirty-
three States, including my home State of New Hampshire, have passed 
similar legislation at the State level.
  Indeed, the argument is brought up that this does set a precedent of 
providing special protection to a segment of the industry; and I say, 
you are right. You are absolutely right about that. And sad to say, I 
wish this bill was not necessary. I wish that there were not 
adventurous trial lawyers that see deep pockets as a new way to line 
theirs. I wish we had not reached the day that we have to protect, as 
we may later on this week, restaurants and public schools from 
frivolous lawsuits related to obesity claims; but the fact of the 
matter is we need to do that. We need to do that because there is no 
direct connection now between gun manufacturers and crimes that are 
committed with guns unless there is negligence of one sort or another.
  I urge my colleagues to support this bill because it is a sad reality 
that legitimate industries in this country need special protection 
against entities that are looking to make money, to provide new sources 
of revenue outside of the tax base, and other ways of looking for 
people that can afford to settle on cases that they would never ever 
settle on under any other circumstance.
  This bill has been debated. This is a good bill, and I urge the 
Congress to adopt it when it comes up on the floor.
  Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my 
time.
  Mr. GINGREY. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.
  Mr. Speaker, despite their best arguments against free enterprise, 
personal responsibility and the protection of lawful commerce, critics 
fail to provide an alternative solution to the problem without 
compromising our liberties and second amendment rights.
  Just as a car is a tool for transportation, an ax is a tool for 
cutting trees and shrubs, prescription drugs are tools for better 
health, a firearm is a tool for hunting and self-defense and protection 
of our citizens. Any of these tools used in an irresponsible manner and 
used contrary to their attending purpose can hurt and, yes, even kill 
others. But a gun by itself, Mr. Speaker, cannot commit a crime. It 
takes an individual to use the product illegally and irresponsibly.
  The protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act is a bill to curb our 
lawsuit-friendly and, yes, sometimes abusive society and to protect 
law-abiding citizens from individuals who avoid responsibility and 
undermine the good faith of our legal system.
  Frivolous lawsuits against gun manufacturers threaten the survival of 
the gun industry, the jobs it creates, and our constitutional right to 
purchase, keep and bear arms. While many cases are dismissed, it only 
takes one bad ruling to sink a company and to send ripple effects 
across an entire industry. Although America's first gun manufacturer, 
Springfield Armory, went out of business in 1968, we still have to 
protect America's remaining law-abiding companies who conduct business 
in a responsible and in a lawful manner.
  It would be a tragedy for a Nation with such a rich and innovative 
history in manufacturing to have our police and military carry over 
foreign-engineered firearms. We need to protect the American firearm 
industry. We need to restore responsibility and end these frivolous 
lawsuits.
  Mr. Speaker, I encourage passage of this rule and passage of the 
Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time, and I move the 
previous question on the resolution.
  The previous question was ordered.
  The resolution was agreed to.
  A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.

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