NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

If Gun Suits Are Successful, Other Targets Will Pop Up

September 3, 1999

So far, 28 cities and counties have filed lawsuits against gun manufacturers. The gun industry is trying to have the suits dismissed because manufacturers have rarely been found liable for what criminals do with their products.

Local governments are hoping for a repeat of the states' lucrative legal battle over tobacco. So if gun makers go down to defeat, lawyers are expected to haul manufacturers of other products into court.

  • The next targets could be manufacturers of sports cars which are capable of attaining unlawful and unsafe speeds, as well as distillers of alcohol who would be blamed for inciting criminal behavior.
  • Experts say that the gun cases are based on the theory that the product was defective because someone used it to commit wrongful acts -- which would be stretching product liability beyond limits which have been accepted up to this time.
  • Plaintiffs have sued the makers of air guns, carbon- dioxide cartridges, glue and even slingshots on criminal- misuse grounds -- without much success.
  • Just weeks ago, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that fertilizer makers couldn't be blamed for the World Trade Center bombing.

Some legal observers find it ironic that mayors of some cities with high crime rates are seeking to avoid their own responsibility for having their police departments maintain law and safety by blaming the instrument instead.

"No industry can properly or legally have its own police force," observers Doug Painter, executive director of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. "Like any industry, we must rely on various law enforcement agencies to police and oversee the distribution of our products," he adds.

In a January survey, the research firm DecisionQuest found that 66 percent of people opposed the gun suits.

Source: Kevin Butler, "Targeting Gun Makers in Court," Investor's Business Daily, September 3, 1999.


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