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Reform Jewish Movement Urges Senate to Oppose Sweeping Legal Immunity for the Gun Industry

Contact: Alexis Rice or Randi Levine 202-387-2800

WASHINGTON, July 11, 2003 - In a letter today, Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, urged Senators to protect the legal rights of gun violence victims by opposing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (S. 659), noting, "When a precious life is cut short by a gun because a negligent gun dealer allowed a criminal to access a weapon, justice is best served by trusting our courts to determine whether the dealer is liable."

The complete letter follows:

Dear Senators:

On behalf of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, a joint instrumentality of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis, I urge you to oppose the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (S. 659), introduced by Senators Larry Craig (R-ID) and Max Baucus (D-MT). This bill would grant sweeping legal immunity to the gun industry, preventing victims of gun violence from seeking justice in our nation's courts.

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act would prohibit victims of gun violence from suing gun manufacturers, distributors, dealers, or importers for civil damages except in limited circumstances. This bill would also require an immediate dismissal of pending lawsuits. Radically altering current law, this bill would give the gun industry a unique legal protection not granted to other American industries. In a nation where nearly 30,000 people die from gun violence each year, this legislation would remove a major incentive for gun manufacturers and dealers to make their products safer, improve their distribution practices, and keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

Our Jewish sages teach that God began the human race with a single being to teach us that when anyone takes a single human life, it is as if that person had destroyed the entire world--and anyone who saves a single life, it is as if that person had saved the entire world. This past fall, snipers terrorized the DC area, murdering ten people and injuring three. Although current law prohibited the snipers from purchasing a gun, they were able to acquire their weapon from Bull's Eye Shooter Supply, a careless dealer that allowed numerous guns to "disappear." If S. 659 were to become law, the lawsuit filed by the victims' families against Bull's Eye Shooter Supply would be dismissed.

We have not taken a position on whether the gun industry should be held liable for its negligence in any particular case. Rather, we oppose legal immunity--the notion that Congress can prohibit lawsuits against a gun dealer or manufacturer. As Moses tells the judges, "Hear out your fellow men, and decide justly between any man and a brother or a stranger. You shall not be partial in judgment: hear out low and high alike" (Deuteronomy 1:16-17). When a precious life is cut short by a gun because a negligent gun dealer allowed a criminal to access a weapon, justice is best served by trusting our courts to determine whether the dealer is liable, as we would do for the manufacturer or seller of any other product.

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (S. 659) would provide unique legal protection for the gun industry at the expense of innocent Americans. I urge you to oppose this bill and protect the legal rights of victims of gun violence.

Respectfully,
/s/
Mark J. Pelavin
Associate Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .



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