There is a growing effort in the country to prosecute gun manufacturers and retailers for the crimes committed by those who abuse their products.
Proponents of such a gesture — namely, the gun control lobby — believe suppliers of firearms should be held liable for any wrongdoing or crime committed with their products. They believe suing gun manufacturers and suppliers will end gun violence.
How does suing a gun manufacturer or retailer stop gun violence? It won’t. Gun manufacturers shouldn’t be held liable for the actions of criminals; criminals should be held accountable instead.
This urgency to target gun manufacturers and retailers comes on the heels of a recent court ruling allowing the families of nine Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims to proceed with a case against Remington Arms, which made the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle model XM15-E2S used by mass murderer Adam Lanza.
This is the first court case of its kind to advance. It goes against the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which was passed by Congress in 2005. The PLCAA was passed to “prohibit causes of action against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and importers of firearms or ammunition products, and their trade associations, for the harm solely caused by the criminal or unlawful misuse of firearm products or ammunition products by others when the product functioned as designed and intended.”
Ignoring the precedent established by this 2005 law, Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis said that the law “does not prevent lawyers for the families of Sandy Hook victims from arguing that the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle is a military weapon and should not have been sold to civilians.”
Interestingly enough, an April 25 poll jointly conducted by National Shooting Sports Foundation and Harper Polling found that 72 percent of respondents believe the PLCCA should be left in place, while 26 percent of respondents said it should be overturned, and 4 percent were unsure about it. This shows that a growing majority of Americans oppose individuals suing gun manufacturers and retailers.
Taking legal action against gun manufacturers and retailers will have deleterious consequences. Much to the chagrin of gun control activists, three points of action should be taken. This involves prosecuting individuals for crimes they commit, enforcing existing laws, and not killing off the gun industry as a means to stop crime.
First, guns are tools without a mind of their own that are operated by individuals. Blaming gun manufacturers for illegal gun crimes is like blaming cars for manslaughter, blaming Airbnb for your spouse’s infidelity, or blaming Snapchat for causing car crashes. In these particular cases, much like illegal gun crimes, perpetrators — not products — are to blame for the problems they inflict on society.
Second, enforcing existing laws will help curb illegal gun crimes. Gun manufacturers and retailers already abide by federal and state laws. If negligent, they are held to account and pay for their mistakes. Calling for additional restrictions in the form of more background checks, magazine bans or wrongful death lawsuits does nothing to curb crime before it strikes. Federal and state laws already prohibit those with mental illness, domestic abuse, drug convictions and other offenses from obtaining firearms. Unsurprisingly, criminals violate laws and slip through the cracks. Washington Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis had delusions and a well-pronounced mental health record prior to killing 12 innocent people in September 2013. Despite these signs, Alexis — who was a government contractor — received a security clearance. Similarly, Lanza displayed unusual and disturbing behavior prior to carrying out his attack on Sandy Hook Elementary. His mother ignored signs and ultimately became his first victim. These criminals are responsible for the wrongdoing they committed.
Third, suing gun manufacturers and retailers to avenge for the acts of criminals will not only drive the gun industry into extinction, it will fail to rid society of crime. Lawsuits aimed at running the gun industry into the ground will lead to mass business closures, a greater loss of freedom, and no reduction of crime in society. It’s unfortunate gun controllers boast a dangerous agenda aimed at killing off true safety measures and self-protection.
The gun industry exists on the pretext of promoting actual gun safety. The negligent few who commit crimes don’t represent nor speak for the gun industry — and never will. Despite media reports, the presence of more firearms in the hands of good people has led to the reduction of crimes committed by bad people with guns.
Scapegoating the gun industry will perpetuate illegal gun crimes and lead to the further criminalization of legal gun owners. If the gun control lobby’s true aim was to reduce crime, it wouldn’t target gun companies such as Remington. Instead, it would seek to prosecute criminals for the crimes they commit.
• Gabriella Hoffman is a young conservative columnist and blogger based in Northern Virginia.