Sigh

No matter what I write, all these people coming her assume I wrote “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother.” Oh well!

Bush signed law exempting gun makers from tort liability

Erwin Chemerinsky is the dean and distinguished professor of law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. Back in September, he wrote about this for Law.com. I think we can take Congress seriously about claims to do something about the Sandy Hook shootings and gun violence when they also promise to do something about this:

In 1994, Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. The law prohibited individuals from possessing assault weapons, like the AR-15 rifle allegedly used by Holmes. It is a civilian semi-automatic version of the military M-16 and was a “semiautomatic assault weapon” under this law. But in 2004, this law expired and was not renewed. President George W. Bush opposed extension of the law, and the Republican-controlled Congress agreed. Since then, efforts in Congress to reinstate the law have been unsuccessful and have not even come for a vote.


At the very least, gun manufacturers should be held civilly liable for the injuries and deaths that foreseeably result from their products. Traditional principles of products liability should be applied to assault weapons. Beginning around 2000, there was a rise in the number of lawsuits against gun manufacturers. However, in 2005, Bush signed a law that shields gun makers from being sued.


In 1999, this NRA shill explained why it was so important to exempt gun manufacturers from the same liability every other industry has.


EXEMPTION FROM TORT LIABILITY


The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act is also commonly referred to as the “Gun Protection Act.” The law dismissed all current claims against gun manufacturers in both federal and state courts and pre-empted future claims. The law could not be clearer in stating its purpose: “To prohibit causes of action against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and importers of firearms or ammunition products, and their trade associations, for the harm caused solely by the criminal or unlawful misuse of firearm products or ammunition products by others when the product functioned as designed and intended.” There are some narrow exceptions for which liability is allowed, such as actions against transferors of firearms who knew the firearm would be used in drug trafficking or a violent crime by a party directly harmed by that conduct.


It is outrageous that a product that exists for no purpose other than to kill has an exemption from state tort liability. Allowing tort liability would force gun manufacturers to pay some of the costs imposed by their products, increase the prices for assault weapons and maybe even cause some manufacturers to stop making them.


Thus, the law should go back to what it was a decade ago, when assault weapons were prohibited and civil liability for them existed. There is no Second Amendment problem with this. In 2008, in District of Columbia v. Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court for the first time found that the Second Amendment protects a right of individuals to have handguns in their home for the sake of safety. The court was very clear that this is not an absolute right, and nothing in the court’s opinion implies that there is a right to have all forms of weapons. It is unimaginable that the court will find a Second Amendment right for people to possess tactical nuclear weapons or chemical and biological arms or automatic and semi-automatic weapons.


Opponents of gun control argue that such bans don’t work and that criminals will still get semi-automatic weapons. There certainly is evidence to dispute that and to support the view that the 1994 act did decrease the availability of assault weapons. But in other areas, like illegal drugs, the fact of criminal noncompliance is never accepted as a reason against regulation. Besides, that is no reason against having civil liability for gun manufacturers.

After the tragedy in Aurora, I expected even the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, to argue for a ban on assault weapons. He signed such a law when he was the governor of Massachusetts. I was deeply disappointed that not even President Barack Obama did so. Whatever one’s views of the Second Amendment and gun rights, there is no reason to allow assault weapons and not to create civil liability for manufacturers. How many more tragedies must there be before our politicians have the courage to stand up to the National Rifle Association and take action?

It’s different this time

I can’t tell you why I’m so sure we can do it this time, but we’re going to take on the NRA and win. For once, we’re going to make politicians do the right thing, instead of protecting their financial sponsors.

On guns

Molly Ivins, 1993:

AUSTIN – Guns. Everywhere guns.


Let me start this discussion by pointing out that I am not anti-gun. I’m pro-knife. Consider the merits of the knife.


In the first place, you have catch up with someone in order to stab him. A general substitution of knives for guns would promote physical fitness. We’d turn into a whole nation of great runners. Plus, knives don’t ricochet. And people are seldom killed while cleaning their knives.


As a civil libertarian, I of course support the Second Amendment. And I believe it means exactly what it says: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Fourteen-year-old boys are not part of a well-regulated militia. Members of wacky religious cults are not part of a well-regulated militia. Permitting unregulated citizens to have guns is destroying the security of this free state.


I am intrigued by the arguments of those who claim to follow the judicial doctrine of original intent. How do they know it was the dearest wish of Thomas Jefferson’s heart that teen-age drug dealers should cruise the cities of this nation perforating their fellow citizens with assault rifles? Channelling?


There is more hooey spread about the Second Amendment. It says quite clearly that guns are for those who form part of a well-regulated militia, i.e., the armed forces including the National Guard. The reasons for keeping them away from everyone else get clearer by the day.


The comparison most often used is that of the automobile, another lethal object that is regularly used to wreak great carnage. Obviously, this society is full of people who haven’t got enough common sense to use an automobile properly. But we haven’t outlawed cars yet.


We do, however, license them and their owners, restrict their use to presumably sane and sober adults and keep track of who sells them to whom. At a minimum, we should do the same with guns.


In truth, there is no rational argument for guns in this society. This is no longer a frontier nation in which people hunt their own food. It is a crowded, overwhelmingly urban country in which letting people have access to guns is a continuing disaster. Those who want guns – whether for target shooting, hunting or potting rattlesnakes (get a hoe) – should be subject to the same restrictions placed on gun owners in England – a nation in which liberty has survived nicely without an armed populace.


The argument that “guns don’t kill people” is patent nonsense. Anyone who has ever worked in a cop shop knows how many family arguments end in murder because there was a gun in the house. Did the gun kill someone? No. But if there had been no gun, no one would have died. At least not without a good footrace first. Guns do kill. Unlike cars, that is all they do.


Michael Crichton makes an interesting argument about technology in his thriller “Jurassic Park.” He points out that power without discipline is making this society into a wreckage. By the time someone who studies the martial arts becomes a master – literally able to kill with bare hands – that person has also undergone years of training and discipline. But any fool can pick up a gun and kill with it.


“A well-regulated militia” surely implies both long training and long discipline. That is the least, the very least, that should be required of those who are permitted to have guns, because a gun is literally the power to kill. For years, I used to enjoy taunting my gun-nut friends about their psycho-sexual hang-ups – always in a spirit of good cheer, you understand. But letting the noisy minority in the National Rifle Association force us to allow this carnage to continue is just plain insane.


I do think gun nuts have a power hang-up. I don’t know what is missing in their psyches that they need to feel they have to have the power to kill. But no sane society would allow this to continue.


Ban the damn things. Ban them all.


You want protection? Get a dog.

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