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Much ado is made over the law prohibiting suits against firearms manufacturers for gun deaths. Mayor Bloomberg recently said that we are allowed to sue car manufacturers for deaths, but, not firearm manufacturers and this is wrong. It is also not exactly factual.

Product manufacturers can be sued for deaths and injuries caused by product defects. The manufacturer is never responsible for deaths or injuries caused by misuse. Of the millions of motor vehicle accidents every year, only a very tiny fraction result in a successful suit against the manufacturer. Those are the ones in which a defect in design or manufacture is responsible for the accident. Car manufacturers cannot be sued for all the deaths and injuries caused by bad driving, drunk driving, bad weather and other factors. Exploding gas tanks, defective braking systems, even defective power window mechanisms have resulted in successful lawsuits.

Since I doubt that anyone, even Bloomberg, wants to sue gun manufacturers for deaths and injuries caused by lawful use of guns by police and military, I assume he is talking about guns used in crimes, accidental shootings and suicides. I think it is quite obvious that being killed or injured in the commission of a crime is the fault of nobody other than the criminal. If an innocent person is stabbed, hit by a car or beaten, the blame does not go to the object that caused the harm; it goes to the person who did the action. How is a gun any different than those other objects used as weapons?

Then we have accidental deaths. Accidents are the 5th leading cause of death in the United States. They account for an even higher percentage of deaths in younger age groups. Accidents include motor vehicle accidents, drownings, falls and other unintentional causes. Accidental deaths by firearms are lower than many others including medical errors and traffic accidents.

Firearms accidents are very rarely caused by a malfunction of the gun. They are the result of misuse, improper handling and improper storage. Guns do not fire by themselves. The common “it just went off” is a lie. Someone has pulled the trigger. Failure to follow the rules of gun safety is the cause of firearms accidents. Guns, like any other dangerous tool, must be properly stored and handled. Gun safety rules are taught in every class and are enclosed in every box.

I agree that it is tragic and needless for anyone, especially a child, to be killed or injured unintentionally by a gun. But, this is negligence on the part of the gun’s owner, not the manufacturer. If lawsuits were allowed, under product safety laws, manufacturers could not be held liable for these deaths. The only objective to be achieved would be to bankrupt manufacturers with the cost of defending such suits. This is why they are specifically prohibited. No NRA/political conspiracy is at work here. This is quite simply, a means of stopping court actions that have no merit without costing time and resources of the court system and those who would have to prepare a legal defense for every pointless suit brought.

Lastly, the issue of suing gun manufacturers has been compared to the successful suits against cigarette companies. I am aside my own opinion of the shady legality of these suits, the finding and the distribution of the money paid. The crux of those cases what that tobacco deliberately mislead the public by claiming that their product was safe, even healthy, for consumption. Used as advertised by the manufacturers, cigarettes did cause harm. There are no rules one can follow to use cigarettes safely.

On the hand, firearms manufacturers not only admit, but promise, that guns are lethal weapons. They also provide rules for safe handling. If these rules are followed, guns can be handled quite safely. Just as a person who was driving drunk, disobeying traffic laws or purposely running someone down with a car is held responsible for his actions, so should the person who misuses a gun. If a child dies because they have ingested medications or household chemicals, the parent who allowed the child to access them is at fault not the manufacturer who clearly labelled them “Keep Out Of Reach Of Children”. The same standard being applied to guns is not the outrageous conspiracy the anti-gun fanatics make it out to be. Such baseless suits should not be allowed against any manufacturer.

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