Outdoor Life Online Editor

The long awaited vote on the Protection of Lawful Commerce Act took place Oct. 20, and the legal reform to stop junk lawsuits against the firearms industry was approved in Congress by a 283 to 144 margin. The U.S. Senate had already approved Senate Bill 397 in July. It will now go before President Bush, who is expected to sign the bill into law.

The bill will provide protection for manufacturers, distributors, retailers and importers of all legally sold firearms and ammunition who are sued as a result of their products being used in the commission of a crime. Since 1998 more than 30 municipal lawsuits have been filed against the makers and sellers of firearms by anti-gun organizations and anti-gun politicians, the National Shooting Sports Foundation reports. The goal behind many of the lawsuits is to shut down the gun industry by bankrupting the companies that are forced to spend millions on attorney’s fees and other costs as a result of the legal actions.

“These lawsuits put thousands of jobs at risk and attempted to drive an entire industry out of business,” says Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF’s senior vice president and general counsel. It ultimately put the nation’s military at risk as well, since it threatened to shutter the companies that provide U.S. soldiers with small arms and ammunition.

Approval of the law arrived just in time to nullify two pending suits, one in New York City and one in Washington, D.C. Opponents of the bill attempted to scare the public into believing that people would no longer be able to file claims against gunmakers whose firearms experience a malfunction, but that is not the truth. Language in the law still permits civil liability actions.