Last May, an apparently worrisome headline appeared in the British newspaper The Guardian: “Wave of lawsuits against U.S. gun makers raises hope of end to mass shootings.”
The article compares these suits to those waged against “car, opioid, asbestos and tobacco industries.” The goal is to get gun makers “acknowledging the danger of their products” and to engage in “more responsible practices.”
Danger of their products? This made me scratch my head. All the gun manuals for my guns repeatedly warn of the dangers of misuse of firearms and the importance of safety training. If you are a hunter, or are a person buying a gun for self-defense, you are buying a gun because you know a firearm can be used to kill.
Also, what do they mean by “more responsible practices”? Regular readers of America’s 1st Freedom may remember my article (“The Biden Administration’s Plan to Eradicate Gun Makers and Stores” in the May 2021 issue) about Remington settling a lawsuit with families of victims of the Sandy Hook mass murderer, even though the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (2005) specifically protects gun and ammunition manufacturers from liability for criminal misuse of firearms.
Remington’s insurance company actually settled that suit, likely because the cost of defending the suit might have exceeded the settlement costs, though they might have settled to avoid more negative media attention.
A downside to this settlement, of course, is that it encouraged other suits, such as those mentioned in this article in The Guardian.
What is especially amazing is that this article cites “first-personshooter video games” and “militaristic marketing campaigns” as being particularly problematic for Remington and other gun companies.
These frivolous lawsuits are simply designed to punish law-abiding firearms companies and gun owners.
The first-person-shooter video games involving Remington that I have found are "Remington Great American Bird Hunt” (for Wii) and “Remington Upland Game Hunter” (for PCs). Other gaming companies have included various gun types in their shooter games, but, as has been reported in these pages before, these gaming companies typically don’t work with gun makers when they do this.
Given this, perhaps it is worth noting that the video game makers that glorify violence against people are probably due some criticism. But then, that’s another topic altogether—and a First Amendment one at that.
So then, what does that have to do with gun makers?
Many manufacturers do use ads that emphasize a military heritage of their guns. Many, perhaps most, firearms have been used by one military or another at some point. To name just a few: the Mauser bolt-action rifle is the ancestor of many sporting rifles; the lever-action rifle can trace its roots to military use in the 19th century; and semi-automatic handguns have a history that includes military contracts.
Indeed, most buyers of so-called “assault weapons” likely see the reliability and accuracy of firearms that have a military connection as a reason to buy such semi-automatic rifles. There are more than 22 million AR-type rifles in private hands; still, these rifles are rarely used in crimes. All rifles, in fact, are used in less than 3% of murders in the U.S. each year, according to FBI statistics.
I am also a little mystified at the “militaristic marketing” connection; after all, soldiers are supposed to be shooting at people who are armed. Any soldier going into a mall or school and shooting unarmed civilians is a war criminal, not an honorable member of any military.
The comparison to suits against the car industry brings to mind the suits on the exploding Pinto gas tanks back in the 1970s. Part of why Ford lost these suits is because reports by Ford engineers demonstrated that they knew the gas tanks were a fire hazard, but the company had decided that paying damages for injuries was cheaper than doing the job right on a redesign. These facts were found during the “discovery” phase in which lawyers seek to see all internal documents, which today includes emails, relevant to a suit. I am confident there are no emails or reports inside of gun companies discussing how to make their guns better suited to mass murder or how to attract such buyers; in fact, I am confident the opposite is likely the case.
The good news is that many of these frivolous lawsuits are already falling apart. In one case, the city of Chicago sued a gun store in Indiana because some of the guns seized from criminals in Chicago were sold at this store, which is near the state border. Now, it is unlawful for any Illinois resident to buy a handgun in another state, so these handguns were likely being unlawfully transferred. If a gun-store owner or employee knows, or suspects, that these sales are to straw purchasers, then they are violating federal law and should be prosecuted. If Chicago has evidence to support such a claim, they should alert the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Instead, they sued a store that’s not in their jurisdiction and a Chicago judge dismissed the suit for that reason.
This article did, near its end, mention what this is really about. “In addition, the litigation process itself could help to expose any egregious or cynical business decisions made by gun manufacturers,” said the article, which then quoted Timothy Lytton, editor of the book Suing the Gun Industry, as saying these suits compel “[gun] industry defendants to disclose information that regulators may not have. The civil discovery system is a powerful way to force companies that do not want to disclose proprietary information to disclose that information.”
So, this is a fishing expedition. They want to trawl up information that anti-Second Amendment litigators, groups and media members can spin and otherwise use to disparage—legally or in the court of public opinion—gun makers and dealers.
These frivolous lawsuits are simply designed to punish law-abiding companies and people for the actions of criminals. They are an attempt to weaken Second Amendment rights without the need to get laws through legislatures or past constitutional challenges in the courts. The struggle for freedom is a war with many fronts.