Suing gun manufacturers for civil liability

By Kelly Finlan and Jackie Freese
September 4, 2003

Marisa Gallelli

Kelly Finlan says

To allow gun manufacturers civil immunity would be to allow them to put guns in the hands of children and of criminals. To grant immunity is to secure the gun show loophole and to make certain the deaths of thousands more, brutally struck down by the use of illegal firearms.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 requires everyone in the business of selling guns to acquire a license to do so. A 5-day waiting period and background check is required of all people purchasing a new or used gun. This is a manufacturers’ safety net, a legal escape, encouraging the proper use of firearms.

It is, however, not working. The government has reported that as many as 89 percent of guns recovered from crime scenes are less than 3 years old.

How is it that guns are getting into the hands of people with violent tendencies?

There is a loophole in the Gun Control Act that requires background checks and waiting periods. This discrepancy is referred to as the “Gun show loophole.” This allows those selling firearms at gun shows, those selling guns from their own collections or those selling for non-profit-based reasons, to sell without a license.

“Gun shows and flea markets are the second leading source for guns illegally trafficked,” according to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. There are more than 3,000 gun shows nationally each year.

Gun manufacturers are notorious for selling mass amounts of guns to such “friendly” markets, allowing thousands of guns into these lax venues like these each year.

In April of 1999, a couple of 17 year-old boys in Littleton Colorado, toting guns recently purchased at a local gun show, shot 26 students in their high school, killing 13 of them.

Timothy McVeigh, famed Oklahoma City Bomber, admitted to selling firearms worth more than $60,000 at a gun show in Phoenix, Ariz.

In a suit brought against Smith & Wesson and others, prosecutors compared the major gun manufacture’s leakage of guns onto the black market to the dumping of toxic waste. They attacked the gun industry’s marketing maneuvers, calling them “sloppy” and “negligent.”

The head of one of the companies later admitted that they had “never cut anybody off for sloppy distribution processes.”

How are we supposed to sleep at night knowing gun manufacturers are given the green light to selling to, for lack of better terminology, illegal distributors? Gun companies are allowed to run free, and their actions, or lack thereof, are protected, in many states, by an impenetrable web of questionable legal reasoning.

If we are no longer able to hold gun manufacturers accountable with civil law suits, what’s keeping them from exploiting the gun show loophole? What’s keeping them from filtering thousands of guns into relaxed markets, markets that include those unable to buy legally?

Jackie Freese says

I cannot stand it when people blame others for someone else’s actions.

Recently, the nation has seen too much of this. It occurred when the obese family in New York sued McDonald’s for making them overweight. It happens when smokers sue tobacco companies for the smoker developing diseases. Now, it is occurring with cities and individuals suing gun manufacturers when someone gets killed or injured.

For the record, let me state I hate guns. They are a vile, frightening piece of metal that should only be in the hands of someone who knows how to use them and who uses them for all the right reasons.

However, most people know that guns are sometimes used for all the wrong reasons. This should come as no surprise because guns are made for one purpose -to shoot at something. But, does a whole city or an individual have the right to decide if the maker of a gun should be held liable for an injury or murder?

Before you go deciding for yourself, let me present some general facts to you. It is estimated that over 2.5 million times a year people use guns defensively and ninety-eight percent of that time does not result in a trigger being pulled. I have read on numerous occasions that criminals worry more about armed, defensive victimes than the police.

With that being said, I have come to the conclusion that guns do serve a purpose in society. Guns need to be made, and who else is there to make them than gun manufacturers?

The gun makers are doing nothing illegally wrong. Morally wrong, most likely, but legally wrong, not at all. The selling of these guns to shows and flea markets is perfectly legal, and the government makes it legal. If the practice is legal, then the argument of suing the gun maker should be thrown out the window, because why would you sue someone for following the law?

The majority of sellers at these guns shows are licensed sellers, so they are required by law to do the background checks. “Numerous studies have shown that gun shows are not a significant source of guns used in crimes,” according to the National Center for Policy Analysis. A 2002 study conducted by various state prisons across the nation found that criminals obtained their guns 39 percent of the time from the street or from an illegal source. Where were flea markets and gun shows on this list? At the bottom, with flea markets coming in with one percent and gun shows coming in at .7 percent.

My problem with suing gun makers is that makes the manufacturer a scapegoat for the person who pulled the trigger. I have a feeling pretty soon people will be suing Cutco for making sharp knives that were used in stabbings, Chevrolet for making cars used in bank robberies, and Zippo for making lighters used in arson.

Why not penalize the person who pulled the trigger? The trigger man is the one ultimately responsible for the shooting-if a criminal wants to shoot someone or obtain a gun, they are going to do it, regardless of what background checks are required by law. They are the real people to blame, not the gun maker who made the weapon and sold it for all the right reasons.

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Kelly Finlan and Jackie Freese

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