- The Washington Times - Friday, September 27, 2002

The idea of suing gun manufacturers for the criminal misuse of their lawfully manufactured products by third parties over whom they have no control is an obviously ridiculous misapplication of the law. But the fact that a potential future governor of Maryland agrees with that assessment is remarkable indeed. Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert L. Ehrlich this week made clear his support of sensible laws that target those who actually commit crimes not third parties who have done nothing wrong.

Mr. Ehrlich voted in favor of H.R. 2037, which, among other things, would limit the vulnerability of firearms manufacturers to civil lawsuits. Since the 1990s, attempts have been made to bankrupt firearms manufacturers by holding them financially responsible for loss of life, injuries and other damages caused by criminals who use firearms that happen to have a brand name.

Thus, a Smith and Wesson revolver purchased legally but used at some later point to further a criminal act becomes the responsibility of Smith and Wesson. This is like holding General Motors responsible for the person who drives his Corvette sports car at 140 mph. Both the car and the gun have the potential to be misused. But neither are inherently dangerous and any unlawful use to which they are put by their owners is certainly something neither the automaker nor the gun manufacturer can control. To suggest otherwise is a distortion of cause and effect, which would open the door to potentially limitless lawsuits affecting just about any consumer good one could think of.

Mr. Ehrlich's support of H.R. 2037 which sailed through a House Energy and Commerce Committee vote by a 30-16 margin is a reflection of common sense and basic equity. Of course, Maryland's Democratic establishment and gun-control advocates do not see it that way, and immediately denounced Mr. Ehrlich for being a conservative (ouch!) and for backing the "gun industry protection act of 2002."

This is simply nonsense. Judging from Kathleen Townsend's precipitous political decline in recent months, a growing number of Marylanders are starting to see such demagoguery for what it is.

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