NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Suits Against Gun Makers Faltering

September 3, 2002

State politicians and judges apparently aren't falling for the argument that when somebody shoots somebody else, it's all the fault of the gun manufacturer, equating it with suing auto manufacturers for the mayhem caused by a drunken driver.

  • A spate of government litigation against the nation's gun companies has been stifled in 30 states which passed laws granting the industry immunity from civil lawsuits.
  • Those laws were all enacted since 1998, when New Orleans became the first of almost three dozen cities and counties to file suits against gun manufacturers and dealers -- accusing them of being public nuisances and seeking huge damage awards.
  • In Washington, there is a bill with 228 sponsors in the House that would provide federal immunity to the firearms industry -- and a similar bill in the Senate has 39 sponsors.
  • The anti-gun faction claims to have evidence that the gun industry has a distribution system which facilitates guns falling into the hands of criminals -- something the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms would have shut down long ago.

Legal observers are confident all the municipal lawsuits will be dismissed or decided in favor of the gun companies.

Lawyers for one firm handling a case for the city of Boston dropped out after reportedly realizing there would be little money to collect. Lawrence G. Keane, general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, says the Boston lawyers gave up "because they realized these cases are dogs. There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow."

Out of all the states, only California has repealed its law that granted immunity to the gun industry.

Source: Fox Butterfield, "Gun Industry Is Gaining Immunity from Suits," New York Times, September 2, 2002.

 

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