Suing Gun Manufacturers, Off-Target And Hazardous To Our Health

Dallas(May 25, 1999) – H. Sterling Burnett, a senior policy analyst with the Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis, responded today to the decisions of Los Angeles and San Francisco city officials' to sue more than 40 gun manufacturers, as well as gun dealers and firearms trade groups asking: "When will this dangerous lawsuit parade stop?"

"Everyone's heart breaks when one person decides to take the life of another," said Burnett. "Nonetheless, this entire trend of suing the industry for third party misuse is legally and intellectually suspect."

The Los Angeles and San Francisco suits rely on state public nuisance and unfair business practice laws, claiming that gun makers have flouted those laws that forbid "substantially injurious" businesses, by exercising little control over distributors and dealers and failing to install safety devices on guns.

"If these lawsuits succeed, it will establish bad law and bad public policy. It would establish bad law because it asks the courts to legislate and it would overturn well-established legal precedence that manufacturers are not responsible for the criminal misuse of their products. It would be bad public policy because guns prevent more harm than they cause."

Burnett, who has authored a study for the NCPA entitled "Suing Gun Manufacturers: Hazardous to Our Health," noted that citizens use guns in self-defense as much as 2.5 million times annually (in the vast majority of cases, merely showing the firearm prevents the crime). That far exceeds the number of crimes committed with firearms each year, providing cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco with a net social benefit from gun use.