Monday, November 07, 2005

Bush Signs NRA-Bought Bill Into Law

Passing under the radar while Harriet Miers was stepping down from Supreme Court consideration, Samuel Alito was being nominated and Lewis "Scooter" Libby was being indicted, was President Bush signing into law the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

Signed on October 26, the legislation was a huge gift from the Bush administration and the Republican Congress to the National Rifle Association (NRA) who, naturally, issued an ecstatic press release when the big day came.

"President George W. Bush today signed into law the NRA-backed 'Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act' ending politically motivated lawsuits designed to bankrupt law-abiding American firearm manufacturers and retailers," gloated the NRA.

"This is an historic day for freedom. I would like to thank President Bush for signing the most significant piece of pro-gun legislation in twenty years into law. History will show that this law helped save the American firearms industry from collapse under the burden of these ruinous and politically motivated lawsuits," said Wayne LaPierre, NRA’s executive vice president.

People who make their livings trying to protect Americans were not so thrilled.

"Now the unregulated gun industry will also enjoy protection from legitimate lawsuits by individuals like victims of the Washington, DC-area snipers, injured by the reckless and negligent actions of gun manufacturers and dealers," said Kristen Rand, director of the Violence Policy Center. "This legislation will make the unregulated gun industry the most pampered industry in America."

But, when it comes to the NRA, it's all about the big bucks. The firearms industry gave 88 percent of its campaign contributions, or $1.2 million, to Republicans in the 2004 election cycle.

"What we witness today is the culmination of a seven-year effort that included a comprehensive legislative and election strategy," stated Chris W. Cox, NRA’s chief lobbyist. "We worked hard to change the political landscape to pass this landmark legislation. As always, our members were up for the task. Key electoral victories in 2000, 2002 and 2004 helped pave passage of this law."

That may well be the most honest thing ever said by the NRA's leadership as their money was certainly enough to buy them a 65-31 victory in the Senate in July and a 283-144 vote in the House late last month.

And get this: The sponsor of the legislation, Senator Larry Craig (R-ID), is on the Board of Directors of -- you guessed it -- the NRA.

"This legislation has one motivation: payback by the Bush Administration and the Republican leadership of the Congress to the powerful special interest of the NRA," said Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA).

Representative Robert Wexler, D-Fla., concurred: "It is shameful that Republicans in Congress are continually pushing legislation that guarantees their gun-dealing cronies receive special treatment and are above the law."

Knowing that passage of the bill was a foregone conclusion with a GOP-dominated Capitol, Senate Democrats did their best to water down the legislation with amendments designed to maintain some gun-industry culpability for the ills of their products.

Kennedy proposed an amendment to the bill that sought to close the existing loopholes in the federal law that bans cop-killer bullets. Said Kennedy: "It is outrageous and unconscionable that cop-killer bullets continue to be sold in the United States at all. Yet under current law, purchasing cop-killer bullets is no more difficult than buying a lottery ticket or a pack of cigarettes."

The amendment was voted down.

Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) pushed an amendment that would not extend the bill's gun-industry immunity to cases involving the death or injury of a child 16 or younger.

"How can we look a mother in the eye and tell her that she cannot hold the people who caused the death of her child accountable? It is unjust, unfair and immoral to strip away the rights of children harmed or killed by gunfire," said Senator Lautenberg.

Even though Lautenberg's amendment was only intended to preserve legal remedies for families whose children were killed by a gun dealer's negligence or recklessness, the GOP Senate shot that down as well.

Senator Jon Corzine's (D-NJ) efforts to protect the rights of law enforcement officers who are victimized by gun-toting criminals – by allowing cops to secure compensation from those who participate in arming the bad guys – was quickly killed by Republicans in a voice vote.

As if we needed this made more clear, having this NRA-bought bill signed into law again drives home the powerlessness of the minority party and the huge stakes as we work our butts off next year to take back both the Senate and the House.

It was Kennedy again who reminded Americans about the far-reaching effects of making guns yet easier to get and shielding the firearms industry from any liability whatsoever for their products and their actions – by invoking the real-life connection between our lax gun laws and the true war on terror.

"In the caves of Afghanistan, our troops found an Al Qaeda manual that instructed terrorists on how to buy guns legally in the United States, without having to undergo a background check. Al Qaeda understands that we have created a mess that allows -- even encourages -- criminals and terrorists to traffic in guns. But we won't do anything about that -- the so-called gun show loophole -- because the NRA has snapped its fingers and said 'NO'," said Kennedy in fighting against the legislation.

"This Administration continually says that we are engaged in a war on terror, but it takes the position that the war on terror doesn't allow us to prevent terrorists from buying guns in this country. Because of the actions of this Administration and this Congress in caving to the NRA, terrorists can now add assault weapons to their arsenal. All to appease the NRA so they'll give campaign contributions and get out the vote. This is not only a disgrace -- it's criminal, and it has to stop."

The fight continues tomorrow. Vote Democratic.