Don't Let Firearms Industry off the Hook

By Rand, Kristen | The Christian Science Monitor, April 18, 1997 | Go to article overview

Don't Let Firearms Industry off the Hook


Rand, Kristen, The Christian Science Monitor


Firearms kill nearly twice as many Americans as all other household and recreational products combined. Yet, despite public support for federal safety regulations, firearms and ammunition are the last unregulated consumer products. A poll released last month by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found that 74 percent of those surveyed favor government safety regulation of guns.

Until federal oversight of gun manufacturers becomes a reality, however, the tort system is the only mechanism to hold the firearms industry accountable when its products kill or injure innocent consumers.

Recently, some of the greatest gains in efforts to reduce firearm-related deaths and injuries have occurred, not through legislation but litigation. Courts have helped deter the manufacture, sale, and use of unsafe firearms and have issued landmark rulings in cases involving assault-weapon manufacturers, gun-show promoters, and firearm retailers. The tort system helps reduce firearms violence in two ways. First, it addresses the problem of unintentional injuries associated with defective firearms and ammunition. Second, it holds accountable dealers and manufacturers who knowingly market their products to high-risk individuals such as criminals and minors. If the gun industry succeeds in limiting its civil liability for death and injury caused by its products, it will be virtually free of safety regulation. It's not surprising, then, that the firearms industry is lobbying Congress for limits on consumer lawsuits. The American Shooting Sports Council (ASSC) is one of the gun industry's leading trade associations and is an active member of the American Tort Reform Association, a coalition of large corporations and insurance companies.

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