Pipe-dreams of a world where gun manufacturers are held liable for their products — just like any other industry
The Senate’s rejection of the universal gun check sent a wave of shock and confusion throughout the nation. It’s an issue that Americans — at one point — polled at 91 percent in favor of, and a majority of the Senate was in favor of, but the issue died in a filibuster with a vote of 55 to 45 to bring the bill to a vote (60 votes were needed).
The question, ever since the Senate Republicans took this action, has been “why did they do it?” It may be argued that the National Rifle Association (NRA) scared the Republicans into compliance. Since 2010, Republicans have had to contend with the relatively new concept of “primarying,” in which incumbents had to face the removal of support from various lobbies or the possibility of a supported candidate being run against them in the primaries. In 2010 and 2012, many members of the Republican establishment fell in primary challenges, creating a deep-rooted fear against striking out.
However, the situation may be deeper than that. Take, for instance, Connecticut. In light of the tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School at Newtown, the state has introduced some of the most stringent gun laws in the nation. Since then, the state’s three gun manufacturers have publicly discussed leaving Connecticut.
“We exhausted ourselves testifying during public sessions at the state capital, reaching out to journalists, busing our employees to Hartford and more, but in the end it didn’t matter. They wrote the bill in secret,” said Stag Arms President Mark Malkowski, whose company is located in New Britain, Conn.
Colt, Stag Arms and Mossberg are major employers in Connecticut, and in the past, they have counted on getting their way. Manufacturers in other states have bristled under the new legislation. In New York — where a major expansion of the state’s gun laws recently became legislation — Olympic Arms — a producer of the AR-15, which is now illegal in the state — has announced they will no longer do business with the State of New York. “If a citizen, you know, can’t own it, I don’t understand the reasoning why the law enforcement community should have it,” said Brian Schuetz, the co-owner of Olympics Arms.
La Rue Tactical and EFI have followed suit. EFI also bans governmental sales to Washington, D.C., Chicago and California — which all also have strict gun laws.
“To tell you the truth … we’re not worried about it,” said John Grebert, the executive director of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, a group that supported the new gun law in New York State. “I think it’s pretty unfortunate that any business thinks they can bully us.”
The unseen bully
The gun manufacturing lobby has became the quiet partner in this country’s gun rights negotiations. In a country that has more guns per capita, more actual guns, more gun fatalities per capita and more gun-related crimes per capita than any other incorporated region on the planet, it would be reasonable to discuss the implications of all of this, one would think. Gun manufacturers would be held liable for their products — as you would expect from any manufacturer — and the manufacturer would not, in any way, be involved in the regulation of its own product.
Yet with the gun industry, this is exactly what is happening. The 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act gives gunmakers, gun dealers and trade groups — such as the NRA — immunity from most negligence and product liability lawsuits.
No other industry has such protection. Thirty-four states have legislation granting such protection, as well.
During the Boston Marathon bombing investigation, investigators ran into the gun manufacturing lobby’s invisible hand there, too. Due to lobbying on behalf of gun manufacturers, 27 CFR 555.180 — which requires the placement of identification taggants in explosives — is limited to plastic explosives, and not gunpowder. The manufacturers blocked the addition of gunpowder to the legislation in fear that being able to trace an explosion or a gunpowder burn to a particular brand or manufacturer would expose the companies to lawsuits.
Capitalism and guns
Ultimately, it can be argued that capitalism, instead of civil responsibility, has become the modus operandi in the gun control debate. In the last six years — on both state and national levels — the bulk of gun legislation has served to deregulate current restrictions instead of strengthening them. In 2012, Michigan expanded its conceal-and-carry laws. In 2011, Kansas and Nevada legalized the purchase of long guns from residents of non-contiguous states. Wyoming allowed “permitless carry” of firearms the same year. Arizona, North Dakota and Kentucky made it easier to overturn gun bans due to “mental illness commitments.” Maine, Texas, Indiana and North Dakota permitted weapon storage in personal cars. Oklahoma and Alabama made it more difficult for law enforcement to perform “illegal gun raids.”
This creates a popular hysteria among gun fanatics. It was recently reported that 29 percent of all Americans feel that an armed rebellion might be necessary in the next few years to protect their liberties, according to Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind. Eighteen percent of all Democrats and 44 percent of all Republicans feel that an uprising is imminent. From posturing by the NRA in stirring up fear of possible gun registration and ownership restrictions, to the seeming lack of attention to major issues concerning gun control — from the marketing of guns to children and the resultant deaths of children, to the recent NRA conference, which could be mistaken for CPAC from afar — a frenzy is being stirred up that is driving gun buyers to stockpile weapons at previously unthinkable rates.
One must ask who profits from all of this.