Little to say for myself

Friday, October 21, 2005

Ooo-er. Do I agree with the NRA?

Who'd've thought it? Wishy washy liberal old me.

It seems that the US Congress passed a law yesterday, protecting firearm manufacturers and dealers from lawsuits brought by the victims of shootings. Apparently this follows years of lobbying by one of the organisations I hate the most - the National Rifle Association.

I was prompted to write about this just now, because I found myself agreeing with the NRA. Weird eh?

I guess my thinking came from what I said below about the UK licensing laws. I drew an analogy between selling alcohol and selling guns. My argument is that responsibility, and accountability for actions, must rest solely with the perpetrator, and not with the person who sold them the alcohol or the gun.

It seems ludicrous to me that the victim of an illegal shooting should want to sue the manufacturer or seller of the gun used. What did they have to do with the choices the shooter made? Would a hit-and-run victim want to sue Ford for making the SUV that mowed them down? Or Levi's, for providing the trousers that allowed them to be decently dressed out in public when the vehicle hit them (m'Lud, if it weren't for those jeans, I'd have been stuck safely indoors in just my undies)?

Any search for compensation (which must de facto imply blame) dilutes the absolute accountability of the person at the wheel, or the person pulling the trigger.

So, in that respect, my initial grudging thought was, "I agree with this." I'm firmly against the litigious principle that if something awful happens, then:

  1. someone, preferably a corporation with lots of money, has to be to blame; and
  2. the problem is solved by the transfer of a large chunk of that money to the victim.
I thought, "Great. Finally they're reining in the ambulance-chasers."

But as I started to write this piece, I realised that what the new law does is actually prevent people from bringing civil actions (regardless of the details of the case) against a very particular, and small, group of people. Just firearm makers and sellers. Then I thought, "Uh-uh. No way."

If what they're doing is perfectly legal, why do they need this special protection? OK - there may be an initial load of cases brought against them, which clog up the system and cost the courts time and money. But surely, after a few ill-advised cases are brought and lost, then legal precedent (and economic forces in the "no win, no fee" market) would prevent lawyers from advising other victims to sue - and the whole problem would go away.

It's a very revealing thing this. If the gun-makers and dealers act legally, then the above would apply. They would be found innocent of any charge, their legal costs would be paid, and the problem would eventually die out. The fact that the law has been deemed necessary, and was vigorously lobbied for by the NRA, therefore indicates that the gun-makers are not considered innocent - by the NRA themselves!

This whole thing comes back to the nonsense of the Second Amendment to the Constitution (originally drafted to provide for the possibility of creating a militia - in the days before the existence of professional military or police forces), which got a predictable mention from the NRA's Chief Executive:
"As of Oct. 20, the Second Amendment is probably in the best shape in this country that it's been in decades."
For me, a more creative way to strengthen the Second Amendment is to render it relevant again - by disbanding the US military. That would do a fair bit to safeguard the interests of potential victims of firearms use...

posted by Plig | 14:06 |

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