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Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, under the unanimous consent request, this amendment currently before the Senate, the Feinstein amendment, would be set aside for the purposes of the introduction by our leader, Senator Frist, of the DC gun ban repeal. That amendment will not be offered today, so we are now on full debate for the balance of time until votes start at 11:30 on the two issues before the Senate and the balance of the whole bill.

Certainly, there are other amendments besides the assault weapons ban introduced by the Senator from California, the gun show loophole by Senators REED and MCCAIN. Also, we will have votes today, and it is critical for Senators who want to debate on armor piercing by KENNEDY and the Frist-Craig alternative, also on conceal and carry, offered in behalf of Senator BEN CAMPBELL, that some have debated.

For a few moments, let me debate one general topic. The clock has started for all of us on the 2-hour balance of time equally divided between us on this issue.

For a moment today, I will talk about attitudes of the American public as it relates to the second amendment in the Senate today. The Senator from New York talked about why we are at the eleventh hour debating the gun show loophole. We are because he and his colleagues introduced it, obviously, believing it was a timely topic to debate at a time when we have a very narrowly prescribed bill to deal with the legitimacy of law-abiding citizens in the manufacture of firearms. He has decided to add or attempt to add this to the bill. Our President has asked for a clean bill.

Let me talk about where the American people are. Once again, we find ourselves in a political season. And once again, we find ourselves debating and arguing about gun ownership in America. The second amendment is clear. Many who are strong advocates of that amendment believe it is extremely clear.

We have heard over the last several days Senators with honest differences of opinion take to the Senate floor and claim their vows to represent the folks back in their home States.

Let's take a few minutes to look at some of the relevant research from respected polling from the firm Zogby International. Zogby recently surveyed 1,200 voters nationwide on firearms issues. As a conservative, I don't view Zogby as a conservative pollster; some call him middle of the road, some call him middle left. I guess what I am saying is Zogby and his polling are largely respected by many across the country. The Zogby International group, working with the John Goodwin Tower Center for political science at Southern Methodist University, looked at and decided to poll in a unique way. They said: Let's examine the difference between the George Bush States in 2000, the red States, and the Al Gore States, the blue States. For the balance of my comment, think red and think blue and remember that map we saw after the last Presidential election when the vast majority of America was red except for a few blue strips along the west coast line and the east coast line.

Here were the questions asked of 1,200 voters-not citizens, voters; those who said they voted in the last election-as to the attitude of Americans on firearms. They asked: Do you agree or disagree that American firearm manufacturers that sell a legal product which is not defective-meaning a quality product used for the intent of its manufacture-should be allowed to be sued if a criminal used their product in a crime.

What are the answers? The answers are, there were enough laws on the books. In the Bush States, 69 percent agreed they should not be sued; in the Gore States, 63 percent agreed they should not be sued and they ought not be sued; military people in those States, 70 percent; veterans, 71 percent; nonmilitary, on the average 66 percent. A very strong majority of the American people made it very clear. The answer came back loudly, from every demographic group opposed to these kinds of lawsuits.

That is why we have S. 1805 before the Senate. American minds are made up. These are junk and frivolous lawsuits. They ought not be filed. They also said a manufacturer of a product ought to be held liable if that product is defective, if it malfunctions, and if that defectiveness or that malfunction might create an injury. That is exactly what we continue to allow to happen.

Opposition in the Bush States on that issue, 74 percent; while 72 percent of the voters in the Al Gore States voiced opposition. Interestingly, across the board those most strongly opposed to these lawsuits against the firearms industry are current members of the military and their family. Their opposition collectively measured at 83 percent. This is not from a conservative right-wing pollster. This is from Zogby himself.

When certain gun organizations heard about this, they called the Zogby polling group and asked, Are these valid? The answer from Zogby: Yes, we ran them again. We were not so sure, and we believe they are accurate and valid.

Which of the following two statements regarding gun control comes closer to your own opinion? Of course, those were the figures we showed in the first chart. There needs to be new and tougher gun law legislation to help fight against crime. That is what we are debating now in the Senate. That was question A: There are enough laws on the books. What is needed is better law enforcement of current laws regarding gun control, by a better than 2 to 1, 66 to 31.

In essence, the American people are saying no new gun laws; we have plenty of them on the books. That is not about laws but going after criminals. That is common sense in America, and we never want to doubt the common sense of the average American when they are well informed about an issue or when they just suggest that somebody is playing politics with an issue and it really does not make any sense.

Sixty-nine percent in the Bush States; 63 percent in the Gore States; and those numbers are extremely strong.

So what are we saying? We are saying that moderates solidly favor better law enforcement-62 percent to 34 percent. They are saying: Leave the gun owner alone. Gun control laws do not work.

Somehow, the American people have settled into understanding what most people understand, with common sense: If you do not use the laws to go after the criminal element in our country, if you try to blame their problem on somebody else or their malfunctioning in society, and you try to reach through and sue somebody else, the American people are saying: No, we don't go there anymore and we won't tolerate that.

Those are the issues at hand. That is the underlying purpose for why we are here today debating S. 1805. We think it is fundamental to the American people to allow them to speak and say: Enough is enough; 30-plus lawsuits by municipalities or political jurisdictions, and 21 of them already thrown out of the courts. Our courts are now full of many of these. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent in defense of law-abiding manufacturers and licensed firearms dealers. It is time we say, no, if that third party is trying to be held unaccountable by going after somebody else who is a law-abiding, legitimate citizen. Let's return to old, historic, fundamental tort law. It is the individual who is responsible for their actions, not someone else.

I think we were all taught that as a child. If we were not taught that by our parents, then I guess I have to say shame on our parents because that is pretty fundamental. You are responsible for your actions. If you misact, you might be punished for it. In society, if you misuse a gun, you ought to be punished for it instead of trying to pass it on to somebody else who is a law-abiding citizen playing by the rules that society has laid down and of which our Constitution so clearly speaks.

I yield the floor.


Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, the gun show loophole bill now being introduced by Senator McCain and Senator Reed is before us for full debate at this moment. Let me talk for a few moments about this issue and what it is and what it is not, and what has been done and what has not been done.

I believe some of the language used on the floor deserves to be clarified for the Members who might be looking in. The Senator from Rhode Island said yesterday that a good many States have already closed the loophole. I think he meant that 15 States have preexisting processes. Long before you go to a gun show, if in fact you are in the market to purchase a gun,
you pick up a permit by which to purchase. States do backgrounds and have backgrounds and do that kind of thing.

He did mention, though, North Carolina and spoke greatly about how North Carolina had closed the loophole, and then gun shows flourished. Well, numbers are not any different in the number of gun shows. North Carolina requires a handgun permit to purchase a handgun. So they do a check, a normal check, the kind you would normally do. You have to have that going in or coming out of a gun show to acquire from any activity, other than a one-on-one private sale. So to examine all of those issues, none of the States have the kind of regulatory structure that is being asked to be imposed on all gun shows in all States by the McCain-Reed gun show amendment. Clearly, what we have is an effort to create a blanket Federal policy across 1,000 gun shows, attended by millions of people annually, which is legal, responsible commerce.

Well, it has also been argued that gun shows are now the venue by which terrorists acquire firearms. It is interesting that the reason they suggest that is because the terrorists who acquired a firearm through a gun show, or through a straw dealer who bought a firearm at a gun show, are arrested and in jail. Somehow the law must have worked. It did work because if you are an illegal alien in this country, you cannot acquire a firearm. If you are a felon, you cannot acquire a firearm. It catches up with you if you are a law breaker.

In this instance, those they know of are three. There were three they can talk about. Does a purchase of three make the gun show venue a wide open market for terrorist activities? Absolutely not. It never has and it never will.

What we know, what the statistics show from the Department of Justice, is that the reality would suggest there are possibly a couple of percentage points, 1.5, 2 percentage points, that we can actually understand as it relates to firearms obtained through gun shows, used in criminal activity.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics is, I believe, by far the most reputable accumulator of this kind of information. They suggest that it has been a constant, all the way through, possibly about 1 percent. So that is the reality we deal with on this issue.

Let me put forth another scenario. This is a question they cannot answer because they have set up a major, new tripwire for an individual.

Let's say an individual goes to a gun show. He or she looks around and they find a particular gun in which they are interested. It is not being offered by a licensed Federal firearms dealer; it is being offered by a collector or an individual who bought a table and has two or three firearms to sell. He likes it. The dealer or the person says, take my card.

So he takes his or her card and he goes home and talks to his spouse; the spouse says, you have enough guns, you don't need another gun. That conversation goes on for quite a while. Finally, they agree that maybe for the collection, or for whatever purpose this citizen would want to own that gun, that they will buy it. They call the fellow on the business card. The purchase goes about.

Now, has that gun been purchased illegally? I do believe under the Reed-McCain amendment you have set up a major new tripwire for innocent, law-abiding citizens who, after the fact of a gun show, purchase the gun.

It can be argued that it was outside the gun show, but the point of contact was inside the room, inside the organized gun show.

What if 2 or 3 years later you realize that particular collector, who you met at the gun show and visited with and you saw his particular collection at the gun show, has that one firearm that you want to add to your collection? Does that point of contact, therefore, require, under Reed-McCain, a background check? I believe it is a phenomenally gray area and a critical area for an awful lot of law-abiding citizens who, once again, out of a desire to put up a law that doesn't work, when you create a Federal bureaucracy, you throw them into the middle of the bureaucracy when they in every way have been law-abiding citizens. I believe that is a phenomenal risk to place on our citizens, and that is exactly what we are doing-placing a risk on a citizen when we have never before said that this was a problem.

The ATF did research a few years ago and found out that less than 2 percent-1.7 percent-of firearms involved in criminal activity came from a gun show and they said, oh, there is a loophole. If there is a loophole in a gun show, there is one outside of a gun show. The laws that pertain to every citizen outside the gun show today pertain inside the gun show as well.

Yet McCain-Reed says that is not good enough. This is a special activity-1,000 legal activities that go on across our Nation a year, and millions of people attend them not just to acquire a gun but to get information, to collect, do all kinds of things you do at normal shows.

So our Federal Government is going to decide to regulate one more activity of commerce out there in the free marketplace. Why? To set up a charade that hasn't worked and won't work any differently than it has outside the gun show.

Let's stay with the laws we have. Let's go after the criminal element. Let's keep S. 1805 a clean bill so we can get it to the President for his signature.

I yield the floor.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Who seeks recognition?

Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, I yield 5 minutes to the Senator from Colorado. He has worked with us and has the concealed-carry bill we will be voting on later today.

Mr. CAMPBELL. I thank my colleague.

Mr. President, before I make some comments on the amendment, No. 2623, which we discussed Thursday, listening to the Senator's comments about the so-called gun show loopholes and the point of contact, I might ask, what if a person goes to a gun show and sees something he might like and forgets about it and months later he sees it in a classified ad of a newspaper and buys it through the classified ad in the paper from the man who originally had it at a gun show the year before? Does that make the person liable who had the booth at a gun show? I think this amendment complicates things rather than answers things.

Mr. CRAIG. I think the Senator sees it clearly, as I see it. That has established a very big gray area. Of course, if that weapon fell into the hands of a criminal who misused it, and if that trace came back, that is a field day for a lawyer inside a court saying, you bet, that contact was made, that sale was initiated at a gun show, when the scenario could have been just as the Senator explained it.


Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, why are we on the floor today debating a law, not debating a proposed law? We are debating this law because some years ago, when the Congress put it in place, they said, let's sunset it to force Congress to come back and look at it to see whether or not it worked. Because at that time there was a concern and somebody sought a political placebo to go home to their constituents and say, look what I did for you to protect you and therefore the world is safer. But many of us said, wait a moment, let's watch the law and see if it works. Let's put a sunset in it and come back and revisit it. That is what we are doing today.

In September of 2004, the assault weapons ban expires and the great debate is whether we ought to extend it for another period of time or whether we should not. The rationale to extend it is based on the fact it worked.

If it is a good law in place, it ought to be extended. I think the argument today is, fundamentally, did it or did it not work? That is the business of statistics and polling and data. The Senator from California, who offered the extension, used tracing data. I am using data that has been put forward by the Justice Department. Let's compare the two.

I am not saying the Senator from California's data is wrong. What she presented to the Congress, and to the Senate, is an accurate presentation. But let's put it into the context of how it was intended to be used because I don't believe it was intended to be used for this debate.

What is tracing data from BATF? This is a phrase to remember when you are talking about tracing data: Not all crime guns are traced-period. Not all gun traces are of crime weapons. Not all traces are of crime weapons.

For example, if you get a search warrant and you go into a house and you find firearms and the police department wants to know from whence they came, you do a trace. Were they used in the commission of a crime? No. In other words, it is an intelligence-gathering piece of information for the law enforcement community.

In 1994, in the passage of the assault weapon ban, there was this bubble of public interest because there was a lot of accusation out there that semiautos and assault weapons were the common weapon of the criminal. A lot of traces were done during that period of time. It tapered off over time. So if you argue it worked, the law worked-it didn't. It was simply reassessing the value of the trace at that time and the need to trace.

Back to the same premise: Not all crime guns are traced and not all gun traces are of crime guns. It is an information-gathering tool by BATF.

Let's turn to this statistic. Let's turn to the 2 percent of semi-autos used in the commission of a crime pre-1991; same difference after the passage of the bill and the implementation of the bill.

Where do my figures come from? My figures come from the Justice Department, from extensive surveys of criminals now in prison as to how they gained their gun, and through additional information and polling data; a different purpose and a different educational informational flow.

The Senator from California, BATF, mine, the Justice Department-are they inaccurate? No. But, if you are really talking about a reason, a basis from which to extend the current law, and you look at this and some people stand on the floor and say, oh, you have to stop this because this is the weapon of choice of criminals and they are using it all the time, that simply is not true. Those facts do not bear out. That is not a valid basis from which to argue the extension of the semiauto ban.

The Senator from California said "all" law enforcement-and she went through several. Many law enforcement groups have said: Extend it. Why? I guess it is logical. I will tell you one that didn't, though, the Western States Sheriffs' Association. The elected sheriffs of the Western States of this Nation, when the Brady Center brought them a resolution and said, here, we want you to pass this supporting the extension of the semiauto ban, they voted on it and voted it down by a very large margin.

Why? They looked at the statistics and saw that this bill would have more to do with stopping law-abiding citizens from owning the gun of their choice and very little to do with the crime element.

Let us return to the weapon that is the choice of the criminal. It is not packing around a rifle. Somehow they are just visible on the street. It is the handgun. It always has been the handgun. It is the choice, tragically enough, of most of the criminal element. Sure, there is a small percentage-less than 2 percent. Pictures have been shown graphically about the assault weapon and what it is.

Well, what is a semiauto rifle? I went through that argument yesterday. A semiauto rifle, semiauto shotgun, a semiauto pistol is one that you pull shot by shot, trigger by trigger. You do not depress the trigger and rapid-fire your entire amount of ammunition within the weapon itself.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. If the Senator will suspend, the Senator has used 5 minutes.

Mr. CRAIG. I thank you, Mr. President. I allot myself 2 more minutes.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator is recognized.

Mr. CRAIG. Machine guns: Fully automatic-the kind that is already banned. You can acquire them by permit from BATF to put in your collections, but you can't go to the street and buy them unless you buy them illegally and you buy them in the black market. You don't buy them at gun shows. That is the reality of what we are talking about.

Where lies the burden of proof to renew or re-up a law that has restricted the ability of law-abiding citizens, created another tripwire, and denied them what is a legitimate ownership right in this country? Less than 2 percent. I believe those are fully verifiable statistics when we are examining this. That is why the House and many others have said, no, let's not go there. Let this law expire. It may have been necessary at the time largely for political purposes only. Many of us opposed it then, saying it wouldn't work and it wasn't necessary. It didn't work and it isn't necessary. That is the reality of what we are doing.

Let us take this law from the books. Let us make sure we go after the criminal who misuses the gun-who uses a gun in the commission of a crime. That is where we get law enforcement. That is how we protect law-abiding citizens in this country and we don't thereby deny them their constitutional right.

I yield the floor.


Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, we are within a short time of beginning three very critical votes today starting at 11:30 on three very important items.

First, let me start with the underlying bill, S. 1805. The Statement of Administration Policy is to keep the bill clean. Don't add all of these other amendments to it. It is a clean, well-drafted, narrow provision that says we are going to exempt law-abiding gun manufacturers and dealers who play by the rules from third party suits of those who might take a law-abiding object and turn it into a criminal weapon; and that action should not be allowed to reach back through the court system and go after law-abiding gun manufacturers and licensed dealers.

Product liability: Don't change that law. Standard tort law: Don't change that law. But we narrow and we define so that all of these new creative arguments that the trial bar is trying to bring up in the 30-plus lawsuits they have brought don't fit anymore.

It is plain and simple. We go back to old tort in this country that says the individual is responsible for their actions. The individual is responsible for their actions. That is the underlying premise of S. 1805.

Added to that, certainly the Senator from California will attempt to extend the assault weapon ban.

A few moments ago I argued that there is no clear evidence, and the Justice Department's own statistics would argue that it really doesn't make a lot of sense.

The Senator from Arizona talked about the gun show loophole and mentioned that it is now accessed by terrorists for their weapons of choice. He also didn't mention that all of those terrorists were arrested. Somehow the law worked. They were caught. They were illegal. They may have made the point of contact and they may have lied and they may have acquired a firearm which they could have acquired outside of a gun show, but they were caught. They were arrested. They were trafficking in guns. And darn it, that is illegal in this country. We have well established that.

Do you create a whole new bureaucracy and a whole new hurdle over which the law-abiding citizen has to jump? I don't think so. I hope not. Or do you really create that gray area that I talked about earlier?

What if I go to the gun show and see the gun I like, but it is a licensed dealer, it is a collector, and months later I have his card? I call him up and I say, I visited with you at the gun show. I have decided to buy your weapon, the firearm. I want to add it to my collection. I want to add it to my personal inventory.

A legal action, it is today a legal action. If the gun show loophole bill passes, I think it is a phenomenally gray area. We set up another tripwire for the law-abiding citizen.

The Senator from Arizona and I know how creative the trial bar is. Let's at least argue that they discussed it and that they avoided the background check at that time by buying it outside the gun show. The point of contact was the gun show. The point of contact for millions of Americans who legally buy firearms is the gun show, with 1,000 gun shows a year, millions of people attending them. So now we overlay that with the Federal bureaucracy.

Yes, States do shape gun shows in their own likeness, and I don't object to that. Permits are required in some instances. Twelve States have done so. Have they plugged a loop hole? They have required that on all gun sales in their State, whether they are done inside of a gun show or outside of a gun show. Is that plugging a loophole or is that standardizing a law that fits that given State and the population of that State? That is 12 or 15, at the most. The rest have not. We had those kinds of requirements in the State of New York in 1911 and Congress did not speak to it. It was not called a loophole then. It was called a loophole only when the BATF, in their survey, said there might be a loophole through which some might be acquiring guns. One percent, 2 percent, 20 percent-how about 1.7 percent? It was true before the law; it is now true after the law.

Did the law work? In the case of assault weapons, it did not work. We have denied it before, but what the Senator is going to say, let's plug the loophole in the gun shows and then later on let's reach outside the gun shows and do the same thing, by gosh, that is called gun control. When the right of a free citizen to engage with his neighbor, which they have exempted now, and they have trimmed it down a bit-and I don't argue that-that is a new Federal law over all of our citizens. I question the need and I question the responsible act.

I yield the floor.


Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, I have been granted the time of the leader to close out this debate before we start votes at 11:35.

I must tell you, I am honored by the presence of the Senator from Massachusetts today on the floor to debate this critical issue. I am honored we have lifted the gun debate, on a fundamentally important bill for the average American, to Presidential politics. So let's go to where the average American is, by a Zogby poll taken some months ago, and this is: The red States versus the blue States, the Bush States versus the Gore States, in 2000.

When the average American, by the Zogby International polling group-certainly no rightwing polling group-did their work with Southern Methodists, here is what they got. For the statement: "There are enough laws on the books. What is needed is better law enforcement for current laws regarding gun control."-69 percent in the Bush States agreed, 63 percent in the Gore States; for the military, the veterans, and the nonmilitary-all of them well above a majority of 50 percent. When it comes to the underlying bill, that number jumps into the 70s.

Americans are fed up with the politics and the placebos to put a law on the books and somehow you have made the world safer. What they want is the cop on the beat arresting the bad guy or gal, and the courts not summarily putting them back on the streets. And when you use a gun in the commission of a crime, I suggest, and we suggest, and the American people suggest, you do the time. You don't plea-bargain them back to the streets out of a liberal court system.

That is the reality. That is what is important about this underlying debate. I am proud we have elevated it to the stature it is today.

I yield 5 minutes of my remaining time to the Senator from Texas.


Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Texas for his debate and leadership on these issues. He has been a statewide law enforcement officer. He knows what laws are all about. He knows how the public reacts to them, and he knows that laws have to be enforced.

We are minutes away from starting a very critical vote process on three amendments before we break for lunch. We will vote on the Feinstein, McCain, and Campbell amendments. There will be time allotted for each one as we get to them. In the minute that remains, I will say this has been a very positive debate. At the same time, I think there is a common sense and a reality that stacking up gun laws on the Federal books of the U.S. Code doesn't work, unless they are effectively enforced on the ground and the criminal element who may violate these laws knows there is a bite in the law; that somehow if they use a gun in the commission of a crime, they are going to do the time.

Everywhere that principle has been applied, crime has gone down, the use of a gun by a criminal has gone down. There have been arguments about keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists. They have not made their case because every example they use was a terrorist who had been arrested, stopped. The guns, strangely, were to be exported out of the country by the terrorist. So they placed themselves in double jeopardy. Now they are doing the time. Somehow, in that portion of the law it worked well. But the vote we are going to take is over whether to extend the law for another period of time that Congress said some years ago they wanted to look at. Therefore, we would sunset it and reconsider it. That is what we are doing and will do by a vote on the extension of the assault weapons ban, the extension of a law that hasn't worked.

All of the statistics are in. The numbers have not changed. Is the assault weapon, or a weapon of similar appearance, misused on occasion? Yes, it is, but by less than 2 percent in participating in a crime. Is that a justification for, again, establishing a tripwire? The Senator from Massachusetts said you are going to unleash AK-47s back on the streets. Well, the law that bans them is still in place. It doesn't fall out with the assault weapons ban going away. That and the Uzi law are in place.

Senators will now come to the Chamber for a vote in a few moments on these critical issues. I hope they have been engaged. The debate has been very civil over a very important part of what we do in the Senate.


Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, I ask my colleagues to let the assault weapons ban die in peace. It expires in September of 2004. Statistics show it has not changed the method of operation of criminals in this country. The assault weapons or the definition to which we prescribe in the law is not a weapon of choice of the criminal on the streets of America. It has simply set up the tripwires for law-abiding citizens who may choose to have this type of gun in their collection. By definition, that means that gun doesn't get misused. The stolen weapon, the one trafficked in the black market, is the one that is misused. That is why I believe-and many colleagues agree with me-when you sunset a law, you do so for the purpose of reexamining it to see whether it is worthy of staying on the books of this country. It is not. It is time for it to go away. I ask my colleagues to vote no on this amendment.



Mr. CRAIG. Following this is the debate on the gun show loophole. There are 2 minutes of debate and a 10-minute vote to follow. I wish my colleagues would cease conversation so they can hear the proponent of the amendment.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senate will please come to order. Will the Senators in the well please cease their conversations so we can continue with the debate. We will now proceed with debate on amendment No. 2636. Who yields time?

The Senator from Idaho.

Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, if I could have the attention of my colleagues, another critical vote is at hand.

To my colleagues, envision a door. If you walk through the door, the Federal Government takes over. If you stay outside the door, the current laws are in authority. It is called the gun show loophole. We have an amendment here that puts a whole new tripwire in front of the law-abiding citizen. It does not go after the criminal element. We know less than 2 percent of guns that are used in the commission of a crime are gotten through a gun show. Most of them are obtained in the back streets.

Let's talk about law enforcement and the argument about terrorists gaining their guns through gun shows. The reason they arrested the terrorists is the current laws work. There are 1,000 gun shows for law-abiding citizens. Let's not create a Federal bureaucracy that will begin to govern and control what is the right of free commerce in this country. Let the current Federal law work.

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