updated 2/17/2004 5:02:22 PM ET 2004-02-17T22:02:22

A bill sailed through the House and appears to be a safe bet in the Senate. This bill would protect gun manufacturers and dealers from lawsuits with one exception,  that is, if a state or federal law had been broken.  Now a number of prominent police chiefs including L.A. Chief Bill Bratton have come out in opposition to it

The problem with the bill?  What if a gun is so negligently manufactured that it doesn't fire properly? Or if a dealer essentially closes his eyes, thereby allowing guns to fall into the hands of children or even terrorists?  Laws haven't been broken, but it's classic negligence.  Why shouldn't they be subject to the same rules as others who create potentially dangerous products from toxin manufacturers to car companies?  Why should the gun companies be treated so differently? 

This is not about the right to bear arms mentioned in the Second Amendment. In the spirit of full disclosure, at Yale Law School, I wrote an extensive argument about why that amendment does not establish a constitutional right for everyone to own a gun. 

But even if it does, the right to own a gun doesn‘t mean every gun manufacturer is legally protected if he carelessly creates his product. 

Look, I don't like these lawsuits.  I believe most of the suits against the gun industry are backdoor efforts to improperly put the manufacturers and dealers out of business.  If it‘s legal to own guns, then it should be legal to make and sell guns, too.  Seems any time someone is shot the manufacturers or dealers become scapegoats rather than just blaming the shooter.  Many of the lawsuits are just symptoms of a greater problem with our tort system.  If you want to talk tort reform, let‘s talk about it across the board.  I am all for making those changes.  But this bill gives one industry a free pass, too much immunity, yet too little for everyone else. 


Discussion comments