View Full Version : Huh? Pro Gun article in the SF Chronicle?!?!

08-09-2005, 1:36 PM
Firearms and Lawsuits
Gun liability bill is all about tort reform
- Doug Painter
Sunday, August 7, 2005

With a bipartisan vote of 65-31, the U.S. Senate passed an important piece of tort reform legislation before departing for its August recess. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (S397) will protect responsible firearm manufacturers from "junk" lawsuits that blame them for the criminal misuse of lawfully sold products. Since 1998, members of the firearms industry have faced dozens of such frivolous lawsuits filed by cities, anti-gun advocacy groups and crime victims.

Blaming members of our highly regulated industry for the criminal misuses of a lawfully sold product is like saying Ford Motor Company should be held accountable for the harm caused when a drunk driver misuses one of its cars, or Sony when one of its cameras is used by a child pornographer.

This commonsense legal reform is supported by business groups and organized labor, who support the bill not because they have a view about "gun control" but because they understand the tremendous damage that frivolous litigation has on this country's economic growth and job creation.

Passage of this bill will also deal a debilitating blow to opportunistic politicians and trial lawyers who sidestep Congress and state legislatures by seeking to have courts decide public policy -- so-called regulation through litigation. Their strategy is simple: flood the courts across the country with baseless lawsuits, then bankrupt the companies through huge damage awards from sympathetic juries, or extort settlements from companies that can no longer withstand ever-mounting litigation costs.

The gun industry has already spent $225 million defending itself against this legal shakedown -- a massive sum for an industry that, if its individual companies were taken together, would barely make the Fortune 1000. While we have had some success in the courtroom, one bad decision could wipe out our industry. In fact, that long-feared decision has occurred.

In April, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., ruled that victims of criminal gun violence could sue firearm manufacturers under a District of Columbia law that imposes absolute and automatic liability upon firearm manufacturers "without regard to fault or proof of defect." There is no defense to these claims. Manufacturers will be liable simply for having lawfully manufactured and sold common and ordinary firearms that are later illegally smuggled into the District (which bans private ownership of almost all firearms) and criminally misused there. The court even ruled that plaintiffs who are unable to identify the manufacturer of the firearm that was criminally used to injure them could sue the entire industry.

The firearm industry is among the most heavily regulated in the country, with more than 20,000 laws and regulations that must be obeyed. No consumer can purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer without undergoing a federally mandated background check. Our industry is proud of its cooperative relationship with law enforcement, and we support the aggressive enforcement of our nation's firearm laws.

This legislation does not, as its critics claim, provide gun-makers with blanket immunity. It is narrowly drafted to stop only junk lawsuits and does not close the courthouse door to truly injured parties seeking redress through the courts under well-recognized legal theories. It does not, for example, bar suits where anyone violates the law, where the product is defective or where a dealer sells the firearm to someone who is intoxicated or delusional.

There is nothing unique about Congress enacting laws to shield a specific industry from harmful lawsuits. Congress has done this for drug companies, the computer industry, Amtrak and small-aircraft manufacturers, to mention just a few.

We agree with President Bush, who supports this bill, when he said recently, "Our country depends on a fair legal system that protects people who have been harmed without encouraging junk lawsuits that undermine confidence in our courts while hurting our economy, costing jobs and threatening small businesses."

The bill will be considered next by the House of Representatives, where an overwhelming majority is sponsoring it. More than 30 states have already passed similar legislation. The value of this legislation is clear: It will strengthen tort law, restore the integrity of our courts, protect American jobs and preserve a critical component of America's industrial base.

Doug Painter is president and CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearm industry's trade association. NSSF was a defendant in many of the lawsuits mentioned in this commentary.

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URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/a...8/07/EDGSHDTPOM1.DTL (http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2005/08/07/EDGSHDTPOM1.DTL)

08-09-2005, 3:32 PM
I hope it goes all the way. This bill is fair and will stop all these anti-gun groups from suing the wrong people. http://calguns.net/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif

08-09-2005, 6:05 PM
Well, to be fair, it looks like an editorial not an article... where the usual anti-gun bias shows through in "journalistic reporting" purporting to be completely factual and balanced. Much more insidious. Still, nice to see a pro-gun editorial published.

I didn't know about the DC law and ruling. That's just absurd.