Soap Box:  Suing Gun Manufacturers

August 7, 2001

As we continue to see in the news everyday, greedy people and their lawyers will do just about anything to line their pockets with money. And if it's not driven by a desire for money, then it seems to be a further degradation of a society that continually seems to refuse to hold people responsible for their own actions. Cities and individuals have come forward in recent years to sue gun manufacturers. They want to hold the companies responsible for criminal acts done with their product. Although my position on this should be blatantly obvious by my opening line, I'll state for the record right now that I'm totally against these actions and I think the sole responsibility should be placed on the criminals.

First I'll give the obvious position on this. If you are going to hold gun makers responsible for criminal acts, then you should also apply this across the board to other products used in criminal acts. That would mean all the knife makers are responsible for stabbings. Automakers are responsible for hit and runs, bank robberies, and drunk drivers. Baseball bat makers are responsible for beatings. Drug and chemical makers would be held liable for poisonings. Unless we're going to apply this logic across the board, then we should not apply it to the gun makers.

Some might argue that because gun makers know guns may be used in crimes as seen by the news and statistics, they are still somehow liable. This logic could also be applied to the automakers. From the news, we know that hundreds will die because of drinking and driving. Since the automakers know that the vehicles may be used in crimes, should they be liable for the results of the crime? Of course not! So the same should apply to the gun makers.

Some may argue that some guns are specifically marketed as a tool for shooting people. So what? That's what some guns are for. They are for protection and maybe even assault if the need arises. As long as the product is a legal and safe product according to the law of the land, the maker of the product should be free from liabilities. Grenades are made for killing people. If some soldier goes whacko and throws a grenade into a crowded restaurant, should the grenade maker be liable? The same applies to fast cars. We see the commercials with cars zipping along a curvy road, obviously speeding. Very few people see the small disclaimer that the driver is a professional and on a closed track. Yet when someone wrecks their sports car you don't see people holding the carmaker liable.

So why do we have people trying to sue gun makers over a legal product that is illegally used by a criminal? We have three reasons; politics, greed, and assignment of blame. The politics behind this issue are simple. Some people view guns as evil and will do whatever it takes to get rid of them. It's great campaign fodder. The evil gun makers are putting guns into the hands of criminals and the politicians are just trying to save American citizens. The greed factor is also quite easily explained. We live in a society where you can sue the Pope for paternity. People see lawsuits as a way to get rich quick. The defendants in the lawsuits are always the ones with deep pockets, hardly ever the people really responsible (unless of course they happen to have money). The third reason of assigning blame comes from a need to hold someone, anyone, responsible for horrible acts. Society needs someone to yell at. A lot of times when we have a mass shooting, the criminals take themselves out of picture by committing suicide. People can't get the satisfaction they need from blaming the criminal because the criminal is dead. So they work their way up the ladder, trying to blame the criminals parents, their school, or whatever. Of course the next step is to blame the company that made the product used in the crime.

Gun manufacturers are making legal products in accordance the laws of the land. They should not be held responsible for any criminal act committed with their product, just as auto makers, knife makers, and the like are not held responsible. Hopefully, sooner or later common sense will be used in this debate!

Jeff Polston

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