Magazine article Insight on the News

Lawyers Hold Gun to a Nation's Head

Magazine article Insight on the News

Lawyers Hold Gun to a Nation's Head

Article excerpt

Is anyone surprised? The zealous campaign by those who know absolutely what's best for us -- and their allies, the lawyers in the damages lottery are now assailing gun manufacturers with the same tactics that succeeded against tobacco.

And not far down the road -- bet on it -- alcohol manufacturers and the fast-food and snack-product industries also will be targeted for litigation. (For a dizzying example of this mode, slightly modified, Yale University's Kelly Brownell is advocating a tax on foods high in fat and cholesterol. "To me, there is no difference between Ronald McDonald and Joe Camel," he is quoted as saying with evident seriousness.)

After the tobacco industry's agreement to pay $208 billion -- that's "b" as in "billion" -- to the states last fall, the lawyers know there's gold in them that hills. As the legalistic juggernaut of big bucks and puritanical passion mobilizes, it is obvious that the coalition intends to achieve by litigation and judicial fiat what has eluded them through legislation -- the legitimate channel for social change.

More drastically, what this puristic campaign signifies is a seismic shift from the premise of individual responsibility to group "rights." This is reflected as well in the demand for cultural entitlements based on membership in sexual, racial and ethnic groups -- the antithesis of the dignity of the individual that's been the glue of this diverse society.

The opening shot against gun manufacturers was fired when a number of cities filed lawsuits on variously inventive grounds. Generally, as in the logic of the antitobacco strategy, the cities are contending that they should be reimbursed for costs allegedly associated with firearms -- medical expenses, police costs and so forth, under the rubric of "public health."

Chicago and New Orleans are in the fore. Half a dozen other cities have filed or are contemplating lawsuits, assiduously advised by an alliance of legal firms, some of which were active (and wildly well paid) in the tobacco settlement. Fee awards to the legal beagles are absurd, indeed "obscene," as a dissident member of an arbitration panel called the $8.2 million award to lawyers who represented just three states in the tobacco settlement.

There is a fearsome amalgam of players and elements in the wave of litigation for which tobacco established the pattern. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.