Monday, February 8, 1999

Week of 02/08/1999

Legalized Robbery
Gun Lawsuits Show Government Greed

- by David Matthews 2

Hey! This is a stick-up! Gimme your cash!

C’mon, c’mon, I know you got money on you! Give it over!

Now, damn it! Give us the money NOW!

Go ahead, yell all you want. Nobody will help you. So just give us the money.

By the way, good luck in getting the law to help you. In case you didn’t notice, WE ARE the law!

Think that was a bit over the top? Guess again!

Local government have figured out a really great way to get a lot of money - through product liability lawsuits!

First came civil suits for products that caused harm: the buildings that used asbestos, the companies that made silicone breast implants, the companies that made house paint with lead in them. Then state governments realized that a lot of money was being made in settlements, so when coaxed by the same lawyers who were making millions out of these cases, it should be no surprise that the states jumped at a chance to reap in on the settlement cash cow. All they had to do was choose a social villain, which in this case was the tobacco companies. Then they let the PR machines - the media - run story after story about the evils of tobacco products.

And what happened? They settled! Faced with endless lawsuits after lawsuits after lawsuits, the tobacco companies were willing to offer BILLIONS to the states! So much money that even the Clinton Administration wanted a piece of the money pie! Well, not exactly a piece.. they wanted ALL of the money, with maybe some crumbs to the states. That wrote off the initial deal, but they were able to strike up a new settlement offer, which the details are now being hashed out between states. And the Clinton Administration is eager to start their own lawsuit as well.. just so they don’t feel left out on this cash giveaway.

It should be no surprise, then, that smaller governing bodies would want to dip their own hands in the cash cow too. After all, they "have it rough" as well. They really can’t enact too many taxes on the people. Some have "local option" sales taxes, others have to use property taxes.. each of them knowing that they can’t raise those revenues too high or else people will move elsewhere. And like any other political body, they have loads of special interest programs they’d like to enact but can’t because they don’t have the money.

So inspired by the tobacco settlements, cities across America have chosen their own token villain, and are suing them for millions of dollars. The villain? The gun manufacturers! The reason? Because the guns work and the people don’t!

Now let’s get brutally honest here.. this is the most asinine lawsuit that has been filed on behalf of government!

Let’s look at the argument the cities want us to swallow: Gun manufacturers make guns. Guns are designed to kill people. People use guns, other people die. Gun manufacturers make lots of money, therefore gun manufacturers should pay up for the costs of people using guns.

THAT is the logic the cities are using!

Where’s the product liability? The guns work! They fire bullets that have the capacity to kill other people. It’s not like the gun manufactures withheld that information from the public. In fact, that’s WHY people buy guns! There is no big conspiracy to deny that guns kill people. There is no big conspiracy to deny that if you misuse a gun it will go off and could kill you or someone else. These are not shocking revelations!

At least with the tobacco lawsuits there was a modicum of legitimacy. The tobacco companies were accused of withholding information about their products and advertising towards kids. But that isn’t the case here. These new lawsuits aren’t about gun manufacturers withholding information that the guns work or advertising their wares to kids.

What this is about is the cities trying to use lawyers to collect millions of dollars that they have no right to collect! This is about money, plain and simple - a fact that the city leaders don’t even try to deny. It is no different than if the gun manufactures were being robbed on the street by a common thug. No, I stand corrected.. at least the thug on the street would have the decency to shoot you afterwards and they won’t try to convince the public it was a good thing!

The city of Atlanta is perhaps the most hypocritical of the cities taking part in this form of legalized robbery. Mayor Bill Campbell filed the city’s lawsuit at the same time of the S.H.O.T. Show, a major convention for gun dealers and manufacturers. The SHOT Show was going to be a major find for Atlanta in terms of conventions, especially given Atlanta’s loss of other major showcases such as Comdex. But now with the filing of Bill Campbell’s lawsuit, the Atlanta SHOT Show could very well be a one-time affair that will cost the city thousands in future convention revenues. In a post-Olympic economy, every convention is important to Atlanta, and thanks to Bill Campbell, they just pissed away a solid money-maker.

State and federal legislators are working on laws that will prohibit such lawsuits from being filed, but to be blunt, we don’t need more legislation. We need common sense! We need the courts to come in and slap down these greedy politicians and the high-priced lawyers that coax them into such frivolous lawsuits.

Of course, it’s easy for politicians to get away with such abuse of power because they know that nothing will happen to them if the suits fail! They can sue with impunity and know that it won’t cost them personally! They’re protected by "sovereign immunity" - which means they can’t be held responsible for their actions as political leaders! How ironic, since they are the ones who wail and moan about the lack of personal responsibility and how THEY would be the ones to restore it in government!

The issue of guns in society has been going on for decades now, and politicians have had a hard time trying to restrict guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens. There’s this pesky little thing called the Second Amendment to the US Constitution that says the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. It was there because the old guard (namely the British monarchy) barred our forefathers to own or use guns. Their arguments over two hundred years ago are the same ones being used today - "You should rely on us to protect you." We didn’t trust the government line then, we sure can’t trust the government line now.

But now the politicians have turned their frustrations into what they hope will be a cash settlement bonanza, and in the process they have further abused the legal system and bastardized the very concept of personal responsibility.

The gun manufacturers have vowed to fight instead of settle, and their first challenge is already in the hands of a jury in New York. Time will only tell if they will be forced to capitulate to this legalized form of robbery by those who are considered immune from responsibility.

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