Opinion: Gun Proposal Would Turn Legal Tenant On Head
To the Editor:
It is hard to know where to start in responding to the illogic, insubstantial research and one-sided reasoning expressed in the August 28 Law Tribune editorial, "Gun Control: Make Profiteers Compensate the Victims."
The courts, including the Connecticut Supreme Court in Ganim v. Smith and Wesson Corp. (Conn. 2001), have repeatedly held that no liability attaches for the criminal misuse of lawfully sold, non-defective products. Would the Law Tribune like to see this basic legal tenant turned on its head for all industries or just firearms manufacturing?
The U.S. Department of Justice reports that firearms-related homicides declined 39 percent while non-fatal crimes involving firearms fell 69 percent from 1993 to 2011. Unintentional deaths involving firearms fell 57 percent. During this time, the number of firearms lawfully owned by 100 million Americans for hunting, target shooting and self- protection has risen markedly. Clearly, it is not firearms, per se, that are the problem.
Our citizens' Second Amendment right to own firearms for personal defense has been upheld twice in recent years by the U.S. Supreme Court. In this regard, a study released in June by the Centers for Disease Control concluded that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals. Would making more citizens into victims by limiting their access to firearms be a good outcome?
As for the general indictment of the firearms industry delivered in this editorial, I would suggest the Law Tribune editors on their next drive through Hartford on I-84 or I-91 glance up at some of the billboards to read the "Don't Lie for the Other Guy" anti-straw purchasing message our members are funding. Similarly, we are working to strengthen the state reporting of all records, including adjudicated mental health records, to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System through our FixNICS initiative. Our Project ChildSafe initiative has distributed more than 36 million gun locks across the country and was re-launched early this year in Bridgeport, Waterbury and Stratford to help prevent unauthorized access to firearms.
We all want to see further reduction in the criminal misuse of firearms, but seeking to penalize an entire industry and, by extension, those who lawfully obtain and responsibly own its products, is misdirected and wrong, if potentially lucrative, for some members of the trial bar. The illogical argument of this editorial is precisely why the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act passed both chambers of Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support. Some 36 states have enacted legislation to preempt the frivolous lawsuits the editorial advocates.
Let's focus instead on criminals and suppressing criminal activities to make our communities safer, not by threatening to shut down an industry that continues to employ thousands and contributes $1.7 billion in annual economic impact to Connecticut. Litigation should not be allowed the erase the Second Amendment to our Bill of Rights.
Lawrence G. Keane
Senior Vice President & General Counsel
National Shooting Sports Foundation
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, based in Newtown, is the trade association for the firearms industry.