Boston's Suit Against Gun Manufacturers, Off-Target And Hazardous To Their Health

Dallas (June 4, 1999) - H. Sterling Burnett, a senior policy analyst with the Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis, responded today to the decision of city officials in Boston to sue more than 40 gun manufacturers, as well as gun dealers and firearms trade groups asking: "When will this dangerous lawsuit parade stop?"

"Everyone's heart breaks when one person decides to take the life of another," said Burnett. "Nonetheless, this entire trend of suing the industry for third party misuse is legally and intellectually suspect."

The Boston suit claims that manufactures create a public nuisance and violate unfair business practice laws, claiming that gun makers have knowingly flooded the market with their products in a way that allows minors and criminals to obtain them, by exercising little control over distributors and dealers. The suit also claims that the manufacturers are liable due to their failure to install safety devices on guns.

"If these lawsuits succeed, it will establish bad law and bad public policy. It would establish bad law because it asks the courts to legislate and it would overturn well-established legal precedence that manufacturers are not responsible for the criminal misuse of their products. It would be bad public policy because guns prevent more harm than they cause."

Burnett, who has authored a study for the NCPA entitled "Suing Gun Manufacturers: Hazardous to Our Health," noted that citizens use guns in self-defense as many as 2.5 million times annually (in the vast majority of cases, merely showing the firearm prevents the crime). That far exceeds the number of crimes committed with firearms each year, providing cities like Boston with a net social benefit from gun use. Accordingly, Burnett calculates that guns save U.S. citizens between $1 billion and $38 billion annually.