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Providing for Consideration of S. 397, Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act

Location: Washington, DC



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.

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).


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