To the Editor:
In the Dec. 12, 2019, letter titled “Anti-gun crowd won’t stop until Americans are unarmed,” after the usual banal arguments and disingenuous notions (for example, that domestic abusers don’t later use guns to kill their victims enough times to justify confiscation), the writer notes that gun manufacturers are not held liable for damage caused by use of their products unless said products are defective. Why is clearly debatable, but that this law was only passed in 2005 is of specific interest to an anthropologist such as I.
Homicide rates due to guns were down 50 percent from the ’80s and ’90s by 2005. So why would the gun industry need protection from product liability when potential liability was down 50 percent? Mass shootings, specifically with the Columbine massacre. Mass shootings did occur prior to Columbine, but none quite like it in ferocity, the number of victims and the “type” of victims – middle and upper class, mostly white teenagers and teachers.
As long as the bulk of homicides were among the poor and minorities, the gun industry had little to fear from product liability litigation. But if now white suburbanites could become victims, the outrage would soon turn into litigation.
With the assault weapons ban due to expire in 2004, the continued rise of mass shootings coupled with assault weapons used against the educated and wealthier classes could have been a financial disaster for the gun industry. So Congress provides cover and the product liability immunity for the gun industry appears.
Repeal of product liability would certainly be damaging for the industry, but not fatal. Product liability is a useful tool for encouraging corporations to limit harm to consumers. Works very well in many other industries.
Nowhere does the Second Amendment suggest the gun industry cannot be regulated. My seeking regulation for your use of a product that may result in my injury or death doesn’t mean I want your guns. I have my own.
But I do want rational management of firearms. If it takes product liability suits to incentivize the gun industry to do as much as possible to mitigate the horrific damage their products do to fellow citizens, that seems a worthwhile mechanism.