Suing gunmakers is frivolous
by Ken Hamblin
January 6, 2000
Ever since the Columbine High School massacre last April, the gun-grabbers have intensified their effort to disarm Americans. And the latest venues for their assault on the right to possess firearms are the courtroom and the pocketbook.
Although no one at Colt has officially confirmed it, it's common knowledge in the gun industry that the company's recent decision to get out of the business of manufacturing handguns was a response to the tsunami of litigation being threatened by urban politicians - the same politicians whose unwillingness to crack down on minority criminals has reduced the domains they govern to virtual free-fire zones.
The right to keep and bear arms be damned -- the gun-grabbers will grasp at any possible way to circumvent the Second Amendment. And it's obvious, at least to me, that their latest and perhaps most effective strategy is to drive the American gun industry into economic turmoil and bankruptcy.
If they can achieve that goal, I'm almost certain that their next step will be to force through regulations prohibiting the importing of almost every type of firearm -- not only handguns but, eventually, even rifles and shotguns.
This strategy, aimed at using the courts to bring about a victory that their political methods have failed to win, was made clear to me recently as the Clinton administration accelerated its crusade against the right to bear arms, asserting that Republicans in Congress had betrayed the American people by failing to pass new gun-control legislation.
"We're not going to rely on Congress," White House Chief of Staff John Podesta said, according to the Associated Press. "We're going to find other avenues. ... "
At least one of those other avenues, clearly, is harassing litigation against the gun industry, meant to tie up gunmakers in never-ending, increasingly costly court cases until economic pressures give the gun-grabbers what they couldn't win in a fair political fight.
But this ultimate end run around the Constitution may not be as much of a sure thing as they hope.
If recent rulings are a sign of the judicial future, Colt may have surrendered too hastily. Judges are notoriously unpredictable, no matter how carefully they may have been handpicked by the politicians who installed them on the bench.
For instance, although the mainstream media give it minimal mention, a few weeks ago a judge in Bridgeport, Conn., and another in Miami handed down two rulings highly unfavorable to the gun-grabbers.
In Connecticut, Superior Court Judge Robert F. McWeeny dismissed Bridgeport's $100 million lawsuit against more than a dozen gun manufacturers, dealers and trade groups. The city has no legal standing to sue under state law, the judge ruled, nor even according to its own charter.
In Dade County, Fla., Circuit Judge Amy Dean threw out a similar lawsuit against gun manufacturers, ruling that the county has no standing for a suit because the county itself has suffered no direct injuries from guns. The judge added that Florida's product-liability law require that such suits be filed by individuals who have been injured by a specific defective product.
This was a telling point, since as far as I know none of these lawsuits allege that the guns in question are defective -- in fact, the whole point is that, in injuring or killing the person it is pointed at, a gun is functioning exactly as intended.
Miami Mayor Alex Penelas had filed the lawsuit on behalf of the city and the county, hoping to hold the gun industry responsible for the police and medical costs of all gun-related injuries and deaths resulting from third-party antisocial behavior.
It's an assertion I find very interesting, especially coming from the very same liberals who customarily caterwaul like snared tomcats when it's suggestions that they ought to be held legally liable for the antisocial activities of their own children. Apparently what's outrageous when applied to them is perfectly reasonable when applied to gun companies hundreds of miles away from the spot where their own people are committing crimes.
It is frequently said that "The business of America is business."
If so, I think that America will have to come to terms with the fact that it's absurd to hold a manufacturer liable for the anti-social behavior of a customer who purchases its product, whether it's someone who uses an automobile to commit a robbery or some who uses a hammer to commit murder.
When we accept this obvious truth, the gun-grabbers will have one less weapon in their arsenals, and gunmakers will be able to concern themselves, as all other manufacturing interests do, with nothing more than producing the best product they are capable of making.
I predict that the Supreme Court eventually will rule that urban mayors, habitually soft on minority criminals, will not be allowed to slough off blame for the mess they've created. The court will rule out governmental entities' frivolous lawsuits against gun manufacturers -- if for no other reason than that any other ruling would be bad for business.
Ken Hamblin is the author of Plain Talk and Common Sense. He writes a column for the Denver Post and has been a radio talk-show host for 15 years.
Webmaster's Note: Before you label Ken a while conservative, he is a black conservative.