North American Arms
Bradley Beckman, counsel, North American Arms
Statement of Bradley Beckman, Counsel, North American Arms
Committee on House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law
March 15, 2005
Mr. Chairman, my name is Bradley Beckman and I am here representing a modest-sized firearms manufacturer with which I am sure you are familiar, North American Arms. North American Arms is based in your district. I want to begin by thanking you for holding this hearing. The legal assault on the firearms industry by opportunistic lawyers and anti-gun politicians threatens to bankrupt an entire industry that scrupulously follows all federal, state and local laws in the manufacture of our products and their sale to federally licensed firearms distributors.
North American Arms employs approximately 40 people and specializes in the manufacture of small-sized, personal protection firearms. Many individuals who choose to carry our high-quality products are members of the law enforcement community who use them as a second or ``backup`` firearm to their standard sidearm. North American Arms has been named in several of the state and municipal suits against the firearms industry.
The lawsuits brought against gun manufacturers are nothing short of outrageous. Holding gun makers liable for the criminal misuse of our products one of the central accusations in these suits is akin to holding Ford, Chevy or Honda responsible for the illegal actions of a drunk driver or holding Kodak responsible for the use of their film in the vile world of child pornography. It is an accusation that defies common sense. While these lawsuits barely pass the straight face test, the consequences of these suits are no laughing matter.
North American Arms is literally being crushed under the weight of legal expenses. Money that could be used for developing new markets, hiring workers, improving firearms design and safety is instead channeled to fund the huge costs associated with the legal defense of the company.
These lawsuits are nothing short of legal backmail lawyers, politicians and anti-gun groups want to achieve in the courtroom draconian changes in gun laws that have been rejected by Congress and state legislatures. Their message is simple: ``settle with us or we will bankrupt you with lawsuits.`` This legal extortion must be stopped.
North American Arms is a responsible firearms manufacturer that adheres strictly to all laws governing the manufacture and sale of our products to distributors. We have an excellent relationship with law enforcement. We have done nothing wrong, yet if a judge and jury in, for example, New York, decide against our industry it holds the potential of bankrupting not just North American Arms, but the entire U.S. firearms industry. It is doubtful that North American Arms or other manufacturers could post the necessary bond to appeal a verdict. If these suits are successful, they will be a wrecking ball on our national economy. Any member of Congress from Michigan should be ready for a similar assault on the auto industry. We already see suits against purveyors of fast food. The list of targeted industries could go on and on.
I want to close with two quotes. The first from a recent decision by California Judge James Marchiano, writing for a unanimous state Court of Appeals decision in favor of the firearms industry just last month. Judge Marchiano wrote:
``The only business practice the defendants in this case have engaged in is marketing their products in a lawful manner to federally licensed dealers``
``In this case, there is no causal connection between any conduct of the defendants and any incident of illegal acquisition of firearms or criminal acts or accidental injury by a firearm. Defendants manufacture guns according to federal law and guidelines.``
In March 2002, the City of Boston dismissed with prejudice its lawsuit against firearms manufacturers. The city, facing mounting legal bills and recognizing that it would lose its case, stated in its dismissal that:
``members of the Industry and firearms trade associations are genuinely concerned with and are committed to, the safe, legal and responsible sale and use of their products. . .The Industry and the City believe that through cooperation and communication they can continue to reduce the number of firearm related accidents, can increase awareness of the issues related to the safe handling of storage of firearms, and can reduce the criminal acquisition of firearms.``
Mr. Chairman, passage of H.R. 800 is common-sense judicial reform. This bill will protect jobs, prevent the misuse of the courts to circumvent elected officials and prevent abuse of the judicial system.