WASHINGTON - July 22 - The Majority Leader of the United States Senate yesterday took to the Senate floor and said Congress should quickly pass the National Rifle Association's dream legislation to block lawsuits against reckless gun sellers. The reason speed is essential, according to Senator Frist: The U.S. firearms industry may collapse, and "the Department of Defense faces the real prospect of having to outsource sidearms for our soldiers to foreign manufacturers."
In a time of war, the Senate's Republican leadership would like to suspend work on defense measures so they can work on the NRA's bill. If they don't Senator Frist is suggesting, our troops will be unarmed.
"Without this legislation it is probable the American manufacturers of legal firearms will be faced with a real prospect of going out of business, ending a critical source of supply for our armed forces, our police and our citizens," Frist said.
"I am amazed," said Mike Barnes, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "What a remarkable, unsupportable, incredible scenario supporters of this legislation have dreamed up. The basic message they're using is that our soldiers in the field, at any moment now, are going to be without guns. Any moment now, they're suggesting, every gun maker in the United States is going out of business. It's absolutely shameless -- the gun lobby's own little yellowcake strategy."
The Defense Department has never stated that they are in danger of losing military supplies; and there is no evidence that any major American gun company is in financial trouble, much less financial problems that would be cured by this special interest giveaway. Consider these facts:
-- The only two publicly-held gun companies have filed recent statements with the Securities and Exchange Commission contradicting the claim that they are threatened by lawsuits. Smith & Wesson filed a statement with the SEC on June 29, stating that "we expect net product sales for fiscal 2005 to be approximately $124 million, a 5 percent increase over the $117.9 million reported for fiscal 2004. Firearms sales for fiscal 2005 are expected to increase by approximately 11 percent over fiscal 2004 levels." In another filing, dated March 10, 2005, Smith & Wesson wrote, "In the nine months ended January 31, 2005, we incurred $4,535 in defense costs, net of amounts received from insurance carriers, relative to product liability and municipal litigation." Meanwhile, gun manufacturer Sturm, Ruger told the SEC in a March 11 filing: "(I)t is not probable and is unlikely that litigation, including punitive damage claims, will have a material adverse effect on the financial position of the Company."
-- The level of litigation against gun manufacturers and dealers is miniscule. From 1993 to 2003, 57 suits were filed against gun industry defendants, out of what the State Court Journal published by the National Center for State Courts estimates is 10 million tort suits. The aggregate damages paid in tort suits per year is $82.6 billion (U.S. Tort Costs, 2002 Update, Tillinghast-Towers Perrin, 200 figures), while damages paid in gun suits each year is $441,800, excluding unreported confidential settlements.