10/31/05 — Sensible measure: Protecting innocent from frivolous suits

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Sensible measure: Protecting innocent from frivolous suits

The U. S. House of Representatives acted with common sense when it approved a measure protecting firearms manufacturers and dealers from being sued because weapons they made or sold had been used in crimes.

Some municipalities, including the District of Columbia, had passed laws holding manufacturers and sporting goods dealers liable for injuries or damages inflicted by weapons they sold or manufactured.

That is the same as holding Ford Motor Co. or General Motors or Toyota liable if a reckless driver is involved in an accident resulting in injuries or death while operating a vehicle they manufactured — whether or not the accident resulted from some mechanical failure of the car or truck.

Let’s pull it down to a hypothetical local scenario:

Ben Sauls at Four Seasons Sports sells a Browning pistol to a law-abiding citizen fully certified by Sheriff Carey Winters as being a person eligible for gun ownership.

The weapon is stolen. It subsequently is used in a hold-up in which someone is killed or injured. Or, the original purchaser — or a member of his family — is injured in an accident involving careless handling of the pistol.

Browning and Ben Sauls could be sued for whatever damages a jury might award the complainant.

As President George Bush has insisted, such suits are not only ridiculous but frivolous. They are designed to prey on innocent business people. And if successful, they would drive gun manufacturers and small businesses like Four Seasons Sports out of business.

Which, of course, has been the goal of the anti-gun lobby from the outset.

As passed by Congress, the new law does hold manufacturers liable for flaws resulting in injuries suffered by individuals using their weapons. And it does hold dealers accountable should they sell weapons to unauthorized people, such as those with records of criminal violence.

That’s how it should be.

Published in Editorials on October 31, 2005 9:27 AM