PROTECTION OF LAWFUL COMMERCE IN ARMS ACT-MOTION TO PROCEED
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Under the previous order, the Senate will proceed to consideration of S. 1805, which the clerk will report.
The assistant journal clerk read as follows:
A bill (S. 1805) to prohibit civil liability actions from being brought or continuing against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, or importers of firearms or ammunition for damages resulting from the misuse of their product by others.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Idaho.
Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, we are now on S. 1805. Last night, Senator Reed and I worked into the evening with our colleagues and leadership on both sides to craft a unanimous consent that now governs us through late next Tuesday. It establishes a variety of amendments that will be voted on over the course of today. Some will be offered and set aside to be voted on on Tuesday. On Tuesday, other key amendments will be voted on and then final passage.
I am sure there are some Members on both sides who might have amendments that were not listed to be considered for votes today and/or Tuesday. What I would ask them to do is come to the Chamber and talk to Senator Reed and myself to see if we might work those out certainly. We are happy to take a look at them. There may be an opportunity late Tuesday and possibly Friday to offer additional amendments. The unanimous consent request does not preclude any Member from doing that.
I said very early on yesterday that we wanted an open, robust debate on this issue. Clearly, 75 Members of this Senate, in a very bipartisan way, said let's get on with it, with the cloture vote yesterday. We spent the day then fashioning an agreement that brings us to where we are this morning. I believe it is possible Senator Daschle will be in the Chamber in a few moments to offer a perfecting amendment, then Senator Boxer will have an amendment on gunlocks.
I believe the agreement that is in front of us gives us something that oftentimes is very hard to achieve in the Senate, and that is a procedure and a final passage locked into an agreement. While Senator Reed and I worked late into the evening, as I mentioned, to allow that to happen, and all sides gave a little in it, what I think we have in front of us is just that, an agreement that allows a variety of Senators, who have been prominent in this debate on both sides of the issue, to offer their amendments and to have a vote.
The timelines are very limited. We are not going to filibuster in any of this. It is clear that when there are 20-, 30- and 60-minute time limits to be shared equally, it does shape and limit the debate in a way that many of us would like to see.
Certainly on Tuesday, key votes are going to be the McCain-Reed gun show loophole and Senator Feinstein's gun ban, or assault weapon ban as it is argued. Those clearly will be the dominant issues on one side. Senator BEN NIGHTHORSE CAMPBELL, conceal/carry will be another one voted on on that day, and possibly debate. I will debate that along with Senator Campbell today. It is on the list to accomplish today. Possibly we will also have another amendment to be voted on on Tuesday which deals with Washington, DC, and some of the gun laws that free and law-abiding citizens have to cope with in this city.
That is the character of what we have been able to put together. Senator Reed, the manager on the other side, is now in the Chamber. I yield the floor for any comments he would wish to make. Timewise, we hope Senator Daschle can make it to the Chamber to offer his amendment, but if he cannot, at this moment I see no reason Senator Boxer could not proceed with her amendment.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, we expect a second-degree amendment to be here to modify and perfect the Boxer amendment.
I want to speak about the Boxer amendment because I in no way discredit-I guess the best way to say it-fail to recognize the same kind of concerns Senator Boxer has expressed. She is correct. The Senate has expressed its will on this issue in the past. But let me bring you up to date about what the gun industry is doing now. Clearly, the gun industry is responding very quickly to new technologies and what is available to make sure firearms are safe, if you will, from the curiosity of a child and a child who might misuse it. Tragically enough, when children find a firearm, there is great curiosity.
There are organizations out there that have worked awfully hard to educate firearms owners and parents about the reality of a gun placed in a home in an unsafe environment, or not locked behind a door, or in a situation where a child can't gain access to it. That is simply critical in the responsible ownership and handling of a gun.
Ninety percent of new guns in the United States are already sold with a safe storage device. The Senator from California is right, the devices vary, but so do guns and so do the conformation and structure of guns. It will be very difficult to suggest that one size fits all.
The industry, with its engineers and its technology and its computers, is devising trigger locks and safety devices that fit the particular firearm. This is done through a voluntary program with the firearms industry. Tremendous numbers of gunshops today-responsible, federally registered gunshops-are providing free of charge a trigger lock or a safety device as the weapon is sold. Many States and locales, such as Texas, have distributed safety devices free of charge, either in cooperation with the firearms industry or on their own initiative.
Trigger locks are mechanical devices. Like all mechanical devices they can fail if they are not well designed, and if their owners are not instructed on how to use them properly. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recently tested 32 types of gunlocks and found 30 could be opened without a key. That is why, clearly, uniformity is necessary. The Senator spoke to that uniformity. But quality gun manufacturers in this country are already providing safety devices which are critical and necessary.
What I am trying to suggest is these devices are not a panacea that reduces all accidents. Clearly, if we can get most handguns in America in safe and responsible hands and in homes with safety devices or locked in a safe or locked in a device where a child cannot gain access, that is going to reduce the kinds of tragic accidents that occur when a small child in a curious way finds the gun that may not have been placed in a safe place by a parent.
Gunlocks are designed to address what I believe is a narrow range of threats. At the same time, when a child's life is lost, how tragic it is, and all of us understand that. Of course, then it makes tremendous news and the world wonders why this is happening. The reason it happens is because in many instances there was a parent who was less than responsible, who really didn't lock that gun up.
At the same time, let's also recognize the phenomenal complication involved. Sometimes guns are placed in locations in homes for security and for safety, and easy access is critically important if that gun is to be used for the purpose of personal and property safety depending on the area in which a family lives or an individual lives.
At the same time, that does not deny the responsibility that is important. Gunlocks address that narrow range of threats. Clearly, they will deter the casual curiosity of a small child far more readily than it will deter what I say is the committed thief or the person bent on murder and mayhem. Some suggest a gunlock means a thief in the house will not steal the gun. Wrong. That simply is not the case. It simply means the thief will take the gun, take it out, knock the gunlock off, have it cut off, take it away so they can have access to a stolen firearm. That is the reality of thieves stealing guns.
This narrow range we are talking about and that we want to make sure stays is to deter that casual curiosity of the small child. The firearms industry is already trying to develop standards to improve these devices. The industry has sought the creation of an industry standard for gun safety locks through the American National Standards Institute. The ANSI review process is well underway. In other words, because the gun industry is a responsible industry, they are well out in front of us already on legislation. No, there aren't absolute mandatory requirements across the Nation. But recognizing the reality and the tragedy that occurs on occasion, we want to make sure, and the industry certainly wants to make sure, that they are well out in front of it.
In a few moments we will have a second-degree perfecting amendment to deal with this issue. I will reserve the remainder of my time until that amendment is here.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. CRAIG. Madam President, when Senator Daschle and I began to visit about the issue of liability to gun manufacturers and responsible licensed gun dealers, we wanted to make sure it was as narrow as I expressed yesterday that it would be. Senator Daschle came up with some ideas that would strike the "knowing and willing" in the preceding sentences, potentially increasing the likelihood that this exception in the general immunity afforded under the law would be applicable in any given case.
That is what we did. They are two very distinct provisions. I discussed them last night. I will not go into them today for the record. But we handed that work over to the Congressional Research Service. What they have said is this: Applying these changes to the scenarios at issue-and those relate both to manufacturers and gun sales-it appears the amendment could have the effect of making it more likely that this exception to immunity would be applicable in certain facts, as established.
In other words, we truly have clarified the immunity provision. It is every bit as narrow as we said it was, that all current Federal laws pertaining to the mismanagement, mishandling, the criminal actions that are in violation of a Federal firearm license or that are in violation of a manufacturers responsibility are adhered to.
I believe the amendment is a good one. It perfects and improves S. 1805. I encourage its passage.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there further debate?
If not, the question is on agreeing to amendment No. 2621.
The amendment (No. 2621) was agreed to.
Mr. REID. I move to reconsider the vote.
Mr. CRAIG. I move to lay that motion on the table.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. CRAIG. Madam President, I am glad the Senator from Wisconsin has stepped forward to offer a second-degree amendment. It clarifies the nature of damages in civil immunity language. It defines the inoperable in the immunity language. It reduces the penalty violation but sets a good one-a $2,500 civil fine. Revocation may be a bit harsh, but there is a small clarification in the Rules of Evidence. It takes effect 180 days after enactment.
Of course, as I mentioned earlier in the debate-and I will discuss this later after this amendment is accepted-nearly all manufacturers today comply with this very point as guns leave the factory. So the industry is moving rapidly toward compliance.
With that, I think we are prepared to vote on the second degree.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. CRAIG. Madam President, I will take some of those minutes to speak to the Boxer amendment, as amended. I do oppose this amendment and here are some very simple facts why.
I have already talked about the industry itself moving rapidly in a voluntary way toward compliance. Clearly, the bill has been improved by the Senator from Wisconsin, but let me suggest this to all of us because I think we understand it in rather simple terms. The home is a private place and for the first time the long arm of Government will reach into the private place and suggest to the average American how they will store an object in that private place.
I am not arguing about the care, the emotion, the concern, and the reality, not that at all. I understand that. But I do not believe that Government ought to be telling the average citizen how they store objects within their home.
We are hearing about the tragedies of children losing their life by the misuse of a firearm. I think the Senator from Wisconsin mentioned suicides. My guess is, trigger locks do nothing to suicides. The great tragedy of a suicide is that a teenager thinks it out, and if they think it out they are probably going to find the key to the trigger lock or they will know where it is as a teenager and that will not stop that tragedy. That is an emotional situation that none of us quite understand sometimes why teenagers resort to that kind of action and violence.
I will talk about the home environment and what is going on in the home environment. Since 1930, accidental deaths by firearms in the home have declined 62 percent. Firearms are now involved in only 1.5 percent of accidental fatalities nationwide within the home. Here is the tragedy: Deaths caused to children by motor vehicle accidents is 47 percent; a child falling down in the home, deaths 15 percent; poisoning, 10 percent; drowning, 4 percent; fire, 8 percent; suffocation on small objects going down the throat of a small child, 3 percent. More children suffocate by an object lodging in their throat than by finding an improperly stored handgun. Now, those are the facts, as we know them. Those facts come from the National Safety Council, the National Center for Health Statistics.
Again, I do not dispute the emotion or the concern or the care that the Senator from California has on this issue, but I do dispute the right of the Federal Government to enter the home and tell the average citizen they have to comply with mandatory storage laws that exist with penalties. I believe that is unnecessary in a free society.
I believe safety and responsibility is always necessary, and the industry is rapidly moving in that direction. Ninety percent are in compliance with the fundamental principles of the law itself.
This is the thing that concerns me most: Most States already provide penalties for reckless endangerment under which an adult found grossly negligent in the storage of a firearm under certain circumstances can be prosecuted for a felony offense. Universal mandatory storage requirements are counterproductive. That is going at the individual, instead of allowing the long arm of the law to come into the home. Clearly, that is the way it ought to be.
We know that no one-size-fits-all requirement can possibly meet the needs of all gun owners, and that is what is being suggested. We have already seen the industry involve science and technology to try to deal with this issue, and they are trying to develop those kinds of standards that work.
I have already mentioned that the National Safety Council tested 32 types of gunlocks and found that 30 of them could be opened without a key. While the industry is rushing to get there, what we are needing, and the industry is now doing it, is standardization.
In any emergency, and now we are talking about oftentimes why a gun is in a home, a trigger lock can handicap a person who needs a gun for protection. While the industry is trying to make them applicable so they can be accessed within seconds or minutes in case the burglar is breaking into the home, the reality is that if the gun is locked away in a safe it is ineffective as a use for personal protection in an unsafe environment. Those are the kinds of concerns I think all of us have as we talk about these kinds of issues and as we tick away at the right of the private gun owner to manage what I believe is a constitutional right in this country.
I will give a little bit of history and then I will close. In 1936, British police began adding the following requirements for firearms certificates: Firearms and ammunition to which this certificate relates must at all times, when not in actual use, be stored in safe and secure places. That was 1936. What has transpired in British law until today is that if one wants to own a gun and they get a certificate to own a gun, the British police come into their home and ask where they are going to store it. They look at where it is going to be stored and if the gun owner does not have a lockbox or if they do not have a safe, they do not own a gun.
Will that ever happen in this country? I would hope not. I hope Americans would rebel about the reality of the police entering their home to tell them what to do as it relates to storing an object in the home, especially an object that we believe is a constitutional right. That is the issue at hand.
Again, I am not going to argue with the reason or the logic that the Senator from California has expressed. States are moving now, and I think in some ways responsibly, to encourage, educate, and train. The industry is moving in that direction. To establish a Federal requirement that says this is the way one is going to do it in their home-I believe in a fundamental right of privacy-this is a breach of that right and an entry into the home with the long arm of Federal law. I do not think we ought to go there.
I hope Senators will join with me in opposing this amendment as amended by the KOHL amendment. I am prepared to yield back the remainder of my time in relation to a vote on this issue.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mrs. BOXER. Let me make this point. When my friend compares an accidental shooting with a gun resulting in a death to a suicide, I would say that is quite different, because in the tragedy of suicide, although my friend is quite right, we do try on some of our bridges to build barriers, but if there is an intent, although we do our best, we often fail. But a 3-year-old or 5-year-old child picking up a gun really doesn't know someone is going to die. So it is up to us to make sure we do our best.
That is all; we do our best.
My last point. There are standards for aspirin caps, cribs, Play-Doh, Teddy bears, pajamas. There ought to be a standard for a safety lock on a gun. I don't think we do violence to freedom in any way.
I wish my friend were with me on this, but if not, I hope we can repeat the vote we had last time; 78 to 20 sounds really good. I hope we can do that again.
I yield the floor.
Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, I will be brief. I don't question the sincerity of the Senator from California. I recognize what she is attempting to do.
The industry is rushing. It is at near 90 percent compliance today. We want firearms to be as safe as possible in this country.
Let me close with this. Firearms are involved in 1.5 percent of the accidents within a home that involve a child; motor vehicles and children: 47 percent of the deaths of young children are caused by motor vehicles; falling, 15 percent; poisoning, 10 percent; drowning, 4 percent; fire, 3 percent; objects ingested and lodged in the throat in which they suffocate, 3 percent.
As tragic as all of this is, it is a very small number. We are now working aggressively to resolve that. The industry has developed standards. I don't believe these penalties are necessary. I don't believe this approach of uniformity and Federal mandate is necessary. I ask my colleagues to oppose this amendment.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, before I turn the time over to the Senator from Ohio, let me only say to the Senator from Connecticut, go back and read section 4 of the bill.
He is a very eloquent Senator, but at the same time this is a very narrow provision. It says if that manufacturer in a State or if a licensed gun dealer violates the law, they are in trouble. You bet we make it to the courthouse. We make it in front of the judge and the judge hears the arguments.
Let me also refer to one of the Senator's concerned constituents, the president of Local 376 of the UAW, who has lost over 600 jobs in the Savage Arms Factory because they have had to spend millions of dollars defending themselves on frivolous lawsuits. So that is a problem.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, I understand I have 1 minute.
The legislation exempts qualified active and retired law enforcement officers from State and local prohibitions on the carrying of concealed firearms. What this means is that active and retired police officers will be able to carry their firearms virtually anywhere in the U.S. without having to worry about violating any local or State gun laws.
The bill is noncontroversial and enjoys wide, bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate bill, S. 253, passed the Judiciary Committee in March 2003 on an 18 to 1 vote. The bill has 67 cosponsors, including Majority Leader BILL FRIST, Minority Leader TOM DASCHLE, and every other member of the Senate leadership from both sides of the aisle. Senator BEN NIGHTHORSE CAMPBELL, a former law enforcement officer, is offering the amendment along with Judiciary Committee Chairman ORRIN G. HATCH, Ranking Member PATRICK J. LEAHY, and Minority Whip HARRY REID.
The House bill, H.R. 218, has 286 cosponsors. In addition to a House majority, the bill has a majority of both the full Judiciary Committee and the subcommittee of jurisdiction. In 1999, the House passed a nearly identical measure as an amendment to another bill by an overwhelming 372 to 53 majority.
This isn't a "firearms issue"-it is an officer safety issue. And, on 11 September 2001, it became a critical public safety and homeland security issue.
Law enforcement officers need this bill-it is the number one issue among rank-and-file officers today. Policy officers are frequently finding that they, and their families, are the targets of vindictive criminals. A police officer may not remember all the faces of all the criminals he or she has put behind bars, but every one of those criminals will. This legislation gives all police officers the means to legally protect themselves and their loved ones-even if off-duty or retired.
Public safety and homeland security would benefit immensely from this bill becoming law. Law enforcement officers are a dedicated and trained body of men and women sworn to uphold the law and keep the peace. Unlike other professions, a police officer is rarely "off-duty." When there is a threat to the peace or public safety, the police officer is sworn to answer the call of duty. Officers who are traveling from one jurisdiction to another do not leave their instincts or training behind, but without their weapon, that knowledge and training is rendered virtually useless. These bills will provide the means for law enforcement officers to enforce the law and keep the peace-enabling them to put to use that training and answer the call to duty when the need arises. Without a weapon, the law enforcement officer is like a rescue diver without diving gear; all the right training and talent to lend to an emergency situation, but without the equipment needed to make that training of any use. Given the ongoing threat of terrorist activity against U.S. citizens, it just makes sense to give our first line of defense the tools they need in a first responder situation. Perhaps the strongest endorsement we can make is that thousands of violent criminals and terrorists will hate to see it pass.
This is not a States' rights issue and the bill has been carefully crafted to ensure that it conforms to the U.S. Constitution and the precepts of Federalism. Congress has the authority, under the "full faith and credit" clause of the Constitution, to extend full faith and credit to qualified active and retired law enforcement officers who have met the criteria to carry firearms set by one State, and make those credentials applicable and recognized in all States and territories in these United States. States and localities issue firearms to their police officers and set their own requirements for their officers in training and qualifying in the use of these weapons. This legislation maintains the States' power to set these requirements and determine whether or not an active or retired officer is qualified in the use of the firearm, and would allow only this narrow universe of persons to carry their firearms when traveling outside their jurisdiction. We believe this is similar to the States' issuance of drivers' licenses-the standards may differ slightly from State to State, but all States recognize that the drivers have been certified to operate a motor vehicle on public roadways.
All 50 States require their officers to receive many hours-the average is 48-of firearms training before they leave the academy. Before receiving their appointment, law enforcement officers must meet certain score requirements in order to qualify with their weapon, the average being about 76 percent. No officer with a score below the 70th percentile is considered qualified with his weapon.
Most States require their officers to requalify with their weapons on a regular basis. Individual agencies may require their officers to qualify more frequently, but they must meet the State's minimum, which ranges from annually to every 5 years.
How Do Retired Officers Qualify: In order to carry under this legislation, a retired law enforcement officer would have to qualify with his firearm at his own expense every 12 months and meet the qualifications as an active duty officer in his State of residence. For example, a New Jersey police officer that retires to North Carolina must qualify annually at his own expense and meet the same standards that an active duty officer in North Carolina must meet.
Many Federal law enforcement officers currently have the authority to carry their firearms. Training and qualification for Federal law enforcement officers is not so dissimilar to that of State and local law enforcement officers. There have been no issues of concern with Federal officers carrying in all jurisdiction, why would there be for State and local law enforcement officers?
There is Congressional precedent on this issue. Congress has previously acted to force States to recognize permits to carry issued by other States on the basis of employment in other instances. In June 1993, the Senate and House approved and passed a law, PL 103-55, mandating reciprocity for weapons licenses issued to armored car company crew members among States. Congress amended the act in 1998, PL 105-78, providing that the licenses must be renewed every 2 years. This precedent allows armored car guards-who do not have nearly the same level of training and qualifications as law enforcement officers-to receive a license to carry a firearm in one State and forces other States to recognize its validity.
Airline pilots can obtain the authority law enforcement officers are seeking. In addition to armored car guards, Congress passed a law exempts airline pilots who participate in the "Federal flight deck officer" from Federal and State law with respect to the carrying of concealed firearms. Note that this authority is not limited just to the cockpit-but also while the pilots are on the ground and off-duty.
Congress has the authority to preempt State and local prohibitions on the carrying of concealed weapons and has in the past granted a certain class of persons-based on the nature of their employment and their value in an emergency situation-the authority to carry firearms in all jurisdictions. To do the same for law enforcement just makes good sense.
On the last weekend in June, FOP members from Maryland Lodge No. 70 were packing up their campsite following a 3-day camping trip with their families in Harpers Ferry. That Sunday afternoon, after many of the officers and their families had left, a gunman opened fire on another camper, wounding him in the lower leg. Detective Timothy Utzig and Officer Andrew Albach reacted quickly, instructing their families to leave the scene, while they retrieved their firearms and confronted the man. The gunman, yelling incoherently, eventually obeyed the officers' orders to lie down on the ground. After searching him, they discovered that the man had several more live rounds for his shotgun in his possession. Detective Utzig and Officer Albach held the man until West Virginia authorities could arrive. It was discovered later that the gunman had an extensive criminal history-including a murder conviction.
Sergeant Sam Harmon of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department said, "There's no telling how many lives those men saved Sunday afternoon. These guys are my heroes for life."
They were certainly heroes, but they were also in violation of West Virginia State law because they possessed firearms. These brave officers-who stopped a gunman's rampage on their day off, outside of their own jurisdiction-were not charged, but their action placed themselves in legal jeopardy, as well as physical. Had they complied with State law that Sunday, they or their families could have been victims. This is just one example of how public safety could be served if this bill were made law.
In 1991, off-duty Minneapolis Police Officer Jerry Johnson was vacationing in Phoenix, Arizona. He witnessed a man knock an elderly female to the ground, take her purse, and run. He immediately gave chase, without stopping to think that he was unarmed because he could not legally carry a firearm in Arizona. He caught the thief after a mile-long foot chase, and fought to subdue him. Had the criminal been armed, Officer Johnson would surely have been killed. Now retired, Officer Johnson had to go through a great deal of trouble in his own State of Minnesota to get a concealed carry weapon permit as it is up to each individual chief whether or not to issue. When he moved into a different jurisdiction, he had to get a judge to intercede because the chief of police in his new locality initially refused to issue him a permit.
Off-duty and retired officers are often targeted for attack by vengeful criminals. Off-duty police officer Tim Brauer was having dinner with his family in an Oklahoma City restaurant, outside his jurisdiction. While in the restroom, he was attacked by a man he had previously arrested. At the time, Oklahoma State law permitted off duty law enforcement officers to carry their firearms only within their home jurisdiction. In obeying the law and leaving his firearm at home while out with his family, he was left vulnerable to his attacker. Officer Brauer suffered severe injuries, but he lived and his family was not harmed. Oklahoma law now permits officers to carry throughout the State.
Officer Shynelle Marie Mason, a 2-year veteran with the Detroit, Michigan Police Department, was shot and killed on July 14, 2000, by a man she had previously arrested for carrying a concealed weapon. She encountered the man while off-duty; he confronted her and shot her several times in the chest. Though she was not on the clock, her death was considered a "line of duty" death and her name appears on the Wall of Remembrance at Judiciary Square in Washington, DC.
Retired New York State Supreme Court Police Officer William Kirchoff, a 17-year law enforcement veteran who was forced into retirement in 1989 as a direct result of an injury received when he was assaulted on the job, was the target of a contract assault/attempted murder. Tony Mattino, a career criminal with a long rap sheet for illegal possession of firearms and drugs was arrested and charged with assaulting Officer Kirchoff's 15-year-old daughter. Mattino was convicted for the assault and, prior to sentencing, threatened Officer Kirchoff. On February 21, 1998, he made good on his pledge. A pizza delivery man arrived at the officer's home. Officer Kirchoff had not placed any delivery order, and would not allow the man inside his home. He did offer the delivery man the use of his cordless phone-at which point he was attacked. the man, wielding a metal baseball bat, forced his way into the house, striking Officer Kirchoff more than 10 times. His 10 year-old-son was in the home at the time of the attack. The officer was unarmed and had no firearms on his person or property. Ultimately, Officer Kirchoff was able to drive off his attacker, who remains at large to this day. Mattino is also currently free on probation. Since the attack, Officer Kirchoff has a license to carry in New York and six other States.
Detective Donald Miller, a 10-year veteran with the New Bern Police Department in North Carolina was off-duty on December 23, 2001. He and his wife had just completed a visit to their newborn child in the hospital when the detective observed a man driving recklessly through the hospital parking lot. He confronted the man, who drew a handgun and fired-striking Miller in the head. Detective Miller, father of two, died 2 days later on Christmas Day. Though he was not on the clock, his death was considered a "line of duty" death and his name appears of the Wall of Remembrance at Judiciary Square in Washington, DC.
Officer Dominick J. Infantes, Jr., a 7-year veteran with the New Jersey City Police Department, was attacked by two men wielding a pipe on July 4, 2001. He died 2 days later from severe head injuries. Infantes was off-duty when he asked two men to stop setting off fireworks near playing children. He identified himself as a police officer, but the two killers did not believe him because Infantes did not have a gun. Though he was not on the clock, his death was considered a "line of duty" death and his name appears of the Wall of Remembrance at Judiciary Square in Washington, DC.
In 2000, off-duty Las Vegas Police Officer Dennis Devitte, a 20-year veteran was relaxing at a local sports bar when the establishment was attacked by three armed assailants. Two of the men opened fire on the crowd, hitting a man in a wheelchair. Officer Devitte did not hesitate-he pulled his tiny .25-caliber gun and, knowing he would have to get very close to make sure he hit his target, charged a man firing a .40-caliber semiautomatic. Officer Devitte got within one foot of the man, fired and killed the gunman-but not before he was shot eight times. The remaining two gunmen fled. All six civilians wounded in the assault recovered. One witness described Officer Devitte's action as "the most courageous thing I've ever seen." Officer Devitte lost six units of blood, his gun hand was badly damaged and his knee had to be entirely reconstructed with bones taken from a cadaver. And yet, he was back on the job 6 months later. For his incredibly heroic actions, Officer Devitte was selected as the "Police Officer of the Year" by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, IACP, and Parade magazine.
On the 4th of July, 1999, off-duty Police Officer Alfredo Rodriguez of the Nassau County, NY Police Department was driving to Norwich, CT with his wife and four children when he observed a Norwich Police Officer attempt to arrest a highly intoxicated man running in and out of traffic. A second man attacked the Norwich officer from behind and attempted to take his firearm. Officer Rodriguez, although unarmed, pulled over, left his family and rushed to the aid of the officer. He was able to free the Norwich officer from a chokehold and disarm the attacker, who had successfully gotten the Norwich officer's firearm. The two officers restrained the initial suspect and battled the second until additional uniformed Norwich officers arrived. Officer Rodriguez was awarded Nassau County's Medal of Distinguished Service for his actions, which undoubtedly saved the life of Norwich Police Officer Peter Camp.
In July 1995, recently Retired Police Chief John Diventer of the Hanover, NJ, Police Department was with his family visiting his family's grave plot in Newark, when he observed several robbers attack two elderly women and steal their purses. He attempted to intervene, and was shot and killed, At the time of the chief's murder, retired police officers were not authorized to carry firearms in New Jersey. This incident prompted a change in New Jersey law, which now permits retired officers to carry throughout the State.
In closing, let me say about the amendment that is before us, concealed-carry, 67 Members of this Senate, Democrats and Republicans, believe this is a necessary and appropriate amendment to S. 1805. We believe it is. We think it is important that it be adopted, and that we extend these law-abiding, well-trained and schooled law enforcement officers and retirees this opportunity and privilege.
With that, Mr. President, my time has expired. I understand we will now lay this amendment aside, to be voted on Tuesday next, and by the order of the unanimous consent agreement we arrived at last night, Senator Kennedy is now to have the floor to offer one of his amendments to be debated.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, we have heard over the last few minutes what might appear, at first listening, to be alarming facts, figures, and statistics, but we all know that in any good debate the devil is in the details, and in the details of the Kennedy amendment are some hidden secrets that must be brought out so we can understand them.
Let me, first and foremost, read into the RECORD a letter from the president of the Fraternal Order of Police. The Senator has talked about cop-killer bullets and protecting cops on the beat, those who wear soft body armor. This is what Chuck Canterbury, the national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, says in a letter to me that he has copied to Senator Frist, Senator Daschle, and to Senator Kennedy:
I am writing to advise you of our strong opposition to an amendment Senator Kennedy intends to offer later today-
In relation to the underlying amendment.
Senator Kennedy will certainly present his amendment as an "officer safety issue"-
And that is exactly what we have heard over the last good number of minutes-
to get dangerous "cop-killer" bullets-
And he talks about how dangerous they are off the shelf.
Regardless of its presentation, the amendment's actual aim and effect would be to expand the definition of "armor-piercing" to include ammunition based, not on any threat to law enforcement officers, but on a manufacturer's marketing strategy.
I do believe we saw that language on the Web site that he quoted-a strategy, a rhetorical expression as it relates to an encouragement to buy a given type of ammunition.
He goes on to say:
The truth of the matter is that only one law enforcement officer has been killed by a round fired from a handgun which penetrated his soft-body armor-and in that single instance, it was the body armor that failed to provide the expected ballistic protection, not because the round was "armor piercing."
It is our view that no expansion or revision of the current law is needed to protect law enforcement officers. To put it simply, this is not a genuine officer safety issue. If it were, Senator Kennedy would not be offering his amendment to a bill he strongly opposes and is working to defeat.
It sounds as if not only is the president of the Fraternal Order of Police talking about the facts, he is talking about some reasonable logic.
He goes on to say:
The real officer safety issue is the adoption of-
The amendment we just set aside-
the Law Enforcement Officers' Safety Act.
That amendment deals with carrying a concealed weapon, to which I believe the Senator spoke in opposition, which would exempt active and retired law enforcement officers from local prohibitions for the right to carry concealed firearms.
Mr. Canterbury goes on:
The Kennedy amendment was considered and defeated by the Senate Judiciary Committee in March of 2003 on a 10-6 vote. We believe that it should be rejected again.
On behalf of more than 311,000 members of the Fraternal Order of Police, I thank you for taking our views on this issue into consideration.
Here is the president of the National Grand Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police saying that the Kennedy amendment is not what it is. What he is, in fact, saying is that the current armor-piercing, cop-killing bullet law in place is the kind of adequate protection they need.
I have made that letter available to all of our colleagues as we debate this issue.
What will the Kennedy amendment do? I think it is important for us to understand in reality the impact of expanding this kind of definition and understanding.
What it does-and I don't know that the Senator intends this purpose-is that it begins to eliminate ammunition that is used in a legitimate way for hunting. He is right, Bambi doesn't wear body armor. Bambi doesn't need to wear body armor. But in the legal sportsmen's industry and in hunting, here are some very common rifles: 30.30 Winchester, 30.06 Springfield, 308 Winchester, 300 Savage, 7 mm Remington, 270 Winchester, 257 Roberts, 253 Winchester, and 223 Remington, just to name a few. We believe based on our interpretation of the amendment that this kind of ammunition is eliminated.
What we also know is that there is ammunition out there used with a rifle that can pierce body armor. That is a fact. But the ammunition we are talking about that is traditionally known as the cop-killer bullet that is now outlawed in this country has nothing to do with the rifle. It had everything to do with the pistol, that weapon of choice by criminals in our country, and we know why.
Criminals do not walk down the street with a 30.06 over their shoulder. Somehow there is the visible factor that denies them the use of that rifle. They use handguns. They conceal them. They hide them on their person. They carry them in a package or in a carrying type of valise. They do not carry rifles. Yet the Senator's amendment goes directly at the hunting sports; it goes directly at hunting ammunition. This is why at the appropriate time when we have concluded the debate on the Senator's amendment, I will offer an alternative amendment under the unanimous consent agreement that we think reflects what ought to be done in relation to what the Senator is offering.
Let me also add that the most extensive study on this issue pursuant to a congressional mandate to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 was a BATF draft report provided in 1997 to those individuals and organizations that had assisted in a BATF study of the issue of armor-piercing ammunition.
That study mandated, in response to President Clinton's repeated call, for a ban on bullets capable of penetrating soft body armor. Those Presidential statements rightfully concerned many in Congress who were aware that a performance-based ban, and that is what the Senator is offering, would outlaw the majority of rifle ammunition used for hunting and target shooting worldwide. That is just what I have spoken to. If that is the Senator's intent, then I wish he would address that. Clearly that is what we believe one begins to enter into when they deal with a performance-based standard. The 1997 study took an intelligent and honest approach to examining how best to protect the lives of law enforcement officers, recognizing the reality that between 1985 and 1994 no officer in the United States who was wearing a bullet-resistant vest died as a result of any round of ammunition having been fired from a handgun penetrating that officer's armor causing the primary lethal injuries.
The study instead focused on how to improve police training, both in teaching officers how to defeat snatches by criminals and to encourage officers to wear vests routinely. Legislatively, the 1997 study rightfully concluded that to prohibit any of these commonly used pistol, rifle, shotgun cartridges because they might defeat a level 1 bullet-resistant vest would create an unreasonable burden on the legitimate consumer of such cartridges.
Combined with the availability of sensible, defensive strategies, the existence of laws restricting the common availability of armor-piercing ammunition was clearly working to protect law enforcement officers, and no attempt to discard the existing law, in my opinion and many others, should be undertaken.
At the same time, because the existing laws are working, no additional legislation is necessary or required, certainly that that deals with performance-based standards, because one goes directly at ammunition used in target practice and in hunting. We do not believe, and I would hope the Senator from Massachusetts would agree, that is what we would intend to do.
In conclusion, what I am saying is the current law is adequate. This is not perfecting language. This is language to try to defeat the underlying bill, S. 1805. Obviously, the Senator has spoken openly against that. This is in no way a bill that improves the underlying bill itself and we think very questionably does it improve any existing Federal law. What it begins to do is what the sporting community and the legitimate owners of firearms have always been fearful of, that if the handgun or the rifle could not be controlled, the ammunition would be targeted and certain classes of ammunition would begin to be controlled and outlawed, and that is exactly what Senator Kennedy is attempting to do with this amendment.
I think it is obvious by my statement I will strongly oppose this, but I will offer-or I should say the majority leader will offer-an amendment finalizing the debate on Senator Kennedy's amendment that we think if there is reason to fine-tune the existing law, then we will offer that fine-tuning to make it extremely punitive for anyone who might use armor-piercing bullets that would strike a law enforcement officer in our country, or anyone else for that matter, that would result in injury or death.
I retain the remainder of my time.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. KENNEDY. If the Senator would like to agree, I would just as soon have each of us have a little time before we vote. I know the leadership has it tight, and I know it has been difficult to work, but I would rather take 3 or 4 minutes before we vote on Monday. But I don't know whether that is possible. I don't like to ask consent here. I welcome the opportunity to continue to discuss this, but I think we probably would have more involved in it later on.
I am instructed by the floor staff we will have a very brief time prior to the vote.
Mr. CRAIG. Let me respond to the Senator's inquiry. I don't disagree with him. I think it is important we do have some limited time to discuss the difference between his amendment and what will be known as the Frist-Craig amendment that will be offered in a few moments. That is important.
I think we have all heard the Senator from Massachusetts very clearly. He said he wants to ban assault weapons and rifle ammunition. What he didn't say, or what he will not say, is that the standards he establishes in his legislation, performance-based standards, ban what is currently on-the-shelf hunting ammunition. Does the hunting ammunition in a high-powered rifle have the ability to penetrate soft body armor? Yes, it does.
Does it have the ability to penetrate other soft armor? Yes, it does. Is it used for that purpose? No. It is rarely ever found used for that purpose.
We have a choice. Clearly it is against the law when it is used for that purpose and we all know that and we ought to go at those people who use legitimate firearms in illegal ways instead of trying to eliminate the firearm or, in this case, the ammunition. But, of course, we know, and all of America's hunters know, they could have a 30.06 in their gun safe, they could have a 30.30 in their gun safe, they could have a .308 in their gun safe, they could have a .270 in their gun safe, and if they didn't have the ammunition for it, it would be a marvelous historic relic of America's past. Is that what the Senator from Massachusetts wants?
He says not. But we all know what performance-based standards do. When you establish a band through that, that is what
you accomplish. The fact is, virtually all hunting and target rifle ammunition is capable of penetrating soft body armor.
That is a reality. So by his definition does that go off the market? I believe it does. That is why I think it is unnecessary.
That is why the President of the Fraternal Order of Police said the Kennedy amendment is to kill the underlying amendment or to make it dramatically of less value, and that he and 311,000 members of the Fraternal Order of Police disagree.
Probably a good many of them are hunters, and they recognize more than anybody else because they are probably pretty talented people when it comes to understanding ballistics. When it comes to understanding ammunition, they probably know a great deal more about it than Senator Kennedy or this Senator, Mr. Craig.
They say no, it isn't necessary. The current law that the Senator speaks to, that he is proud of-and he should be-is adequate. It does protect. It has removed armor-piercing bullets of the handgun type.
Now we step into a whole new arena. Historically, those who want to control firearms in this country have always said: Oh, no, it is only the handgun we are after because it is the handgun that is most often used in the commission of a crime. It is the handgun we want to take out of circulation and away from the citizens of this country. Leave the long gun alone. We are all for sportsmen. We are all for hunters. We like guns. They are good guns. Those are bad guns.
What the amendment of the Senator is suggesting is-he may not say they are bad guns, but he says their ammunition is bad. And if you take their ammunition away, then as I said earlier, these kinds of hunting rifles will become a marvelous museum piece and a relic of our historic past. I don't believe a majority of the Senate will go there. I hope the amendment I will soon offer will provide ample reason to say, yes, we are going to get tough on anybody who uses an armor-piercing bullet of any kind that is capable of penetrating a vest, soft body armor. That is what we ought to be about, instead of using the language and not the definition-and using the language and not the reality-and using performance-based bans to eliminate a very large category of hunting ammunition and other types of ammunition used for target practice and professionally in this country.
I strongly oppose and will encourage my colleagues to oppose this amendment.
Mr. President, we have possibly one other Senator wishing to come to speak. Let me check on that. If that is not true, I see no reason we couldn't reserve the remainder of our time or move on to another amendment.
I yield the floor.