S. 397 Passes House

S. 397 was passed by the House today. As a result the “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act” has passed in the same form by both the House and the Senate and is on its way to the President's desk. It came through a tortuous to make it here, however.

This particular act started in two forms, S. 397 in the Senate, and HR. 800 in the House. The House version is superior, in my opinion, because it has two less sections.

First, where they agree.

A qualified civil liability action may not be brought in any Federal or State court.

where a qualified civil liability action is defined:

…a civil action or proceeding or an administrative proceeding brought by any person against a manufacturer or seller of a qualified product [firearms, ammunition, and the like], or a trade association, for damages, punitive damages, injunctive or declaratory relief, abatement, restitution, fines, or penalties, or other relief' resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a qualified product by the person or a third party…

It excludes intentional harm or negligence, of course.

Sure, I'd like to see “trainer” or “instructor” in that list, but this is a good start. I'd love for my firearms instruction insurance to go down in price.

But what about where the House and Senate bills are different?

S. 397's Section 5, “Child Safety Locks” requires the inclusion of a trigger lock with every handgun sale, for the stated purposes of

(1) to promote the safe storage and use of handguns by consumers;
(2) to prevent unauthorized persons from gaining access to or use of a handgun, including children who may not be in possession of a handgun; and
(3) to avoid hindering industry from supplying firearms to law abiding citizens for all lawful purposes, including hunting, self-defense, collecting, and competitive or recreational shooting.

There, of course, is the unstated purposes of being a nuisance for handgun manufacturers and dealers, as well as opening the door for potential liabilty if people don't keep their guns locked up all the time. At any rate, it modifies 18 USC 922 and threatens dealers with suspension of their license to sell firearms if they sell a handgun without a lock.

It also has a curious addition:

(A) IN GENERAL- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a person who has lawful possession and control of a handgun, and who uses a secure gun storage or safety device with the handgun, shall be entitled to immunity from a qualified civil liability action.
(B) PROSPECTIVE ACTIONS- A qualified civil liability action may not be brought in any Federal or State court.
(C) DEFINED TERM- As used in this paragraph, the term `qualified civil liability action'--
(i) means a civil action brought by any person against a person described in subparagraph (A) for damages resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of the handgun by a third party, if--
(I) the handgun was accessed by another person who did not have the permission or authorization of the person having lawful possession and control of the handgun to have access to it; and
(II) at the time access was gained by the person not so authorized, the handgun had been made inoperable by use of a secure gun storage or safety device; and
(ii) shall not include an action brought against the person having lawful possession and control of the handgun for negligent entrustment or negligence per se.

A compromise within a compromise! One can almost imagine the point and counterpoint of congressmen amending each other's amendments to make oddities like this. Does this mean we at least get some relief from civil liability if we make a decent attempt to secure a handgun and it gets sprung or stolen? It will probably take some time to put this to a test, but it's an interesting development.

The more insidious piece is the next section, Section 6, “Armor Piercing Ammunition”. This outlaws the manufacture or importation of armor piercing ammunition, with certain exceptions, and asks the Attorney General to do a study and report:

(1) STUDY- The Attorney General shall conduct a study to determine whether a uniform standard for the testing of projectiles against Body Armor is feasible.
(2) ISSUES TO BE STUDIED- The study conducted under paragraph (1) shall include--
(A) variations in performance that are related to the length of the barrel of the handgun or center-fire rifle from which the projectile is fired; and
(B) the amount of powder used to propel the projectile.
(3) REPORT- Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this Act, the Attorney General shall submit a report containing the results of the study conducted under this subsection to--
(A) the chairman and ranking member of the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate; and
(B) the chairman and ranking member of the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives.

A typical compromise measure is to order studies into issues at dispute in order to create a new bureaucracy that studies question endlessly. Most likely a study will find that anything suitable for hunting deer is also likely to defeat most piece of body armor comfortable enough for a police officer to wear in normal duty, therefore more study is required. Studies generally require there to be somewhat friendly bureaucracies to be present. Imagine what would happen if zealots who wish to ban all guns and ammunition were able to conduct such a study.

So, S. 397 passed. What's the reaction?

From the NRA, we have this:

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.”
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.”

If only they could have brokered a deal where HR. 800 was passed instead of S. 397.

The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) has similar praise for passage of S. 397:

“This important legislation will stop the anti-gunners cold in their attempts to bankrupt firearms manufacturers, distributors and retailers,” said CCRKBA Chairman Alan M. Gottlieb. “It closes an important loophole through which extremist gun grabbers have been trying to use the courts to crush gun ownership in this country, when they could not get Congress or state legislatures to do their bidding.”
“This common sense legislation,” added CCRKBA Executive Director Joe Waldron, “is long overdue. It sends a clear signal to the anti-gun lobby that mainstream America has had enough of their attempts to have their political agenda forced on us all by the courts.”

What about pro-gun organizations that are not as happy about S. 397? I haven't seen a release from Gun Owners of America yet, but they were pushing hard for HR. 800 instead of S. 397.

The Oregon Firearms Federation sent out a release, though, stating

This bill, strongly supported by the NRA, was intended to protect gun makers and sellers, however it came at a cost of more gun control in the form of mandatory gun locks and other provisions which are dangerous to gun owners.


While we are pleased that gun makers and sellers will get a measure of protection against baseless lawsuits, we are disappointed that the NRA and other groups were so eager to pass this bill instead of the House version, HR 800 which would have accomplished the same thing without giving up more of our rights and freedoms.

We've long known that gun owners have more friends in the House than in the Senate, and it's not just because of the battle lines drawn between the Republicans and Democrats. Even so, those who feel citizens should be subjects have vowed to fight on (as quoted from the OFF release):

In a press release sent immediately after the bill passed, the “Coalition To Stop Gun Violence” stated: “We plan to move forward with our lawsuit against the gun makers and dealers involved in the sale of guns to Buford Furrow, the convicted felon, ex-mental patient, and white supremacist who went on a shooting rampage at a Jewish day care center near Los Angeles, and we believe nothing in the new gun industry immunity bill will prevent us from obtaining a judgment against these companies.”

I haven't seen the Brady Campaign's reaction, but I'm sure it will be similar.

Update: More reactions as relayed by Fox News:

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

Update 2: I'm adding this to the Beltway Traffic Jam at Outside the Beltway.

Josh Poulson

Posted Thursday, Oct 20 2005 11:45 AM

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Carnival of Cordite #35

It's that time of the week once again... gather 'round for the 35th Carnival of Cordite! It's a weekly hodgepodge of posts from around the blogosphere dedicated to guns, shooting, hunting, defense, and the law and politics of the Second [Read more]

Resistance is futile!

Linked Friday, Oct 21 2005 05:58 PM


There is one comment on this entry.

I think it is ridiculous to be able to sue the gun manufacturer because some moron commits a crime or kills someone with a gun. The trial lawyers are crying in the suds right now since they won't be able to sue the deep pocket manufacturers like the courts allowed the trial lawyers to do to the tobbacco makers because some poor smuck was too weak to quit smoking.


Posted Thursday, Oct 20 2005 06:24 PM

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