- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 11, 2001

The gun-control crowd has failed to win many adherents in the South, where the obvious failure of their dogma can be spoken of openly. But what they failed to win at the ballot box looked achievable through the courts. Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a Louisiana Supreme Court opinion that ended at least one round of this mess.
In 1998, New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial had his city attorneys sue all of the major gun manufacturers for the damages the city allegedly suffered because the gun makers were making and selling "unreasonably dangerous" products. This sort of product liability lawsuit had already brought bonanza judgments to states suing tobacco manufacturers. The case of Morial vs. Smith & Wesson, et al. was aimed at changing the way guns could be manufactured and sold. Among other things, it charged the guns being sold were defective because they didn't have mechanisms to prevent the guns from being fired by an "unauthorized user" or when the magazine was removed. It also said the guns were defective because their mechanisms didn't alert a user that there was a round in the chamber. If successful, the suit would have meant that gun makers would have had to redesign their products around these "safety" allegations, making the guns unusable, too expensive for almost anyone to afford, or both.
Then the Louisiana state legislature stepped in and passed laws that took away the city's right to sue the gun makers and made the new law retroactive to blow away the lawsuit. New Orleans then went to court, trying to overturn the new laws and revive its end-run to regulate guns. The city argued that the law's retroactivity was unconstitutional. The trial court agreed with New Orleans, and the matter went up to the Louisiana Supreme Court. In a well-reasoned decision, the state's high court disagreed, saying that "the lawsuit constitutes an indirect attempt to regulate the lawful design, manufacture, marketing and sale of firearms."
It went on to remind New Orleans that cities don't have constitutional rights, which are reserved to people, and dismissed the suit.
The U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to consider the case ends this round of Mayor Morial's efforts to regulate gun makers. But this case was only one skirmish in the larger battle to affirm individuals' rights under the Second Amendment. There will be other cities and states that have the same objective that New Orleans had, and the next case may not be resolved by actions of a state legislature. But the defenders of Second Amendment rights should not lose sight of the two points the state court made: Indirect efforts at gun control are just as dangerous as direct ones, and people, not governments, have rights under our Constitution. We would all do well to remember that.

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