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Should Gunmakers Pay Damages to Local Governments for Gun-related Violence and Injuries?

By DAVID KOPEL

Research director, Independence Institute

The CQ Researcher(Congressional Quarterly). Feb. 11, 2000

Abusive lawsuits against firearms companies are an assault on America's republican form of government.  Firearms law should be made by our lawmaking bodies: by state legislatures and Congress.  As pointed out by former Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich--who supports strict gun control--the lawsuits are thinly disguised efforts to end-run legislative decisions about what kind of gun laws are best.

All of the lawsuits are orchestrated by Sarah Brady', litigation organization, the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, and all of them are premised on her belief that--as she said in 1993--"To me, the only reason for guns in civilian hands is for sporting purposes." For example, many of the lawsuits complain that handgun manufacturers have improved their products too much. In the last decade, handgun companies, responding to consumer demand, produced models that are smaller, have larger ammunition capacity and greater accuracy and firepower.

It is lawful to use guns for protection Smaller guns with greater firepower obviously are valuable for law-abiding persons carrying a handgun for protection or in a car. In the home, a smaller gun might be easier for the particular person to hold, easier to store in a particular place or easier to keep concealed from children.

Other assertions about how guns should be designed--with magazine disconnects or with so-called safety devices that prevent the gun from working reliably in an emergency--likewise are based on a theory that guns should not be used for protection.

Charges that gunmakers deliberately sell guns to criminals or children ignore the fact that guns are the most-regulated consumer product in America. Every retail purchase must receive permission from the FBI, based on the FBI's determination that the buyer is not a criminal and is old enough to buy the gun legally.

The lawsuits also show contempt for the First amendment by targeting trade associations that engage exclusively in activity such as public education and lobbying.

If guns are to be banned, the decision should be made by the legislature, not by trial lawyers, anti-gun lobbies, and a few mayors who abuse legal system to drive companies into bankruptcy through high litigation costs. Although the lawsuits are so legally frivolous that it is unlikely any plaintiff will be awarded a single dollar, the cost of defending suits is astronomical.  Already, several firearms manufactures have been bankrupted by litigation costs.

 

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