26 October 2005

A Brief Explanation Of What Just Happened

There is a lot of screeching about the new lawsuit protection for gun makers in the news and on the web lately. Why did we need this? I will try to make an analogy that makes it clear.

I own a car. One day, I decide to sell it. The buyer comes, pays me, I transfer the title and he registers it. A month later, he gets drunk and kills a mother of two. Who should be sued? The logic that the gun control people are using tells us that I should be sued.

Now, we pass a law that says that sellers of cars cannot be held liable for the actions of buyers. After all, the seller did not force the driver to drink and drive. The seller didn't force the mother of two to walk out in front of the drunk driver. The seller took no action that contributed directly to this accident. The buyer did.

What that law does not prevent though is suing me for other things that I did contribute to. For example, I replaced the steel steering shaft with a decorative wooden dowel. This dowel breaks, the car spins out of control and kills the aforementioned mother of two. NOW I am liable, I did something that contributed directly to the accident.

Lets take some of this even further. _I_ buy a brand new car. I take the car and decide that it would be fun to run that lady right there over. I do so and she dies. Is Ford liable for my actions? No. Ford would be liable if I hit her while standing on the brakes and a design flaw prevented their operation.

The gun law does not keep me from suing Smith and Wesson if the gun explodes in my hand and takes off a finger. I does keep me from suing S&W if someone uses a Sigma to shoot my wife. In the first case, it is normal product liability. The gun failed to do what it was designed and intended to do, contain the explosion of a firing cartridge and expel a bullet down the barrel. In the second case, the firearm operated correctly and (get this) safely, but the shooter did something wrong. Smith and Wesson is not liable for the actions of the operator.

This law really shouldn't have been just guns. It should have been a massive tort reform. S&W is not responsible for criminals using S&W guns to shoot people. GM is not responsible for drunk drivers, nor is Jack Daniels. The bar that sold the booze is not liable either, the drunk it the person who climbed into the car and drove away. The tort reform should have been something along the lines of "No person is liable for the criminal use of any product sold in a legal manner."

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