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Public Statements

Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

PROTECTION OF LAWFUL COMMERCE IN ARMS ACT -- (House of Representatives - October 20, 2005)


Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of S. 397, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, and thank the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, the gentleman from Wisconsin, for bringing this legislation forward.

The second amendment to the U.S. Constitution clearly declares that the rights of citizens to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. Despite this fundamental protection, an extreme minority determined to restrict the supply of firearms and firearms ownership has discovered a new tool, frivolous lawsuits.

Recently, more than 30 cities and counties have filed lawsuits against the firearms industry alleging that the industry is liable for the actions of third parties, including those that use lawful firearms in a criminal manner. Many legitimate firearms manufacturers could be forced to go out of business due to the prohibitive costs of defending these targeted lawsuits.

If the courts are so allowed to decide the fate of gun manufacturers, then the trial lawyers and the courts will effectively be regulating the supply of firearms and thus the right of citizens to bear arms.

However, legislatures, not courts, are the proper forums for deciding the scope of regulation for the firearms industry. S. 397 would prevent plaintiffs from bringing civil actions against firearm manufacturers and sellers for the criminal or unlawful misuse of third parties of properly made firearms. This bill will help to put an end to the judiciary legislating in the firearms field.

It will also serve as an important statement that responsibility for wrongdoing should rest with the wrongdoer. As Oliver Wendall Holmes stated in an 1894 Harvard Law Review article: ``Why is not a man who sells firearms answerable for assaults committed with pistols bought of him since he must be taken to know the probability that sooner or later someone will buy a pistol of him for some unlawful end?''

The principle seems to be pretty well established in this country, at least, that everyone has a right to rely upon his fellow man acting lawfully. Over 30 States have enacted legislation to prevent junk lawsuits against the firearms industry based on the criminal behavior of others. These States have thus declared that the responsibility for wrongdoing should rest with wrongdoers. Congress should follow the States' lead and pass S. 397.

The House has passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act on several occasions. Now the Senate has passed it. We have a chance to send this bill to the President of the United States.

I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.


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