Senate Adds Gun Control To Liability Bill

Senate Passes Gun Control Amidst Protection For Gun Makers
— Now the House has to clean up the Senate’s mess

The U.S. Senate passed legislation (S. 397) protecting the gun industry from frivolous lawsuits by a vote of 65-31 this afternoon.

It should have been a joyous occasion for the entire gun community. But just when it seemed that the majority party was about to deal a knockout blow, the Republican leadership dropped their gloves and allowed anti-gun Democrats to land a hard uppercut on the chin.

As a result of that lack of resolve, America will be saddled with mandatory trigger locks unless the House of Representatives acts in a more responsible manner.

True, the underlying bill is significant legislation, supported by GOA, which will help the firearms industry defend itself from the slew of frivolous lawsuits you’ve been hearing about for years. It’s not great protection, but it’s a nice first step.

However, “nice first step” should never be an excuse for the passage of more gun control. By the way, you will no doubt be reading news reports touting the bill as a great victory for gun owners, while dismissing the trigger lock amendment as “minor.” Wrong, and more on that later.

But first: how did this thing blow up in our faces?


Remember that Gun Owners of America had asked its members and activists to lobby Majority Leader Bill Frist to use whatever means possible to block anti-gun amendments? At first, his office had been telling us this couldn’t be done.

Frist’s office told us there was no Senate rule allowing the majority party to block bad amendments.

But after GOA members and activists applied the heat, Frist took another look. He then used parliamentary rules to “fill the amendment tree,” which is exactly what we asked him to do. “Filling the amendment tree” is a technical term which explains how the majority party can offer amendments in such a way as to block the minority party from offering other amendments.

So far so good. But then… Frist blinked. You see, there were a handful of “moderate” Democrats, mainly from pro-gun states, who had cosponsored the original bill — enough to make the measure filibuster-proof. Fearing that the other side would get those guys to bolt from the bill, Frist caved and allowed people like decidedly anti-gun Senator Herb Kohl to offer amendments.

Frist should have stood firm and let any rats jumping ship go home and explain to their constituents why they didn’t support needed tort reform.

But he did not, and the trigger lock amendment passed. Those who think it’s no big deal will tell you that even though the provision requires gun dealers to include the sale of a “lock-up-your-safety” device with every handgun sold, there are no penalties for the gun owner if he or she does not use the trigger lock. Right. NOT YET.

Remember seat belts? First they had to be installed in every new car sold. Then, it became mandatory that you wear them. You can almost hear the debate in the next Congress: “It does no good to provide trigger locking devices if gun owners aren’t required to use them. We need to punish any gun owner who fails to lock up his or her handgun!”

Remember also that some us don’t like a “tax” on the price of our next gun, which we have to pay to get a piece of equipment we know can endanger our lives should we install it.


At least your hard work convinced Frist to fill the tree in the first place. Otherwise, any anti-gun Senator could have added anything including the word “firearm” and who knows what we would have ended up with. It’s an utter shame that Frist lost his nerve right when total victory was in our grasp.

Even worse, perhaps, 70 Senators went along with the trigger lock amendment when they could just as easily have voted “No” and passed a clean bill thereafter. Were your Senators among those who need to be spanked for toying with your rights? Go to for a complete run-down of the trigger locks vote.


The bill now moves to the House. Some pro-gun spokesmen have been promising that the trigger lock amendment can be stripped out in a conference committee. As mentioned in a previous alert, this is a dangerous strategy which frequently does NOT work — such as when we got stuck with the Feinstein semi-auto ban in 1993-94 and the Incumbent Protection Act in 2002.

Actually, a clean bill already exists in the House. Why not pass that one?

Congress is in recess during August. But the back-room deals are certain to continue inside the Beltway.

To counter those expected compromises, GOA will need your help at specific times over the remainder of the summer. Please stay tuned… gun owners will need to pressure their Representatives with one simple message: a vote for ANY bill, should it contain new gun control, is NOT something we’re prepared to swallow without a fight.