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Gun Nuts
[June 1, 2002]

By Nicholas Provenzo

Today the Ohio Supreme Court has reinstated a lawsuit that the city of Cincinnati filed against gun manufacturers in an attempt to recoup the cost of gun-related violence. In a split decision, the court overturned an appeals court verdict that threw out the case on a failure to establish that the gun makers directly cause gun violence. Speaking for the majority, Justice Francis Sweeney writes, "While we do not predict the outcome of this case, we would be remiss if we did not recognize the importance of allowing this type of lawsuit to go past the initial stages." On the contrary, suits of this nature should never be allowed to pass their initial stages.

The right to gun ownership is crucial; at its most basic, the right to gun ownership protects an individual's ability to take immediate action against an immediate threat to his life. Lawsuits like the Cincinnati case threaten gun ownership rights by employing the tactics of the tobacco lawsuits against gun manufacturers, but instead of a state sanctioned shakedown of a business to enrich the public weal, the goal this time is the outright destruction of the gun manufacturers.

Similar to the tobacco cases, the logic used against gun manufacturers is that by producing and marketing guns, manufacturers bear the responsibility for their misuse and the subsequent "public health" costs. In the Cincinnati case, the court held that "just as the individuals who fire the guns are held accountable for the injuries sustained, [gun manufactures] can be held liable for creating the alleged nuisance." An individual may have pulled the trigger, but it is the gun manufacturer who built the gun and allowed it to find the trigger-man's hand and thus bears responsibility for the trigger-man's actions.

While the errors of such thinking are manifest, that hasn't stopped suits like the Cincinnati case from going forward. The ultimate price of these lawsuits will be the ability to legally purchase a firearm for one's defense.

One of the founding principles of a free society is that the use of force must be placed under restraint. A person may not act as his own judge, jury and executioner when he suffers an injury. Yet there are times when the immediate, life endangering nature of a threat demands immediate action. In those cases, a person must take the action necessary to remove the immediate threat if they seek to preserve their life, even if it entails the use of deadly force. The ownership and use of firearms is a wholly legitimate expression of this right.

Yet anti-gun advocates do not see self-defense as a legitimate reason for an individual to own a firearm. Since an outright gun ban is politically unfeasible except in backwaters like the District of Columbia, we now have the convoluted attempt to destroy gun manufactures by tort law. Given the success of the tobacco lawsuits, one has to wonder if it's only a matter of time before the anti-gun manufacturer lawsuits enjoy a similar success.

Pro-firearms advocates have been in a defensive posture for too long on this issue. Rather than forever reacting to the threats by anti-gun advocates, pro-gun advocates should seek a legislative affirmation of the individual's right to bear arms. These days, the 2nd Amendment is not enough.


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