NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Jurisdictions Dispute Authority over Gun Laws

March 21, 2003

States, cities, courts and Congress are disputing who should have jurisdiction over gun manufacturers.

  • Since 1997, more than 30 cities and counties have sued firearm manufacturers in an attempt to force them to change the way they make and sell guns.
  • Meanwhile, more than 30 states have passed laws banning city lawsuits against gun manufacturers.
  • As for the courts, more than a third of the cases have been dismissed or dropped.

The message from the legislatures and the courts has been clear: It is the responsibility of the legislatures -- not the courts -- to regulate firearms manufacture.

At the national level, Congress has before it legislation which would ban municipal lawsuits against gun manufacturers. Congress claims jurisdiction on the grounds that firearms policy is a national issue since the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the individual's "right to keep and bear arms."

But that would be a hollow right if the local lawsuits succeed in destroying the gun industry -- which is small and vulnerable. Profits for the entire industry in 1999 amounted to less than $200 million and lawsuits have already pushed two companies into bankruptcy.

Source: H. Sterling Burnett (National Center for Policy Analysis), "Firearms Cease-Fire?" Washington Times, March 21, 2003.


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